Our weekly roundup of the most intriguing articles about cities and urbanism we've come across in the past seven days.
"A Takedown of the City Takedown," Molly Redden, The New Republic
Where all city takedowns go wrong is their reliance on a city’s tiresome stereotypes. Shteir wrote that “many” Chicagoans “cling to its tough-guy, blue-collar, gangster-worship identity.” But that’s a bogus stereotype in and of itself. If I may make a statement just as anecdotal and improvable as Shteir’s, your average Chicagoan is under no delusions that he’s living in Carl Sandburg’s burly, Caucasian City of Big Shoulders. In assailing supposed Chicago myths, Shteir asks you to believe a myth of her own.
"How Dallas Killed Farmers Markets," Scott Reitz, Dallas Observer
On the surface, Sarah Perry seems like an unlikely advocate. She has a quiet, almost passive demeanor and no interest in whipping up conspiracy theories even though the city of Dallas has given her a good reason to have some. All she wants to do is run a simple farmers market, but City Hall has made that very hard. In fact, it was once illegal.
"New Breed of Big-City Republicans," Byron Tau, POLITICO
A decade ago, Democrats made a concerted effort to bring rural and exurban voters back into the party’s fold. Today, Republicans are struggling with the opposite problem — how to win over voters from America’s booming cities. National Republicans have given remarkably little thought to how to reverse their decline in urban areas, even as they have grappled with how to be more inclusive and diverse.
But there are stirrings of a renewed effort by a handful of GOP candidates and activists to edge the party into being more competitive in America’s cities. They see their efforts as a necessity for the party’s long-term competitiveness given the rapid growth of America’s urban centers.
"Why Aren’t Younger Americans Driving Anymore?" Brad Plumer, The Washington Post
Ever since the recession hit in late 2007, Americans have been driving less and less. Was that because of the horrible economy? To some extent, perhaps. But it’s striking that Americans are still cutting back on driving even though the economy is growing again.
Doug Short, who charts financial data, has put together a nice graph that uses the latest Transportation Department data on vehicle-miles driven and adjusts for population growth. Looked at this way, the plunge in driving is even more startling and began back in June 2005:
"How Land Use Policy Can Make or Break the SD Beer Scene," Andrew Keats, Voice of San Diego
Beer has become a favorite son in San Diego. Politicians make a point of being seen at local beer festivals. The local brewers' guild gets tax dollars to promote its annual weeklong celebration. And the City Council's land use committee is taking a look this week at a proposal to help local brewers continue to grow.
And the local beer scene isn't just a facilitator of fun, it's become a legitimate economic force: The National University System for Policy Research this week released a study pegging the industry's net benefit to the local economy at nearly $300 million per year.
But San Diego isn't alone. The industry as a whole is undergoing massive growth statewide and nationwide, and other markets are similarly carving out niches as hot beds for good beer.
For the local industry to remain competitive, said Vince Vasquez, author of the study, the city needs to address a series of land use-related constraints. One is that new converts to good beer might be less willing to venture to industrial areas like Mira Mesa, home to many of the city's first breweries, Vasquez said.
"There Is No War on Cars," Aaron Weiner, Washington City Paper
If the District of Columbia is in the midst of a war on cars, then last month was its Gettysburg. Each bit of news about the city’s streets was met with a verbal assault, as predictably as a red light follows a yellow. The 1.8 million parking tickets issued last year? "A war on the 400,000 drivers who come into the city every day," AAA Mid-Atlantic spokesman John B. Townsend II told WTOP. A proposal to allow developers near Metro stations to build as many or few parking spaces as they wanted? "A very dangerous proposal” that "threatens the future of Washington, D.C.," Townsend’s colleague Lon Anderson told WAMU. The city’s push to promote biking, walking, and transit? “A strategy for decay and for sending future residents and businesses to the suburbs,” D.C. political gadfly Gary Imhoff opined in his biweekly email blast. An annoying traffic jam as Washingtonian national editor Harry Jaffe tried to get downtown for a meeting? "Cars losing war for D.C. streets" was the headline on his Washington Examiner column.
The “war on cars” rhetoric has been crescendoing for months, but now it’s reached an unsustainable volume. So before things go any further, let’s break the spell and say what needs to be said.
There is no war on cars.