This will be our first blog entry composed and posted from the passenger's seat of my Honda while driving Highway 94 eastbound. My beloved Minnesota Twins clinched the AL Central this week and are actually pushing to have the best record in baseball. Much less dramatic than last year's Game 163 one-game playoff win, but I like the notion of heading into the post season with a well-rested team playing in beautiful Target Field. As a season-ticket holder, I was able to buy tickets to what will be Game 2 of the first round, but that is the day of our presentation at Community Matters '10 and so I will be in Denver. Ugh! I'm not going to complain - this has been a magical season and I have good feelings about how it is going to end this time.

Enjoy the week's news.

  • Our blog post No Car Left Behind was featured in blogs and tweets across the web this week. I was a little embarrassed that some people were introduced to us for the first time on a post that featuring a kid flipping the bird. Thank you to everyone who passed along our thoughts, especially Daniel Lippman at The Infrastructurist and Sarah Goodyear at Grist.org. As a follow-up to the story, here is a photo of the line of cars waiting in the rain for their McKids yesterday. I got a glimpse of how things might happen this winter; they queue the kids in the school building instead of making them stand in the rain. No wonder they get released from school a half hour earlier than I used to - it takes at least that much time for these "parents" to simply make it through the drive thru.

  • We've been having some amazing Curbside Chats. Last night in Cambridge we had a couple of firsts: someone who came back for a second chat and someone who asked to videotape it. I had to chuckle - he asked me for permission like I was Axel Rose and was going to dive off the stage or something. Next week we are really excited to be going to East Grand Forks where the City Administrator posted some interesting comments previewing our visit on his blog. We'll also be in Bismark then back to my home area for Nisswa and Brainerd (yes, that Brainerd - can't wait). I'm really proud of what we are doing here. I watch the faces of people and can see how a clear understanding of what is going on in their town empowers them. Building Strong Towns.
  • I'm not sure what to make of this opinion piece by Las Vegas resident Scott Dickensheets, but I admire his sincerity and his willingness to address reality (in a city known for its avoidance of reality). Las Vegas is the national canary in the mine shaft and so, for those of us that have an understanding of what is going on, the idea that it "may be in decline" seems a little quaint. (Decline...gee - ya think?) Still, these conversations are really hard to have and I am going to take it as a positive sign that people are asking the right questions. I would vote for this guy for mayor of Vegas - hopefully people like him across the country will have the courage to point out that the emperor has no clothes.

In a city long powered, in part, by uninhibited growth, the notion of serious decline can be hard to wrap our heads around. But it is serious. Indeed, I suppose the real question is, is this a temporary reversal or a long-term — gulp, permanent — condition? Over the years we’ve cultivated a lot of faith in the city’s economy, but …

“I am concerned that the city is falling apart fast, quicker than it built up,” a source in Las Vegas city government told me. Hmm. Sounds long-term to me.

  • I think that the researchers reported on in this Economist article are simply giving a technical voice to a long-known and obvious concept: that there is more to happiness than money. Their measurements on standard of living rate the United States very high (due largely to a high GDP) but I would be interesting to see research on how tenuous this is. It seems like the quality of life in a county like Germany or France, while comparable to the U.S., is easier to sustain. Doubt this? Ponder one conceivable scenario: $5 gas. It would devastate our prosperity but they would hardly flinch.

 

  • In general we are open to discussions of privatization of public infrastructure and services. We need all ideas on the table, and while it is certainly not a universal solution, it is a good fit in some places. The privatizations that have taken place in Chicago are a little puzzling to me, however. I'm hoping it is because I don't know the details of the agreements, but on the surface it is a little depressing (and presumptuous) to believe that a downtown parking ramp will have a lot of value in a hundred years. Regardless of what you believe on peak oil, it is hard to envision us continuing on with this development pattern for another decade, let along ten more decades. Regardless, it is tough to see these looking like good deals for anyone at some point in the not-to-distant future. Maybe that is part of the plan?

Chicago began leasing its assets before the recession. In 2005 the city leased its Skyway toll road for 99 years for $1.83 billion. This was followed by a 99-year, $563m lease of parking garages in 2006 and a 75-year, $1.15 billion lease of parking meters in 2008. A plan to privatise the city’s Midway airport collapsed in 2009, as the recession drained investors’ interest. But Chicago hopes to revive the deal.

....

Mr Daley’s use of the deal’s proceeds was equally problematic. Chicago faced a huge budget gap; naturally, Mr Daley wanted to use some of the deal’s cash to fill it. But by 2011 Chicago will have gobbled up nearly 75% of the proceeds from the 75-year lease. Last month Fitch, a ratings agency, downgraded Chicago’s bond rating, in part because the city had used money from the meter-lease to pay for operations.

  • I know my family's life ain't the stuff made of dreams, but for one full weekend we can live like kings and queens. See you in a few hours, Bubs, Matt and all the girls.

 

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