Government / Politics

August 14, 2007, 6am PDT
<p>Half a million street vendors fill the squares of Mexico City to make their living. The mayor wants to wipe out the vendors, whose businesses contribute no taxes to the city. But the vendors have their own organization that opposes the city's plans.</p>
The Los Angeles Times
August 13, 2007, 12pm PDT
<p>City officials in a Boston suburb are once again trying to approve building restrictions that would cut down the size of new houses in the city. Builders' groups are lobbying the city to find a compromise.</p>
The Boston Globe
August 12, 2007, 1pm PDT
<p>Preparations are underway to take Oregon's land use legislation Measure 37 back to the ballot this November, but the property rights case that became the face issue still remains unsettled.</p>
The Portland Tribune
August 12, 2007, 7am PDT
<p>Housing advocates in Sacramento are up in arms over proposed changes to the city's housing policy that would shift responsibility for building affordable units from the developer to the city -- changes they say will limit the policy's effectiveness.</p>
The Sacramento Bee
August 12, 2007, 5am PDT
<p>The chair of the House Transportation Committee had barely released his call for an increase in the federal gas tax to fund bridge repair when President Bush stated he would oppose it, claiming not more money but better priorities is the answer.</p>
AP via New York Times
August 11, 2007, 9am PDT
<p>Joining the ranks of Sacramento, San Francisco, and San Diego, the city of Los Angeles has approved a ban on smoking in public parks.</p>
The Sacramento Bee
Blog post
August 10, 2007, 6am PDT

After the dramatic collapse of the Minneapolis freeway bridge last week, the collective hand-wringing began. The bridge was known to be faulty, but had not been replaced. Our entire public transit system is underfunded, we were told.

In addition to transportation infrastructure, those concerned with urban issues have a litany of complaints about American cities. Our transit systems are not adequately linked to zoning laws. Our high parking requirements doom alternative modes of transit and drive up development costs. Our policies encourage uncontrolled sprawl, which seemingly nobody likes. Planners' recommendations are too often overruled by ill-informed and politicized zoning boards. Our buildings aren't energy efficient. City mayors and councils play politics with projects painstakingly approved through highly democratic review processes. And nobody's happy when local activists hold undue power over individual projects.

The solutions we are given are almost as varied as the problems. More centralized planning is often called for, or perhaps more regional planning. However, this seems highly difficult and unlikely in most places where land use is regulated by many small municipalities. Some suggest the solution is more public input on infrastructure and private projects to enhance their quality, while others think we need less input to speed them along and reduce the costs incurred by delays. Some are convinced elaborate flexible or form-based zoning holds the key to better cities, although implementation seems frustratingly difficult. Some cynics conclude that perhaps it is American cultural biases that produce our flawed cities: maybe Americans just like it this way, living with decaying infrastructure, long commutes, but low taxes.

The motley list of solutions almost never includes the one thing that actually has overcome the myriad of obstacles to good city building before: a broad-based and robust conversation to create solutions, money, and political support.

Robert Goodspeed
Blog post
August 9, 2007, 2pm PDT

The August 1 collapse of the Interstate 35W bridge over the Mississippi River in Minneapolis has briefly reminded municipalities across the continent that they, too, have crumbling infrastructure. Local officials have reacted to this tragic current event by reassuring their respective constituencies that they will do whatever they can to make sure their bridges are safe. But if that bridge in Minneapolis hadn't collapsed, would America's formerly-unconsidered bridges be getting all of this attention?

Nate Berg
August 9, 2007, 9am PDT
<p>State and local officials are angered over being left out of disaster planning measures, after the Bush Administration adopted a unilateral approach that concentrates planning authority in the White House.</p>
August 8, 2007, 2pm PDT
<p>Facing the prospect of not receiving crucial state funding, the Chicago Transit Authority has released a "doomsday" plan to guide the system's reaction to the budget shortfall. Some services would have to be cut, but not as many as expected earlier.</p>
The Chicago Tribune
August 8, 2007, 9am PDT
<p>Looking back over the two years since Hurricane Katrina devastated New Orleans, the Army Corps of Engineers' continuing work has been closely scrutinized. But will they be able to prepare New Orleans for an even bigger storm?</p>
August 8, 2007, 7am PDT
<p>The city of Jeffersonville, Indiana, has approved the annexation of more than 7,800 acres of nearby land -- a move that will increase the population by more than a third. Many of the people to be annexed are calling the move a land and money grab.</p>
The Courier-Journal
August 7, 2007, 9am PDT
<p>This article from <em>Time</em> looks at the shortcomings of the nearly 1,000 Army Corps of Engineers projects facing Senate approval and a Presidential veto, saying the proposals will harm an already broken infrastructure system.</p>
August 7, 2007, 7am PDT
<p>Politicians in England are proposing a tax on flights and freight haulers to help fund rail initiatives.</p>
August 7, 2007, 5am PDT
<p>With its voter approved, tax-financed public works campaign called FasTracks, Denver is blazing a trail for regions that are serious about expanding transit options.</p>
The Los Angeles Times
August 6, 2007, 6am PDT
<p>Voters in San Francisco will have to choose between two ballot measures -- one increasing parking in the city, the other funding more transit -- during this fall's election.</p>
The San Francisco Chronicle
August 5, 2007, 1pm PDT
<p>Cleveland and its suburbs are trying to remove some of the regional competition between cities by sharing revenues and resources.</p>
The Cleveland Plain Dealer
August 4, 2007, 11am PDT
<p>Boosters like to sell downtown revitalization as crucial to a region's economic interest -- but for most cities, that's rarely the case.</p>
East Valley Tribune
Blog post
August 3, 2007, 10am PDT
After spending more than two decades in local government before my eight years as Governor of Maryland, I came to realize how the state was contributing to the spread of sprawl by funding infrastructure improvements, school construction, and transportation investments, among many other things. When we began to utilize the entire state budget as a tool for smarter growth, we found ourselves in uncharted territory. Leading the way is certainly an adventure, but it also comes with the unenviable task of not having someone who has gone before to help navigate the journey.
August 3, 2007, 8am PDT
<p>In Marin County and other wealthy, liberal enclaves, many residents are vocally supportive of affordable housing and other causes -- unless its in their neighborhood.</p>
Mother Jones