I knew that this Friday was going to be a hectic one, but I think now it has gotten away from me. Tonight we are having a "friend party" for my five (soon to be six) year old. This will entail my wife and I managing a pack of preschool girls for about two and a half hours at the park. I'll be grilling hot dogs and trying to prevent anyone from getting their teeth knocked out hitting the pinata. Pray for sun because we have no backup plan right now. Yeah, you read that right. I'm crazy.
Enjoy the week's news.
- I want to lead off with a passionate blog post from a friend of mine named Aaron Brown. He writes the Minnesota Brown blog and, while we have actually never met in person (hope that changes soon), we've spoken on the phone, emailed each other a lot and been on the air together on KAXE. What I enjoy most about Aaron is that, while we may disagree on politics, he is intellectually honest. You'll see in his post that his passion for his community is pushing him to speak out for systematic change. It as an example I wish we were all courageous enough to emulate in the places we love. And if you are interested, here is some Aaron Brown talking about applying Strong Towns principles (not his words, but mine) to Minnesota's Iron Range.
- We have not talked housing in a while. That's because nothing has changed. Mortgage rates continue to be at all time lows, yet foreclosures are up and it looks nearly certain that housing is headed for a "double dip".
"As long as people hold back, whether realistically or irrationally, or rationally,' Lawrence Yun says, "then naturally there will be too much supply in relation to the demand, and that could lead to some over-correction in home prices in some markets."
- As we have discussed here in the past, there is a strong correlation between housing prices and unemployment. As the Economist points out, the long anticipated jobless recovery is here.
- You have to check out the graphic on this NY Times opinion blog about the creative economy in the Rust Belt. If you watched that video of Aaron Brown above or read our post last week on Richard Florida, you are hearing the themes expressed in that opinion piece: our way out of this recession is by empowering the most creative elements in our society.
For decades, people like Mr. Destito — young, skilled, motivated — were exactly the sort who left Rust Belt cities like Syracuse. But recently, in numbers not yet statistically measurable but clearly evident at the ground level, they’ve been coming back to the city, first as a trickle, and now by the hundreds. In some ways it’s a part of the natural ebb and flow of urban demographics. But it is also the result of a new attitude among the city’s leadership, one that admits the failure of the re-industrialization efforts of the last decades and instead invents ways to attract new types of residents and keep current ones from leaving. Call it urban renewal 2.0, gentrification on a citywide scale.
- This week Tom Friedman had a solid opinion piece hitting on Ben Bernanke's weird statement that things are "unusually uncertain." I hear a lot of political junkies say they don't like Friedman. We love him.
America’s two big parties still cling to their core religious beliefs as if nothing has changed. Republicans try to undermine the president at every turn and offer their nostrum of tax-cuts-will-solve-everything — without ever specifying what services they’ll give up to pay for them. Mr. Obama gave us expanded health care before expanding the economic pie to sustain it.
You still don’t sense our politicians are saying, “Wait a minute; stop everything; we have got to work together.” Don’t these people have 401k plans of their own and kids worried about jobs?
- Speaking of Friedman, here is an idea he suggested in his latest book Hot, Flat and Crowded that is so simple and obvious that it is maddening. Electric companies are in the business of providing energy - why does that need to simply mean power plants and wires? Leasing solar equipment to customers makes everyone better off. Decentralized energy production is the future of energy. We need to change the system of regulations and incentives that prevent programs like these from being the norm.
Leasing — common in the car business — is almost unknown in the solar industry. Only a couple of solar-system installers across the country offer it on a regular basis for systems that use photovoltaic or PV cells to make electricity, according to the Solar Energy Industries Association.
"It's a great way for homeowners who otherwise wouldn't be able due to the upfront costs (to) install solar PV systems," SEIA spokesman Jared Blanton said. "Leasing and other innovative financing options are a big reason that the residential solar market has grown so much in the last couple years."
Solarflow Energy, a small Minneapolis installer of solar-energy systems, has the state's only solar lease program.
- I LOVE when cities apply technology to their planning processes. Here is an example of a community generating ideas online for their master plan, then using a voting system to identify those with the greatest support. And Beth Noveck, author of Wiki Government, gives a great overview of how technology can, and needs to, transform our public decision-making processes.
The Internet enables a new kind of equality of power that allows us to think about how we can reengineer our institutions - not simply for the sake of talk, but as a means to an end of achieving things in the world better, faster, and in new and creative ways to attack the complex problems that we confront.
- Finally, because it is my blog, I am going to reminisce a little about the day six years ago when I met a little girl that changed my life in ways I never could have imagined. I did not know I was capable of such joy from her smiles, such sorrow with her pain and such love towards anyone. Having grown up on a farm with a house full of men, I never dreamed that Fridays at home putting ribbons in her hair, playing dolls, reading Fancy Nancy books and dancing in the living room would always be the happiest day of the week. I call her my padawan, but it is she that teaches me every day how to be a better man. Happy birthday, Chloe.
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