How Cities Can Show Resilience

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Resilient: Strong. Healthy. Successful again. But how does a city become resilient? Here are five ways that city leaders can help:

Designing for resilience requires systems thinking: Cities are complex, interconnected systems. Think of a city as being like a human body – a harmonious balance of cardiovascular, skeletal, respiratory, and cognitive functions. Each system is dependent on the next, and is easily stressed when unbalanced or shocked after trauma. An obvious example is PTSD, once known as “shell shock,” affecting so many military veterans today.  read more »

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How California Became a Blue-State Role Model

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California, once disdained as zany, insubstantial and politically unreliable, has now become a favorite of the blue state crew. From culture and technology to politics, the Golden State is getting all sorts of kudos from an establishment media traditionally critical of our state.

For example, the New York Times recently ran two pieces, one political and the other cultural, that praised this state for its innovation and cool – even in the midst of a horrendous drought.  read more »

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Land Use Regulations and “Social Engineering”

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All forms of land use regulation are explicitly “social engineering”. Full stop. Let’s acknowledge that reality as we move forward. The question is never whether we’ll be engaging in manipulating society through land use regulations, but how and why.  read more »

More Privatization Pain For the Public in North Carolina

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Privatization done right can be a great boon. Done poorly, it can harm the public for decades. We see another example of the latter ongoing in North Carolina (h/t @mihirpshah). The Charlotte Observer reports:

The N.C. Department of Transportation’s contract with a private developer to build toll lanes on Interstate 77 includes a controversial noncompete clause that could hinder plans to build new free lanes on the highway for 50 years.  read more »

Driving Farther to Qualify in Portland

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Portland has been among the world leaders in urban containment policy. And, as would be predicted by basic economics, Portland has also suffered from serious housing cost escalation, as its median multiple (median house price divided by median household income) has risen from a normal 3.0 in 1995 to 4.8 in 2014.  read more »

Some Progressives Grow Disillusioned with Democracy

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Left-leaning authors often maintain that conservatives “hate democracy,” and, historically, this is somewhat true. “The political Right,” maintains the progressive economist and columnist Paul Krugman, “has always been uncomfortable with democracy.”

But today it’s progressives themselves who, increasingly, are losing faith in democracy. Indeed, as the Obama era rushes to a less-than-glorious end, important left-of-center voices, like Matt Yglesias, now suggest that “democracy is doomed.”

Yglesias correctly blames “the breakdown of American constitutional democracy” on both Republicans and Democrats; George W. Bush expanded federal power in the field of national defense while Barack Obama has done it mostly on domestic issues. Other prominent progressives such as American Prospect’s Robert Kuttner have made similar points, even quoting Italian wartime fascist leader Benito Mussolini about the inadequacy of democracy.  read more »

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A Fix for California Water Policy

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Critics of California’s current water policy advocate more infrastructure spending on things like dams, canals, and desalination plants.  Many would also curtail water releases for the benefit of fish and other wildlife.

Certainly, infrastructure spending would be better than wasting money on the governor’s high-speed-train fantasy.  However, California cannot spend enough money on water infrastructure to prevent water shortages.  And, solving California’s water shortage does not require an end to “dumping water” to save fish.  read more »

America’s Cities Mirror Baltimore’s Woes

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The rioting that swept Baltimore the past few days, sadly, was no exception, but part of a bigger trend in some of our core cities towards social and economic collapse. Rather than enjoying the much ballyhooed urban “renaissance,” many of these cities are actually in terrible shape, with miserable schools, struggling economies and a large segmented of alienated, mostly minority youths.  read more »

Silicon Valley: Jelly in the Jam

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My last post was about how Silicon Valley is evolving into an urban form that’s not quite leafy and open enough to be a suburb anymore, but not really vibrant and compact enough to be a proper city either. “Too thin to be jelly. Too thick to be jam.” The story got an unusually large number of visits. I received some well informed comments that touched on the reality that Silicon Valley is a big place and I shouldn’t generalize. Palo Alto is very different from Fremont and so on.  read more »

Building a New California

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The Golden State has historically led the United States and the world in technology, quality of life, social innovation, entertainment, and public policy. But in recent decades its lead has ebbed. The reasons for this are various. But there is one area of decay whose story is a parable for California’s other plights—that area is infrastructure.  read more »