The Avenue

In addressing the 78th annual meeting of the U.S. Conference of Mayors yesterday, President Obama laid out some general strategies to “rebuild and revitalize our cities and metropolitan areas.” The frame should not have come as much of a surprise as it builds off the speech the president made to the same group when he was on the campaign trail in the summer of 2008. In that speech he emphasized smart infrastructure investments as ways to “compete and win in our global economy. While that goal has not changed in the last 18 months, the strategy to get there may have.

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As January comes to a close, it’s safe to say that it’s been a rough first year for the Obama administration. On the right, he is hammered for being a big government liberal, and on the left for being too cozy with big business and Wall Street (and don’t forget the two wars).

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People in big cities make up a smaller chunk of the unemployed than they used to. At the beginning of the decade, central cities were home to 38 percent of the unemployed in the country’s largest 100 metro areas. Today that fraction is down to about 33 percent. Meanwhile, 6.4 million people are unemployed in the suburbs--more than double the number in cities. In part, this spread of the unemployed to suburbia tracks the suburbanization of the labor force as a whole; to wit, the difference between city and suburban unemployment rates held fairly steady throughout the decade.

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So all signs are now pointing to Scott Brown winning today’s special election in Massachusetts for the seat that Ted Kennedy held for 47 years. Of course, the competition for the most compelling explanation for the upset has already begun. Martha Coakley ran a terrible campaign, Brown is an appealing guy, voters are upset about the economy, Massachusetts has already enacted its own version of health reform, Democrats at the state level are unpopular, Doug Flutie, etc. Let’s look a little closer at the economy argument, but specifically in the Massachusetts context. In November, the state’s un

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Secretary LaHood’s announcement that the Federal Transit Administration will begin to examine a wider range of benefits and impacts when it decides which projects to fund is a long time coming. One of the areas in greatest need of reform is the process and level of investment in new transit capital projects. To take full advantage of development opportunities around transit stops many have called on the federal government to revamp the cost-effectiveness index that determines which metropolitan projects receive new funding for rail projects.

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The other day, I suggested that the world investing $10.5 trillion in new money on energy technology innovation by 2030 should become a crucial new benchmark in the world climate dialogue, one every bit as important as the goal of reducing carbon dioxide emissions by 80 percent by 2050.

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If you put aside the debate over the overt, or non-existent depending on your viewpoint, hucksterism of Richard Florida’s economic development prescriptions as described by Alec MacGillis in the American Prospect, you’ll find the piece has spawned a real debate over what sorts of policy approaches might best work for the places we call shrinking cities. While MacGillis’ smackdown is entertaining (prompting Willy Staley at Next American City to say the whole piece reminded him of the Simpsons monorail episode), his blog debate with Ryan Avent  examines the gamut of issues surrounding the cities

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In early November we noted some atypically lousy reporting from the Washington Post concerning recovery programming. Unfortunately, it looks like the incredibly shrinking Washington Times also decided to get into the unbalanced reporting on ARRA game. Rather than unfairly characterizing programs, this time the reporting focused on… well, reporting itself. Using data from the Franklin Center for Government and Public Integrity, the Times noted that $375 million in recovery dollars was delivered to nonexistent zip codes. Now, I’m not going to get into the business of defending reporting failures

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A few weeks ago, I noted that the cause of regionalism seemed to be on the rise in Detroit, because newly-elected Detroit council members seemed interested in reaching across the city border and making common cause with their suburban neighborhoods. Some new polling by the Washington Post, Kaiser Family Foundation, and Harvard University, suggests that there is even more reason for optimism on this front, although you wouldn’t know it from the dreary headline in the Post: “Stark Divisions Found Between Detroit and its Suburbs.” The paper thinks it’s glum news that “one in five poll respondent

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Should “$100 billion a year for the rest of the century” become the new “80 percent by 2050?” Should $10.5 trillion by 2030 join 450 parts per million as an “it” number of the global climate dialogue?   Post-Copenhagen, it sure seems so. After all the extraordinary chaos of the Copenhagen climate talks last month a good case can be made that a world climate discussion pervaded with targets and baselines and schedules for atmospheric carbon concentrations, carbon dioxide emission cuts, and global temperature change needs to pay attention to some other numbers as well--notably, numbers projectin

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