Few topics stir more controversy between urbanists and civic boosters than city rankings. What truly makes a city "great," or even "livable"? The answers, and how these surveys determine them, are often subjective, narrow or even misguided. What makes a "great" city on one list can serve as a detriment on another.
Recent rankings of the "best" cities around the world by the Economist Intelligence Unit, Monocle magazine and the Mercer quality of life surveys settled on a remarkably similar list. For the most part, the top ranks are dominated by well-manicured older European cities such as Zurich, Geneva, Vienna, Copenhagen, Helsinki and Munich, as well as New World metropolises like Vancouver and Toronto; Auckland, New Zealand; and Perth and Melbourne in Australia. read more »
In my first foray into political life in the 1970s, I worked during college on the staff of a liberal Democrat in the Texas state Senate. Only a few years earlier, Patty Hearst had been kidnapped and brainwashed by the Symbionese Liberation Army, and a moral panic about cults seducing college kids was sweeping the nation. One result was the rise of a new, thankfully ephemeral profession: "deprogrammers" who for pay would kidnap a young person from a cult and break the spell, by means of isolation, interrogation and maybe reruns of "The Waltons." read more »
Barack Obama ran for President with his headquarters in downtown Chicago. Obama's election night victory speech was just blocks away in Chicago's Grant Park. To historians of organized crime both locations are located in a significant place: Chicago's old First Ward. This valuable plot of land is where Chicago's Democratic Machine and Al Capone's criminal organization both began. The connection between the two is of great historical significance. Why? Because the Chicago Mob is nothing but an outgrowth of Chicago's old First Ward Democratic Organization. read more »
The “cash for clunkers” (or CARS) program that was widely predicted to be extended by the Congress has been, if nothing else, a clear public relations win for the Obama Administration. It may also be, at least for the short-term, a shot in the arm for the beleaguered American auto industry (including domestic dealerships of foreign car companies, like Honda and Toyota). But the program’s extension may also be bad news for anyone who was hoping that candidate Obama’s campaign promises to fix our domestic energy policy would translate into something resembling a robust make-over. read more »
By Richard Reep
Street art has been around since ancient times, with the triple theme of craft, sabotage, and branding. Paris’ “Blec le rat” and New York’s Taki 183 were early pioneers in street art. Today, street art has spread into nearly every city with artists, media, and collectors. Skateboards, tattoos, stickers, and spray paint are but a few examples of the craft of the street. The adrenalin rush an artist feels in executing his work is augmented by the urban thrill of working at night, rushing to leave behind a signature before the police come. The chief aim of most street art is branding, as the artist’s main form of expression is to create a recognizable personal logotype. read more »
Mayor Michael Bloomberg owes 200,000 small business owners an apology.
When Michael Bloomberg was first elected Mayor of New York City in 2001, the city’s small business owners were hopeful and confident that finally a successful businessman would be creating the city’s economic policy. They hoped to see an end to powerful special interests that, through political donations, had gained control over the economic policy of the city. read more »
Senators Jay Rockefeller (D-West Virginia) and Frank Lautenberg (D-New Jersey) have introduced legislation that would require annual per capita reductions in driving each year. Another bill, the National Transportation Objectives Act, introduced by Representative Rush Holt (D-Indiana), Representative Russ Carnahan (D-Missouri) and Representative Jay Inslee (D-Washington.) would require a 16 percent reduction in driving in 20 years. read more »
The term “sustainable” relates to a concept called the "Triple Bottom Line” (TBL): People, Planet, and Profit (the three P’s), endorsed by the United Nations in 2007 for urban and community accounting.
American suburban land planning is about the SBL (Single Bottom Line): Profit. In city after city, mindless cookie cutter subdivisions, with characterless architecture, serve cars more than people. This dysfunction is caused by the boiler-plate regulations; engineers adhere to the minimum dimensions mandated by city ordinances to gain density, which maximizes developer’s profits. read more »
Nothing is perhaps more pathetic than the exertions of economic developers and politicians grasping at straws, particularly during hard times. Over the past decade, we have turned from one panacea to another, from the onset of the information age to the creative class to the boom in biotech, nanotech and now the "green economy." read more »
There's been a torrent of spirited banter lately about the reemergence of downtown central-cities. Much of this raucous debate is between advocates of urban revitalization, who offer an assortment of anti-sprawl messages as justification for this movement, and those who see suburban growth options as essential to quality of life in America. Adding to the fray are environmentalists who see housing density and alternative forms of transportation as the panacea for confronting our carbon-choked world. read more »