The Avenue

'Smart' Stimulus

Over the last year, Japan’s long economic doldrums have been used as a cautionary lesson for stimulus spending in Washington policy circles. While there is little doubt that Japan has overspent on public works projects, it is also clear that Japan invested mainly in the same old projects: dams, roads, and airports.

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The Senate Environment and Public Works Committee is holding hearings this week on the new chairman’s “mark” of the draft Senate climate and energy legislation released Friday night by committee chairman Barbara Boxer and Sen. John Kerry.

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My colleague Mark Muro suggested a couple of days ago in this space that federal agencies should reward metropolitan alignment and collaboration in various grant competitions, following HUD’s lead in dispensing Neighborhood Stabilization Funds. Another intriguing model comes from a most unlikely source: The Department of Homeland Security.  DHS’s Urban Area Security Initiative grant program, aimed at the 62 U.S.

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"Jane Jacobs not Marc Jacobs" reads a postcard making the rounds in New York City’s Greenwich Village, a plaint against the increasing "mall-ification" of that venerable neighborhood. But beyond her old stomping ground--where she famously stopped highway builder Robert Moses from building an expressway through Washington Square Park--Jane Jacobs’ ideas continue to resonate in the messy debates over how we move people and goods around our regional economies. Lately, that currency has been given a boost by Anthony Flint’s recent book, Wrestling with Moses, about the battles Jacobs fought with

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When the financial history of this era is told, it is possible that it will be seen as the bailout of not just the banks, Fannie Mae, and Freddie Mac, it will also to some extent be seen as the bailout of sprawl. The low density, single family houses on the fringe of American metropolitan areas have experienced high rates of foreclosures and substantial price declines, and we’re still looking for a bottom in many regions of the country.

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Metros in the Middle

Some great back and forth about U.S.

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With a just-released Brookings report suggesting that high speed rail (HSR) could mitigate excessive congestion at airports, it would be nice to know if and where rail is a viable investment.

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Over 140 economists, researchers, Michigan and Ohio state and local officials, business and non-profit leaders recently camped for two days at the Detroit Branch of the Chicago Federal Reserve Bank, to review--in ghastly, numerical detail--the economic and human toll of the collapse of the auto industry, and to vet any and all approaches to aid dislocated auto workers in response. Overall, the atmosphere and information was grim: Huge job losses in auto-dependent communities, significant human and community suffering, and maddeningly small increments of opportunity for those that have been th

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Stephen Power has a good story in the Wall Street Journal that explains a lot about why America’s clean energy future may be a while in coming.  Power notes that although Energy Secretary Steve Chu set out this year to begin reshaping America's energy future with a network of highly-focused, results-oriented research labs, lawmakers have been busy with business-as-usual. He reports that instead of fully funding Dr.

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Last week’s Conference on Automotive Communities and Workforce Adjustment, sponsored by the Federal Reserve Bank of Chicago and held at the bank’s Detroit branch, understandably focused a lot on Detroit and southeastern Michigan.

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