Also: Decriminalizing fare evasion, and the real link between immigration and crime.

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What We’re Following

Acronym-byism: The nefarious NIMBY is now a stock character in today’s urban crisis, with the rallying cry of “not in my back yard” rising as an almost inevitable refrain against any neighborhood change. Some urban reformers have responded by saying we need to flip the negative N into an enthusiastic Yes for development, giving rise to a so-called YIMBY movement. But there may be another part of the acronym that deserves more scrutiny: the BY.

Every so often a project will literally impact someone’s backyard, but more often it’s a metaphor for a much wider area of people’s day-to-day lives. You might even call it a neighborhood. Today on CityLab, historical geographer Garrett Dash Nelson argues that the geographic limits of the area someone cares about are crucial to the political question of who gets to make decisions—and where a “back yard” begins and ends switches when it suits people’s self-interests. Read his perspective: How NIMBYs Made “Back Yard” Mean “Entire Neighborhood”

Andrew Small


More on CityLab

No, Zoning Reform Isn’t Magic. But It’s Crucial.

The finding of a new study—that upzoning didn’t quickly increase development in areas of Chicago—shouldn’t make zoning reform any less of a priority.

Alex Baca and Hannah Lebovits

Washington Will Decriminalize Fare Evasion. Better Idea: Free Transit

Evidence of discrimination in enforcement drove D.C.’s City Council to decriminalize transit fare evasion. But cities should consider abolishing fares entirely.

David Zipper

A Complete Guide to Understanding Immigrants and Crime

In the State of the Union, President Trump again argued for a border wall by suggesting that immigration leads to higher crime. Research suggests otherwise.  

Tanvi Misra

A Bill to Foil Racist ‘Steering’ in Home Mortgage Lending

Nevada Senator Catherine Cortez Masto is trying to restore a Dodd-Frank rule designed to help protect homebuyers from discriminatory lending practices.

Kriston Capps

Britain’s Post-Brexit Future May Stink

A new “No Deal Brexit” threat emerges in the U.K.: overflowing piles of garbage and livestock waste.

Feargus O'Sullivan

How Presidents From Trump to Washington Have Talked Cities in the State of the Union Address

Trump’s mention of cities was not a particularly positive one. How does his SOTU address compare with past presidents on urban issues? We have the data.

David Montgomery


Train Track

(Chermayeff & Geismar & Haviv)

On Tuesday, the New York Times ran an obituary for Jacqueline Steiner, who died last month at 94. Steiner wrote the folk song, “M.T.A.,” which tells a cautionary tale about a man named Charlie who gets stuck on Boston’s subway system because he was short by a nickel for a transfer fare.

The song itself has had many lives: Steiner wrote it as a campaign song in 1949 for a mayoral candidate who opposed a fare increase. Then, the folk band Kingston Trio reworked the song into a number one hit in 1959 and it became a kind of unofficial Boston anthem. Finally, things came full circle in 2004, when Boston switched from subway tokens to an automated fare card, the CharlieCard. (The Times says then-Governor Mitt Romney “belted out the song” with Kingston Trio at CharlieCard’s launch ceremony. If you have any recorded evidence of that, please let us know!) In fact, the city’s affinity for the song factored into the system’s makeover, as the designers behind “the T” told CityLab’s Mark Byrnes last year.


What We’re Reading

Can Chicago’s Lincoln Yards, a neighborhood built from scratch, serve the whole city? (Curbed)

Traffic deaths rose, then fell, after three states legalized pot (The Verge)

The domestication of the garage (Places Journal)

Corruption scandals play out in Los Angeles, Chicago, Atlanta, Philadelphia (New York Times)


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