Urbanism: Nothing to Fear

When the 9/11 attacks happened, all sorts of pundits started re-questioning whether cities should be decentralized, notably including Ed Glaeser. That questioning happened again after Hurricane Katrina and the continuing hurricanes along the Gulf Coast.

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Here’s to Zimmerman/Volk and to ‘Attainable Housing’

I should maybe feel at least a little guilty for escaping the cold weather in the North Carolina mountains where I live and heading to Florida over the weekend. But I don’t.

The destination was, after all, Panhandle Florida, the vertically challenged part of Florida that folks farther south call “LA,” as in “Lower Alabama.” Which means I was still wearing a down jacket when I ducked outside.

Also the trip was for a good cause. The occasion was the annual Seaside Prize Weekend, sponsored by the Seaside Institute.

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Talkin’ Right, Leanin’ Left: The ‘New Consurbanism’?

Here’s a quiz for you: What’s the “it” in these two quotes? And who’s talking?

It “is a radical, government-led re-engineering of society, one that artificially inverted millennia of accumulated wisdom . .”

It “offers conservatism a new venue, one where we can couple our desire for traditional culture and morals with a physical environment that supports both.”

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Ta-may-toe, Ta-mah-toe: Lessons in complexity from a fruit

Want to know where we go wrong solving single-mindedly for parking, affordability, sustainability, accessibility and all the other stuff on urban planning’s high-priority list?

Consider the tomato.  More specifically the winter tomato, as designed and manufactured in Florida.

In Tomatoland: How Modern Industrial Agriculture Destroyed Our Most Alluring Fruit, food writer Barry Estabrook shows how things go haywire when you’re determined to dumb down complexity. As Estabrook describes it, Florida tomato growers have one big advantage, a winter growing season, and one big marketing concept: A tomato defined by factory-perfect roundness and redness.

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Irony and Inevitability: Stumbling towards accountable public policy

By Wednesday morning, we’ll know which political party gained and which lost ground in Congress. As for learning about the direction of federal policy and its short-term impacts in states, regions and local communities: Not so much. But not for long.

That’s because time is running out on the baked-in paralysis in Washington. Despite vows to pretty much stick to the same recipe for dysfunction by Senate and House candidates in the mid-term elections, something’s coming that seems likely to stir things up. Let’s call it reality.

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Going Viral, but Not in a Good Way

Hello, you in the hazmat suit. Can we talk?

Though no one can authoritatively predict, from an epidemiology perspective, what will happen next, Ebola reached new levels of infection in the body politic last week.

Republicans and Democrats seem pretty sure they’ve identified likely sources of toxicity. And it should come as no surprise that they’ve connected failures to control spread of the virus to the other guys’ policies and actions.

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Are We There Yet? Affordability in the ‘New Normal’

Pretty soon we’ll have something like a decade of experience in losing our innocence about housing affordability. Isn’t it about time we got over it?

For a good part of the last century, we trained generations of housing consumers and housing enablers to buy and sell into what Chuck Marohn calls a “growth Ponzi scheme.” It was fun while it lasted, allowing a lot of us to postpone paying the tab for our delusions to some unspecified date in an imaginary future. Then we got to the real future.

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The Chorus of “No Planning, Please” is Making My Head Hurt

In his July 10 New York Times column, David Brooks noodled about in a Brooksian sort of way with the notion of what is and what is not within the realm of predictability. Using Brazil’s loss in the World Cup as a hook, he argues that soccer — unlike baseball, which has been reimagined by math nerds — turns out to be too complex a game to bow easily to predictive modeling.

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