Wednesday, November 29, 2017

Blogger Candidate Forum: The Brexit Edition; November 29, 2017

Hello Everyone:

It is time for the weekly edition of Blogger Candidate Forum.  This week The Forum hops the pond to take a look at the biggest issue looming over Great Britain.  No, not the upcoming royal wedding; Blogger will checking her mailbox for an invitation.  No e-vites for the British Royals.  Second and more immediate, the Alabama special election is coming up quickly.  Voters will be asked to choose between Democrat Doug Jones and Republican Roy Moore.  The winner will fill the seat vacated by (for now) Attorney General Jeff Sessions.  Alabama fans think hard before you cast your vote, ask yourselves what is more important: party loyalty and what is right.  Whatever you do, just get out and vote.  Now onto to today's subject.

Scanning the media, it has come to Blogger's attention that Brexit-i.e. Great Britain's looming exist from the European Union-has become the biggest source of the island nation's anxiety.  You would be right if you thought Prince Harry and Meghan Markle's upcoming wedding is providing a very welcome distraction.  Upon further perusal of the British media, it seems that Great Britain (England, Scotland, and  Wales)  and the Republic Ireland are at war with each other.  A spokesperson for the British far-right party UKIP declared that Ireland had threatened the United Kingdom (England, Wales, Scotland, and Northern Ireland), deriding it as the weakest kid in the playground (; Nov. 27, 2017; date accessed Nov. 29, 2017).  The Sun quite pointedly told the Irish Prime Minister Leo Varadkar to shut his gob...and grow up (; Nov. 18, 2017; date accessed Nov. 29, 2017).  Got to love the British media and their lack of filter.  The associate editor of the Telegraph grumbled that Ireland has poisoned U.K. politics and brought down governments for centuries (; June 13, 2017; date accessed Nov. 29, 2017), which given both countries' bloody shared history, it is a little like blaming Ireland's broken nose and jaw for England's broken hands.  So what is is behind all the acrimony?

This is the question that Feargus O'Sullivan asks in his CityLab article "How Brexit Got Snagged on the Irish Border."  What else, Brexit.  The same thing that been at the root of Britain's odd political behavior over the last year-and-half.  What did you think Blogger would say, The President of The United States?  Mr. O'Sullivan writes, "While the U.K. is committed to leaving the Euopean Union, the Republican of Ireland has ever conceived of leaving.  and that's turning the Irish border into a virtual battleground."

Trying to figure out what is going between Great Britain and Ireland is a whole complicated separate matter in-of-itself but necessary to understand the intricacies of the Brexit process.  Fortunately for us, Feargus O'Sullivan provides with a basic outline of the problem.

"Meet the E.U.'s least-watertight border"

When (depending on the vagaries of British politics, if) Brexit does happen, it will result in the U.K.'s first land border with the E.U., on the frontier between Ireland and Northern Ireland.  For Irish and U.K. passport holders, this should not be a problem because both have a longstanding Common Travel Area (; date accessed Nov. 29, 2017).  This non-legally binding agreement allows passport-free travel between, for example, Scotland and Ireland.  However, since Britain is on a leave the E.U. tariff-free single market trajectory, imports and exports must be monitored along the 310-mile long border.  Mr. O'Sullivan reports, "Controlling this flow by a so-called 'hard' border-that is, one with checkpoints and customs controls-would be quite the job."  Northern Ireland sends an estimated  £3.6 billion ($4.8 billion;; Nov. 26, 2017; date accessed Nov. 29, 2017), while there are 275 crossings between the two halves of the island, "more than twice the number [; Aug. 16, 2017; date accessed Nov. 29, 2017] there are along the E.U.'s entire eastern frontier."  Given this fact, you can well imagine that a hard border between Ireland and Northern Ireland would be an absolute nightmare.

"Keep calm and carry on?"

"Keep calm and carry on" sounds nice on a tea cozy but how would play out against the reality of Brexit.  Prime Minister Theresa May's government maintains that a hard border will not be necessary because of a "new super-lightweight customs system suggested by the the British, large companies moving goods across the border would pay duties simply by declaring what they have shipped, while smaller companies would face no controls whatsoever."  Sounds easy, right?

Maybe a wee too easy.  Mr. O'Sullivan rightly points out, "With no controls for smaller businesses, the Irish border would become a quasi-legal smuggling paradise for importers wanting to avoid paying duty on their goods."  Of course there would be nothing to stop a non-European company (e.g. American) from flying their goods into the Northern Irish capital of Belfast, then using a network of smaller companies to convoy them across the border, duty-free.  There is absolutely no way the E.U. would accept this bizarre "backdoor version of a single market-which Britain says it wants to leave"

European Union resistance is not the only obstacle to this odd-ball scheme coming to fruition.  "Allowing E.U. importers to get their good into Britain tax-free over the Irish border would be giving their countries preferential treatment, which would break World Trade Organization rules [; date accessed Nov. 29, 2017] and expose the UK. to a tsunami of litigation."

This plan is way out in left field, that some pundits have suggested that it was never meant to be serious (the; Aug. 16, 2017; date accessed Nov. 29, 2017).  Instead of a more viable solution, this super-lightweight customs system suggests one, so that eventual imposition of a hard border can be blamed on the E.U., and Ireland.  This has not escaped the eagle-eyed Irish government, who are demanding more clarity and a solid mutually agreed upon plan before Great Britain begins negotiating trade deals with the E.U.

Historically, Ireland has always been the lesser in power and wealth than Britain, however, Ireland now finds itself in the unusually stronger position to make demands: "After all, it has 26 other European countries provisionally on this side."  As complex as it is, it is the shift in the balance of power that has the Brexiteers' knickers in a major twist.

"Threats to a hard-won peace"

The border issue is not just about trade.  In fact, just focusing on trade is to miss the bigger-no scratch that-enormous all consuming picture.  The Northern Irish peace process begun in the 1990s and culminated in the 1998 Good Friday Agreement; delicately maintained has been helped by easier flow and lessen tension along the border.  The Republic of Ireland and Northern Ireland border has been the site of guerrilla warfare, by the Irish Republican Army, since the fifties (; date accessed Nov. 29, 2017), while visitors from Ireland were often the targets of attacks and killings (Ibid) from loyalist paramilitaries (Ibid).  Mr. O'Sullivan reports, "Customs checks continued on the border until 1993, but in recent years the frontier has been largely fluid and peaceful..."  This has helped diffuse tensions across the border and within Northern Ireland.

Since the referendum, Ms. May's government has already placed the Good Friday Agreement (Ibid) in jeopardy by forming a coalition with loyalist Democratic Unionist Party (; June 13, 2017).  Mr. O'Sullivan writes, "By attaching its electoral future to a sectarian party, the British national government has called into question its ability to maintain the 'rigorous impartiality stipulated by the agreement."  To make matters worse, the U.K. is racing toward re-solidifying the border-and possibly toppling the precarious status quo-while insisting it is not doing anything of the sort.

"Grasping for a solution"

So can some system be implemented?  The obvious solution is just chuck the whole Brexit out the window and remain in the European Union, but that, unfortunately, is not an option.  Another options is keeping Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland in a single market with a customs border along the Irish Sea.  This would be problematic for Ireland, "because it would face customs controls on truck rolling off ferries and across Britain, which is still the main road for freight between Ireland and mainland Europe."  Be that as it may, it would certainly mitigate potentially disastrous tension along the Northern Irish land border.

The biggest obstacle to this remedy is the DUP, "who are suspicious that Northern Irish customs union with the Republic of Ireland but not with the U.K. might be a creeping move toward the pan-Irish unification they are constitutionally opposed to."  Given that the DUP is currently propping up Ms. May's delicate Tory government (Ibid), it wields considerable power.  However, withdrawing from the coalition might precipitate an election that would result in a Labour-led government; with which it has a frosty relationship.  Let us see who blinks first.

"High stakes and shouting"

If a solution is not worked, the Brexit negotiations may come to a standstill, elevating the risk of the British crashing out of the E.U. without any sort of deal.  A compromise could eventually be worked out but the current British strategies do not inspire much confidence.  Instead they inspire a lot of wishful thinking and shouting.

In addition, the general level cluelessness about Ireland in Great Britain is on shocking display, whether it is groundless Ireland wants to leave the European Union (; 5:53 AM; Nov. 27, 2017; date accessed Nov. 29, 2017), the Irish government plans to seize territory in the north (; 1:24 AM; Nov. 27, 2017; date accessed Nov. 29, 2017), or the Irish Republican Army might use Brexit as a pretext to start a bombing campaign (; 3:35 AM; Dec. 29, 2016; date accessed Nov. 29, 2017).  The truth of the matter, the Leave campaigners promised a Brexit that would bring about a genuinely global Britain.  Instead of making Britain great again, it is making Great Britain smaller day by day.

Tuesday, November 28, 2017

The Social Network For Athletes; November 7, 2017

Hello Everyone:

The social network has irrevocably changed the way we interact with each other.  Face-to-face contact with "friends" has been replaced by posts and tweets.  Whenever an important event happens, the first place we look is our social media accounts.  In short, the social media has replaced mainstream media as the primary source for news and information.   How about using the social media for transportation planning?  This is the subject of Benjamin Schneider's CityLab article "The Social Network That Helps Planners Understand Pedestrians and Cyclists."

Mr. Schneider writes, "Pedestrians and cyclists are notoriously difficult for transportation planners to count and map."  However, this situation is starting to change thanks to the fitness-themed social media.  Think of it as Facebook and Twitter for fitness-minded users; instead of posting selfies, this fitness oriented social network tracks where the runners, bikers, and walkers congregate and how they travel.

At the end of October, Strava, a social network for athletes, re-launched its Global Heatmap (; date accessed Nov. 28, 2017) with additional data and improved graphics.  The site offers an interactive map illustrating over 1 billion trips taken by Strava's million users, "80 percent of whom are from outside the United States."  All of the data comes together in a very detailed map of journeys undetaken by foot, by bike, and other means of transportation.  Transportation planners have taken not and being put to use.

Mr. Schneider reports, "The Global Heatmap provides a fairly blunt sense of the busiest traffic corridors, but it's the public face of a trove of data about how pedestrians and cyclists get around."  The first version of the Global Heatmap resulted in a flood of calls of planners and activists that the company created a data toolkit-Strava Metro (; Nov. 28, 2017).  "Today the toolkit is used by 125 organizations around the world, including departments of transportation in Colorado, Utah, Florida, New Hampshitre, and Vermont."

Strava marketing lead Brian Devaney told CityLab,

A lot of transportation and planning departments reached out to use saying that they don't have very much data on bike and pedestrian behavior.  They need to do a deeper dive into what the heat map shows in order to lobby for better infrastructure.

Heidi Goedhart, an active transportation managerof the Utah Department of Transportation, and Joseph  Santos, a safety engineer at the Florida Department of Transportation shared Mr. Devaney sentiment.  Ms. Goedhart told CityLab,

It's really hard for us to understand origin and destination, and also how long those trips are, because if we're doing point-source data collection, then we're missing the rest of the picture.

By presenting completed trips, Strava information provides a more sophisticated snapshot of pedestrian and cycling behavior than the typical data sources available to planners.  UDOT, one of Strava Metro's partners as of this past March, has already altered some of the roads and intersection designed based on the new data.  Ms. Goedhart continued, It's replacing anecdote with data.

Most planners and policy types tend to drift towards the pedestrian and bicycle data, however, the Global Heatmap also presents trips taken on snow or water, "representing a far more diverse range of activities with far fewer data points."  In this respect, the map can be viewed as depicting travel by method, rather than mean.  For example, "The leg filter...doesn't distinguish between walking and jogging.  The water filter depicts all manner of aquatic sports, including swimming, sailing, and kite-boarding.  And the snow filter highlights ski and snowboard hotspots liked the Sierra and Alps..." Although, for some mysterious reason, downtown Los Angeles shows up on the snow filter as well.

The map's designer, Drew Robb, told CityLab that this and other glitches would be straighten out with some machine learning types.  If you would like to learn more about the map's technical features, please go to and read Mr. Robb's November 1st blog post "The Global Heatmap Now 6x Hotter."

San Francisco's water map give us a glimpse into what sports are being enjoyed along the peninsula.  Benjamin Schneider speculates, "The big bright spots just north of the peninsula probably represents a large number of swimmers and sailors."  Surfers congregate along the popular Pacific coastline spots of Ocean and Bolinas Beaches.  The interior waterways of Marin County, just north of the city, are a popular place for kayaker so and paddle boarders.

Moving across the United States to New York City's West Side Highway, "America's busiest bike route" and the site of the heinous terrorist attack this past Halloween (; Nov. 1, 2017; date accessed Nov. 28, 2017), we find the map is lit up in bright white.  So too, are many of Manhattan's pedestrian thoroughfares which have become popular with cyclists as well.  No shock that Brooklyn streets show more bicycle trips on Strava than the rest of the outer boroughs.

 Since the data is gleaned from a social network geared toward athletes, who tend to be more affluent and tech savvy, there glaring omissions in the map.  "Large low-income neighborhoods, like South L.A., Chicago's South Side or the Bronx-to say nothing of countless non-urban areas-have far fewer data points than wealthier neighborhoods."  The transportation planners that spoke with Mr. Schneider were quite aware of the discrepancies.  The Florida Department of Transportation's Joseph Santos determined that "10 percent of bike trips taken in the state are recorded on Strava, which a is a small, but not insignificant number."  It is quite a different story in Utah, where a thriving recreational bicycle culture means a lot of Strava data points, resulting in transportation planning adding new sensor to streets where the data might not reflect ridership in a more accurate manner.

Heidi Goedhart said,

We have to be aware of the social equity component of what the data is telling us.

In most cases, the places with the fewest data point might be the very places that require improved bicycle and pedestrian infrastructure.

While transportation planners ponder these deep questions, map aficionados can navigate their way around the Global Heatmap and check out all the great workout places they could be using instead of sitting idly in front of a screen.  Andrew Vontz, communications lead at Strava,  considers the map a form of digitizing motivation, one of the social network's most potent attributes and its important feature:

It's just kind of fun to see people getting after it and getting stoked all over the world. 

Monday, November 27, 2017

Make Cities Part Of The Solution To The Refugee Crisis; October 27, 2017

Hello Everyone:

Yours Truly is back from a very long Thanksgiving/Birthday holiday weekend and ready for a fresh week.  A couple of news items: First, a big congratulations to Prince Harry and Meghan Markle on their engagement.  How about that, a Yank in Queen Elizabeth's court.  All those blood blued ancestors must be spinning in their graves.  Blogger wishes the happy a couple a lifetime of joy.  Second, today is the last day to register to vote in time for the Alabama Senate special election.  This election is between Democrat Doug Jones and Repbulican Roy Moore.  If you have not registered yet, the clock is ticking loudly toward the midnight tonight deadline.  If you need more information, please go to  Alright on to today's subject: the refugee crisis.

Refugees fleeing violence from Myanmar (Burma) and the Middle East have become the greatest human migration in contemporary times.  Since the end of August, over half a million of Rohingya Muslims have fled secretariat persecution, crossing into Bangladesh in what the United Nations as called "the fastest-growing refugee crisis world today" (; Oct. 19, 2017; date accessed Nov. 27, 2017).  Meanwhile, millions of Syrian and Iraqi men, women, and children, displaced by ongoing civil war, continue to make the perilous journey across the Mediterranean Sea to Europe in hopes of finding a safe haven.  

Bruce Katz and Jessica Brandt report in their CityLab article, "The Refugee Crisis Is a City Crisis," "Against this backdrop, UN High Commissioner for Refugees Filippo Grandi spoke last month [in September 2017], during the General Assembly in New York to talk about a new approach for dealing with refugees,...those forced to flee their homes are integrated more permanently the into urban areas rather than isolated in camps."  Specifically,

Inclusion is the name of the game...Cities are frontline players in dealing with refugees (; Sept. 18, 2017; date accessed Nov. 27, 2017)

Here is an important real fact: "Local authorities are critical to addressing the needs of the displaced."  According to the UNHCR, "roughly 60 percent of the world's 22 million refugees reside in cities rather than in camps" (Ibid).  The refugees are not only displaced persons from other countries coming from South Asia and the Middle East making their way to the cities; internally displaced people are also finding their way toward urban centers.

Thus it becomes incumbent on municipal officials to formulate specific effective emergency responses as well as plans for long-term integration.  These intiatives must be designed, delivered, and financed at the municipal levels.  The components must include: housing, healthcare, education, job skills training, and a variety of social services.

This is absolutely crucial "...because displacement is not getting just more urban in nature-it's increasingly prolonged."  Some context: in the early nineties, "the average length of displacement was nine years.  Today, it's roughly twenty [; Jan. 2011; date accessed Nov. 27, 2017."  By the end of 2016, more than 11 million refugees (; date accessed Nov. 27, 2017)-two thirds of the total around the world-were in prolonged situations.  Together, these shifts have resulted in a massive in change in the protective needs of displaced persons.  This means that displaced persons coming from the Middle East, for example, are putting down roots in their host communities thus require programs such as language lessons, in order to successfully integrate into their new living situations.  

Displaced persons require "Sustainable interventions build on existing city systems and take into account the needs of the entire community, including host populations."  Municipal officials are a the best position;on to contribute to this effort.  For this reason, humanitarian officials and organizations must engage with cities in discussions on policy and implementation.  

Mr. Grandi also stated that the UNHCR is prepared to take such action.  He said,

UNHCR is ready to step its engagement with mayors around the world.

This is good news, particularly since the "UNHCR has an opportunity to make good on that commitment through the process of drawing up new global agreement on refugees..."  In 2016, global leaders began this process by convening the Summit for Refugees and Migrants, which will conclude their annual meeting next year.

In the interim, Mr. Katz and Ms. Brandt suggest that "more should be done to engage local leaders in the negotiation process."  Bruce Katz and Jessica Brandt offer a few ideas on what can be done to engage city officials.  Ms. Brandt authored "Engaging city leaders in the global compact process: Recommendations for action" (; Oct. 17, 2017; date accessed Nov. 27, 2017), together with the International Rescue Committee (; date accessed Nov. 27, 2017) and 100 Resilient Cities-Pioneered by the Rockefeller Foundation (; Nov 24, 2017; date accessed Nov. 27, 2017).  The following are some of the ideas Ms. Brandt and Mr. Katz have on engaging cities in the refugee crisis.  

First, this goes without saying, cities need to be participants in all discussions on displaced persons.  They should be given the opportunity to make a contribution(s) and provide feed back on the draft of the Global Compact on Refugees that the UNHCR is committed to having ready by early next year.  Ms. Brandt and Mr. Katz write, "This feedback process could take place alongside the process of formal consultations, which is set to take place between February and July of next year."

Second, Ms. Brandt and Ms. Katz suggest, "UNHCR should incorporate towns and cities  with size able refugee populations into the testing and development of its approach."  Currently, The Comprehensive Refugee Response Framework is set for roll out in eleven countries.  Camp-based or rural refugee populations are the predominant feature in these eleven countries.  As a result, the conclusions from these pilot sites may not completely relate to addressing the present situation: "a majority of refugees reside in towns and cities.  That should change."

Third, "UNHCR should encourage UN member States to engage in meaningful collaboration with municipal authorities by facilitating the flow of technical expertise and resources to town and cities, creating a formal consultation mechanism between city leaders and other decision-makers, and by disentangling financial flows to reach local practitioners."

Finally, the international humanitarian organizations need to develop new strategies to source innovative methods on refugee integration straight to the cities.  Retaining best practices and sharing them widely, can accelerate the scope of replication and the scale of proven solutions.

The refugee crisis in Syria and Iraq shows no sign of abating and the one in Burma and Bangladesh is exploding, thus it is absolutely imperative that best policies and practices be put in place immediately.  Also of the utmost importance, cities must participate in all relevant global discussions-including the ones taking place over the next year.  The United Nationas High Commission for Refugees is open and ready to engage civic officials.  Jessica Brandt and Bruce Katz are ready to help the agency implement their commitment. 

Wednesday, November 22, 2017

Blogger Candidate Forum: Why These Cities?; September 29, 2017

Hello Everyone:

Time for the weekly and pre-Thanksgiving Day edition of Blogger Candidate Forum.  Before we get going on today's subjects: Sanctuary Cities, a couple of words on two current events items.  First, (sarcasm alert) thank you Federal Communications Commission for ending net neutrality.  Your lame attempt to open up competition for Internet providers will effectively throttle the public forum.  Way to go.  A reminder to the FCC, the Internet has become the public square of the 21st century.  By micro-managing the public forum, you are choking off whatever constructive free exchange of opinions on issues that affect us.  Second, calling all Alabama voters, you still have time to register for the December 12 special election.  The registration deadline is November 27.  For more information, please go to  That said, on to sanctuary cities.

Amid the president's latest Twitter feud, daily sexual harassment and assault  revelations, a story about sanctuary cities made headlines.  Yesterday, Federal Judge William H. Orrick handed down a ruling that permenantly blocked Mr. Donald Trump's executive order to withhold funds from cities that curtail their cooperation with Immigration and Customs Enforcement.  The ruling was in response to a lawsuit filed, in April, by the city of San Francisco and Santa Clara County, and follows a temporary injunction blocking the order from taking effect.  San Francisco is one of the declared sanctuary cities around the country, along with Los Angeles, Philadelphia, and Denver.  Why bring this up?

Blogger brings this up because the above mentioned cities, as well as several other cities, were the target of a four-day ICE action in September of this year.  Tanvi Misra reports in her CityLab article, "Why Trump Administration Targeted These 10 Jurisdictions in Its Latest Raids," "In a four-day operation, Immigration and Custom Enforcement (ICE) rounded up [; Sept. 28, 2017; date accessed Nov. 22, 2017] almost 500 individuals in many so-called sanctuary cities..."  Philadelphia experienced the greatest number of detention (107), Los Angeles was second (101), followed by Denver (63).  These numbers may not represent a lot of people but the cities that the raids took place is important.

Acting ICE director Tom Homan said in a statement:

Sanctuary jurisdiction that do not honor detainers or allow us access to jails and prisons are shielding criminal aliens from immigration enforcement acne creating a magnet for illegal immigration...As a result, ICE is forced to dedicate more resources to conduct at-large arrests in these communities. (Ibid)

Los Angeles, Philadelphia, Denver, as well as San Francisco, Baltimore, Chicago, New York, Portland, Washington D.C., Boston all have one other thing in common.  They are in states that voted Democrat in the 2016 General Election.  Blogger just wanted to put that out there.

Ms. Misra writes, "These targeted raids come after repeated blows [; April 25, 2017; date accessed Nov. 22, 2017] to the Trump administration's effort to punish [; July 26, 2017; date access Nov. 22, 2017] these cities by withholding federal grants, which a court recently ruled [; Sept. 15, 2017; date accessed Nov. 22, 2017] is likely a constitutional overreach.  Attorney General (for now) Jeff Sessions has long had these cities in his cross hairs, describing themselves as "hotbeds of violence and vice."

Los Angeles is a hotbed of violence and vice?  Oh really?  Los Angeles is hardly a literal "City of Angels" but Blogger thinks that the elfin AG has been watching one too many Humphrey Bogart movies.

Although the policies of sanctuary cities vary, they do have one common thread: limit the extent to which they allocate local resources are dedicated to federal enforcement.  Specifically, "They do not block the federal government from enforcement; many do cooperate with ICE when it come to violent offenders and let the federal agency access law enforcement databases [; May 12, 2017; date accessed Nov. 22, 2017]."

Here is an interesting fact, the majority of cities that do not honor ICE's request to hold alleged undocumented immigrants do so because the courts (; July 24, 2017; date access Nov. 22 2017) have ruled detaining immigrant for federal law enforcement agents is really illegal.  Ms. Misra reports, "Still, ICE briefly took to shaming these cities in public lists, until inaccuracies in their data came to the surface [; April 10, 2017; date accessed Nov. 22, 2017]."

When ICE announced its lates round of raids (; Sept. 28, 2017; date accessed Nov. 22, 2017)-Operation 'Safe City'-the agency highlighted the most outrageous criminal cases among those arrested: battery, child and domestic abuse, gang affliation.  Acting director Homan said,

ICE's goal is to build cooperative, respectful relationships with our law enforcement partners to help prevent dangerous criminal aliens from being releases back onto the streets.

However, upon closer inspection of the statistics from Operation "Safe City" weaken ICE's claim that the raids are focused on getting violent criminals off the streets.  "Out of 498 people arrested, ICE data shows 181 people did not have any criminal convictions.  among 317 that did, the highest number of people had driven under the influence (86).  The next six largest categories were drug trafficking (14), assault (13), domestic violence (12), weapons offense (11), sex offense against child (10), and traffic office (10)."

Immigration hardliners interpret these numbers as a way to "restore law and order" (; Sept. 5, 2017; date accessed Nov. 22, 2017).  However, pro-immigration advocates "point to the unfairness of crimes as small as shoplifting and as serious as rape having the same consequence."  They argue, "...deportation should not be used as punishment at all, given that someone who's been convicted has already paid their dues to society."

Erika Almiron, the executive director of the immigrant rights organization Juntos, told CityLab,

You're creating a situation of double jeopardy...It's almost as if you don't think that the criminal justice system works.

Acting director Tom Homan also pointed out in his statement,
...on cooperation policies severely undermine that effort at the expense of public safety

Tanvi Misra points out that "...research has refuted this claim."  One study concluded that cities that instituted sanctuary policies did not experience any statistically significant upswing in crime (; July 1, 2015; date accessed Nov. 22, 2017).  A second study (; Jan. 26, 2017; date accessed Nov. 22, 2017) compared sanctuary and related non-sanctuary cities demonstrated that "former actually tended to have lower crime and higher productivity, likely because of better police-community trust [Ibid]."

At the moment there is a bipartisan push toward "crimmigration" (; Sept. 16, 2016; date accessed Nov. 22, 2017)-"the expansion in the number of offenses that can lead to deportation and higher prosecution of these offenses-" some of the cities are widening the scope of their sanctuary polices (; March 15, 2017; date accessed Nov. 22, 2017).  This would include criminal justice and law enforcement policies that might leave immigrants initially vulnerable to immigration enforcement.

Tuesday, November 21, 2017

Tech-Driven Economic Segregation; October 24, 2017

Hello Everyone:

Yours Truly is back from an unintended sick day and feeling energetic enough to put down a few words.  Before we get going on today's subject, a quick reminder to fans in the great state of Alabama.  December 12 there will be a special election to fill the Senate seat vacated by (for) now-Attorney General Jeff Sessions.  If you are not registered to vote, you have until midnight November 27, 2017 register.  Make sure you get to the polls on December 12 and vote.  With that, on to today's subject: "How Innovation Leads to Economic Segretation."

The urban revival of the past two decades has been A Tale of Two Cities (slight pun intended).  This contradictory situation is the result of high-tech talent and industry returning to many cities, increasing economic revenue and decreasing unemployment.  Richard Florida reports in his afore mentioned CityLab article, "Now a new study documents in meticulous detail the extent to which rising innovation and deepening economic segregation in cities are two sides of the same coin."

The study, Income Segregation and Rise of the Knowledge Economy (Oct. 11, 2017;; Oct. 24, 2017; date accessed Nov. 21, 2017) co-authored by Enrico Berkes of Northwestern University and Mr. Florida's colleague at the University of Toronto Ruben Gaetani, "uses sophisticated statistical modeling to parse out the connection between innovation and economic segregation."  The co-authors use their database of over 2 million geographically coded and referenced patents (referenced in an article written by Mr. Florida;; Aug. 3, 2017; date accessed Nov. 21, 2017) for American metropolitans (measured as commuting zones [; Oct. 3, 2016; date accessed Nov. 21, 2017]) over the past forty years.  The co-authors compared patent data to benchmarks of economic segregation across census tract: income, educational, and occupational segregation between 1990 and 2010.  Mr. Florida writes, "Their models include a wide range of variables to control for population, income levels, industry differences, and political and economic factors over this period."

The foundational conclusion is as stunning as it is disturbing: "The level of patenting, or what the researchers call  innovation intensity, accounts for more than half  (56 percent) of the variation in economic segregation between cities...this innovation intensity accounts for fully 20 percent of the entire increase in economic segregation that occurred in the two decades between 1990 and 2010."  Messrs. Berkes and Gaetani concluded that economic segregation has grown considerably more than income inequality over the same study period.

the lion's hare of the blooming inequality in the United States during the study period "results from the divergence of income between, rather than within, neighborhoods or census tracts."  Most of the increase in the census tracts happen within, instead of between city-regions or commuting zones.  In short, "urban economic segregation-defined as inequality across city-regions or neighborhoods-accounts for the majority of the widening spatial inequality [in] the United States."  The study argues that high-tech innovation is a main driver, if not the main driver, behind this schism.

Instead of being linked with general patenting activity, the co-authors found that economic segregation is connected to a small number of knowledge-based high-tech industries. The knowledge-based high-tech industries include: information technology, electronics, pharmaceuticals and medicine, and chemicals, which typical require a specialized and highly educated workforce.  Mr. Florida points out, "By contrast, less knowledge-intensive industries, like textiles, are negatively associated with economic segregation."  The growth of economic segregation is fundamentally connected to the mushrooming of knowledge-based industries and occupation in urban centers.

The connection between innovation and segregation is not the result of inequality, so to say, "but of the way we increasingly sort into different geographies by knowledge, education, occupation, and income."  The division is driven by the self-sorting of the affluent and knowledge-based workers who drive innovation.  As they group together in distinct communities to access knowledge networks and startups, to cut down their commutes and take advantage of a greater variety of urban amenities (i.e. better schools, libraries, museums, better coffee emporiums, art galleries, and restaurants), they also are responsible for driving up the cost of housing and displace the less affluent and advantaged residents out.

Mr. Florida matter-of-factly points out, "...the study finds that roughly two-thirds of the increase in economic segregation stems from the extrem clustering of knowledge and creative workers in response to 'localized, occupation-specific, residential amenities'-the kinds of amenities that are only clustered by. Increasingly required for these workers to do their jobs, like 'third places' where freelancers can work and cultivate professional networks."

Segregation and Rise of the Knowledge Economy presents additional information on the contradictory nature knowledge-based economies and segregation that not only defines the "New Urban Crisis," but is also the core of the contemporary urban knowledge capitalism.  This same sorting of knowledge and talent move innovation and economic growth also powers the very things that divides us.  Those divides have led to: "anti-urban, anti-innovation, anti-immigration backlash from the right, and an anti-tech-industry backlash from the left."

What have we learned from Segregation and Rise of the Knowledge Economy.  Co-authors Enrico Berkes and Ruben Gaetani tells that "Finding ways to mitigate innovation-spurred economic segregation is a crucial project of times."  The co-authors quickly outline the number of typical responses to quintessential urban challenges including: improved public transit, more affordable housing, and better educational opportunities.  An ever growing number of urbanists are making the case that challenges of the New Urban Crisis cannot be perceived as the "negative externalities associated with innovation and growth."  Instead, the tech-drive economic segregation and other aspects of urban inequality should be considered as "existential barriers to the wellbeing of our cities and the further progress of our society."{

Wednesday, November 15, 2017

Blogger Candidate Forum: Once Again Cities Are At The Forefront; October 20, 2017

Hello Everyone:

It is time for the weekly edition of Blogger Candidate Forum.  Today in the forum is  how cities re standing up for women's health.  Blogger felt this was a timely topic since women's issues have become a white hot issue in the state and federal halls of government.  If you have been following the main stream and social media pages, you probably have been reading a lot about an upcoming special election in the state of Alabama.  

On December 12, 2017, voters will go to the polls to elect a someone to permenantly fill the seat vacated by (for) now-Attorney General Jeff Sessions.  On the ballot are former United States Deputy Attorney Democrat Doug Jones and Reublican former Judge Roy Moore.  Rather than focus on issues that Alabamans truly care about, the spotlight has to turned to Judge Moore's history of inappropriate sexual relationships with underage girls.  Yours Truly cannot decide what is more infuriating: his repeated denials of any wrong doing and hiding behind religion, the Republican party's tepid (at best) response to the accusations, or the fact that Mr. Moore might actually get elected to the Senate.  Actually, it is all infuriating and repugnant.  Even more infuriating is the way the accusers are shamed and diminished by co-workers.  Women, the typical accuser, have been historically dismissed as hysterical and irrational; gaslighted-"are you sure it happened that way?  Maybe you misunderstood.  Maybe you shouldn't have dressed that way."  Rubbish.  The only thing the accusers can do is stay silent.  Make no mistake, paedophilia should always be condemned.  No adult should be allowed to have sexual contact with anyone under the age of eighteen.  Period, end of discussion.  No one should be allowed to have any non-consenual sexual contact with anyone.  Since Mr. Moore refuses to do the right thing and step down, Blogger can only implore voters in Alabama to turn out en masse on December 12 and do the right thing.  On to which cities are standing up for women's health.

Congressional Republicans and Republican state houses are doing their very best to eliminate well-funded women's health and sexually transmitted disease.  Jacksonville, Florida is probably one place you will not any of these services.  The city landed close to the bottom of a new report, Local Reproductive Freedom Index (; date accessed Nov. 15, 2017) by the National Insititute for Reproductive Health, which graded America's 40 most populous cities according to their scope of reproductive health, rights, and Justice policies.

Alastair Boone writes in her CityLab article "Here Are the Cities Standing Up for Women's Health," Jacksonville's one-star rating reflects the city's lack of numerous reproductive health protections, such as funding for abortion clinics, STI prevention campaigns, and community-based sexual education programming."  However, NIRH Andrea Miller sees a ray of hope: "In February, Jacksonville passed historic legislation [; Feb. 15, 2017date accessed Nov. 15, 2017] that prohibits discrimination against gay and transgender people.  It's last city of its size secure such protections."

Ms. Miller told CityLab,

Jacksonville has take this historic step of protecting LGBTQ people...That is a remarkable move.  Because they've proven that the kind of organizing and engagement between the community and elected officials can move us forward.  That's really what we hope people will take from this.

Ms. Boone reports, "No city received a perfect score of five stars-meaning no city has matched each of the 37 policies tracked by the NIRH, a New York-based advocacy organization that promotes reproductive freedom."  The report offers a roadmap for the positive steps cities are already taking and how they can increase access reproductive healthcare for their residents, especially for residents in rural communities.

Andrea Miller continued, 

Our urban centers are the linchpin for healthcare delivery for so many people...Not just for their own residents but for those who live tens if not hundreds of miles away.  

Here is a very real fact, in many Midwestern rural counties, "the average woman has to drive more than 180 miles to get an abortion [; Oct. 5, 2017 date accessed Nov. 15, 2017].  compare this to a woman living closer to a major urban urban who has to drive fifteen miles to the nearest Planned Parenthood or comparable clinic.

National Institute for Reproductive Health ranking comes at a time when anxiety over the future of reproductive healthcare is growing under the current administration.  Ms. Boone reports, "In January, the president appointed Supreme Court Justice Neil Gorsuch who's expect to be a foe of abortion rights [; Sept. 22, 2017; date accessed Nov. 15, 2017], and reinstated the 'global gag rule, which halts U.S. funding to international NGOs that provide or promote abortion services."  This past July, the Trump administration slashed Teen Pregnancy Prevention Program two year short (; Aug. 15, 2017; date accessed Nov. 15, 2017) into a five-year funding period that promoted community-based strategies to halting teen pregnancy.  Last month, Mr. Trump announced a new rule (mother; Oct. 6, 2017; date accessed Nov. 15, 2017) that permits employers to opt out of birth control coverage as part of their health insurance plans.

No surprise that coastal cities: Los Angeles, San Francisco, and New York City occupy the top of the ranking with 4.5 stars.  These cities have enacted numerous protections for women and families, like funding for abortion, reproductive health education, support for anti-discrimination polices, and a $15 minimum wage (the city of Los Angeles plans to raise its minimum wage to $15 by 2020).  Ms. Boone observes, "On the whole, larger coastal cities with long histories of investment in social justice causes score the highest."

The average rating of the surveyed cites was two stars, even the highly rated coastal cities have room for improvements.  For example, San Francisco lacks zoning ordinances outside abortion clinics.  New York City still has not defunded alleged crisis pregnancy centers (prochoiceamericaorg; date accessed Nov. 15, 2017), which are nothing more than fronts for anti-abortion clinics.

Some cities are working to maintain access to controversial reproductive health services, even as Republican-dominated state legislatures work to eliminate them. Ms. Boone reports, "Columbus, Ohio, for example, passed [; June 22, 2016; date accessed Nov. 15, 2017] the 'Healthcare Workers and Patient Protection Ordinance' in 2016 to establish 15-foot buffer zones around clinics, within which certain behaviors are strictly penalized."  In 2015, Cook County, Illinois ensured abortion coverage (; date accessed Nov. 15, 2017) for low-income women as part of a joint intiative by the National Institute for Reproductive Health, the Chicago Abortion Fund, and the Illinois American Civil Liberities Union.  In each case, efforts have resulted after state or federal actions threatened these protections.

Local Reproductive Freedom Index offers solutions to pro-choice lawmakers in cities like St.Louis, that have a harder struggle against conservative state legislatures, or local cultures, to further reproductive rights.  Alastair Boone reports, "To get higher minimum wages and more paid family, for example, city officials can insist that tax incentives for companies are linked to living wage and comprehensive benefits requirements."  Municipalities can ensure that healthcare for its employees include reproductive health options and counseling, including abortion.

Andrea Miller told CityLab,

Every city has a budget.  Every city makes decisions about how they use their budgetary power...Municipal elected officials have a really important bully pulpit.  Standing up not only sends a powerful message, but it's also the beginning.  That's why we did this.

Tuesday, November 14, 2017

Making Rural America More Mobile; October 10, 2017

Hello Everyone:

Blogger is coming to you from her usual workspace, on a sparkling autumn afternoon.  Yours Truly loves afternoons like this, perfect for strolling along the sidewalks watching the stores deck themselves  for the upcoming holidays.  Almost makes Yours Truly want not to write.  However, Blogger's allergies say stay indoors and write.  Since this is the situation, shall we talk about rural transit instead?

If you are one 46.2 million Americans that live in the rural regions, getting from home to school, work, appointments, or doing errands can be an effort.  Unlike the urban or suburban regions, the rural regions have few transit options at low densities, finding an alternative to the car can mean having to forego crucial appointments or errands.

Laura Bliss points out in her CityLab article "How Transit Ue Could Rise in Rural America," "That's a problem.  Rural communities increasingly reflect a group of people who don't drive-they're older, less mobile, and poorer."  This is main point of a new report by the American Public Transportation Association entitled, Rural and Small Town Public Transit Ridership Increased Nearly 8% Since 2007 [; Oct. 5, 2017; date accessed Nov. 14, 2017].  Transit systems in large urban centers usually commends attention from transit supporters, however it ignores the growing demand for service in outlying towns, potentially shutting out some of the neediest riders.

The study found that rural ridership has increased since 2007, the first year the Bureau of Transportation Statistics began collecting information.  Ms. Bliss writes, "Between that year and 2015, total rural ridership increased by 7.8 percent compared to 2.3 percent in urban areas.  In both categories, ridership has fallen off in 2015 and 2016, likely due to the recent drop in gas prices."  According to the APTA, small-town ridership demonstrates signs of greater resiliency than their urban counterparts-"as workers and families have left rural America in search of opportunity, per capita ridership rate have kept growing."

Ms. Bliss observes, "It seems that's largely because as small towns shrink, those left behind are greater than average-older Americans make up 17 percent of rural populations, compared to 13 percent in cities and 14 percent nationwide."  That 17 percent of older rural Americans is steadily rowing; as it is overall.  Whether or not older Americans can successfully age in place depends on how mobile they are, especially one the car is taken out of the equation.  The number of driver license holders tends to drop off after the age of 70; as assorted health issues impede one's ability to control an automobile.

Another notable feature of small town demographics is the higher number of veterans: "Roughly 30 percent of enrollees in the Department of Veteran Affais Health Administration system live in rural ares and 44 percent of these veterans have at least one service connected health condition-" which can hinder a person's ability to drive.  As a demographic group, disabled individuals take "about 50 percent more trips on transit that those without."

Here is an interesting real fact, although car ownership rates have increased in rural America than in urban areas, so has the poverty rate.  You would think that higher car ownership rates would translate into a more mobile population-able to access work and educational opportunities-but not so.  Lower median incomes mean that the cost of owning a car takes up a larger share of personal income.  Roughly, "Rural households spend about seven percent points more of their budgets on transportation than those in cities."

This underscore the absolute necessity of a wider variety of transit options-be it traditional bus or nascent micro-transit service (; Sept. 21, 2017; date accessed Nov. 14, 2017)-in America's least connected places.  Darnell Grisby, APTA's director of policy development and research told CityLab,  "Rather than promise to resurrect dying industries, lawmakers might serve their rural constituents better if they supported investments in mobility as a foundation of economic mobility..." (; Oct. 9, 2017; date accessed Nov. 14, 2017).  There is also a moral calculus: "Low-income older Americans may need transit, but they tend not to vote for candidates that support it."  It sounds counterintuitive but according to Mr. Grisby,

These are the constituencies of the current president.

Laura Bliss writes, "The recent story transit ridership is all about how you slice and dice data.  Thanks to demographic forces, rural; areas are gaining a base of captive riders, for better or for worse."  However, rural transit has not been the exception to this trend.  Throughout the United States, transit ridership has increased since the pre-Great Recession days, however over the past two years, the drop in gas prices has slowed the ridership in rural and urban areas.  In the long-term, "establishing lasting ridership gains that aren't tied to fuel costs depends on quality of service."  This goes for small town towns and urban centers as well. 

Wednesday, November 8, 2017

Blogger Candidate Forum: Late News On Local Ballot Initiatives; November 7, 2017

Hello Everyone:

Time for the off-year election edition of Blogger Candidate Forum.  This election was marked by a large number of men and women of color running for office.  The state of Virginia saw the election of Danica Roem, the first openly transgender person, to the House of Delegates.  While the Democratic Party was celebrating these victories, it cast an eye to next year's midterm election.  If the Blue Team learned anything from this election, it is focus on the issues, not Mr. Donald Trump.  

A hearty congratulations to all the winners and good luck.  The easy part is over, now comes the hard part: governance.  Surround yourself with good people you trust, stay informed, and stay in touch with your constituents.  

Tuesday's election was also about city ballot measures.  Most of the ballot measures dealt with very specific issues: taxes, sidewalks, libraries, and zoos.  However, some of the city-specific ballot measures could have national repercussions.  Alastair Boone, Mimi Kirk, and Sarah Holder reported in their CityLab round up of these measures, "The City Policy Initiaitives on the Ballot Tuesday," "Bigger metros can serve as a legislative testing ground, paving the way for smaller ones to implement copycat regulations."  After all, it was the Seattle suburb of Seatac that led about 40 other cities and states to raise the minimum wage (; Dec. 27, 2016; date accessed Nov. 8, 2017).

Below are some of the ballot initiatives that voters decided on:

Reversing the "heat island" effect

Denver, Colorado: The Denver Post reported that Denver is about five degrees hotter than the surrounding areas during the summer, thanks to its "heat island" effect (; March 5, 2017; date accessed Nov. 8, 2017).  This phenomenon occurs when the concrete rooftops and pavements bake in the sun, increasing air conditioning use and fouling the air quality-Denver is third in the nation for severity.

To remedy this effect, a coalition of ecological-minded Denverites-the Denver Green Roof Intiative (; date accessed Nov. 8, 2017).  They collected the required 4,700 signatures to put on the ballot.   The intiative requires building 25,0000-square feet and over to cover a minimum 20 percent of their roofs with a green space or solar panels.

Mimi Kirk wrote, "The group based the initiative on similar rules in effect in San Francisco [; date accessed Nov. 8, 2017] and Toronto [; date accessed Nov. 8, 2017] though the Denver mandate would be more stringent in that it would also apply to existing buildings expanding or replacing their roofs rather than just new development."

Realtors, contractors, and builders joined together to put up fierce opposition.  They cited an increasing in construction and housing cost as their primary concern.  Mayor Michael Hancock supported the opposition, saying (; Oct. 11, 2017) the intiative goes too far too fast.

However, the stalwart Green Roof Intiative supporters fought back, arguing that there are enormous long-term benefits-both financial and environmental-that the roof will garner.  True, there is an intial investment but the green roofs last longer, lower heating and cooling costs, improve storm water management, reduce air and noise pollution.

Eric Sondermann, a local political analyst, told the Denver Post (; Oct. 19, 2017) that it was tough to predict whether the intiative would pass.  However, he said, "if voters aren't aware of the arguments against it, they may go with their gut and vote yes:" 

[The intiative] just looks good, looks cutting-edge, feels good...

Happy to report Denver will be greener.  The Denver Green Roof Intiative passed.

Relaxing weed laws, one city at a time

Athens, Ohio: Toking up is getting easier in Athens, Ohio.  Yesterday, Athenians voted on a measure that would make the city the sixth in Ohio to decriminalize marijuana.  Alastair Boone writes, "While some states have passed bills to decriminalize or even legalize pot wholesale, Ohio's referendum to do failed in 2015 [; Nov. 4, 2015; date accessed Nov.8, 2017], so cities have since continued piecemeal to pass decriminalization bills in opposition to the existing state laws, which punished people possessing more than 100 grams of pot with fines or jail time."

Here is an important point to consider, "If passed, the intiative would not legalize the drug-that is, it would still be illegal to buy, grow, or sell.  However, it would de-penalize marijuana by lowering all fines and court costs for misdemeanor offense see to zero dollars."  The Athens Cannabis Ordinance, abbreviated as the munchie-inducing: TACO is designed to reduce the incentives to prosecute minor cannabis-related offenses.  Felony offens, like trafficking or possessing over 200 grams, would still be subject to the usual penalties.

Other Ohio cities have passed similar laws, which were met with mixed results.  In 2015, the city of Toledo successfully decriminalized pot, "but after a similar intiative passed in Newark, Ohio [; Nov. 11, 2016; date accessed Nov. 8, 2017] last year, city official said they would continue to charge misdemeanor offenses using state law."

The Athens referendum comes immediately after Ohio Attorney General Mike DeWine released the Recovery Ohio plan (; Nov. 1, 2017; date accessed Nov. 8, 2017), intended to address the state's opioid overdose crisis.  AG DeWine includes intervention measures and task force models that focus on sales.  The Recovery Ohio plan was released at a time when growing number of Americans consider marijuana an alternative method for chronic pain management.  Ohio legalized marijuana in 2016, but will not take effect until 2018.

Good news, TACO passed in a blaze of glory.

The city that wants Airbnb back

Gearhart, Oregon:  Gearhart, Oregon is tiny town (population: 1,500) on its scenic coast and popular tourist draw.  Many of its properties are vacation homes for Oregonians who live most of the year living along the Interstate-5 corridor.  In an effort to preserve the housing stock for its year-round residents and stem the tide of permenant homes from becoming vacation housing, the City Council voted last year to limit short-term rentals.  Property owners were concerned about changes to the character defining features of Gearhart, responded with a ballot measure of their own: repeal and rules of vacation rentals (; Oct. 19, 2017; date accessed Nov. 8, 2017).

Sarah Holder reports, "Gearhart is among the first to start experimenting with the kind of caps larger are considering, and already it is backfiring.  If Election Day brings a reversal of its plans to this tiny northwestern city, it may provide a worrying test case for larger cities considering similar policies."

Los Angeles is one of those larger cities dealing with an epidemic housing shortage.  Contributing to the crisis is a state law that allows property owners to opt out of the rent stabilization market.  In 1985, the California State Legislature passed the Ellis Act, which permitted landlords to evict tenants in order to opt out of the rental market, regardless of the wishes of municipal governments to compel them to continue to provide a place to live.  Tenants rights groups have argued that property owners have misused the Ellis Act to get out of the rent stabilization market: either sell to developers who demolish the building and put up luxury condominiums or, more recently, get into the short-term rental market, posting available units on websites like Airbnb. Neighbors of these former apartment building turned vacation rentals have complained about the noise, additional traffic, and changes to the fundamental character of the community.  The Gearhart is an attempt to curtail this activity.

Ms. Holder writes, "Gearhart's existing 2016 cap makes it harder for property owners to rent out units through home sharing websites like Airbnb, Vacasa, and VRBO."  Short-term rental permits (less than 30 days) dramatically dropped as a result of the cap.  Supporters of short-term rentals (and those who depend on Airbnb for a second income) complained about the money they were losing on the weekends, unable to rent out to vacationers, willing to pay the higher rent.

The new intiative would allow a property owner to provide an unlimited number of vacation rentals, "while making occupancy limits more generous and inspections more lenient."  If passed, opponents of the measure are deeply concerned that it would make easier of for commercial investors to buy out whole blocks of properties and convert them to short-term rentals.  Opposition campaign manager Jeanne Mark told NW News Network:

And then all of a sudden where is the fabric of your community?...It's almost like cancer. (; Oct. 19, 2017; date accessed Nov. 8, 2017)

Sarah Holder observes, "As the population-1,500 Gearhart is torn asunder over repealing or maintainin it's cap, a city almost 500 times as big is struggling (and so far, failing) to implement its own.  And it may be watching the outcome."

The city, in this case, is Seattle, Washington.  On June 1, 2016, Mayor Ed Muarry and city councilmember Tim Burgess proposed an ordinance (; date accessed Nov. 8, 2017) that would prevent long-term rentals (rentals over 30 days) from being converted to short-term rentals, while giving residents flexibility to earn additional income from renting out their homes.  The ordinance would mandate that short-term rental operators have additional and additionally stringent licensing and limit the number of units that each owner can rent out.

Seattle, like Los Angeles, is facing an epidemic housing shortage, rising homelessness, and limited available rental units for those who can afford it.  When Mayor Muarry announced the proposal, he said, 

We must protect our existing rental housing supply at a time when it is becoming harder for residents to find affordable housing in Seattle.

Gearhart's short-term rental rule repeal was homeless.  Voters overwhelmingly rejected the measure.

The city that wants you to go home at 2 a.m.

Miami Beach, Florida: Miami Beach wants you to go to bed early.  Early for this popular vacation destination is 2 a.m.  On November 7, voters had the opportunity to decide on a measure that would end alcohol sales at 2 a.m. instead 5 a.m., when the bars and club usually shut down.  Alastair Boone writes, "On the surface, the vote reflects an age-old clash between supporting tourists and late-night businesses, and satisfying the qualms of locals.  But underneath is a story about racial tension, too."

The vote is an outgrowth of recent conversations (; May 29, 2017; date accessed Nov. 8, 2017) about shutting down Urban Beach Week-"a popular hip hop festival that occurs on Ocean Drive-after two shootings occurred there this Memorial Day weekend."  Ms. Boone add, "In one of the shootings, a police officer shot and and killed a suspect on the run (; May 29, 2017; date accessed Nov 8, 2017).  Many of the tourists who frequent the bars and hotel on Ocean Drive are African American.  For some, the intiative comes across as another way Mayor Philip Levine is trying to make Miami Beach more family friendly-i.e. more white (; Aug. 9, 2016; date accessed Nov. 8, 2017).

Supporters of the intiative see a direct connection between alcohol consumption and crime, despite evidence that Miami's crime is dropping while the clubs continue to thrive.  Others claim that the boisterous atmosphere might deter potential beachgoers who do not want to party from neighboring South Beach.

If the measure is approved, many are concerned that it could signal a greater effort to curtail Miami Beach's fabled nightlife.

As of writing, last call in Miami Beach is still 5 a.m.

Tuesday, November 7, 2017

Density And Obesity; October 11, 2017

Hello Everyone:

Big day in Virginia, New Jersey, and other states holding elections.  If you have any questions about where to vote or need information about registering to vote for next year's mid-term elections, please check out  Thanks. On to today's subject: obesity in the suburbs.

Here is a fact about urban life: "Living in a more densely built area significantly lowers your risk of obesity."  This statement is how Feargus O'Sullivan opens his CityLab article "Obesity Thrives in the Suburbs."  This inevitable conclusion is supported in a new survey of British cities which compares the obesity rates with housing density.  The study, Association between adiposity outcomes and residential density: a full-data, cross-sectional analysis of 419562 UK Biobank adult participants co-authored by Dr. Chimney Sarkar, PhD; Prof. Chris Webster, DSc; Prof. John Gallacher, PhD, published in the British medical journal The Lancet (; date accessed Nov. 7, 2017), sponsored by the University of Hong Kong, UK Biobank, and the U.K. Economic & Social Research Council, concluded that "obesity rates were markedly lower in areas where homes were more tightly clustered."

Mr. O'Sullivan concedes the obvious health benefits of walkable communities (; Dec.11, 2014; date accessed Nov. 7, 2017).  However, what makes The Lancet article, first reported by Reuters (; Oct. 5, 2017; date accessed Nov. , 2017), truly landmark is its sheer scale, assembling data from 419,562 respondents in 22 British metropolitan areas over a four year period.  Mr. O'Sullivan writes, "While it would be mistaken to assume that observations made in the U.K. could apply everywhere, they make one thing clear: Residents' health is highly likely to improve when sprawling suburbs are made more dense."  Mr. O'Sullivan reproduced a graph, reprinted from The Lancet Planetary Health (; October 2017; date accessed Nov. 7, 2017) charts the levels of obesity in relation to specific rates of housing density.

The graph's three tables track: Body Mass Index, waist circumference, and whole body fat compared to housing density for a particular neighborhood.  The co-authors controlled for age and gender, thus, for example, young women living in less dense and dense areas were directly compared instead of being measured against people from other areas.

Feargus O'Sullivan reports, "The worst obesity rates, the study finds, are among British people who live with 1,800 homes per square kilometer (4,662 dwellings per square mile)."  This pencils out to nearly "the typical density for London's more sprawling,low-density outer boroughs, whose average density of 1,590 dwellings per square kilometer (; date accessed Nov. 7, 2017) is brought down by the large areas of parkland and small areas of farmland still within the city limits."  The below this density rate, obesity rates start to drop, "the study finding that the lack of walkability for British people living in sparsely populated areas was compensated for by a relatively active lifestyle."

But people who live in very sparsely populated communities still exhibited greater rates of obesity than people who lived in more dense cities.  The cut-off point is around 3,200 dwellings per square kilometer, greater than that, residents presented consistently lower levels of obesity than their  counterparts in less dense communities (in an aside, Mr. O'Sullivan writes, "The U.K. currently recommends this level of density for all newly built districts.").

Further up the density scale, people residing in higher densities, typically inner London ("which has an average of 4,500 dwellings per square kilometer"), have markedly lower average BMI, whole body fate, and waist measurements, a clear indication of a health advantage over residents living in more sprawling lay developments in Great Britain.

This begs the question, "...why is obesity less common in densely built areas?"  The obvious reason is greater walkability than less dense areas.  Think about for a minute. Look around where you live and see how close or far the nearest coffee place is to you where you live.  If you live in a densely built area, chances are the nearest coffee place (places) is within short walking distance.  Also, highly dense areas have de-incentivize driving to reduce congestion and free up more pedestrian thoroughfares.  The city of Oslo, Norway announced that it was banning all cars from its city center by 2019 (; Aug. 5, 2017; date accessed Nov. 7, 2017).  The study co-authors offer another reason.

A highly compact dense residential environment might act as a proxy for enhanced community social capital and support...The intangible stress-relieving potential centrality, accessibility, and social capital needs to be further examined in view of their protective effects on obesity.

The co-authors can start by reading contemporary urban planning and design godmother Jane Jacobs' book Death and Life of Great American Cities, which sang the praises of walkability.  However, you do not have to be an urban designer or a university researcher to understand that being at the center of things, being able to easily get around, having more opportunities to create a wider social network-without using the social network-might make you less stressful, encourage to shut down your device and leave the house.  Imagine that!

Feargus O'Sullivan marvels at the study's size and findings, "Despite its impressive size, the study's findings have some potential limits to their relevance that the authors themselves acknowledge."  One of the limits of the study's relevance is people how prefer a sedentary life.  Individuals who prefer a slower pace lifestyle choose to move to a less dense area.  Mr. O'Sullivan reports, "The study counterbalanced this hypothesis by comparing obesity levels among newly arrived suburbanites and long-term residents.  They found found no difference between the two groups, implying (but, vitally, not proving) that the suburbs were not attracting people more prone to obesity."

Another limit is the fascinating question left unanswered: "Is there an upward limit after which home density becomes so great that it actually encourages obesity?"  It sounds like a strange question but the study found no upward limit, however the it only used data from the United Kingdom where densities never reach the extremely numbers of some cities in South and East Asia.  This would be a good way to expand the study: look at density and obesity in South and East Asia, as well as other cities in Africa, Europe, and North America.

Association between adiposity outcomes and residential density: a full-data, cross-sectional analysis of 419562 UK Biobank adult participants makes important assertions.  "If obesity drops as homes cluster more closely together, there is a clear public health argument for densifying the suburbs, providing that densification is mixed-used and thus also comes with a denser cluster of shopping,entertainment, and other amenities that make walking desirable."

Presently, the "recommended density for new development of housing in the U.K. of 3,200 homes per square kilometer might ensure that future neighborhoods will have a layout somewhat less conducive to high obesity,..."  The majority of British suburbanites, nevertheless, continue to live in areas where considerably lower density is encased in amber by local planning ordinances and resistance from local residents who fear drops in property values or congestion.  Another possibility is the understanding "that these environments are not especially healthy permeates through society,..." Britain's low-density neighborhoods might prove a more hospitable target for future residential development the nation so desperately needs.  

Perhaps, American residential developers could take a few lessons from Association between adiposity outcomes and residential density: a full-data, cross-sectional analysis of 419562 UK Biobank adult participants.