cities

Covering the mortgage through the long emergency

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For snarky, mildly academic news commentary on the long finance meltdown the country is in the middle of, my reading of choice is Salon's How the World Works. Combine that with a Salon feature today on oil prices, and you start getting to immediate questions for my profession:

The bottom line: Oil prices are high today, not due to a temporary disruption in the global flow of petroleum as in 1980, but for systemic reasons that are, if anything, becoming more pronounced. This means news headlines with the phrase "record oil price" are likely to be commonplace for a long time to come. ...

Spreading the gospel of Jane

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Last fall, I loaned my copy of Jane Jacobs' Cities and the Wealth of Nations: Principles of Economic Life to a friend. Recently, I commented to him that I kinda wanted it back, as I'd had a hankering to re-read it. He said, "Well, I'd actually kind of like to loan it to somebody else, because I really think she should read it, so maybe I should just buy a new copy for you."

Last night, he told me that, in fact, he already had re-loaned out my copy...and also bought three more to give as Christmas presents. So I suppose that's a pretty successful book loan. And, with my copy gone, maybe I'll take the opportunity to go find a hardcover edition on Amazon and upgrade. Aaaand, done. D, you owe me $10.

Environmentalism means jobs.

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For a post with a lower screed-content, I'll point you to Grist's interview with Oakland, CA, social justice advocate Van Jones. Jones notes that while the environmental movement is often seen as a self-righteous fixation of upper middle class white aging hippies and hippie wannabes (and that impression is too often correct), an environmentally-friendly economy can be and will need to be something that provides economic opportunities for the working class and poor. As I've noted before, a more environmentally sound economy will involve more "skilled service" jobs, and less focus on cheap energy and global flows of disposable goods.

Keep St. Louis Weird

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Miss me? Thanks to a death in the family, I've been out of touch and out of town the past little while, and am just now getting home and catching up. If you had tried to get my attention at any point in the past week and it didn't work, try again.

I spent the weekend and a little in the St. Louis area for the burial and visiting family, and managed to snag a free afternoon. Before leaving, I asked a St. Louis native for some destinations, and was pointed towards the University City Loop area. When my mother suggested visiting the Arch (again), I was therefore prepared for an escape, having verified with a cousin that I could get to U.City by rail (It's almost like a civilized country or something...), and was dropped off by the family caravan on their way to the arch.

Praying for structural change

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About 18 months back, Ann Arbor's Mayor Hieftje held a session of his public policy class entitled "Is Ann Arbor overrated?", with various blogger guest discussants. He commented that the cities of Michigan are lined up and running towards a cliff of fiscal crisis. Yes, all of them - Ann Arbor's more or less bringing up the rear, but it's running the same direction as all the rest. Some cities have already gone over - Flint, Highland Park, Hamtramck - and have survived the fall with various degrees of injury. Detroit's just a matter of time, and not much of it. But many people are hoping that Ypsilanti will serve as a bellwhether of Michigan's fiscal problems and a catalyst to change, as Ypsi is recognized across the state as being much more well-run than its predecessor's into crisis. When well-run cities start going over the brink, this theory states, people will finally realize that something's broken, and that it's not just Flint. I've since heard basically this same view echoed by a number of other regional and State leaders - when Ypsi goes, that's when our State can be expected to decide there might be a problem with our municipal structure. Thanks, guys. We love you too.

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