Sunday, October 5, 2014

The Good of Government

by Roger Scruton June 2014
In his first inaugural address, President Reagan announced that "government is not the solution to our problem; government is the problem," and his remark struck a chord in the hearts of his conservative supporters. American conservatives, called upon to define their position, reiterate the message that there is "too much government." 
The seemingly unstoppable expansion of regulations; the increasing control over what happens in the workplace, in the public square, and even in the family; the constant manufacturing of new crimes and misdemeanors, aimed at controlling how we associate and with whom; the attempts to limit First and Second Amendment rights—these developments are viewed by many conservatives with alarm. They seem to be taking America in a new direction, away from the free association of self-governing individuals envisaged by the founders, toward a society of obedient dependents, who exchange their freedom and their responsibilities for a perpetual lien on the public purse. And you only have to look at Europe to see the result.
First Things June 2014.

British Conservative Conference 2014 | City Living: What can the Conservatives do to win more urban seats?


Gracy Olmstead - Why Conservatives Should Care About Urban Farming

We are used to a “country versus city” dichotomy. It’s not just typical to American society—the polarity has created a lot of class, cultural, and political differences throughout the world.

There are a variety of disparate mores usually cultivated in the two separate communities: one is usually more liberal, the other more conservative, one more focused on the individual and careerism, the other more focused on the family.

Urban folk and agrarians are often at odds with each other, representing different camps in larger political and ideological debates. But what happens when people bring the country to the city?

Read full article.

Monday, July 28, 2014

City of Villages Vibrant ethnic neighborhoods, not tall buildings, define the real Los Angeles


Los Angeles is unique among the big, world-class American cities. Unlike New York, Boston, or Chicago, L.A. lacks a clearly defined core. It is instead a sprawling region made up of numerous poly-ethnic neighborhoods, few exhibiting the style and grace of a Paris arrondissement, Greenwich Village, or southwest London. In the 1920s, the region’s huge dispersion was contemptuously described—in a quotation alternately attributed to Dorothy Parker, Aldous Huxley, or H. L. Mencken—as “72 suburbs in search of a city.” Los Angeles’s lack of urbane charm led William Faulkner to dub it “the plastic asshole of the world.” But to those of us who inhabit this expansive and varied place, the lack of conventional urbanity is exactly what makes Los Angeles so interesting.

My adopted hometown is the exemplar of the modern multipolar metropolis: less a conscious city than a series of alternatives created by its climate, its diversity, and a congested but still-functional system of freeways that historian Kevin Starr calls “absolute masterpieces of engineering.”

Read full article.

Brandon Loran Maxwell - Blame Unions for High Prison Costs

What’s not to love about Oregon? It’s green. It’s hip. It’s weird. Yet, behind the cultural mystique of Oregon lies a troubling truth: Compared to similar-sized states, it has one of the fastest growing prison populations in the nation and spends 7.5 percent more per inmate than the national average—$84.81 each day.
To put $84.81 in perspective, Mississippi spends $39.56 a day—merely half of what Oregon spends. In fact, of the nation’s 14 states with populations ranging between two and five million people, ten of them spend less per inmate than Oregon. Only Iowa, Connecticut, and New Mexico spend more. So where is the money going?
Interestingly enough, of the ten states that spend less than Oregon per inmate, nine are right-to-work states. Of the four states that spend equal to or more than Oregon per inmate, three are forced-union states.

Matt K. Lewis - Why Conservatives see rural America as the 'real' America (and why this is a problem for the GOP)

Matt K. Lewis is a contributing editor at and a senior contributor for The Daily Caller.
Perhaps the most ironic thing about other conservatives adopting an anti-city worldview is that it is partly based on a pernicious lie advanced by the high priest of romanticism, Jean-Jacques Rousseau. Rousseau essentially invented his own creation myth out of whole cloth. It differed greatly with the Christian understanding of creation, inasmuch as instead of viewing man as a fallen creature (due to original sin),

Rousseau envisioned early man as a sort of noble savage. It wasn't until man recognized the concept of property and ownership, Rousseau argued, that he became greedy and corrupted. In that view, a simple life is good and pure. A modern urban life is dirty and wrong.

 "Many scholars have pointed out the romanticists' idea that somehow cities are breeders of sinful behavior and people who live in the country are more virtuous is actually something that's been passed into the American psyche and actually into the American Christian psyche so that we have a tendency to have a very negative view of cities," says Keller.

Read full article.

Jill Homan - The path to Republican urban renewal

Thirteen years ago on July 1, Mayor Richard Riordan ended his term as Los Angeles mayor, leaving Republicans out of office in another major city.

 Since that time, some of the city’s residents have moved out and new residents moved in, resulting in over 300,000 net new voters registered – none of whom have lived in Los Angeles as a Republican city. If the GOP wishes to remain competitive in national elections in 2014 and beyond, it must reverse a two-decade decline in voter support in the country’s major cities.

Twenty years ago, Republicans controlled the executive branch in six of the nation’s 12 largest cities, including today, a member of the Grand Old Party holds the mayoralty in just one of these cities (San Diego). In fact, only three cities in the top 25 largest cities – representing approximately 36 million people – are led by Republican mayors. There’s no simple partisan diagnosis for this dramatic shift in political fortunes. It’s true that Republicans have, at least since Reagan was in office, focused on suburban and rural voters – some of whom were escaping cities that were dangerous or poorly managed.

Read full article.

Tuesday, June 10, 2014

Akindele Akinyemi: Urban Conservatism

Akindele Akinyemi is a Nigerian American educator, motivational speaker, researcher and former political consultant from Detroit, Michigan. He is widely known for his work on educational reform in K-12 in the United States with charter schools.

Sunday, June 8, 2014

Detroit & The Urban Machine

I’m quite familiar with Detroit. I’ve been there many times. I was born in Sandusky, Ohio, and I can see that many Detroiters are familiar with my hometown, too, as evidenced by the license plates of the cars snaking their way along the roads leading to Cedar Point.
Ohio has a Rust Belt problem, too. On two occasions (2002 and 2004) I was the Republican candidate for state representative in a portion of Ohio’s Rust Belt, encompassing Lorain, Oberlin, parts of Elyria, and the vicinity. I didn’t win the elections, as one would expect in such Democrat bastions, but I had a chance to think long and hard about remedies for Rust Belt decay as I drew up my own economic development plans for the district I hoped to represent.
It would take a book to detail each facet of what I envisioned, and even my own blog, to date, contains only a fraction of my proposals, so I don’t plan to elaborate much within this thread (it’s already a wall of text, as it is), but my approach to urban renewal differs from most other approaches I’ve come across. My approach is different because my assessment of the causes of the decay are different. While I readily agree that Detroit’s economy must be diversified to counter the prevailing trend, I do not think that the auto industry is at the root of the decay at all.
Attitudes are at the root of the decay.

Republicans Can’t Win America if They Lose the Cities

America crossed a remarkable threshold last year when Democrat Bob Filner won the race for Mayor of San Diego. For the first time in the modern era and perhaps the first time since the two major parties took shape, none of the nation’s ten largest cities have a Republican mayor.
It would be tough to find a more pressing symptom of the party’s demographic challenge than the decline of the iconic Republican Mayor. Symbols of pragmatic, sensible leadership, Republican mayors formed a powerful link to the party’s Hamiltonian capitalist roots. Our countryside is continuing to empty as more and more Americans build a life in the city. Rebuilding a competitive urban agenda will be a critical key to building a 21st century GOP.
The decline of the party’s influence in urban areas is particularly shocking for how quickly it has developed. Outside of the machine politics of Boston, Chicago and Philadelphia, Republicans were regularly competitive in most of America’s major cities until the late sixties.
During that decade, cities like Detroit, San Francisco, New York, Dallas, and Los Angeles all had Republican mayors. Beyond the urban core Republicans in all of America’s big cities remained a potent, sometimes unchallenged force in suburban politics until the last few elections.

Monday, June 2, 2014

Mick Cornett: How an obese town lost a million pounds

Mayor Mick Cornett (born July 16, 1958) is the current mayor of Oklahoma City, Oklahoma, United States, having served in that position since 2004. He is only the fourth mayor in Oklahoma City history to be elected to three terms and the first to be elected to four terms. He also serves on notable positions including the national President of the Republican Mayors and Local Officials (RMLO), and also serves on the Board of Trustees for the U.S. Conference of Mayors. He was also Chairman of the U.S. Conference of Mayors Urban Economic Affairs Committee until 2007. He is a Republican.

City Journal - The Childless City

It’s hip, it’s entertaining—but where are the families?

The modern city: the casts of The Real World and Jersey Shore party it up at a New York nightclub.
What is a city for? Ever since cities first emerged thousands of years ago, they have been places where families could congregate and flourish. The family hearth formed the core of the ancient Greek and Roman city, observed the nineteenth-century French historian Fustel de Coulanges. Family was likewise the foundation of the great ancient cities of China and the Middle East. As for modern European cities, the historian Philippe Ariès argued that the contemporary “concept of the family” itself originated in the urbanizing northern Europe shown in Rembrandt’s paintings of bourgeois life. Another historian, Simon Schama, described the seventeenth-century Dutch city as “the Republic of Children.” European immigrants carried the institution of the family-oriented city across the Atlantic to America. In the American city until the 1950s, urbanist Sam Bass Warner observed, the “basic custom” was “commitment to familialism.”

As Detroit Prepares for Clear-Cutting, Signs of Hope

Detroit's collapse may have reached the point of providing clear ground for new growth:

spirit of america /

Yesterday an Obama administration-convened task force released what the New York Times called “perhaps the most elaborate survey of decay conducted in any large America[n] city,” detailing the pervasiveness of perceived blight in the Motor City. The Detroit Blight Removal Task Force surveyed 377,603 properties, and recommended 40,077 for demolition, 38,429 for further review. Task force leader Dan Gilbert set the stakes somewhat colorfully, saying, “Blight sucks the soul out of anyone who gets near it.” In order to fully follow the task force’s clear-cutting recommendations, Detroit would need to spend at least $850 million, almost twice the $450 million the city has already planned to spend on blight.

Read more:

Monday, May 19, 2014

Cities as cradles of progressivism?

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.

 However, some believe that ideology is on the rise in American cities. Recent columns by the Washington Post’s EJ Dionne and Harold Meyerson and Tom Edsall from the New York Times have identified a trend among city officials to implement, at the local level, what they see are distinctly leftwing policies such as raising the minimum wage.

 The first question that should be asked about this trend is why is it happening now?

 Read more: 

Sunday, May 4, 2014

Green Conservatism

Writer and philosopher Roger Scruton argues that conservatism is far better suited to tackle environmental problems than either liberalism or socialism.

Chaired by Matthew Taylor, chief executive, the RSA.

Listen to a podcast of the full event including the audience Q&A:

Jane Jacobs: "The Death and Life of Great American Cities."

Michael Lewis discusses Jane Jacobs and "The Death and Life of Great American Cities."

Saturday, May 3, 2014

Urban Republican of the Month - George McDonald

George McDonald, is the founder of The Doe Fund, a nonprofit organization in the United States that provides paid transitional work, housing, educational opportunities, counseling, and career training to people with histories of homelessness, incarceration, and substance abuse. Graduates of The Doe Fund’s flagship Ready, Willing & Able "work first" program secure permanent housing and employment and become taxpaying members of their communities, fulfilling the group’s mission to break the cycles of homelessness, addiction and criminal recidivism.

George McDonald, founder of The Doe Fund, was working as a garment industry executive when he became conscious of New York’s growing homeless population. He was motivated to do something about it by the teachings of his Catholic school education stressing the importance of community service and supporting those who are less fortunate.

In 1985, a homeless woman known only as "Mama"—whom George McDonald had fed and befriended—died of exposure, the result of spending the night on a concrete sidewalk after being ejected from Grand Central Terminal on Christmas Eve by Metro-North police, despite her pneumonia and the freezing temperatures outside. The incident drove George McDonald to redirect his executive career to focus on providing the homeless with a way off the streets. He created the organization he called The Doe Fund in honor of “Mama Doe.”

The Manhattan Institute for Policy Research awarded the William E. Simon Prize for Lifetime Achievement in Social Entrepreneurship to George McDonald in 2008 for his work-based programs to reduce homelessness and criminal recidivism. The institute credited George McDonald with “changing the way the problem of homelessness is understood, going far beyond the provision of shelter to help former street people and prisoners regain their self-respect and become productive citizens.

Read more:

Wednesday, April 30, 2014

How de Blasio Can Get Housing Policy Right

Photo by Paul Sableman
The mayor has some good options—if creating affordable housing is really his goal.
New mayors, like new presidents, often start their administrations with signal actions. New York City mayor Bill de Blasio has had several, including limiting expansion of some charter schools and pushing to raise taxes on the wealthy to pay for expanded pre-K education. On housing policy, about which the new mayor professes to be “deadly serious,” he has pressured the redeveloper of the derelict former Domino Sugar refinery on the Brooklyn waterfront to increase—from 20 percent to 30 percent—the number of apartments set aside at below-market prices.

Phillip Blond on the Civic State and Conservatism

Phillip Blond, English political thinker and director of think tank ResPublica, is credited with the resurgence of conservatism in the UK.


Tuesday, April 29, 2014

Cobblestone Conservative

How Jane Jacobs saved New York City’s soul.

Housing projects are almost universally loathed today, not least by their residents. Still, one can understand the vision that inspired them. City life is crowded and, at first glance, messy. Even if the middle and lower classes cannot afford their own backyards, we can at least provide them a simulacrum of suburban life. Sixty years ago, lacking the benefit of hindsight, planning officials honestly believed that by bulldozing neighborhoods and replacing them with modern towers, highways, open space, parks, and playgrounds they could cure poverty and save the city.

The woman who proved that it wouldn’t work was an eccentric freelancer named Jane Jacobs. In her 1961 classic The Death and Life of Great American Cities, Jacobs assaulted a century’s worth of received wisdom in urban planning. Jacobs read voraciously; she would test her ideas by imagining dialogues between herself and thinkers from Plato to Thomas Jefferson. But she was no academic. In Death and Life, she cited not one paper nor analyzed one set of data.

Read more:

Quote of the Day

“[Public housing projects] are not lacking in natural leaders,' [Ellen Lurie, a social worker in East Harlem] says. 'They contain people with real ability, wonderful people many of them, but the typical sequence is that in the course of organization leaders have found each other, gotten all involved in each others' social lives, and have ended up talking to nobody but each other. They have not found their followers. Everything tends to degenerate into ineffective cliques, as a natural course. There is no normal public life. Just the mechanics of people learning what s going on is so difficult. It all makes the simplest social gain extra hard for these people.” ― Jane Jacobs, The Death and Life of Great American Cities

Communist housing policy

The Communist regime believed that people were shaped by their environment. New uniform socialist housing, it reasoned, would produce a new uniform Socialist Man shorn of bourgeois individualism. Building socialism meant building panelaks (plus, of course, the minimal facilities of school, health centre, police station and prefabricated concrete pub.) 
Source: Rory Wilmer Photographer

"Communist housing policy had other and more brutal sides. In Prague, it tied the residents down in their city, offered them menial employment, and left them more or less to their own devices. But elsewhere—in Prostejov, for example, or the once beautiful Slovakian town of Povázská Bystrice—the Communists bulldozed the old town centers and stacked up the population in blocks on the perimeter, for the Party was anxious to destroy the past and the loyalties that grew in it."  — Roger Scuton

Taken aken from the  1999; article, "Sleeping Cities" City Journal,

Detroit’s Message to Investors

Photo by Gerald R. Ford School of Public Policy, University of Michigan

When emergency financial manager Kevyn Orr filed his plans in late February to lift Detroit out of bankruptcy, his proposals drew fire from the municipal-finance industry. Investors, bond insurers, ratings analysts, and industry groups all balked at his terms. That’s not surprising, since Orr, a private-sector restructuring expert, has used the Detroit bankruptcy to try to overturn years’ worth of precedent in municipal finance.

Read more:

Conservatism Works in Cities … If they let it

City dwellers naturally want and require greater governmental services than surburban and rural dwellers. It frightens them when conservatives talk about reducing city services. Yet there are examples (Indianapolis is one) where private companies have bid to provide services that had previously been monopolized by public workers. The success of these programs show that properly managed private provision can bring huge efficiencies and help reduce the daunting high labor costs that are bankrupting many cities.

Read more:

Monday, April 28, 2014

Spike Lee, Brooklyn, and D.C.

Bruce Glikas/FilmMagic

H/T In My Backyard DC

 When a neighborhood becomes significantly more popular, we should expect real estate developers and individuals to respond to increased demand by increasing the number of units available for sale and rent. In neighborhoods with detached homes, developers have an incentive to create townhouses. In areas where these already exist, developers might look to build mid-rise apartment buildings that allow for greater density. If a neighborhood already has mid-rise buildings and rents are high enough, developers start to build high-rises. This process of change keeps prices lower than they otherwise would have been in two ways. First, it increases supply, which in turn lowers the equilibrium price for housing. Second, availability of new units means wealthier residents leave their old digs behind, freeing up more affordable housing for others. 

This process is important, because it means that houses get cheaper for middle-class renters even if developers are building more luxury units.

Read more: 

Saturday, April 26, 2014

Organization of the Month - Project H.O.O.D. - Chicago, IL

Picture courtesy of Project H.O.O.D.

Project H.O.O.D. (Helping Others Obtain Destiny) is a non-profit organization ending violence & building communities one neighborhood at a time. It initially started as a campaign to raise $450,000 to purchase land located at 6625 South King Drive in the Woodlawn neighborhood of Chicago for a Community center on Chicago’s Southside. The campaign for the initial seed amount was raised and Phase I was completed on February 24, 2012.

The closing for the property purchase was completed on March 6, 2012. The street King Drive was named after African American leader Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. to pay homage to his dedication to ensuring that the rights of African Americans in America were given to his generation and beyond.

  Ironically, that same street is home to drugs, violence and prostitution as well as many families who suffer from economic hardship. The 66th and King Drive location was once home to a Super Motel where prostitutes, drug dealers and criminals prompted the neighboring New Beginnings Church to take action.

View/Download Project_Hood Vision/Mission Statement

Friday, April 25, 2014

A History of the Republican Party in Chicago

From the birth of the Republican Party in the mid-1850s through the end of the 1920s, Republicans had considerable success in Chicago politics. Many of the city's mayors during that period came from the GOP, and many Republicans from the Chicago area exercised considerable influence in local, state, and national governments. From the 1930s through the end of the century, Republicans had little political influence within the city, but they enjoyed considerable strength in the growing suburbs.

 Chicago elected its first Republican mayor—the veteran politician and newspaperman John Wentworth—in 1857, only one year after the party held its first political convention in Illinois. In 1860, Chicago Republicans received a big lift as the city hosted the Republican National Convention. Local party members, led by Chicago Tribune publisher Joseph Medill, helped garner the presidential nomination for Illinois lawyer Abraham Lincoln.

 Because the Republican and Democratic parties were built to compete in national andstate politics, it has not always been easy to identify clear differences between the two parties within the context of local politics. The positions that defined the Republican Party during the nineteenth century, such as its opposition to slavery and support for the gold standard and the tariff, did not always speak to the question of how its candidates would handle the governance of Chicago. Republicans generally were more apt to emphasize fiscal conservatism and anti-vice reforms than their Democratic counterparts. Such positions tended to attract the support of pietistic Protestants—including many English, German, and Scandinavian immigrants—and many members of the middle classes and business elite.

Read more:

Wednesday, April 23, 2014

New York's Indispensable Institution

This video is based on an article by Heather Mac Donald for City Journal's special issue, "New York's Tomorrow." Read more here:

Electing a GOP mayor in a Dem stronghold

Electing a GOP mayor in a Dem stronghold
How social pressure and a concerted outreach effort to Democrats helped elect a Republican mayor in San Diego.

Campaigns & Elections:

Once a Republican bastion, registration changes in the city of San Diego now more closely mirror the overall trend throughout the state of California. Ahead of the recent mayoral race in San Diego, party registration in the city gave a heavy advantage to Democrats. The registration breakdown: 40 percent Democrat, 26 percent Republican and 34 percent other.

Read more:

Edward Glaeser - Triumph of the City: how our greatest invention makes us richer, smarter, greener, healthier and happier

Building and maintaining cities is difficult and density has costs, but in this presentation Professor Edward Glaeser will argue that these costs are worth bearing, because whether in London's ornate arcades or Rio's fractious favelas, whether in the high rises of Hong Kong or the dusty workplaces of Dharavi, our culture, our prosperity, and our freedom are all ultimately gifts of people living, working, and thinking together -- the ultimate triumph of the city.

Bill Whalen: The trouble urban centers pose for Republicans

The Sacramento Bee:

Simply put, the larger the metropolitan area – America’s top 50 cities having populations of 375,000 or more – the more likely a heavy turnout of Obama voters: minorities, millennials, professional women and progressive dreamers. It worked wonders for Obama in terms of the popular vote – the first president since Reagan to twice collect more than 51 percent of the popular vote.

Steven Brill on Education Reform

Steven Brill, a journalist and serial entrepreneur, lays out his case that fixing the public education system is critical to the future of the U.S. economy. In his view, charter schools demonstrate some successful tactics for education reform, but big questions and big challenges remain if these tactics are going to be brought to scale.

Monday, April 14, 2014

Republicans Won’t Compete in Cities

Richard Cavalleri / Shutterstock
Republican candidates lost the popular vote in five of the last six presidential elections. If the GOP is to survive as a national party, it needs to appeal to new constituencies. Could city dwellers be part of the solution? The Harvard economist Ed Glaeser says yes (with an echo from Aaron M. Renn):
The Republicans’ abandonment of the city is good neither for their party nor for urban America. The GOP clearly needs a heftier percentage of the urban vote, but winning it by means of fiscal pandering or redistribution isn’t the way to go—partly because such a strategy would cost rural and suburban votes and partly because it would be wrong. A better approach is to offer the good ideas that cities desperately need. Republicans have plenty.
The ideas Glaeser identifies as especially promising include data-driven policing, school choice, contracting out city services, congestion pricing for driving and parking, and the removal of regulatory obstacles to housing construction. And he’s right that these are appealing reforms. Contrary to what many conservatives believe, urban policy is not necessarily a transfer of wealth from makers to takers. Metropolitan areas are the country’s economic engines–and good policies will make them even more productive.

Read more:

How conservatives can regain popularity in America's inner cities

Downtown Detroit: Just one of many urban areas that needs help.

Democrats are crushing Republicans in the country's biggest metropolises. That can change

As the GOP considers its post-election rebranding, much debate has centered around a core ideological question: What does the Republican Party stand for? There's also a key political question: How can the GOP increase its mainstream appeal without isolating its base? Finding the answers to these incredibly complex questions will require much dialogue, introspection, and patience. But there is one restorative action that Republicans can and should take immediately: Republicans must once again turn their attention to America's cities.

As evidenced by several recent elections, a considerable majority of urban voters now reflexively tilt toward the Democratic Party. They might not embrace liberals' ideology with zeal, but contrasted with the perceived Republican obsession with "bedroom politics," these metropolitan voters see 21st-century modernity as inherently preferable to theological authoritarianism. And because these urbanites don't see sufficient Republican engagement on challenges specific to the city environment, Democrats have little urban electoral competition. It's imperative that conservatives work to alter this dynamic.

Chicago's "New Urban Conservative Fund" raises $100,000

An effort to promote the conservative cause in cities is being launched in the heart of liberal Chicago. Chris Cleveland, 43rd Ward Committeeman, announced the formation of a new fund started with an initial contribution of $100,000 from Richard Uihlein, owner of a shipping supplies company.

According to Cleveland, the "New Urban Conservative Fund" is focused on developing candidates and the organizational infrastructure necessary to promote conservative and free-market solutions to urban problems. It will also work to make the case that conservatives can succeed in solving urban problems where liberals have failed.

Read more:

Monday, March 17, 2014

Inner-City Conservatives Teaching Conservatism to Urban Youth


CPAC 2014 - Reaching Out: The Rest of the Story

A discussion of how to bring conservative ideas of liberty, opportunity and prosperity to non-traditional voting blocs AND teach party and movement leaders how to embrace them.

Jason Rice (Partner, Revolvis Consulting) moderates the discussion with Robert Woodson (President, Center for Neighborhood Enterprise); The Honorable Steve Pearce, United States Representative for New Mexico; Elroy Sailor (Co-Founder and CEO, J.C. Watts Companies); and The Honorable Ed Gillespie, former Counselor to the President, former Chairman of the Republican National Committee, and Senior Adviser to the Mitt Romney 2012 presidential campaign.

Monday, March 10, 2014

In San Jose, generous pensions for city workers come at expense of nearly all else.

SAN JOSE — Here in the wealthy heart of Silicon Valley, the roads are pocked with potholes, the libraries are closed three days a week and a slew of city recreation centers have been handed over to nonprofit groups. Taxes have gone up even as city services are in decline, and Mayor Chuck Reed is worried.

The source of Reed’s troubles: gold-plated pensions that guarantee retired city workers as much as 90 percent of their former salaries. Retirement costs are eating up nearly a quarter of the city’s budget, forcing Reed (D) to skimp on everything else.