Could the Dallas Way be the Right Way?

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Dallas was George W. Bush’s first choice for a retirement destination but it gets low approval ratings elsewhere. A recent poll of readers of American Style magazine rated Dallas only 24th out of 25 large American cities as an arts destination. It came in immediately behind those well-known cultural magnets Milwaukee and Las Vegas, and ahead of only Jacksonville FL, even though it dwarfs all three places in terms of population, arts institutions and urban amenities. An apparently typical assessment residing in the blogosphere states flatly “God I hate Dallas.  read more »

China’s Urbanization: It Has Only Just Begun

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In May, disgruntled workers of Honda factories in Zhongshan, southern China, went on strike at the Honda Lock auto parts factory and started posting accounts of the walkout online, spreading word among themselves and to workers elsewhere in China.

In June, Bloomberg reported that China, “once an abundant provider of low-cost workers, is heading for the so-called Lewis turning point, when surplus labor evaporates, pushing up wages, consumption and inflation.” China had depleted its surplus labor; the period of cheap labor was over.  read more »

Looking Down Under for a California Turnaround

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At a time when government in California faces an existential crisis, it’s telling to observe a starkly different picture in Australia. Forty years ago, local officials in fast-growing suburban communities in Queensland, Australia looked to their colleagues in fast-growing suburban communities in California as kindred spirits. They began a tradition of trading annual exchange visits to compare notes. Last month I had the opportunity to participate in that exchange. This year’s gathering took place on the “Sunshine Coast” north of Brisbane.  read more »

Korea Conflict Shows That Borderlands Are Zones of Danger

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The current conflict between the Koreas illustrates a broader global trend toward chaos along borders separating rich and poor countries. Ultimately, this reflects the resentments of a poor neighbor against a richer one. Feeling it has little to lose, the poorer neighbor engages recklessly in the hope of gaining some sort of tribute or recognition   from the better-heeled neighbor, or at least boosting its own self-respect.  read more »

Stuck in the Station: The High-Speed Rail "Low Ball Express"

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You know that something is up when a Washington Post editorial advises that the Obama Administration do a "reality check" on its plans for high speed rail. From the beginning, there was more slow-speed than high speed rail, however both components of the plan could be in trouble.  read more »

Love and the City

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It has been said that the modern city is soulless, that it is heartless, and that it is brutal. The modern city represents in its scale and complexity one of the most extraordinary of human inventions, but there is also no doubt that everywhere in the world it is also one of our biggest failures.

The dysfunction of a city in the past was an inconvenience. The dysfunction of a city in the future will be a profound disaster for that city and, ironically, a profound opportunity for another city, of a smarter city. It will be an opportunity for a city that has found out how to position itself better in the world of cities, but more importantly in the eyes and hearts of its citizens.  read more »

The Rise of the Efficient City

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Smaller, more nimble urban regions promise a better life than the congested megalopolis.

Most of the world's population now lives in cities. To many academics, planners and developers, that means that the future will be dominated by what urban theorist Saskia Sassen calls "new geographies of centrality." According to this view, dense, urban centers with populations in excess of 20 million—such as metropolitan Tokyo, New Delhi, Sao Paolo and New York—are best suited to control the commanding heights of global economics and culture in the coming epoch.  read more »

Toronto Election Highlights Failure of Amalgamation

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In my pre-election piece on the Toronto election, I discussed the city’s lingering malaise. It developed slowly but its roots can be traced to the 1998 amalgamation that swallowed up five suburban municipalities. This led to a six folds expansion of city boundaries and a tripling the population base. This amalgamation was initiated by the province of Ontario as a cost saving measure and faced major local opposition.  read more »

Amtrak Fails To Weather The Storms

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Why do I persist in riding Amtrak, the short name for the National Railroad Passenger Corporation, a company originally owned by the freight railways, but now subsidized by Congress and run like a Russian bureaucracy, complete with late trains, sullen employees, myriad petty regulations, budget deficits, cold coffee, feather bedding, broken seats, clogged toilets, rail cars that feel like buses, and a schedule that serves the interests of congressmen, lobbyists, unions, budget stimulators, and small-town mayors, but rarely passengers?  read more »

The Toto Strategy: How Kansas Can Save Barack Obama’s Presidency

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Here’s an idea that could save Barack Obama’s presidency: Give up those troubling Chicago roots and get back to Kansas. If, as Dorothy observed in the Wizard of Oz, “We’re not in Kansas anymore,” get the Wizard to send you back there soon.

Barack Obama owes much to Kansas–and the Great Plains in general–something he used to acknowledge often enough. Not only was he largely raised by products of that region (his mother and grandmother hail  from  the Sunflower State), but also his remarkable victory over Hillary Clinton during the presidential primaries was built largely by winning first in the Iowa caucuses, followed by surprising victories in Kansas, North Dakota, Minnesota and Illinois.  read more »