A very special girl will celebrate her second birthday this weekend and, despite having a double ear infection, I'm guessing she is going to be one happy kid. Her birthday is actually Monday, but four days of celebration seems about right for turning two. With that and the Twins actually playing pre-season baseball, I can handle this snowstorm and frigid cold.

Enjoy the news of the week.

  • Oops.  It is always stunning how brilliant and well-educated planners can repeatedly mess up the simplest of things.
  • While there is no question that broadband access is a huge economic development component in small towns, $7.2 billion is a lot of money. As this article indicates, 38% of rural Americans already have broadband, up from 29% in the previous year. Broadband access is becoming more ubiquitous and affordable in Rural America and it is being done in the free market, generally efficiently. If this $7.2 billion - which is roughly $510/household that would not currently be connected - is spent connecting rural towns, then this could be a huge positive. If the money is squandered proliferating connections across the low-density countryside, that would be another thing.
  • Why is it that everything is so smart these days? And perhaps as a follow-up, why do all these smart things not seem to make us any smarter?
  • Please tell me it is not true. This has nothing to do with small towns, but everything with my ability to help them plan. No!!!!
  • The rural unemployment rate is just slightly higher than the urban/suburban rate, and apparently December had a huge part of that.  I took one look at this map and I thought: don't mess with Texas. Someone explain to me what is going on there.

 

  • This is a fascinating article on rural Japan and its recent economic downturn and recovery. I buy the notion that we are in uncharted waters economically right now, but it seems there are lessons we can consider from history.  Consider:

"Japan’s rural areas have been paved over and filled in with roads, dams and other big infrastructure projects, the legacy of trillions of dollars spent to lift the economy from a severe downturn caused by the bursting of a real estate bubble in the late 1980s. During those nearly two decades, Japan accumulated the largest public debt in the developed world — totaling 180 percent of its $5.5 trillion economy — while failing to generate a convincing recovery"

  • As unlikely as this is to ever happen, the premise is one that deserves discussion. Namely, what is the best way to pass on the true cost of roads? I don't believe this is it, but it certainly beats taxing people's time by wasting it in congestion.
  • Of this entire lecture series, this is my favorite one. It is about creating a "sense of place" and is not to be missed.