Looking forward: In the devastation from Hurricane Harvey, much attention is focused on how Houston’s ”Wild West” patterns of unchecked development have compounded the disaster. A Houston Chronicle column recognizes the storm as a make-or-break moment for the city to construct new policies for growth and flood protection:
"This is one of those events that will precipitate change," said Jim Blackburn, a Houston attorney specializing in environmental matters. "To some extent the question is, how open are our elected officials going to be to hearing messages that in the past they have not wanted to hear?"
Messages like the need to apply tougher rules not just to new developments, but also to redevelopment of existing properties. Or to consider the impacts of climate change on flooding. Or to preserve the flood-absorbing wetlands and native prairies that haven't already been paved over.
Failure to act boldly, Blackburn argues, could imperil Houston's future. Worldwide images of a paralyzed city, with terrified residents plucked from rooftops by rescuers, could make it harder for vital industries to attract skilled workers.
The road to rebuilding: In the eight counties where Harvey hit hardest, The Washington Post found that only 17 percent of homeowners have flood insurance policies—meaning the rebuilding process will rely on private charity and government aid, especially grants from Federal Emergency Management Agency.
Call for reform: The Illinois attorney general has filed a lawsuit against Chicago, seeking a consent decree to enforce reforms in the city’s troubled police department as the Trump Justice Department has failed to press the matter. But the union representing Chicago police has condemned the move, calling it a “potential catastrophe.” (New York Times)
Predicting gentrification: What if there was a way to recognize gentrification long before the coffee shops, condos, and Whole Foods appear? In the future, big data might be able to provide such “early warning systems” by tracking unexpected patterns in how people travel into and out of neighborhoods each day. (NPR)
The speed problem: Bike and pedestrian advocates are welcoming a “groundbreaking” report from the National Transportation Safety Board that places new emphasis on a subject largely avoided in the past: speeding cars. (Streetsblog)
Collective solution: A major new grant program in New York City is tackling the area’s housing inequality through a model normally associated with suburban regions: Community Land Trusts, a structure that promotes collective ownership on community-owned land. (The Nation)
The urban lens:
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