Historic Districts: The Past or The Future?

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Preservation seems like an easy idea to support. Who would be against it? History, character, and a sense of place are what great communities are all about. They generate tourism and makes us all culturally richer. Landowners in historic districts even enjoy higher land values than nearby landowners in newer, usually blander developments. What’s not to like?

Apparently, a lot. Cities unilaterally impose ordinances from time to time, regulating building size, shape and use, and rarely are there complaints, although the changes affect everyone in the city.  read more »

Rethinking the Scandinavian Model

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During a tour to Paris, Bruce Springsteen explained that his dream was for the US to adapt a Swedish style welfare state. The famous musician is far from alone in idealizing Nordic policies. The four Nordic nations (Denmark, Finland, Norway and Sweden) are often regarded as prime role-models the policies to be emulated by others. Internationally, advocates of left of centre policies view these countries as examples of how high tax social democratic systems are viable and successful.  read more »

What Jane Jacobs Got Wrong About Cities

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Few people have had more influence on thinking about cities than the late Jane Jacobs.

The onetime New Yorker turned Torontonian, Jacobs, who died in 2006, has become something of a patron saint for American urbanists, and the moral and economic case she made for urban revival has been cited by everyone frompundits and think tanks to developers.  read more »

Special Report: Maximizing Opportunity Urbanism with Robin Hood Planning

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This is the first section of a new report authored by Tory Gattis for the Center for Opportunity Urbanism titled Maximizing Opportunity Urbanism with Robin Hood Planning. Download the full report (pdf) here.

Across America and the developed world, we face a well-reported crisis of income stagnation, rising inequality, a declining middle class, and a general lack of broad prosperity. Yet contemporary urban planning seems disconnected from this crisis, focusing instead on pedestrian aesthetics, environmentalism, and appealing to the supposed preferences of the wealthy and the “creative class.”  read more »

The Incompetence Hypothesis to Explain the Great Recession

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Seeking an understanding of the Great Recession, I am finding that most of the 2008 financial crisis and its aftermath can be explained by incompetence. In the final weeks of writing a book on the systemic failure in US capital markets, I had to re-read the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) Inspector General’s 2009 report on their failure to stop Bernard Madoff despite having received credible evidence of a Ponzi scheme.  read more »

The Evolving Urban Form: Jing-Jin-Ji (Dispersing Beijing)

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China's cities continue to add population at a rapid rate, despite a significant slowdown in population growth. Although overall population is expected to peak around 2030, the urban population will continue growing until after 2050. China’s cities will be adding more than 250 million new residents in the next quarter century, according to United Nations projections. China's cities will add nearly as many people as live in Indonesia, the world's fourth largest country, more than live in Brazil and 10 times as many as live in Australia.  read more »

Latino Politicians Putting Climate Change Ahead of Constituents

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Racial and economic inequality may be key issues facing America today, but the steps often pushed by progressives, including minority politicians, seem more likely to exacerbate these divisions than repair them. In a broad arc of policies affecting everything from housing to employment, the agenda being adopted serves to stunt upward mobility, self-sufficiency and property ownership.

This great betrayal has many causes, but perhaps the largest one has been the abandonment of broad-based economic growth traditionally embraced by Democrats. Instead, they have opted for a policy agenda that stresses environmental puritanism and notions of racial redress, financed in large part by the windfall profits of Silicon Valley and California’s highly taxed upper-middle class.  read more »

The Geography of Ideology Ultra R, Ultra D and 50 to 50

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Recently I grouped all US counties into several categories, from True Believers R and D, R and D leaning groups, and also those areas that are more equally divided. In anticipating the 2016 election, I take here a brief look at a small number of counties (2012 data) that are extreme cases of R voting (over 90%, 28 counties), of D voting (over 80%, 26 counties), and of 50:50 voting (39 counties from 49.7 to 50.3 D vote). These are also shown on the maps.  read more »

In Comparing Metro Areas, the Devil is in the Details

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Frequently I see examples of metro areas comparing themselves to other, more successful metro areas.  Metro area movers and shakers take a deep dive into the intricacies of what makes a "good" place tick, and try to implement the takeaways in their metro.  This is a reasonable action, but I believe it misses the point.  There is more to examine by taking a deep dive within your own metro than looking at another.  read more »

The Cities Leading A U.S. Manufacturing Revival

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Manufacturing may no longer drive the U.S. economy, but industrial growth remains a powerful force in many regions of the country. Industrial employment has surged over the past five years, with the sector adding some 855,000 new jobs, a 7.5% expansion.

Several factors are driving this trend, including rising wages in China, the energy boom and a growing need to respond more quickly to local customer demand and the changing marketplace.  read more »