Lingering Questions

Having an unexpected chance at a last-minute final column for Metroland, is a blessing and a curse. No pressure, after an almost-12-year run. At first I scrambled to try to assemble a column on one of the topics I hadn’t gotten to, wanting to just continue as I had been, but over the holidays and it being a big topic, I couldn’t pull it together properly.

Instead, I will leave you with a distinctly non-exhaustive spattering of some questions I didn’t get to, or that I (and plenty others) have written about but remain important and unanswered, some rhetorical, some deeply not. Though Metroland was one important place we could have conversations like these, it needn’t be the only one. Continue reading

Zone It Right

In case you missed it, Albany is redoing its zoning code. Given that portions of it date back to 1968, conflict with each other or are too vague to consistently interpret, and are scattered through about a dozen different chapters of the city code, this is a good thing. Just by making something consistent and accessible, the city will vastly increase its friendliness to people who want to open businesses, rehab houses, and otherwise participate actively in the ever-evolving landscape that is a city. Continue reading

Reverse Robin Hood

Last fall I was at a conference in Detroit held in a hotel attached to a casino.

“Did you go onto the casino floor?” my boss asked me. Along with our room keys, we were given tokens to spend in the casino. I admitted I hadn’t. “You really should,” he said. “It’s the most astoundingly depressing thing. No one looks like they are having fun.” When you’ve recently had a tour of some of Detroit’s hardest hit neighborhoods, that’s saying something. Continue reading

The Three-Legged Stool of Economic Development

Urbanist gadfly Richard Florida recently attempted to tip the sacred cow of “eds and meds” (universities and hospitals) economic development by arguing that cities with a high percentage of employment in those sectors tended to do worse on other economic development measures. Florida is always good for stirring the pot, but as Steve Dubb of the Democracy Collaborative wrote when I invited him to respond on Rooflines (the blog of the magazine I edit as my day job), in this case, Florida’s statistical comparisons are a straw man: they have the causality backwards. Continue reading