2011 Columns

  • Emerging Issues: Doing Less with Less, and Beyond

    Many municipal leaders are now figuring out how to do less with less. It’s not a short-term holding action; this promises to be a long slog. No time like the present, then, to imagine what other surprises may be slouching toward us even now and to stress test local and regional systems for capacity to weather probable scenarios.

  • Emerging Issues: To act or not to act --- Is that the question for governments?

    We can all agree with NY Times columnist David Brooks that it’s difficult for government and planning to accomplish big, complicated things. But he’s very wrong about both his excessive cautions against “the limits of social policy” and also about the small-bore way he urges us to think about what governments and planning can do about the economic and financial mess we’re in. It matters how he, his readers, and we frame this whole challenge.

  • Emerging Issues: Hyphens and Documents, Hopes and Fears

    Immigrant integration is happening “steadily,” albeit “unevenly,” in the United States, according to a new report. This is a big deal, not only because some progress is occurring but also because this news contrasts with what you get from your regular encounters with the news media and national leaders. It’s a neglected story and, when it’s told --- by local leaders and others --- it could contribute to re-shaping constructively the nation’s rather dismal national discourse on immigration.

  • Weigh the Anchors, but Join Them Up

    University presidents describe their schools as increasingly “engaged” and ready to undertake “anchor institution” roles in their communities and regions. This emerging attitude presents both a great opportunity for positive partnerships in cities and a challenge for everyone to avoid the negatives of some past university/community relationships.

  • Emerging Issues: Closing the Regional Disconnect

    Boundary crossing for regional governance is on its way to becoming normal. We should put aside the false choice twixt doing nothing or engineering jurisdictional consolidation and instead shift to a focus on regional governance as capacity and process.

  • Emerging Issues: It’s the Stupid Economy!

    We’re nowhere near agreement on the question of “what’s the problem with the economy?” and so we’re in complete disarray about “what is to be done?” Three factors make matters worse: tattered frameworks; the long and short of it; and violation of Goldberg’s rule.

  • U Street and Neighborhood Change: A Thing of Beauty is a Joy Forever

    Here’s a value that often eludes urban policy thinkers: adding beauty to the world. Blair Ruble, in contrast, thinks "there is no higher mission for an urban community to fulfill." He’s not so much talking about the aesthetics of physical surroundings; he’s moved by the beauty of what people do and create in the places they make. Ruble asserts this view in his terrific "biography" of "Washington’s U Street."

  • Emerging Issues: Big Think Books, Part Two: Cities and Destiny

    Transportation is destiny--- and cities must adapt. Demography is destiny---ditto. So say authors of recent Big Think Books. Whatever destiny is, these five BTBs offer readable ways to engage the provocative, befuddling, and important public conversation about the future of cities.

  • Emerging Issues: Big Think Books, Part One: BTBs See Big Roles for Cities in Big Global Changes

    A flotilla of Big Think Books (BTB's) about cities has heaved into view. This article and next week's provide a glimpse of key themes in these BTB's and some analysis of controversial issues on which the authors agree and disagree.

  • Emerging Issues: Intergovernmental System Requires Attention

    The U.S. system of intergovernmental relations is pervaded by "a lack of trust and respect." It is "broken down across the board.” And, besides, it’s “not much of a ‘system’ now” anyway.

  • Emerging Issues: A Unique Time in Municipal Finance: Not for Hunkering Down

    Fundamental dollars and cents challenges lead directly to fundamental governance challenges, including questions that may not be part of the normal budgetary discussions. Michael Pagano says cities should try to address these questions.