Someone Else’s Blank Slate

The Long Now has a good post on their blog summarizing the fate of Paul Romer’s Charter City initiative in Honduras.  In short, it’s gone down in flames.  Especially with the ideas and capital coming from N. America, this really shouldn’t surprise anyone.  There’s a good core idea in Romer’s Charter City pitch, but it has to be more like an organic autonomous region and less like a maquiladora or a colonial outpost.

Land Value Capture and City Finance

A long post about urban infrastructure finance via “Land Value Capture” from Next American City.  The general idea is that the provision of public goods — roads, sidewalks, transit lines, sewers, utility lines, etc — adds value to the property which it serves.  This value pertains to the location, not the improvements any developer might have built (or refrained from building) on the property.  Land value capture mechanisms seek a slice of that incremental value to re-pay (or finance) the provisioning of those improvements.  It’s a feedback loop that results in density without lots of debt financing on the part of the city.

Carsharing saves city governments millions

Migrating city fleets to car-sharing has been able to reduce the size of those fleets by 50-75%, and increase vehicle utilization from 30 to 70%, which means way less in the way of city capital costs dedicated to cars.  It also means a lot of policymakers getting much more familiar with the sharing economy.

The American suburbs are a giant Ponzi scheme

Suburbia as Ponzi scheme.  We have subsidized suburban growth through debt and taxes, and reaped the short-term financial rewards of that growth, but at the expense of taking on ever larger long-term liabilities in terms of infrastructure maintenance and a very energy intensive transportation system.  I disagree with Strong Towns on the appropriate overall scale of habitation (more people and a much larger fraction of our overall economy live in cities, not towns), but this is (another) good critique of the American Nightmare.

State DOTs may be forced to return millions in bike/ped funding

The Alliance for Biking & Walking is sounding the alarm on another round of crippling rescissions heading for state and local transportation agencies.  A rescission is when the Feds say “Hey, you know that money we gave you?  We want it back now.”  This happened in 2010 as well, and then 44% of the money returned to DC came from bike, pedestrian, and air quality funding streams, even though they together make up only 7% of federal transportation funds.  Yet another example of why local transportation should be funded locally, and why as a cyclist or pedestrian, you should evade your federal taxes whenever possible.

NHTSA, AAA join together for National Bike Danger Month

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration and AAA have joined together to promote National Bicycles Are Dangerous Month.  I don’t understand why the US DoT would think that AAA and the NHTSA have any experience with bicycling.  They’re both catastrophically automotive organizations.  If anything, they have institutional imperatives to discourage cycling, which is exactly what their so-called safety recommendations do, by portraying bicycling as a dangerous activity, and placing the onus on cyclists to be safer, even though all the 100 daily deaths on US highways are perpetrated by cars.

Why Isn’t Wall Street in Jail?

Nobody from Wall St. but Bernie Madoff is going to jail.  No wonder the banksters continue their trillion dollar white collar crime spree.  They and their regulators are one in the same.  Favorite quote from a congressional staffer: “You put Lloyd Blankfein in pound-me-in-the-ass prison for one six-month term, and all this bullshit would stop, all over Wall Street. That’s all it would take. Just once.”  Meanwhile we jail a mom in Ohio for trying to send her kid to a better school across town.

What can we do about the Arab revolutions?

It’s frustrating to feel like nothing you do matters.  In isolation, we have very little effect on the world.  It’s only in aggregate, by organizing with other people that large changes — social chain reactions — can happen.  Sometimes it’s done purposefully, as in the case of universal suffrage or the civil rights movement.  Sometimes we don’t even realize what we’ve been organized to do, as with our present efforts to terraform the Earth.  A few weeks ago I was completely absorbed by the uprising in Egypt.  I don’t watch live video much (and no TV), and I was glued to Al Jazeera, and temporarily subscribed to a dozen actively twittering people in Cairo.  Then my sister sent me a link to a live hummingbird cam, which was jarringly disconnected from what I’d been immersed in, which looked more like this:

Down wt Mobarak

Continue reading What can we do about the Arab revolutions?

Egypt: The January 25 Uprising and Implications for U.S. Foreign Policy

Congressional Research Service report on the implications of the Egyptian revolution for US foreign policy (pdf).  Also has good background on the nature of our relationship with Egypt, including our ongoing aid package and political pressures.