Friday News Digest

As a Minnesota Twins season ticket holder, this was an up and down week.  I saw our new stadium starting to take shape while the man who will be the centerpiece of the team that takes the field is being slowed in Spring Training. That and my Fantasy Baseball team took another hit by losing A-Rod for 10 weeks. (I previously lost Ben Sheets for what will likely be the season, depleting my "keeper" roster by a third). But the weatherman this week said we have likely seen our last below-zero temperature of the season. That's worth a cheer.

Enjoy this week's news. 

  • I'm not exactly sure what I think about this article about a smoking ban disrupting rural character in Iowa. On one hand, I understand. On the other hand....  
  • This article by Jason Gray advocates for a closer relationship between urban and rural areas. I found it interesting, not for the analysis, but for the underlying recognition that the rules are changing and it is having a huge impact on rural areas. The values of those holding the purse string are not what they once were. Once interesting quote, that I completely concur with: 

Between the virtual hostage-taking of rural communities by USDA and disjointed policy everywhere else, no place in government is in more need of White House coordination than federal rural policy. 

  • Okay, this is a nice little story about how the stimulus bill is "helping" rural areas. They give some heart-tugging examples (and I don't denigrate those), but I do feel compelled to point out that the program that is "helping" is $135 million (out of a stimulus of $800 billion) and is, according to the article, going to reach a target population of 400,000 households.  That is $338/household, which does not include the bureaucracy cost. In other words, if this is a critical problem, this method is not going to solve it. 
  • But then there is the controversy over President Obama's plan to "wean" large farmers off of federal subsidy payments. Interesting debate, but i am convinced that a farm doing $500,000 in revenue annually needs to be profitable without a subsidy. If not, prices need to be raised in the markets to make it so (or the demand for small farmers will increase to compensate for the "failing" large farms).  
  • I love the Economist and British humor, but I am not sure if this article contains both or not. Seriously - NIMBY's and old people might be recession proof, but only because you actually have to be moving first in order to later slow down (I believe that was one of Newton's laws of motion).  
  • Huh? Stop and consider these paragraphs, which actually follow each other in a story about the goals of one Minnesota county:

Planning for implementation of the Northstar Commuter rail from Big Lake to St. Cloud is at 60% and acquiring trail easements for the Great Northern Trail is at 50%.

But one goal that has been on the list for a few years hasn't moved from the 30% complete range for a long time - reaching agreements with cities and township to establish commercial and industrial zoning along highways.

  • We only have a couple of these left. Andres Duany talking to the planners of San Antonio, starting by explaining how to build sense of place on a budget. "Curvilinear streets are vaugly pleasant in the way that elevator music is pleasant - you can't remember what it does." Powerful stuff - enjoy.