Hard Times In The High Desert

iStock_000004011097XSmall.jpg

The High Desert region north and east of Los Angeles sits 3,000 feet above sea level. A rough, often starkly beautiful region of scrubby trees, wide vistas and brooding brown mountains, the region seems like a perfect setting for an old Western shoot 'em up.

Today, it's the stage for a different kind of battle, one that involves a struggle over preserving the American dream. For years, the towns of the High Desert--places like Victorville, Adelanto, Hesperia, Barstow and Apple Valley--have lured thousands of working- and middle-class Californians looking for affordable homes.  read more »

Smart Growth Must Not Ignore Drivers

iStock_000003602355XSmall(2).jpg

For the time being, battles over health care and energy seem likely to occupy the attention of both the Obama administration and its critics. Yet although now barely on the radar, there may be another, equally critical conflict developing over how Americans live and travel.

Right now this potential flash point has been relegated to the back burner, as Congress is likely to put any major transportation spending initiative on hold for at least a year, and perhaps longer. This also may be a symptom of mounting concerns over the deficit. Financing major changes in transportation, for example, would probably require higher federal fuel taxes, which would not fly amid a weak economy.  read more »

Healthcare: The Cost Of The Greatest Wealth

healthstuff and money iStock_000003032668XSmall.jpg

This week and over the coming weeks the media and the nation will once again focus on healthcare. Before we launch into the next phase of the argument, though, we should first dismiss a couple of “Red Herring” claims that we spend too much on health care.  read more »

Subjects:

The Curse of my.barackobama.com

mybo.png

President Obama’s campaign was indeed a revolution, not one of policy, but rather a dramatic change in how candidates communicate with voters. It is a reality that helped make Barack Obama our chief executive, but now threatens his ascendancy as well.

It all started with Obama’s hiring of Chris Hughes, one of the founders of Facebook, as part of his campaign team. Hughes’ job was to develop an online community for the campaign. He was largely dismissed by seasoned political operatives more comfortable with conventional media and campaign tactics.  read more »

Cookie Cutter Housing: Wrong Mix For Subdivisions

cookie cutter house-iStock_000001946391XSmall.jpg

Nobody likes the taste of “cookie cutter” development. In the forty years that I’ve been in the land planning industry, at meeting after meeting I hear planning commissioners and city council members complain about the same thing: That developers submit the same recipes to cook up bland subdivisions over and over.

But while the developers are the scapegoat, it’s those who sit on the council and planning commissions that are as much, if not more to blame. They are also the ones with the power to change the status quo.  read more »

The Costs of Climate Change Strategies, Who Will Tell People?

mumbai-shantytown.png

Not for the first time, reality and politics may be on a collision course. This time it’s in respect to the costs of strategies intended to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. The Waxman-Markey “cap and trade” bill still awaits consideration by the US Senate, interest groups – mainly rapid transit, green groups and urban land owners – epitomized by the “Moving Cooler” coalition but they are already “low-balling” the costs of implementation.  read more »

Florida Drifts Into the Morass

iStock_000001543542XSmall.jpg

By Richard Reep

Regarding Florida’s new outmigration, “A lot of people are glad the merry-go-round has finally stopped. It was exhausting trying to keep up with 900 new people a day. Really, there is now some breathing room,” stated Carol Westmorland, Executive Director of the Florida Redevelopment Association at the Florida League of Cities. Now that surf and sand are officially unpopular, the urban vs. suburban development debate has caught developers and legislators in a freeze frame of ugly and embarrassing poses at local, regional, and state levels.  read more »

The Kid Issue

iStock_000007500043XSmall.jpg

Japan's recent election, which overthrew the decades-long hegemony of the Liberal Democratic Party, was remarkable in its own right. But perhaps its most intriguing aspect was not the dawning of a new era but the emergence of the country's low birthrate as a major political concern.

Many Japanese recognize that their birth dearth contributes to the country's long-standing economic torpor. The kid issue was prominent in the campaign of newly elected Democratic Party Prime Minister Yukio Hatoyama, who promised to increase the current $100 a month subsidy per child to $280 and make public high school free. The Liberal Democrats also proposed their own pro-natalist program with a scheme for free child day care.  read more »

Amtrak Runs Off The Rails

Amtrak Empire Builder at Marias Pass MT.jpg

When the United States was in the money, the Congress grudgingly voted Amtrak a $1 billion subsidy every year, and then engaged in histrionics about how it might be cheaper to send most passengers to their destinations on private jets.

Then oil went to $140 a barrel, the United States dropped into recession, and one of the answers was to vote $12.9 billion in stimulus money, over the next five years, to Amtrak, the railroads, and state-supported transportation agencies.  read more »

Subjects:

Positively Fifth Street

PositivelyFifthCorrect.png

The title of this essay is taken from a book by Jim McManus about his adventures as a poker player. The lingo for Texas Hold ‘Em mirrors Vegas geography: three cards are placed face up – together called "the flop" – and betting ensues. Then comes the "turn" card, otherwise known as Fourth Street. Finally one gets to "The River", or Fifth Street, after which it is payday for somebody.  read more »

Subjects: