The financial situations for the city of Chicago and the state of Illinois are by now exceedingly clear: both are swimming in debt. The state’s figures stand at $164 billion, and the city’s combined debts are $87 billion, with most of this attributable to unfunded public employee retirement systems. Cutting these liabilities is essential for either, but as both the city and state learned recently, it won’t likely happen through the courts, suggesting that they better find a new plan. [read the rest at Forbes]… Read more
1. I delved into finance this week for Forbes, writing articles about how Chicago’s junk-bond rating is already causing higher borrowing costs; and about how Dodd-Frank, 5 years after passage, is killing community banks.
2. Starting in a few weeks, and continuing for as long as I’m on the road, I will occasionally add to a new Market Urbanism series called “America’s Progressive Developers.” This will profile different developers who have either built, or are planning to build, interesting projects that enliven their city.… Read more
It has been 5 years since Dodd-Frank’s passage, and over that time, the 2,300-page bill has been a living monument to the downsides of regulation. Quickly passed in 2010 after the financial crisis, and without bipartisan support, the bill’s mix of legal uncertainty and market distortion has worsened what it aimed to solve. By capping the amount that banks can charge retailers for debit swipes, Dodd-Frank forced many to cover for the losses by ending free checking for low-end clients. Added compliance costs made firms reduce customer service.… Read more
It appears that Chicago’s debt problem, which has long inspired from the city a combination of neglect and further excess, is coming home to roost. On May 12, Moody’s downgraded the city’s general obligation bonds to junk. In the two months since, the city has paid the price through higher borrowing costs. [read the rest at Forbes]… Read more
1. My Forbes article this week is about Mamey, a delicious tropical fruit that is popular in Miami but unknown around the U.S.
2. This week I requested interviews with the executives of Philadelphia’s Redevelopment Authority and its Housing Authority—Brian Abernathy and Kelvin Jeremiah. I said that I was writing an article about both agencies’ recent eminent domain zeal. In case you’re unfamiliar, I’m referencing the PHA’s mass overhaul of the Sharswood neighborhood, and the PRA’s multiple recent attempted takings, all plans that have been documented on this site (here and here). … Read more
When it comes to fruit, there is no shopping experience quite like Miami. Particularly when going deep into the Latino areas, the store produce sections will have tropical fruits that are either exclusive or non-existent elsewhere in America. Some of the fruits that would be expensive or rare in, say, my small Virginia hometown—like mangoes, papayas, starfruit, guava and plantains—are cheaper, more abundant, and much tastier in Miami. Others, like guinep,jackfruit, noni, green avocadoes and coco frio, are unheard of where I grew up, and some frankly taste bizarre.… Read more
1. My Forbes article this week draws parallels between the world’s three most notable recent cases of economic collapse–Detroit, Greece, and Puerto Rico.
2. The subject of eminent domain in Philly has been hot recently on this blog, with both Emily and I discussing plans by the city’s housing authority to seize 1,330 properties for a redevelopment plan in the blighted Sharswood neighborhood. We both–along with reader Adam Lang–noted the irony of a government authority wanting to expand its footprint in a neighborhood that it had already destroyed with public housing and property neglect.… Read more
In July of 2013, Detroit became the largest U.S. municipality to go bankrupt. Like with other major news events, this bankruptcy forced us—the American public—to suffer a tidal wave of backwards analysis about the root causes. MSNBC analyst Melissa Harris-Perry explained that it was because Detroit’s government had become “small enough to drown in your bathtub.” A website called PolicyMic blamed NAFTA, never mind that much of Detroit’s industry merely went to more business-friendly neighboring suburbs. Paul Krugman called the city “an innocent victim of market forces.” But while researching the issue, I discovered a Thomas Sowell article from several years before that attributed the decline to the “Detroit Pattern.” This was a public administration model, he explained, that favored “increasing taxes, harassing businesses, and pandering to unions”–in other words, big government ideology.… Read more
1. I wrote three Forbes articles this week: about how black churches were burning across the South, perhaps in response to the Charleston shooting and Confederate flag takedown; about how new presidential candidate Chris Christie has handled his 5-year control of Atlantic City; and about a new app that aims to help people find bathrooms in New York City.
2. There are two layers in the ongoing debate about whether cities should cater to cars or pedestrians. The first concerns the design of roads themselves—should they be one-way, as to ease traffic flow, or two-way, as to slow it?… Read more
Have you ever been in the middle of a winding, day-long stroll through New York City when suddenly you must go to the bathroom? Of course you have, and you know what often happens next. Over the course of what can seem like an hour, you may navigate long lines, forbidding McDonald’s stalls, and inflexible store workers before you finally get access to a usable bathroom. Now, there is an app to help this situation. [read the rest at Forbes]… Read more