Smart Growth Must Not Ignore Drivers

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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

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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 »

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The Curse of my.barackobama.com

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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

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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?

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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

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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

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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

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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 »

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Positively Fifth Street

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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 »

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Alaska To Stimulus Funds: Yup, We'll Take 'Em

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Earlier this month the Alaska state legislature, in a special session, voted 44-14 to accept $28.6 million in stimulus funds that Sarah Palin had rejected in May. Sean Parnell, Alaska’s governor since Palin's resignation, says the money will be used primarily for energy efficiency improvements in public buildings.

The tale of the showdown between Palin, the state legislature, and the federal Department of Energy may ultimately reveal as much about state sovereignty under the current administration in Washington as it does about Alaska's internal politics.  read more »