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John Norquist Commentary: Cities as Cradles of Progressivism?

This article was originally posted on Public Sector Inc

By John Norquist

Mayor Fiorello LaGuardia once said that there is no Republican or Democratic way to pick up garbage, and he’s still largely right. Most mayors focus much more on service delivery than ideology. There is just too much to do on any given day for mayors to indulge in the hyper-partisanship that dominates Washington and the nation’s state capitals.

If You Don't Want An Apartment, Don't Have One

One of my favorite political slogans (more because of its catchiness than because of its wisdom)* is "If You Don't Want An Abortion, Don't Have One." 

It occurs to me that this slogan would be quite appropriately adapted to an urbanist context.  In response to NIMBY attacks on compact development, one might create bumperstickers with slogans like:

"If You Don't Want An Apartment, Don't Live In One."

"If You Don't Want A Small House, Don't Buy One."

 

Cities, Suburbs and Commute Length

I recently discovered a fun tool: the Census Bureau's Census Explorer, which is full of maps about all kinds of things.  In particular, I spent some time exploring commute length.

One reason why NYC is so expensive

Between 2000 and 2010, the number of renter-occupied housing units in New York increased by only 1.8 percent, while the number of households increased by 2.9 percent.  I would imagine that if you add that to the increased demand arising from the post-recession difficulty of financing a home, you should have expected zooming rents, which is of course exactly what New York has.

DeBlasio's Unimpressive Housing Plan: No Substitute For The Free Market

New York's new mayor, Bill DeBlasio, has just proposed to spend $8 billion in taxpayers' money to create 80,000 new housing units.  80,000 is certainly better than nothing.

On the other hand, New York has 3 million occupied housing units today, so even if the DeBlasio plan works, the city's housing supply will increase by a grand total of 2.7 percent over the next decade- barely enough to keep up with population.

The Infrastructure Argument Against Infill

One common (if vague) argument against upzoning and infill development is that infrastructure in place X (wherever the proposed development is) will somehow be overwhelmed by more important.  When I see this argument I want to ask:

1.  What infastructure are you talking about?

2.  How is it currently inadequate in place X?

3.  If you don't want more people to live and work in place X where do you want them to live and work instead? 

Are Wider Streets More Congested?

In a recent Planetizen blog post, Brett Toderian had an interesting insight: "When vehicles are moving, they take up much more space. The faster they move, the more separation distance and space between vehicles is needed."  This makes intuitive sense to me: when I am driving on a 20 mph street, I am willing to drive only a few feet behind other cars, while when driving 60 mph I don't feel comfortable getting so close to the car in front of me. 

Yes, Upzone The Nice Areas Too

An interesting and provocative blog post by Chicago planner Pete Saunders argued that urbanites should not be pressing too hard for upzoning well-off urban neighborhoods because "maybe they ought to consider more of the city to live in.

Extremist New Urbanism

A pitched battle has emerged in Minneapolis between two groups, one advocating for the preservation of a large single-family home and the other favoring its demolition to allow for a 45-unit infill project by the Lander Group. The preservationist have accused those in favor of demolition of "extremist new urbanism." A slightly more level-headed reporting abo

Two Cheers For Negative Thinking

I recently read an article suggesting that Cleveland's problems were in part due to "negative thinking"- some fuzzy "vibe of negativity" that discourages people from moving to Cleveland.  I am skeptical of this claim for two reasons.