My wife and I had said many times this winter how lucky we have been to have such a healthy family. As anyone who has young children will attest, a year without even an ear infection is quite rare. Well, our luck changed this week for all of us, although somehow I am the only one whom the doctor has not seen fit to prescribe a remedy. Apparently my test did not come back "positive", although I question whether someone living under the same roof with all the same symptoms actually needs a positive result to correctly diagnose. Excuse me, doc, but are you suggesting I just happen to have caught something completely different, yet exhibiting the exact same symptoms, at the exact same time as they all did? The answer, unfortunately, was yes. So I sit here staring longingly at their pink and tasty antibiotics...they are calling to me....oh, sweet relief.... No, I'm a good dad and so I'll continue to eat my Halls and hope it all passes soon.
On to the week's news:
- On behalf of Ben Oleson, the Strong Town Board of Governors and myself, I want to express congratulations to our colleague, Jon Commers, who this week was appointed by Minnesota Governor Mark Dayton to serve on the Metropolitan Council. For those of you outside of Minnesota, the Met Council is a regional body that deals with land use planning, transit and wastewater in the Minneapolis/St. Paul Metropolitan Area. (Click here for a cheesy video.) Knowing Jon, his background, intelligence and ability to make personal connections, this is a great move for Minnesota. We're very proud of you, Jon! Just don't start thinking that it diminishes your blogging obligations here.
- I want to give a shout out to Patrick Kennedy of the Walkable DFW blog. I've been to Dallas and Fort Worth (will be back this June) and I know that it takes a lot of ambition, combined with a little bit of imagination, to visualize a walkable DFW. We admire that courage, and Kennedy's writing, and want to thank him for picking up our post on school busing as well as commenting on our NU Network post on narrow streets. You can follow Walkable DFW on Facebook and Twitter, and we recommend that you do.
- We also want to thank Mary Newsom at The Naked City Blog in Charlotte for picking up and passing along our stuff. I'm familiar with Newsom not only because of the suggestively-memorable title of her blog but her work is featured frequently by Planetizen. We're honored you are a reader of the STB.
- The staying power of our Confessions of a Recovering Engineer post also continues to astound me. It has shown up in a Bike Delaware News post and someone posted a link in the comment section for a story about a pedestrian crossing being closed. I'm loving these applications of our work - thank you, everyone!
- For some reason, activists for the Status Quo picked up on this article as somehow being an affirmation that cities are getting a bad deal. Look at it as a taxpayer for a minute: Property taxes are going up while local government spending is dropping. Instead of screaming for more government money, we need to have a difficult, adult conversation with ourselves about the lack of productivity of our living pattern, and the enormous, long-term costs involved in maintaining it. If we did that, and actually promoted some type of transition plan, I would find it easier to collaborate intellectually on their near-term goals of said advocates.
- Speaking of adult conversations, what are we to make of this headline? Americans rank transportation needs high but don't want to pay the costs. Isn't that a little like me saying I rank my total physical health high while I continue to eat Ho-Ho's and drink Mountain Dew? High compared to what? I think the most revealing -- and frustrating -- thing about this article is how our it tries to chalk up our unwillingness to pay more to our frustration with waste. That may be true, but we could build "bridges to nowhere" in every state and it would not cost a fraction of what it will cost to fix the streets in front of all our homes.
While 66 percent said they thought spending on infrastructure is important, the same number of those surveyed said the government didn't spend transportation money efficiently.
"People are willing to pay if they have faith they are getting quality," Turner said. "Uncertainty in the poll more reflects a frustration with bridges to nowhere from Congress. The answer is that with clear outcomes and better accountability, people want and support investments in transportation infrastructure."
- Of course, building a bridge to nowhere is exactly what a Tea Party, fiscal hawk, deficit-busting Republican like Minnesota's own Michelle Bachmann would oppose. Right? Here's what she had to say about a bill to remove environmental roadblocks so that we can collectively spend nearly $700 million on a quicker route for commuters crossing over the St. Croix River between Minnesota and Wisconsin on their way to the Twin Cities.
“I urge my colleagues to support this bill so that the citizens of Minnesota and Wisconsin can safely cross the St. Croix River. These citizens count on their elected officials to recognize the need for infrastructure and my bill responds to their pleas for a new crossing. I look forward to the groundbreaking of the new bridge, and the jobs and positive economic impact it will bring to the region.”
- I have to thank my NextGen collaborator Eliza Harris (Twitter) for Tweeting this great opinion piece in Politico by Bill Bradley (D), Tom Ridge (R) and David Walker (I). In it they point out the danger of giving up on sound infrastructure spending because the system is broke. They point out a number of problems with our current approach, which we concur with, especially the need to develop energy security. A very thoughtful piece from some thoughtful leaders.
First, transportation investments must help expand the economy, not just provide short-term employment. Nobody remembers how many jobs were created building the Interstate Highway System, but we all still benefit from the economic boom that followed its construction.
Long-term economic growth requires sound investment choices bolstered by strategic benefits. Wasteful spending can no longer be tolerated. Right now, there aren’t even competition or performance requirements for 80 percent of federal transportation funds — they are simply distributed by a formula. End that practice, not the program.
Fourth, the entire transportation program must be managed, regardless of the exact level of federal investment, on a pay-as-you-go basis. Transportation must support the economy, not the other way around.
- Our friends at Transportation for America tweeted us a link to the following video demonstrating (again) the absurdity of our transportation system when it comes to pedestrians. Our Minnesota readers may enjoy the guy in the video, who has a subtle Wellstone-esque quality to him. That positive memory brought a nostalgic smile to this Republican's face.
- And thanks to another NextGen collaborator, Mike Lydon, for pointing out this article from Streetsblog New York City on the tyranny for America that is spending on bikes and pedestrians. Graphics are a brilliant way to refute ignorance, especially statements like “New York City has gone out of its way in recent years to cater to the nonmotorized.” So how about this graphic depicting the allocation of NY's street space by mode.
- I know this is not a joke, but doesn't it just start to be silly after a while? Why don't we put Nassim Taleb on television everywhere explaining forecasting instead of these jokers? I mean, seriously....in the following video the CBO head estimates this year's deficit at $1.6 trillion and then argues for more spending because it will somehow magically result in lower deficits in the following years. He does this with a straight face even though last August he estimated the 2011 deficit at just 1.07 trillion. So in six months he's off by a modest $530 billion, just 33%. Yet somehow we are supposed have the confidence to borrow and spend an extra $100 billion based on his projections that it will make things better five years from now? How much longer are we going to believe this drivel (which both parties subscribe to, by the way)? Isn't it clear that they have no idea what is going on?
- And for those of you that are starting to believe in "recovery" because your stock portfolio is up, read this Wall Street Journal article on the transition away from the dollar as the world's reserve currency. Since our fake economy of the past three decades has been largely financed by cheap lending driven by a strong dollar, this shift will have dramatic, dramatic impacts.
In this new monetary world, moreover, the U.S. government will not be able to finance its budget deficits so cheaply, since there will no longer be as big an appetite for U.S. Treasury securities on the part of foreign central banks.
Nor will the U.S. be able to run such large trade and current-account deficits, since financing them will become more expensive. Narrowing the current-account deficit will require exporting more, which will mean making U.S. goods more competitive on foreign markets. That in turn means that the dollar will have to fall on foreign-exchange markets—helping U.S. exporters and hurting those companies that export to the U.S.
- And finally this week, I stumbled across this clip from the KunstlerCast (which you should listen to - it is good podcasting) thrown up on YouTube and overlaid with the Eminem Chrysler commercial from the Super Bowl. Jim and Duncan's analysis is dead on - worth a listen on a Friday afternoon.
Enjoy your weekend!
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