David Thomson on Films: Hollywood Hopeful
June 07, 2011
You feel it’s a story you’ve heard before, but that’s often the way in Los Angeles where there are more scripts than cars on the street. This happened at a cottage on Benedict Canyon, one of those roads that wind down from the crest of Mulholland Drive to Sunset Boulevard. The cottage was tucked into the hillside, overgrown with ivy, shrubberies, and bad karma. It looked like the forsaken or forgotten house in a fairy story. Over a period of time, a neighbor noticed that its delivery box was crammed with more and more junk mail. So she decided to break into the house.
Our much-discussed report Missed Opportunities demonstrated how, even when given a generous 90 minutes to do so, the nation’s public transit systems have great difficulty connecting low-income people to jobs—even when those people live in relatively densely populated areas. The intuitive policy response might be to try to allocate more resources to transit routes that connect the places where low-income people reside, particularly in suburbs, to places where they work. However, this would be misguided.
Metros Turn Up the Heat on Addressing Climate
June 02, 2011
As the heat and humidity settle into Washington for the season and the hope that Congress might one day take action to prevent a warming climate melts away, readers can find some relief in a recent spate of reports emanating from across metro America. Metros, where 84 percent of the nation’s population live and work, will be on the frontlines of adaptation to climate change. Unsurprisingly then, a network of pragmatic metro leaders are taking the adaptation imperative seriously. They’re acting—on data and empirical evidence, no less!—to prepare for a future that will disrupt human geography
Jesus and Jefferson
May 19, 2011
God’s Own Party: The Making of the Christian Right By Daniel K. Williams (Oxford University Press, 372 pp., $29.95) From Bible Belt to Sunbelt: Plain-Folk Religion, Grassroots Politics, and the Rise of Evangelical Conservatism By Darren Dochuk (W.W. Norton, 520 pp., $35) In the presidential election of 1976, the Democrat Jimmy Carter split the votes of American white evangelical Protestants almost evenly with the Republican Gerald Ford. With a clear plurality of at least ten percentage points, Carter did even better among the nation’s white Baptists.
Sprawling Jobs Tough Task for Transit
May 18, 2011
New Brookings research on transit and access to jobs enables for the first time metro to metro comparisons on transit performance. One question quickly emerges: Do metro areas with well-established transit systems provide the best access to jobs? We know that some of the largest metro areas are home to the best known and most used transit systems in the country. Several are at the vanguard of innovative planning and land use strategies. These metros are also some of the country’s most powerful economic engines. However, we were surprised to find uneven results in these places.
My latest column for Kaiser Health News: Los Angeles—I'll never forget the first time I visited the St. John's Well Child and Family Center about seven years ago, because it's the first time I heard about a grisly intruder pediatricians sometimes find in young children's ears: Cockroaches. It's a problem endemic to poorly maintained, low-income housing, of which there is quite a lot in the South Central neighborhood surrounding St. John's. And it's one reason the staff there are so aggressive about confronting the health hazards of their patient population.
Town and Country
May 05, 2011
In April, the southern Israeli town of Sderot hosted its eighth annual French film festival, which was an achievement more impressive than it sounds. Sderot is a small town, and it is also a poor one; it has only 20,000 residents, many of them immigrants from former Soviet Asian republics. But Sderot’s biggest challenge may be the missiles. For the past ten years, not long after the beginning of the Second Intifada in 2000, Hamas has launched thousands of Qassam missiles over the border from Gaza, barely a mile away.
Cities Versus Suburbs Is the Wrong Debate
April 20, 2011
There is an old joke among demographers (a group well known for their hilarity) about a drunk who loses his car keys at the front door of a house that has no porch light. After he realizes his loss, he goes to the nearest street light but well away from the front door to look for them. When asked why he wasn’t looking where he lost the keys, he replied, “This is where the light is.” Looking "where the light is" is the bane of demographic analysis.
A Fast Forward Approach to Transportation Investment
April 04, 2011
Clarification: Our original post below neglected to mention that the American Fast Forward plan includes its own bond finance plan (known at Qualified Transportation Investment Bonds or QTIBs) separate from the TRIPS bond legislation proposed by Senator Ron Wyden (D-OR). While both plans address financing solutions through bond issuance, they are not bundled together in the America Fast Forward plan. *** The main theme of the House Transportation & Infrastructure Committee’s recent marathon hearings about the future of the federal transportation law was: don’t cut back the program.
David Thomson on Films: ‘Mildred Pierce’
March 25, 2011
You can see why HBO thought to re-make Mildred Pierce, especially if it had Kate Winslet committed to playing the title part. The James M. Cain novel (published in 1941) is attuned to our grim economy: It’s the story of a single mother in Glendale in 1931 who has to take a job as a waitress and who then builds it into a flourishing, modest restaurant trade, based on the pies she bakes at home. As with so much of Cain, this is a story about money and business—I think he was more interested in those things than in the sex that dogged his reputation.