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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Euro-Envy Reconsidered: Talkin’ time, distance and change

When my wife and I headed to Europe for our first two-week vacation in 15 years, I don’t think I realized how grouchy I was getting about change adaptation in the US. So much political paralysis. So little leadership. No sense of urgency on issues of huge importance. It was way past time for a getaway to be among grown-ups.

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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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Reconsidering “You just don’t get it!” as a Community Engagement Strategy

In the last month, the busy folks at the Pew Research Center have released two hefty analyses of political polarization in America, pretty much confirming what we’ve come to suspect as the cause of semi-permanent dysfunction in D.C., in state capitals and, increasingly, in local government.

If you’re looking for the latest big picture perspective on the dilemma, Pew’s got you covered. The Center’s first Pew report, released on June 12, gets the conversation going:

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Urbanists Soak Up Buffalo: PlaceMakers empty their notebooks

The 22nd annual gathering of the CNU wrapped up Saturday night, June 7, in Buffalo. We’re looking forward to the recordings at cnu.org over the next few weeks to fill the inevitable gaps, since the competing sessions and hallway conversations presented the usual embarrassment of riches.

Rather than go for a tidy narrative, let’s just share some random observations and sound bites from the four days.

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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 Get Ready: Here come the Millennials

Cue up Curtis Mayfield and the Impressions. Last week’s release by the Pew Research Center of its “Millennials in Adulthood” analysis suggests there’s a train a-coming. And its steady progress is likely to force changes in community development over the next couple decades.

Here’s what the Pew report suggests and how it lines up with some other projections of demographic impacts:

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