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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The Perils of Whimsy: Bookshelf reveals community dysfunction

Spoiler alert: This is not breaking news. The story’s actually been at least temporarily resolved. Think of it more as a post-game analysis.

Little Free Libraries — resident-initiated community bookshelves — are an increasingly popular tactic for bringing neighbors together through their shared love of browsing and reading books. Unless you live in Leawood, Kansas, that is, where the front-yard kiosk of 9 year old resident Spencer Collins was the subject of a citation for being what the city considered an illegal accessory structure.

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Housing Policy Repair for a New Era: Let’s review

Since the data keep rolling in, confirming changes we should have anticipated even before the Great Recession, maybe it’s time to revisit the tasks ahead for communities if they’re to avoid flunking the tests of livability and prosperity in the 21st century.

Consider:

Though a narrow sliver of the population seems to have emerged from the recent economic unpleasantness richer than they were going in, the rest of us have to come to terms with the idea we aren’t as smart or wealthy as we thought. What’s more, we sense we aren’t likely to improve our financial situation much without help from the lottery or late life adoption by Russian oligarchs.

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“People Habitat”: Kaid Benfield takes Smart Growth to a higher level

For several weeks now I’ve intended to write up my thoughts on “People Habitat,” the recently-released book from NRDC smart growth sensei — and friend — Kaid Benfield. Not that it’s anything he needs, mind you. A quick look at his reviews over on Amazon reveals a diverse collection of accolades, consistent only in their five-star assessments, and I suppose my hesitation has stemmed from a desire to not just heap on a little more well-deserved praise but to add something fresh to the discussion.

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[Holiday Leftovers] Confessions of a Former Sprawl Addict: Speed Humps on the Road to Recovery

[Originally run Sept. 17, 2010] Hi. I’m Hazel and I was a Sprawlaholic.

If you’ve been reading awhile you may recall that, with the loving help of my friends and family, I went cold turkey, dumping life in a Florida subdivision for the intense urban charms of downtown Winnipeg. It was a life-changing move with no regrets. Yet, as good as it’s been, I’m finding that puritanical denial of guilty pleasures is sometimes out of sync with life’s reality.

And by reality, I mean kids.

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