Friday News Digest

This was a very odd week. Last weekend I was playing with my girls at the local park and, in kind of a freak incident, knocked my head real hard on the metal canopy over the slide. I spent the first part of the week in a bit of a mental fog that was a mild version of the nasty concussion I had after a bad car accident in 2004. (I could not remember my phone number or address with that one - this was not so bad.) The fog has cleared now, I think - at least the world is moving at normal speed again - but that mild concussion, the subsequent tetanus shot and the ongoing pain in my neck are vivid reminders that I'm not as young as I once was. Oh yeah - and they will also remind me to duck when I run up the slide.

We're working on some new things here at Strong Towns that are really exciting. I can't wait for an opportunity to tell you about them.

Enjoy this week's news.

  • The recovery is finally taking hold, so says the Star Tribune. They cite the "fast" pace of job creation in March, a full 162,000 (which some pessimists have the bad taste to credit the Census Bureau for temporarily creating). For some perspective of how bad the unemployment situation is, if we somehow continue to add jobs at this pace, it will take 3 years and 4 months for the economy to create jobs for the 6.5 million unemployed (another 4 years and 8 months to create jobs for the 9.1 million underemployed). And those are just the ones still tracked by the government. Oh Chuck....why rain on the parade?

"This recovery is for real," said Chris Rupkey, economist at the Bank of Tokyo-Mitsubishi.

If we want to bring down unemployment in a sustainable way, neither rescuing General Motors nor funding more road construction will do it. We need to create a big bushel of new companies — fast.

  • Supporters of the Tea Party movement apparently do not agree with Friedman. According to one report, they believe we should be spending more on infrastructure to create jobs (while also cutting spending to create jobs). 

The group is united around two issues – the economy/jobs and reducing the deficit. They believe that cutting spending is the key to job creation and favor tax cuts as the best way to stimulate the economy. That said 61 percent of Tea Party members believe infrastructure spending creates jobs.

  • My guess is that Tea Party supporters are not generally reading this blog (they should) or Minnesota Pubic Radio's reporting or they would think differently. Apparently Mn/DOT is indicating that the Federal stimulus spending on roads created (take a deep breath) - 483 full time equivalent jobs. This is after estimating that more than 5,000 jobs would be created.

"The reality is that the construction industry is in a depression and not a recession," he added. "The (stimulus) projects allowed some firms to hang on through a very difficult time and the opportunity allowed them to retain workers who otherwise would have been laid off or not called back to work."

  • Add this all up and it is obvious (not) that we need more money for road construction. Perhaps that is why the Federal government just approved $19.5 billion of new spending channeled to the highway trust fund. Good grief - there are times when it seems like we are destined to fail.

Senate Environment and Public Works Committee Chairwoman Barbara Boxer, D-CA, said Wednesday after passage of the HIRE Act that the Senate could consider additional transportation spending in a future jobs package.

"In terms of job creation, this is one of the best ways to go, so I am supporting future jobs bills" that contain transportation money, she said.

  • In Minnesota, we are having a debate on government transfer payments (aid) to cities from the state. Thus far the debate is between those that think local governments are wasteful and those that think the state has a moral responsibility to help poor cities. We're going to keep pushing here to evolve this debate into a more mature discussion of how our auto-oriented development pattern fails to generate a surplus everywhere it is tried.
One important factor [in intelligence] seems to be how well our neurons can talk to each other. Martijn van den Heuvel, a neuroscientist at Utrecht University Medical Center in the Netherlands, found that smarter brains seem to have more efficient networks between neurons - in other words, it takes fewer steps to relay a message between different regions of the brain. That could explain about a third of the variation in a population's IQ, he says.

So can we extrapolate that ``smarter'' cities have more efficient networks (in a sense, higher accessibility)? This may be the source of agglomeration economies that give value to cities over random space, the ability to connect.

  • You can join Strong Towns on Facebook (and we welcome you to do so), but most cities are not yet partaking in the social networking world. Here is an interesting article on the obstacles cities face in joining Web 2.0.
  • If you are at Target Field for the Twin's home opener against the Boston Red Sox next week, send me a Tweet. Maybe we can meet up, share a Mt. Dew and check out the beautiful public realm that is Target Field.
  • Finally, I stumbled across this video of Andres Duany discussing the tragic loss of "male space". As the married father of two young girls, I understand what Duany is talking about. Give it a listen - if said by the Cable Guy this would sound rednecky, but said by Duany it sounds incredibly insightful (and he is right, too).