State of the Union

Where the Middle Class Is No Longer a Majority

Pung / Shutterstock.com
Pung / Shutterstock.com

“Words on the Street” highlights the best writing on cities we’ve encountered in the last week. Post tips at @NewUrbs.

The Geography of Middle Class Decline | Richard Florida, CityLab

The large metros where the middle class is smallest are a combination of superstar cities, tech hubs, resource economies and poorer places. L.A. has the smallest middle class overall, followed by San Francisco, New York, and San Jose. Houston, Miami, Boston, Sacramento, New Orleans, and Hartford round out the top ten. That said, the places with the smallest middle classes are mainly smaller metros such as Monroe, Louisiana; Midland, Brownsville, McAllen, Laredo, and El Paso, Texas; Bakersfield, Fresno, Visalia, and El Centro, California; as well as college towns such as Auburn, Alabama; Champaign, Illinois; and Morgantown West Virginia.

Federal Regulators Will Let U.S. Railroads Run Faster, More Efficient Trains | Angie Schmitt, StreetsBlog

Why are American trains so expensive and yet so slow? One factor that rail advocates often point to is the Federal Railroad Administration and its rail safety regulations — rules that are finally on the verge of changing.

Antiquated regulations that date all the way back to the late 1800s (they were updated in the 1930s) compel American passenger rail operators to use trains designed like “high-velocity bank vaults,” as former Amtrak CEO David Gunn once put it. While European and Asian railcars became lighter and sleeker in recent decades without compromising safety records, FRA rules continued to insist on heavy, slow, outdated, and expensive equipment.

That finally appears set to change with the FRA’s release of new draft safety rules for traincars.

Why America’s Roads Are So Much More Dangerous Than Europe’s | Norman Garrick, Carol Atkinson-Palombo, and Hamed Ahangari, Vox

Much of the disparity seems to arise from how we build communities and the types of roads we design and construct. In the US, we drive more than any other developed country in the world, which goes some way toward explaining the higher traffic fatality rates. But even when we correct for vehicle miles traveled, we still have higher fatality rates. What we are learning is that the countries with the best traffic fatality records are different from the US in the following ways:

a) they live more compactly,

b) their road design favors more vulnerable users such as bikers and pedestrians, and

c) they have enacted laws and regulations that also favor these vulnerable road users.

Where Small Is Possible | Hank Dittmar, Brian Falk, CNU Public Square

A Pink Zone — an area where the red tape is lightened — is the locus for implementation of Lean Urbanism strategies and improvements,. The Pink Zone identifies a specific area where new protocols are pre-negotiated and experiments are conducted, all with the goal of removing impediments to economic development and community-building. It will be developed and refined in a series of pilot projects, and then released to the public. Yesterday Public Square ran an article on the first Pink Zone pilot project in Detroit.

Bright Lights, Small Government | Max Holleran, New Republic

[T]he great, unaddressed subject in Jacobs’s best-known work is gentrification. Specifically: Did her work, in part, serve as an economic and philosophical rationale for the wave of bohemian gentrification that overtook the West Village? If so, it would give new meaning to her much-lauded appreciation of street life: We would have to read Death and Life as the document of a neighborhood going through extreme economic change, with results that inevitably pushed some residents out. The West Village is one of the most expensive neighborhoods in the United States today.

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Introducing TAC’s New Editor

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The American Conservative is thrilled to announce the appointment of Robert W. Merry as its new editor. In this position Bob succeeds Daniel McCarthy, who has stepped down to pursue new endeavors. We thank Dan for his years of excellent service to TAC, and for doing so much to get TAC to where it is today, and are glad that he will remain associated with TAC as its editor-at-large.

TAC could hardly be more fortunate than to have Bob Merry take the editorial reins. Bob is the former editor of The National Interest and former CEO and executive editor of the Congressional Quarterly. He has been a Washington correspondent for The Wall Street Journal and has written for The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, and National Review, among many other periodicals. Bob has appeared on Meet the Press, Face the Nation, Newsmakers, and a number of other programs. His books include Sands of Empire: Missionary Zeal, American Foreign Policy, and the Hazards of Global Ambition; Taking on the World: Joseph and Stewart Alsop, Guardians of the American Century; Where They Stand: The American Presidents in the Eyes of Voters and Historians; and A Country of Vast Designs: James K. Polk, the Mexican War and the Conquest of the American Continent. He is currently finishing a biography of William McKinley, which will be published by Simon & Schuster.

TAC’s influence and base of support have both grown substantially in recent years. The present political-cultural moment provides an opportunity for TAC to make an even greater impact on the public conversation. “Ideas over Ideology, Principles over Party” will remain our motto as we continue to contend for a more patriotic and restrained foreign policy, and to provide a voice for a more humane, realist, Burkean conservativism.

Watch Our Conference: ‘Foreign Policy in America’s Interest’

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On November 15, 2016, The American Conservative gathered leading scholars, journalists, and policy experts to discuss the future of U.S. foreign policy in the wake of the 2016 election. Former U.S. Senator and Secretary of the Navy Jim Webb delivered a keynote address at the conference, “Foreign Policy in America’s Interest: Realism, Nationalism, and the Next President”, held at George Washington University in downtown Washington, DC. Rep. Thomas Massie (R-KY), a Congressional critic of unauthorized military interventions, also made remarks, while other political analysts and foreign-policy experts discussed what type of mandate Donald Trump will have as he takes office and how the new administration should handle relations with Russia. A final discussion with prominent historians and scholars reflected on what 2016 means for the country’s longstanding commitment to intervention and globalism.

If you missed the livestream, you can view the entire program in the videos below.


8:15 am  Welcome

  • Samuel Goldman, George Washington University
  • Daniel McCarthy, The American Conservative

8:25 am  Opening Remarks

  • Rep. Thomas Massie (R-KY)


9:00 am  The Next President and the National Interest

  • Robert W. Merry, author of books on American history and foreign policy
  • Jim Pinkerton, Fox News contributor
  • William Ruger, Charles Koch Institute
  • Moderator: Scott McConnell, The American Conservative


10:15 am  Russia, America, and Great Power Competition

  • Nikolas Gvosdev, U.S. Naval War College
  • Daniel Larison, The American Conservative
  • Paul Saunders, Center for the National Interest
  • Moderator: Kelley Vlahos, The American Conservative


11:30 am  Keynote Address

  • Jim Webb, former U.S. senator and Secretary of the Navy

12:15 pm  Break


12:30 pm  What the Election Means for War and Peace

  • Andrew Bacevich, author of America’s War for the Greater Middle East
  • Christopher Layne, Robert M. Gates Chair in National Security, Texas A&M

1:30 pm  Closing Remarks

TAC is Hiring

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The American Conservative is seeking a part-time office manager to work approximately 20 hours a week on a flexible schedule. Duties include answering the telephone, replying to email inquiries, bookkeeping, general business affairs, resolving customer service problems and assisting with financial reports. Knowledge of QuickBooks and Excel required. One block from Metro.  Please send resume to: [email protected]

Where Millennials Live

Joseph Sohm / Shutterstock.com
Joseph Sohm / Shutterstock.com

“Words on the Street” highlights the best writing on urbanism we’ve encountered this week. Post tips at @NewUrbs.

Where Millennials Live | Robert Steuteville, CNU Public Square

The often quoted cliche that millennials are moving downtown is not quite accurate. The greatest share of young adults is choosing urban neighborhoods outside of downtown. Just over a third of millennials identified in this 2014 nationwide survey live in such neighborhoods—preferably the walkable kind where they can get around without a car. Only 13 percent live downtown, which tends to be more expensive.

In total, 48 percent live in cities—with another 13 percent living in dense, older, inner-ring suburbs. These older suburbs also enable reduced automobile dependence, which cuts expenses for folks who are still paying for higher education. Older suburbs are relatively convenient to jobs and activities—a quality in demand with this cohort. So 61 percent of this group are living in compact neighborhoods or downtowns—a higher number than previous generations.

More…

Helping Struggling Places | Adam Ozimek, Economy.com

The level of nihilism espoused by economists about what we can do to help struggling places in the U.S. is, quite frankly, strange. Whenever the issue of helping places is raised, critics jump straight to the most extreme examples, such as former mining towns. But the fact that some places need to shrink, and the costs of helping some places sometimes outweighs the benefits, is a far less powerful point than these critics imagine. Other places have survived the loss of major industries and gone on to thrive. Understanding why this happens sometimes and doesn’t happen other times, and what policymakers can do to help replicate the successes, are crucial policy issues that cannot be pushed aside by pointing out the impossibility or desirability of saving every place.

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Elite Cities Are Pushing Out the Working Class | Nicole Gelinas, New York Post

In a study highlighted last week by the Wall Street Journal, Trulia analyzed who moves away from the country’s 10 most expensive cities, all on the East Coast or in California.

Answer: disproportionately, the poorest — those making $30,000 or less. But they weren’t exclusively poor: People earning $30,000 to $60,000 also left in numbers that exceed their share of the population.

People making more money left, too. But they left in smaller numbers, far less than their share of the population. (The cities continued to grow because of immigration, including high-earning immigrants.)

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Jane Jacobs Predicted a Dark Age Ahead | Richard Florida, CityLab

Back in 2004, before the economic crisis, urbanists were celebrating the resurgence of the city. We didn’t think much about the rise of conservative populists like Trump or the late Rob Ford. But there was Jane Jacobs, arguing “caution” against a new dark age lurking right around the corner.

In Dark Age, Jacobs focused on the erosion of the key pillars of stable, democratic societies—the decline of the family, the rise of consumerism and hyper-materialism, the transformation of education into credentialism, the undermining of scientific norms, and the take-over of politics by powerful special interest groups, among others. Persistent racism, worsening crime and violence, the growing gap between the rich and poor, and increasing divides between the winners and losers of globalization provided growing evidence of the decay of society, she argued.

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Why Planting More Trees Is One of the Best Things a City Can Do | Brad Plumer, Vox

Trees can make a city sidewalk prettier, sure. But that’s not even their best trick. A growing pile of research suggests that planting more urban trees, if done right, could save tens of thousands of lives around the world each year — by soaking up pollution and cooling down deadly heat waves. In fact, as a fascinating new report from the Nature Conservancy details, a well-targeted tree campaign could be of the smartest investments a hot, polluted city can make.

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This post was supported by the Richard H. Driehaus Foundation.

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Live: Foreign Policy
in America’s Interest

conference

Today The American Conservative gathers leading scholars, journalists, and policy experts to discuss the future of U.S. foreign policy in the wake of the 2016 election. Former U.S. Senator and Secretary of the Navy Jim Webb will deliver a keynote address at the conference, “Foreign Policy in America’s Interest: Realism, Nationalism, and the Next President”, held at George Washington University in downtown Washington, DC. Rep. Thomas Massie (R-KY), a Congressional critic of unauthorized military interventions, will also make remarks, while other political analysts and foreign-policy experts will discuss what type of mandate Donald Trump will have as he takes office and how the new administration should handle relations with Russia. A final discussion with prominent historians and scholars will reflect on what 2016 means for the country’s longstanding commitment to intervention and globalism.

The entire program will be streamed below. We encourage you to post your reactions and questions for panelists on Twitter using the hashtag #TACLive.

8:15 am  Welcome

  • Samuel Goldman, George Washington University
  • Daniel McCarthy, The American Conservative

8:25 am  Opening Remarks

  • Rep. Thomas Massie (R-KY)

8:45 am  Break

9:00 am  The Next President and the National Interest

  • Robert W. Merry, author of books on American history and foreign policy
  • Jim Pinkerton, Fox News contributor
  • William Ruger, Charles Koch Institute
  • Moderator: Scott McConnell, The American Conservative

10:00 am  Break

10:15 am  Russia, America, and Great Power Competition

  • Nikolas Gvosdev, U.S. Naval War College
  • Daniel Larison, The American Conservative
  • Paul Saunders, Center for the National Interest
  • Moderator: Kelley Vlahos, The American Conservative

11:15 am  Break

11:30 am  Keynote Address

  • Jim Webb, former U.S. senator and Secretary of the Navy

12:15 pm  Break

12:30 pm  What the Election Means for War and Peace

  • Andrew Bacevich, author of America’s War for the Greater Middle East
  • Christopher Layne, Robert M. Gates Chair in National Security, Texas A&M

1:30 pm  Closing Remarks

Spring Interns Wanted – Deadline Extended

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The American Conservative is currently accepting applications for a spring editorial internship position. The deadline for applications has been extended to November 11.

Editorial interns gain experience in all aspects of producing the website and print magazine. This internship offers real experience in all the moving parts of a media organization and exposure to both editorial and marketing projects.

Responsibilities include:

  • Preparing pieces for the web, writing headlines, curating images
  • Managing TAC’s presence on social media platforms
  • Contributing headlines and story ideas
  • Proofreading, fact-checking, and editing
  • Blogging for the web and writing for the print magazine
  • Devising strategies for audience development and engagement
  • Helping with event-planning and special projects

Clerical duties, such as answering the phone and handling the mail, are also involved.

All candidates should possess:

  • Eagerness to work tirelessly on a small but ambitious team
  • Superb writing and editing ability
  • Strong communication and organizational skills
  • Love of considered, lengthy journalism
  • Excellent news/culture/opinion judgment
  • A background in intellectual conservatism and keen understanding of The American Conservative’s sensibility

Past experience with a news or opinion publication is preferred, though not required.

Interns will join our team in Washington, DC, from January through May, and will receive a stipend. We will review applications on a rolling basis, so applicants are encouraged to submit their materials before the final deadline. College students or recent graduates who would like to apply should e-mail their responses as Word document or PDF attachments to [email protected] no later than November 11.

  • Required: Résumé, cover letter, and a 500 word writing sample appropriate for our website, offering a fresh perspective, original analysis, and a clear, evidence-based argument. Alternatively, you are welcome to submit a link to a blog post or article you have published elsewhere that would have been well-suited for publication in The American Conservative.

Optional (Pick 2 or 3):

  • Propose three ideas for web articles (1-2 sentences each).
  • What are the two most interesting media accounts you follow on Twitter and why? (100 words max.)
  • How could we improve our coverage and analysis on the web? (100 words max.)
  • How could we improve our fundraising efforts on the web? (100 words max.)
  • Write two Facebook posts and two tweets about articles or blog posts that appear on our homepage today.
  • Which two contemporary writers have influenced your thinking the most? (100 words max.)
  • How would you describe The American Conservative reader? (100 words max.)

We also consider applications submitted through partner organizations—including the Charles Koch Institute and Collegiate Network.

Is Bad City Planning Making Us Lonely?

BABAROGA / Shutterstock.com
BABAROGA / Shutterstock.com

“Words on the Street” highlights the best writing on urbanism we’ve encountered this week. Post tips at @NewUrbs.

Loneliness, Urban Design, and Form-Based Codes | Steve Price, CNU Public Square

Humans are social, yet this primary fact of life is oddly absent as a core consideration in modern urban development regulations. To ignore the social needs of our species is to lose sight of one of the most positive drivers for shaping sustainable urban form. Providing for the satisfactions of community counters sprawl. Yet conventional land-use zoning disperses people and strips social life from the landscape. This is where form-based codes come in. They are the tool par excellence for guiding development in a socially sensitive way, configuring buildings and streets to enliven social life.

A remarkable and growing body of literature in contemporary social research is telling us that healthy, well functioning communities need face-to-face meeting, interaction, and communication among their members, something that electronic “social media” cannot replace. And it requires high quality physical space.

More…

America’s Hunger for Luxury Housing May Finally Be Satiated | Jeff Spross, The Week

Around 5,100 new apartments will be listed for rent in San Francisco in 2016, which is the biggest annual number in 26 years; Manhattan will feature 5,675 new units. And 2017 will probably blow 2016 out of the water, with projections showing San Francisco gaining around 7,000 more units, and New York getting 14,000 new units. In fact, back in July, 2016 already looked set to meet or break apartment construction records in the major markets across the country. …

Much of this booming construction is in the super high-end market — it’s telling that the “low-end” market in Manhattan is considered to be all housing under $2 million. And it looks like the population that could afford to buy or rent those sorts of luxury units is dwindling: The number of highly paid tech jobs in San Francisco is down from a peak earlier this year, and it’s mid-pay jobs in hospitality and health care that are seeing the biggest gains in New York City.

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Top-Down, Bottom-Up Urban Design | Elizabeth Greenspan, New Yorker

“[W]hat we need to do is think of the city as a more open system, which accumulates complexity, and in which those complexities have to be worked with, rather than simplified.” Take school buildings. In many cities, schools might be “built into factories, or into back rooms of housing settlements. And rather than see that there’s something wrong about that—this is what I mean about the break with the spirit of Corbusier—we should be working with making that kind of school better,” he said. [Richard] Sennett and his colleagues argue for city plans defined by flexibility, rather than by right and wrong answers.

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An Uncredentialed Woman: The Unlikely Life of Jane Jacobs | Howard Husock, City Journal

Robert Kanigel’s Eyes on the Street is the first full-length biography of Jacobs, a woman without a college degree who became one of the most influential urban thinkers of the twentieth century. Kanigel deftly links Jacobs’s life experiences to the development of her original ideas. Born Jane Butzner in 1916 in Scranton, Pennsylvania, Jacobs wrote for a living, and not always for glamorous New York publications. She began her journalism career as an intern at the Scranton Republican and then contributed to Iron Age, a trade publication at which she learned the nuts and bolts of the metals industry. She learned, for instance, that non-ferrous metals were vital to modern life and how the markets for them worked.  She worked briefly as a financial writer for Hearst and wrote an extended feature about Manhattan’s fur district for Vogue and another for Harper’s Bazaar about the crabbing culture on Maryland’s Tangier Island. She was, in other words, soaking up the details of how business, culture, and the urban environment worked together when done right—the very combinations she’d go on to celebrate in her breakthrough masterpiece, 1961’s The Death and Life of Great American Cities.

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New York, San Francisco, and the Real Rental Crisis | Jordan Fraade, Washington Post

Economists have traditionally defined “rent-burdened” households as those that pay more than 30 percent of their income in rent. The “severely rent-burdened” pay more than half. In all but two of the 11 largest metro areas in the United States, the share of low-income households that suffer from severe rent burden increased from 2006 to 2014, according to a March report by New York University’s Furman Center. Since 2008, rent burden has also become far more common among middle-class households, the combined result of stagnant incomes and declining rental vacancy. Pundits and demographers often hold up cities like Atlanta, Philadelphia and Chicago as reasonably priced alternatives to pricey coastal hubs. But these “second-tier” cities are hardly immune from their own affordability problems. By 2014, a majority of all renter households in eight of the 11 largest U.S. cities, including all three listed above, qualified as rent-burdened.

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This post was supported by the Richard H. Driehaus Foundation.

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Will We Always Have Paris?

Wikimedia Commons
Wikimedia Commons

“Words on the Street” highlights the best writing on urbanism we’ve encountered this week. Post tips at @NewUrbs.

“We’ll Always Have Paris”? | Mary Campbell Gallagher, Architecture Here and There

When the masked thugs of ISIS swing their sledgehammers through Iraq’s museums and dynamite Palmyra, the world gasps and screams. But what if the vandal is a chic Parisian woman wearing high-heeled boots and talking like a visionary? What if her target is the world’s most beloved and most-visited city? Does the world gasp, or does it not even hear what she is saying? “We’ll always have Paris,” Rick tells Elsa in “Casablanca.” Yet now, Mayor Anne Hidalgo says she will “reinvent” Paris. Without putting it to a vote, she will replace the uniquely harmonious city we know with something “modern” and “contemporary.” She will pierce the low horizon with a dozen skyscrapers, replace classic stone facades with rivers of glass, and bury the famous zinc and slate rooftops under new construction. Mon Dieu! Doesn’t anyone get what Paris is doing to itself?

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Why Cathedrals Are Soaring | Simon Jenkins, The Spectator

Something strange is happening in the long decline of Christian Britain. We know that church attendance has plummeted two thirds since the 1960s. Barely half of Britons call themselves Christian and only a tiny group of these go near a church. Just 1.4 per cent regularly worship as Anglicans, and many of those do so for a privileged place in a church school.

Yet one corner of the garden is blooming: the 42 cathedrals. At the end of the last century, cathedrals were faring no better than churches, with attendances falling sometimes by 5 per cent a year. With the new century, everything changed. Worship in almost all 42 Anglican cathedrals began to rise, and it is now up by a third in a decade. This was in addition to visits by tourists, who number more than eight million. There are more visits to cathedrals than to English Heritage properties.

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Hartford’s Big Dig | Matthew Hennessey, City Journal

Every large city in Connecticut has at least one arterial highway slashing through its heart. Some have multiple elevated highways meeting in massive steel-and-concrete interchanges. The drive along I-95 from New York to Boston affords commanding views of Stamford, Bridgeport, and New Haven. Spend a little time on the surface streets of these cities, however, and the civic devastation wrought by their highways is hard to miss.

In Connecticut as in the rest of the country, massive interstate construction projects followed President Dwight Eisenhower’s signing of the Federal-Aid Highway Act of 1956. Cities like Hartford were then suffering massive traffic congestion problems, as rising postwar incomes spurred a boom in individual car ownership. In 1949, several major insurance companies asked the engineering firm Andrews and Clark to compile an “Arterial Plan for Hartford” under the direction of New Haven native Robert Moses. “Doctors, we are told, bury their mistakes, planners by the same token embalm theirs, and engineers inflict them on their children’s children,” wrote Moses in a cover letter. It was an oddly prophetic warning from a man blamed by many for ruining New York City with his car-dependent infrastructure projects.

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The Disposable Post-War Suburb | Johnny Sanphillippo, Granola Shotgun

Back in the 1950’s Colerain Township was the recipient of a wave of respectable prosperous families who were crossing the municipal line out of Cincinnati. They drove through Mount Airy Forest and left behind high taxes, high crime, lower quality public services, old unfashionable buildings, and poor black people. If you couldn’t afford a brand new home and a car… you clearly didn’t belong.

The schools were new. The shopping centers and office parks were new. Tax revenue poured in. Police, teachers, and administrators were hired. Parks were created. Libraries opened. Life was very good.

Fast forward sixty five years. Everything that used to be shiny and new is now aging – not all of it well. There are now decades of accumulated salaries, pensions, and health care obligations for municipal workers, past and present. The roads, water pipes, lift stations, sewerage treatment plant, and public buildings are all in need of expensive maintenance. Tax revenue is in decline. This town like nearly every other town of its vintage is functionally insolvent.

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Art Deco Los Angeles | John L. Dorman, New York Times

Several of them have been razed, and a few of the surviving ones are underused or vacant. Tourists gravitate toward the Bank Tower, which has an observation deck, or Frank Gehry’s Walt Disney Concert Hall. But before being literally overshadowed, these Art Deco treasures were once icons of downtown Los Angeles. And they still should be.

Most of the Art Deco buildings are smaller than the modern skyscrapers rising in the area, but they still soar. To explore them is to witness a grandeur that inspires you, unlike many skyscrapers, which merely surprise you. Because they arrived at a moment of economic expansion, they suggest the sense of endless possibility that permeated the city. I set off to get a glimpse of what those architectural dreamers were able to accomplish.

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This post was supported by the Richard H. Driehaus Foundation.

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Words on the Street

Eisenhower Memorial Commission
Eisenhower Memorial Commission

“Words on the Street” highlights the best writing on urbanism we’ve encountered this week. Post tips at @NewUrbs.

One More Inglorious Pile on the Mall | Edward Rothstein, Wall Street Journal

The news that the Eisenhower family has dropped objections to a modified version of Frank Gehry’s vision for a $150 million proposed memorial to Dwight D. Eisenhower on the Mall in Washington means that in a few years we will probably be subjected to something only marginally less kitschy and overblown than Mr. Gehry’s earlier vision: a four-acre extravaganza featuring three statues of Eisenhower—as Kansas farm boy, Supreme Allied Commander and president—with a 477-foot-wide woven-metal tapestry depicting Abilene, Kan., suspended from eight-story-tall limestone columns.

The architect will now alter the tapestry’s subject and may skim off some bloat, but enough of the original idea will surely remain to allow it to fit right in with the many other mediocre monuments that have been crowding the Mall and other public sites during the past 25 years.

Want Affordable Housing? Legalize Main Street | Jonathan Coppage, Washington Post

In a sign that market solutions for the United States’ growing housing affordability crisis are beginning to earn bipartisan support, the White House this week unveiled its “Housing Development Toolkit,” which encourages state and local policymakers to undertake a number of long-overdue reforms.

The tool kit draws on some of the best and most up-to-date research on housing affordability and cites such respected researchers as Harvard University economist Ed Glaeser. But for such reforms to benefit smaller and distressed communities, Washington needs to undo its own role in distorting the housing market. In short, the Federal Housing Administration has to relegalize Main Street.

Lean Streets, Small Blocks: the ‘Good Bones’ of Strong Communities | Robert Steuteville, Public Square

A body without good bones will fall apart. And as many of us have come to realize, streets are the bones of communities. A community that lacks good streets will suffer—in its economy, its social well-being, and its health.

When people who study cities and towns say that a place “has good bones,” they mean that it has a connected network of small blocks and “lean” (not overly wide) streets. The blocks probably hold at least a few fine old buildings, though some of them may have been neglected, since the last half of the 20th Century was often unkind to old places. Urban renewal and parking policies led to the loss of many buildings.

The urban fabric may be tattered. Traffic engineers may have widened the travel lanes, converted many streets to one-way, and cut down trees. Nonetheless, in good bones there is the potential for renaissance. The essential elements—lean streets and small blocks, a characteristic praised by Jane Jacobs—are resilient.

Is There Too Much Parking? | Nate Berg, The Guardian

“As parking regulations were put into zoning codes, most of the downtowns in many cities were just completely decimated,” says Michael Kodransky, global research manager for the Institute of Transportation and Development Policy. “What the cities got, in effect, was great parking. But nobody goes to a city because it has great parking.”

Increasingly, cities are rethinking this approach. As cities across the world begin to prioritise walkable urban development and the type of city living that does not require a car for every trip, city officials are beginning to move away from blanket policies of providing abundant parking. Many are adjusting zoning rules that require certain minimum amounts of parking for specific types of development. Others are tweaking prices to discourage driving as a default when other options are available. Some are even actively preventing new parking spaces from being built.

Urbanism, Texas-Style | Joel Kotkin et. al., City Journal

Of the cities I’ve called home, Austin has the most aspirational culture. People move to Washington, for example, to change the world, and often do so—for the worse. People come to Austin to build something new, earn their success, and have fun. Visit any one of the city’s coffeehouses, and new rounds of funding and pitches are in the air. Drive or bike anywhere on a weekend, and you’ll likely run into a festival that you had no idea was happening. Our zip code has more bars per capita than any other in the nation. Many are indoor-outdoor, which gives Austin a festive, public feel. Voices, music, and faces are all integral to the urban landscape here.

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Death By Chain?

CNU New England
CNU New England

New Urbanism has long been concerned with promoting vibrant Main Streets, corridors with local retail and small businesses that keep jobs and capital in their communities.

The American Conservative is partnering with the Congress for the New Urbanism (CNU) New England chapter and the R Street Institute to bring together leading voices on this issue. Join us in Providence, RI on October 20, from at 5:00 to 8:00pm at Aurora, 276 Westminster St., Providence, RI. More information is available here.

If you’re in New England and care about strong communities, you don’t want to miss this opportunity to meet:

  • Cliff Wood, Executive Director of Downtown Providence Parks Commission
  • Kip Bergstrom, former Deputy Commissioner of the Connecticut Department of Economic and Community Development
  • Margaret Bodell, a Connecticut-based art center consultant with experience repurposing storefronts
  • Anne Haynes, Director of the Transformative Development program at MassDevelopment
  • The discussion will be moderated by former TAC editor Jonathan Coppage, now visiting scholar at the R Street Institute.

General admission to the event is $20, but The American Conservative has a limited number of free tickets for our readers. If you wish to receive one, please RSVP with your full name and address to [email protected], with the subject line “New Urbs event.”

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Words on the Street

“Words on the Street” highlights the best writing on urbanism we’ve encountered this week. Post tips at @NewUrbs.

Street Cred: What Jane Jacobs Got So Right—and What She Got Wrong | Adam Gopnik, New Yorker

Her admirers and interpreters tend to be divided into almost polar opposites: leftists who see her as the champion of community against big capital and real-estate development, and free marketeers who see her as the apostle of self-emerging solutions in cities. In a lovely symmetry, her name invokes both political types: the Jacobin radicals, who led the French Revolution, and the Jacobite reactionaries, who fought to restore King James II and the Stuarts to the British throne. She is what would now be called pro-growth—“stagnant” is the worst term in her vocabulary—and if one had to pick out the two words in English that offended her most they would be “planned economy.” At the same time, she was a cultural liberal, opposed to oligarchy, suspicious of technology, and hostile to both big business and the military. Figuring out if this makes hers a rich, original mixture of ideas or merely a confusion of notions decorated with some lovely, observational details is the challenge that taking Jacobs seriously presents.

Trains Built Roanoke. Science Saved It. | Colin Woodard, Politico Magazine

How did a small city in a disadvantaged region four hours from a major metropolis—one that had seen its signature industries atrophy or depart, that lacked so much as a branch campus of a state university—transform itself from the forgotten stepsister of the Appalachians into a formidable rival to Asheville, North Carolina? The answer has lessons for small, out-of-the-way cities everywhere: Roanoke’s people did it largely by themselves, in small steps and with an eye to assets and alliances in the wider region around them. … And it all happened in what would seem the most unlikely of places: a city created, built and controlled for most of its history by the distant investors of that most controlling and rapacious of Industrial Age corporations, the railroad.

Occupy Broad Street | John Massengale

Slow Streets don’t invite suburban drivers to bring their cars to the city, as our urban highways and one-way arterials do. Slow Streets favor pedestrian and urban life. When we remove all the striping and signs that mark the streets as machine space, it becomes easy to make streets where people want to be. Before the automobile, we even put stone monuments and fountains in our streets. Temporary monuments like the original Washington Arch, which was originally in the middle of the street, marking the beginning of Fifth Avenue, were common. New Yorkers felt free to step out into the street as they do in Amsterdam. That’s the essence of Shared Space.

Big Cities Can Learn From the Landscapes of Small-Town America | Josh Stephens, Planetizen

Who cares about buildings? Anyone with enough cash can commission a life-size sculpture, plop it down on a vacant lot, and call it great architecture. Truly great architecture—as opposed to great “design”— is that which responds to and enhances its context. Some of that architecture is avant grade, and some is as anonymous as you and me. … The fixation on architecture-as-object persists, most recently, and predictably, in Architectural Record’s Top 125 Buildings. … AR lists the usual suspects: early innovators, the CIAM crowd and other high Modernists, a few postmodernists, some Brutalists, and contemporary starchitects. Many of their structures will make you numb with their visual beauty, or at least their visual complexity. Indeed, many of them look like they were made to sell magazines. They look amazing in photographs; what goes on beyond the edge of the frames is often anyone’s guess. The trouble is, no one teaches cute in architecture school. I suppose the New Urbanists have tried. Everyone else is too busy teaching phenomenology, parametrics, and deconstructivism, which is, to be honest, a pretty terrifying theory on which to base a building.

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“Words on the Street” highlights the best writing on urbanism we’ve encountered this week. Post tips at @NewUrbs.

The Nation’s Major Metro Areas Show Uneven Progress Against Poverty in 2015 | Elizabeth Kneebone and Cecile Murray, Brookings

In most of the metro areas that saw poverty rates fall (27), the number of people living in poverty also decreased. But for seven Sun Belt metro areas—including regions like Houston, Phoenix, and Orlando, Florida—declines in the poverty rate reflected a fast-growing total population, rather than a shrinking poor population.

Only two of the top 100 metro areas saw poverty continue to grow in 2015. Both the number of poor residents and the poverty rate rose significantly in the Little Rock, Arkansas, and Tulsa, Oklahoma, regions over the course of the year. In the end, the poverty rate registered no significant change in almost two-thirds of the nation’s largest metro areas in 2015.

Pittsburgh Seems Cool, But Its Numbers Aren’t So Hot | Justin Fox, Bloomberg View

One inevitable reality that a Rust Belt city such as Pittsburgh has to contend with is that the nation’s population has for decades been shifting to the South and the West, and is still shifting that way. Before 2008, according to Christopher Briem, an economist at the University of Pittsburgh, more people had moved out of the Pittsburgh metropolitan area than moved in almost every year since World War II. The result is a metro area population that skews old (17.2 percent of the population was 65 or over in 2011, compared with 13.2 percent nationwide) and is among the country’s least diverse.

Lone Star Quartet | Aaron M. Renn, City Journal

[U]nlike California, whose cities have refocused on elite priorities at the expense of middle-class occupations, Texas offers a complete spectrum of economic activities in its metros. Another key difference is that Texas cities have mostly embraced pro-development policies that have kept them affordable by allowing housing supply to expand with population, while California’s housing prices blasted into the stratosphere due to severe development restrictions. Texas cities also benefit from favorable state policies, such as the absence of a state income tax and a reasonable regulatory and litigation environment. These factors make Texas cities today what California’s used to be: places to go in search of the American dream.

A Glorified Sidewalk, and the Path to Transform Atlanta | Richard Fausset, New York Times

ATLANTA — Could this traffic-clogged Southern city, long derided as the epitome of suburban sprawl, really be discovering its walkable, bike-friendly, density-embracing, streetcar-riding, human-scale soul?

The answer is evident in the outpouring of affection that residents here have showered on the Atlanta BeltLine, which aims to convert 22 miles of mostly disused railway beds circling the city’s urban core into a biking and pedestrian loop, a new streetcar line, and a staggeringly ambitious engine of urban revitalization.

The Ugly Choice American Cities Face | Emily Badger, Washington Post

[I]t will be very difficult for cities to grow denser in the coming years, despite rising worries about the environmental costs of sprawl and the individual toll of commuting. … [C]ities produce new housing in proportion to their rate of outward expansion. Metros that spread out the most add the most housing, and have kept their housing costs in check as a result. Metros that have resisted sprawl (like Portland, which has an urban growth boundary, or San Francisco, which is hemmed in by mountains and water) haven’t built much.

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Mark William Richardson / Shutterstock.com
Mark William Richardson / Shutterstock.com

“Words on the Street” highlights the best writing on urbanism we’ve encountered this week. Send tips to @NewUrbs.

How Britons Are Saving Their Village Pubs | Geoffrey Wheatcroft, The Spectator

In one village after another across the country, pubs are closing, as many as 25 a week by some counts, and this is accepted with English fatalism. But the people of South Stoke, near Bath, chose not to accept the loss of the Packhorse mutely; the locals decided to save their local. And in the process they may have demonstrated that ‘community’ and indeed ‘local’ or localism are not merely empty rhetoric.

When Will New York City Sink? | Andrew Rice, New York

The latest scientific findings suggest that a child born today in this island metropolis may live to see the waters around it swell by six feet, as the previously hypothetical consequences of global warming take on an escalating — and unstoppable — force. … The life span of a city is measured in centuries, and New York, which is approaching its fifth, probably doesn’t have another five to go, at least in any presently recognizable form. …

The deluge will begin slowly, and irregularly, and so it will confound human perceptions of change. Areas that never had flash floods will start to experience them, in part because global warming will also increase precipitation. High tides will spill over old bulkheads when there is a full moon. People will start carrying galoshes to work. All the commercial skyscrapers, housing, cultural institutions that currently sit near the waterline will be forced to contend with routine inundation. And cataclysmic floods will become more common, because, to put it simply, if the baseline water level is higher, every storm surge will be that much stronger.

Life at the Nowhere Office | Miya Tokumitsu and Joeri Mol, The New Republic

Wherever you are, you respond to the most urgent requests and make sure to nowhere yourself by deleting your “sent from my iPhone” signature. You could be at your desk already, right? No one needs to know that you are two blocks away. You don’t want to convey that you are on the run and not giving them your full attention. So with some digital camouflaging you say: I am in a place where I can give you due consideration. At no point are we on the train, in a cafe, in bed, in the restroom. Except of course we are.

Many of us recognize this morning routine. It might seem mundane, but like any regime, it is has an aesthetic. In fact, this vignette reflects the ideals of het nieuwe werken, a Dutch term meaning “the new way of working,” a reorganization of the office that promotes flexibility and “efficient” design, combining the fruits of a digitally-connected world and organically-formed social structures.

Gentrification on the Big Screen | Aaron M. Renn, City Journal

The Blues Brothers and Ferris Bueller’s Day Off, two seminal 1980s comedies, both set in Chicago, foreshadow the profound changes that would soon sweep over some of America’s big cities. Made just six years apart, they present strikingly different visions of Chicago. …

Watching these films today, viewers under the age of, say, 45 would be struck by how alien Jake and Elwood’s Chicago seems and how familiar Ferris’s Chicago has become. The vibrant working-class culture, tough old nuns, SROs, and Maxwell Street Market of The Blues Brothers have all either disappeared or survive only as shadows of what they once were. With a bit of cultural updating to cars, hairstyles, fashion, music, and phones, however, Ferris Bueller’s Day Offcould be remade today, virtually shot for shot. Modern proto-hipsters might well still skip school to visit Wrigley Field, the lakefront, the Sears Tower Skydeck, or the Art Institute. Three decades after Ferris Bueller played hooky from the suburbs, the triumph of the gentrified city is complete.

One City, Nine Months: Stand By For Chicago’s 3,000th Shooting Victim | Editorial Board, Chicago Tribune

Chicago is but a few days away from its 3,000th shooting of the year. At 2,930 and counting as of Labor Day, the first grimly inevitable milestone will be 2,988. That’s the number of people shot here all of last year. Soon after will come No. 3,000.

Tribune crime reporters keep a detailed spreadsheet, which shows 546 shootings since Aug. 1. That works out to be nearly 15 people shot every day — the majority on the West and South sides. Summer is always the most dangerous season in Chicago, but the violence this year is worse than it’s been in two decades. The city’s homicide total: about 500, most of them on this roster of shooting victims.

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Dawn Endico / Flickr
Dawn Endico / Flickr

“Words on the Street” highlights the best writing on urbanism we’ve encountered this week. Send tips to @NewUrbs.

Why Geographic Equality Matters | Conor Sen, Bloomberg View

An environment in which high value economic activity happens in just a handful of cities would make the country worse off, and ultimately starve those cities of what they need to thrive — talent and ideas. … Without the ability to import talent from the rest of the country and the rest of the world — talent that the large cities didn’t pay to develop — large cities would collapse. A look at the titans of Silicon Valley shows this to be the case. Mark Zuckerberg grew up in Westchester County, New York. Tim Cook grew up in Alabama. Marc Andreessen moved around in the Midwest. Silicon Valley, you didn’t educate that.

Message to Tech Firms From Palo Alto Mayor: Go Away. Please. | Thomas Fuller, New York Times

“Big tech companies are choking off the downtown,” Mayor Patrick Burt said. “It’s not healthy.” … Last year, the city of 66,000 people set a cap of less than 1 percent a year on the growth of office space in most of its parts. In the charming downtown, where battalions of tech workers from companies like Amazon stroll the streets, their eyes often glued to their smartphones, the mayor is looking to enforce, in some form, an all-but-forgotten zoning regulation that bans companies whose primary business is research and development, including software coding. (To repeat: The mayor is considering enforcing a ban on coding at ground zero of Silicon Valley.)

Did Construction Unions Kill California Housing Affordability? | Roland Li, San Francisco Business Times

It was the boldest California housing policy proposal in years: Allow any residential project that complies with local zoning and sets aside as few as five percent of its units as affordable to be built “as of right,” removing review from local municipalities. The idea was to fast-track approvals and reduce the cost of building as the state struggles with a crushing housing crisis. But after three months of debate and widespread opposition, the proposal by Gov. Jerry Brown, meant to boost the state’s housing production in the face of record-high housing prices, appears to be dead. … Dozens of community groups, environmentalists and the League of California Cities – and even some tenant groups – opposed the measure. One of the most powerful opponents of the bill was a sector that could directly benefit from more development: construction labor unions.

What Happened to the Future of Architecture? | Jonathan Meades, London Review of Books

Given that petty bossiness and online manipulation are everywhere to be found it is hardly surprising that the smartest of smart buildings are already being programmed to exercise control over us – caring control, softly spoken – and with a degree of subtlety that quite evaded B.F. Skinner and still evades the uniformed gorillas who patrol gated ‘communities’ and apartment complexes. So far the patrons of this new, chummy determinism are the barons of parallel reality and fiscal mockery – Apple, Google, Amazon etc. Skinner’s bludgeon may be absent, his menu of reinforcements may be diluted but his intentions stretch from the grave. According to one of Norman Foster’s apparatchiks working on the Apple project, ‘We have a building that is pushing social behaviour in the way people work.’ Maybe not so chummy. While over at Google: ‘We … hope to bring new life to the unique local environment … enhancing burrowing owl habitats.’

Frank Lloyd Wright’s Dream Cities | Anthony Paletta, City Journal

Neil Levine knows that Frank Lloyd Wright was far from an urbanist. He acknowledges early on that the title of his new book—The Urbanism of Frank Lloyd Wright—“must strike many as an oxymoron.” In fact, the architect was famous for his jeremiads against cities. But Levine has come not to praise such concoctions as Broadacre City, a conceptual project viewed by many as the pinnacle of anti-urban planning, but to reconcile them with the image of Wright as the modern architect even traditionalists can appreciate. Like Broadacre, most of Wright’s urban ideas never moved passed the conceptual stage. Some—such as his proposed Point Park Complex in Pittsburgh and his Baghdad Civic Center designs—achieved modest recognition; others are almost unknown. In Levine’s book, they are collected and examined in a single monograph for the first time.

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Penn_Station1

“Words on the Street” highlights the best New Urbs content we’ve encountered this week:

Penn Station, Reborn? | Catesby Leigh, City Journal

A decision to rebuild McKim’s station makes excellent sense on its own terms, but it also would provide the visionary, symbolic impetus that Gateway needs. Like Dresden’s glorious Frauenkirche, the faithful reconstruction of which was completed 60 years after the building’s destruction by Allied bombs, the old Penn Station was not architecture “of its time” but architecture for all time.

How Pittsburgh Can Take the Next Step | Dan Simpson, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette

If one really wanted to bring this whole area to life in terms of transportation, instead of trying to keep Pittsburgh airport alive in the face of the whims of America’s fickle airline industry, thought should be given to building a new airport, midway between Cleveland and Pittsburgh, accessed by very-high-speed rail from both cities, with future options to link the new facility with Akron, Canton, Erie, Toledo and Youngstown, also by high-speed rail. Does anyone actually believe that the old Rust Belt cities benefit from parochialism? Where is the long-term regional planning? It certainly isn’t in Harrisburg or Columbus.

Why the High Cost of Big-City Living Is Bad for Everyone | Mark Gimein, New Yorker

New York, San Francisco, Washington, Miami: these have become international centers of commerce, issuing an ever louder siren call to the global élite. … The price of the creation of these imperial cities is that they actually provide decreasing opportunities for many of those who already live in them, or for those who move to them and are not already armed with resources, status, and education. Everyone living in New York or San Francisco understands the general contours of this. Artists get pushed out of the center, the middle class gets pushed into the suburbs, and bus riders are asked to make way (literally) for tech workers.

Vladimir Putin’s Walkable Streets | Maria Antonova, Foreign Policy

Almost all of central Moscow has spent the summer enveloped in green construction gauze as workers in orange jackets labor around the clock, digging trenches along historic avenues and sawing granite chunks, sending up clouds of dust. … Moscow architect Eugene Asse said the project to make the city walkable has been well-intentioned but poorly executed. “The city must be freed of cars in its historic center and create more democratic spaces for pedestrians,” he said. At the same time, the street revamp is a “rather monstrous operation with no anesthesia,” he added. “These projects were not discussed with anyone.”

How Big Can China’s Cities Get? | Adam Minter, Bloomberg View

“Adding more density to the cities won’t work anymore,” says Alain Bertaud, a senior research scholar at New York University who has consulted in China for decades. The problem, he says, is that those cities are increasingly fragmented. Housing in Shanghai and Beijing has become so expensive that non-wealthy residents have been pushed to the furthest reaches of the suburbs, where commuters often face extended waits just to enter a subway station — let alone actually get on a train. The result is a large labor force that can’t be put to work by employers, largely defeating the purpose of urbanization.

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Fall Interns Wanted

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The American Conservative is currently accepting applications for a fall editorial assistant position. The deadline for applications is Sunday, July 31 by midnight.

Editorial interns gain experience in all aspects of producing the website and print magazine. This internship offers real experience in all the moving parts of a media organization and exposure to both editorial and marketing projects.

Responsibilities include:

  • Preparing pieces for the web, writing headlines, curating images
  • Managing TAC’s presence on social media platforms
  • Contributing headlines and story ideas
  • Proofreading, fact-checking, and editing
  • Blogging for the web and writing for the print magazine
  • Devising strategies for audience development and engagement
  • Helping with event planning and special projects

Clerical duties, such as answering the phone and handling the mail, are also involved.

All candidates should possess:

  • Eagerness to work tirelessly on a small but ambitious team
  • Superb writing and editing ability
  • Strong communication and organizational skills
  • Love of considered, lengthy journalism as well as an appreciation of horse-race politics
  • Excellent news/culture/opinion judgment
  • A background in intellectual conservatism and keen understanding of The American Conservative’s sensibility

Past experience with a news or opinion publication is preferred, though not required.

Interns will join our team in Washington, D.C., from September to December, and will receive a stipend. We will review applications on a rolling basis, so applicants are encouraged to submit their materials before the final deadline. Undergraduate students or recent graduates who would like to apply should e-mail their responses as Word document or PDF attachments to [email protected] no later than July 31.

Required:

  • Résumé
  • Cover letter
  • A 500-word writing sample appropriate for our website, offering a fresh perspective, original analysis, and a clear, evidence-based argument. Alternatively, you are welcome to submit a link to a blog post or article you have published elsewhere that would have been well-suited for publication in The American Conservative.

Optional (Pick 2 or 3):

  • Propose three ideas for web articles (1-2 sentences each).
  • What are the two most interesting media accounts you follow on Twitter and why? (100 words max.)
  • How could we improve our coverage and analysis on the web? (100 words max.)
  • How could we improve our fundraising efforts on the web? (100 words max.)
  • Write two Facebook posts and two tweets about articles or blog posts that appear on our homepage today.
  • Which two contemporary writers have influenced your thinking the most? (100 words max.)
  • How would you describe the American Conservative reader? (100 words max.)

We also consider applications submitted through partner organizations—including the Koch InstituteCollegiate Network, and National Journalism Center. We’ll post more information about our spring 2017 internship in the coming months.

Words on the Street

Each week, New Urbs collects the best content we’ve read each week that we didn’t publish—but would have. Read something you think should make the cut? E-mail Jon Coppage or tag @NewUrbs with the link on Twitter.

“Promoting Opportunity by Making Housing More Affordable” by Reihan Salam via Room to Grow

Conservatives have good reason to focus on housing. Reforming our housing policies is crucial to helping low- and middle-income families climb the economic ladder. America’s housing market is shaped by public policy in countless ways, at the federal, state, and local levels. If our goal is to lift artificial burdens from the backs of American families, housing policy is an excellent place to start.

“What Your Local Parish and the New Hipster Bar Have in Common” via CNA

However, new residents don’t always give credit to the vital role the parishes have historically played in the communities – and still do to this day.

“You all just really need to move your church, you’re getting in the way of what we’re doing here,” new residents have told Fr. Kelley and other Bloomingdale pastors. The priest recalled one interaction with a new homeowner who criticized the churches’ presence in the area. “I remember saying to someone, ‘How long have you been here?’”

“Oh I moved in about six months ago,” the man responded.

“I’ve been here for 24 years,” Fr. Kelley told the new resident.

“The Local and the Global Lessons From Detroit” via The New Localization

The funny thing about the local economy is that it doesn’t seem important, until it is. In good times, everyone is your friend, and similarly in financial good times your options seem unlimited and buying local is not as competitive. But in tough times, when financially it makes no sense for anyone to stick with you, because you are more of a burden – will those friends still be there? This is the economic resilience that can only be home grown.

“New Urbs” is supported by a grant from the Richard H. Driehaus Foundation.

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“Words on the Street” highlights the best New Urbs content we’ve encountered this week:

The City That Embraced Its Decline | Alexia Fernández Campbell, The Atlantic

Youngstown, Ohio, created quite a stir a decade ago when it unveiled a novel plan for the city: It would stop trying to return to its glory days as a city of 170,000 people and instead embrace the idea that maybe smaller is better. The Youngstown 2010 plan reoriented the former steel-mill town toward providing services to the neighborhoods with the most people, converting abandoned land into green space, and supporting the burgeoning healthcare industry. In doing so, it hoped to keep the remaining 66,000 people from leaving. Since unveiling the plan in 2005, the city has lost only about 1,000 people.

How a Century-Old Zoning Law Shaped the Manhattan Skyline | Stephen Eide, Next City

This month marks the 100th anniversary of New York’s 1916 zoning law, a landmark event in the history of American urbanism and architecture. The law imposed regulations on the use and height of buildings, responding to widespread concern that early 20th-century New York was becoming too dense too quickly. During the preceding decades, skyscrapers had proliferated, creating “canyons” of darkness in lower Manhattan. The solution was the setback: After a skyscraper rose to a certain point, its façade had to be pushed back, to let in the sun and keep height in a certain proportion with street width.

True-ish Grit | David A. Banks, Real Life

Then something happened that was both strange and strangely predictable: Trojan Hardware went from being a moribund seller of commodities to a fetishized commodity itself, a design motif for the new businesses that opened in its former storefronts: a microbrewery, an exotic-plants retailer, and a hardware-store-themed cocktail bar called The Shop, with chair rails made of salvaged Trojan Hardware yardsticks and many other Trojan Hardware relics adorning the walls. Each of these new businesses trades on the air of rootedness that Trojan Hardware still supplies, the aura of organic street life that the ghost of a longstanding neighborhood establishment affords.

Books in the Basement | Nicole Gelinas, City Journal

I am writing this essay from the basement of the Baccarat Hotel, the awkward 605-foot crystal-and-marble confection on West 53rd Street that opened last year. The Baccarat, which is owned by a Chinese insurance company, made news in December when two prostitutes allegedly stole a $600,000 watch from a drunken john. Why am I here? In one of the worst decisions made by a local public institution in decades, the New York Public Library has squirreled away its newest branch in the basement of this luxury tower.

Amazon Has Swallowed Downtown Seattle | Spencer Soper & Peter Robison, Bloomberg

Over the years, founder and Chief Executive Officer Jeff Bezos has made clear his disdain for the free lunches, massages and other perks commonplace in the suburban enclaves of Google, Apple and Facebook. His big advantage in the amenities arms race is a commitment to preserving an urban campus, no matter how big his company gets.

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“Words on the Street” highlights the best New Urbs content we’ve encountered this week:

Forget the White Picket Fence, the American Dream Is in the City | Vikram Mansharamani, PBS

The dominant housing story of the last century was an exodus of those with means from cities to suburbs. The American Dream consisted of a white picket fence around a private yard, 2.4 children in the home and a nice car or two. Today, the dream is changing. Sure, the suburbs still offer a great deal, but there’s a powerful countertrend that is increasingly hard to ignore: a renaissance in cities, as they draw empty nesters and young professionals alike to a vibrant, urban lifestyle.

AirBnb and the Battle of Suitcase Alley | Ginia Bellafante, New York Times

On June 17, the State Legislature passed what would become one of the most stringent home-sharing laws in the country, if not the world, should Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo approve it. The measure would forbid not only landlords, but also tenants, to list apartments for short-term rental on Airbnb and similar sites, and would impose fines of up to $7,500 on those who flout it. It is already illegal in New York to rent out an unoccupied apartment in a building with three or more units for fewer than 30 days, but Airbnb is full of advertisements for such places regardless; about 55 percent of Airbnb listings violate the law, according to housing activists.

Building a Better Tech Boom | Patrick Sisson, Curbed

In a city that is already facing rapid gentrification and some of the fastest growing real estate prices in the country (Zillow says all the hottest neighborhoods in the Bay Area are in Oakland), the Uber move makes many nervous that the city’s diverse, working class roots will be further diluted by tech bros and rapidly rising real estate prices (the city, the birthplace of the Black Panthers and home to generations of black celebrities and leaders, lost a quarter of its African American residents between 2000 and 2010).

Can You Tackle Poverty Without Taking On Place? | Solomon Greene, Urban Institute

Earlier this month, House Republicans released a new plan to fight poverty and help Americans move up the economic ladder. The plan begins and ends with the premise that “The American Dream is the idea that, no matter who you are or where you come from, if you work hard and give it your all, you will succeed.” In between, however, there is scant mention of the role that place (i.e., where you come from) plays in perpetuating poverty or shaping economic opportunity.

The Bike Collision Law That Scares Cyclists | Eillie Anzilotti, CityLab

[M]ost states abide by a policy of “comparative fault” in the event of a crash. This standard holds that if a cyclist or pedestrian can claim less than 50 percent of responsibility for a dust-up, they’re entitled to either a full insurance payment, or one commensurate with their level of negligence as determined by a jury. The point is, they’re guaranteed some compensation.

But in Maryland, Virginia, North Carolina, Alabama, and Washington, D.C., that is not the case. That’s because in those locales, the standard of contributory negligence has not been written out of the books, like it has been in the rest of the United States. Broadly applied, contributory negligence maintains that if the harmed party is deemed more than 1 percent responsible for an accident or injury, they cannot claim any recovery payment.

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