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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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