Last weekend my amico primo Mike and I had a Punch pizza and then attended the last Twins game ever in the HHH Metrodome. It's Friday now and the pain of being swept (again) by those hated Yankees has dulled ever so slightly. I am now able to reflect on just how much fun the 2009 season was. The lows were not nearly as low as the highs were high, which is all one can really ask of life at the end of the day. The countdown clock on my desk tells me I have 171 days until the first pitch of the 2010 season. I won't rush it because life is passing so quickly as it is, but I am anxious to experience the hot chocolate (and Sweet Martha's, or so goes the rumor) at Target Field.

Enjoy this week's news:

  • I have to start with my favorite article of the week: the American Planning Association giving a planning award to an un-planned neighborhood. Montrose, according to APA one of the "10 Great Neighborhoods" of 2009, apparently remains unspoiled by the work of the modern planning profession. And that's just another reason why I am proud to have that AICP behind my name.
  • While this city may be run by some smart people, it doesn't change the fact that standard Euclidean zoning is anything but. What does the book say to do when you discover that a 18-student pre-school has been operating in an Industrial zone, where pre-schools are not allowed, albeit as part of a larger, permitted facility that teaches kids gymnastics?

The city’s zoning ordinance would not allow a preschool in an industrial park, Schultz said. Safety is a concern with heavy traffic, diesel fumes and the presence of large construction equipment, he said.

“We don’t believe that’s a good environment for children,” Schultz said.

As a side note, my kids take gymnastics at this place in the evenings and I am constantly tormented by the heavy traffic of parents finding a place to park, diesel fumes from their hybrid SUV's and large balance beams and uneven bars. It really is out of control. Not a good environment for children.

  • This was not the most interesting article, which made the case for how the recession is impacting rural areas more than urban areas. Here is an interesting quote from it though that I want to tie into the next article.

Except for a brief period of increased migration to nonmetro areas in mid-decade, metro areas have grown at twice the rate of nonmetro areas since 2000. From 2006 to 2008, nonmetro counties grew by 0.4 percent per year compared with 1 percent for metro counties.

  • One of the themes of this blog has been that the subsidized way of life that Small Town America currently enjoys is coming to an end. Demographic shifts like the one quoted from the prior article are shifting power from rural to urban areas. In our system, money follows power, and so expect that policy-makers are going to continue to shift their focus to urban issues. Consider this quote from the article:

Obama has lamented the historic failures of federal efforts to rejuvenate urban areas, noting in July at a White House urban policy roundtable that "federal policy has actually encouraged sprawl and congestion and pollution, rather than quality public transportation and smart, sustainable development."

In the same way that federal highway spending encouraged sprawl, the Obama administration says more concentrated development can lead to more job opportunities for residents and environmentally and economically viable neighborhoods.

  • Here in Minnesota, government revenue fell short of already pessimistic budget projections, with the only bright spot being revenue trickled down from the infamous "Cash for Clunkers". Now if we could only find another way to artificially prop up another failing industry and give this economy a quick shot of fiscal-ether.
  • This article reports on a study that suggests that Generation Y is not as in love with the automobile as their elders. The article attributes this trend to online social networking and electronic communities, which supposedly substitute for teens actually getting into their cars and hanging out together. I guess when someone can demonstrate to me how two teens can hitch up in the back seat of an online social network I could believe that finding. Until then, perhaps the immense debt this generation has is a more plausible explanation for their lack of enthusiasm for car shopping.
  • Tom Friedman echoing our theme this week (note: I'm nearly positive he does not read this blog). The "debt bomb" as he calls it is one of the greatest threats we leave in our wake. 

If people lose confidence in the dollar, we could enter a feedback loop, as with the climate, whereby the sinking dollar forces up interest rates, which raises the long-term cost of servicing our already massive debt, which adds to the deficit projections, which further undermines the dollar. If the world is unwilling to finance our deficits, except at much higher rates of interest, it would surely diminish our government’s ability to make public investments and just as surely diminish our children’s standard of living. 

  • One of the many random Internet outages I now routinely experience here at CGI just destroyed the climactic ending of this version of the News Digest I had typed but not yet saved. FRUSTRATING!!!
  • The final play of Game 163, Twins versus Tigers, has to be one of my top three Metrodome moments (Puckett Game 6, Morris Game 7 - you know the ones). I love Carlos Gomez and the energy his has for playing the game, so his gratuitous headfirst slide into home was the perfect climax to this classic. For some reason the Minnesota Twins will not allow their video to be embedded, but they have it on their website in both the TV and the radio calls. Or you can watch this fan version which is slightly less professional in its presentation but shows a pretty cool angle on the action.