The Captured Economy by urbanexus

This is the best NPR Planet Money Podcast that I have yet to hear. You may listen to it by going here.

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Learn about the "captured economy." And remember, . . . " Wherever you say a power imbalance in society, you gotta ask yourself, who are the dentists and the tooth whiteners?" Also, after listening to his, I now realize that I am a " liberaltarian." You have to listen to the podcast to figure out what that is. And if you just want to read the book, you can do that. It is The Captured Economy: How the Powerful Enrich Themselves, Slow Down Growth, and Increase Inequality. The authors are self-described "liberaltarians", Brink Lindsey and Steve Teles.

Second anniversary of the end of the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge occupation by urbanexus

The armed occupation of the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge in Oregon ended two years ago on February 11, 2016. I now see that occupation as indicative of attitudes that contributed to the presidential election result later that year. Those who want to revisit the sequence of events that took place in rural Oregon in January and February 2016, may go here.

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Long-term decline in carpooling in the USA by urbanexus

Since the 1970s, billions of dollars have been invested in carpool lanes in U.S. metropolitan areas. Despite the availability of these facilities, carpooling has steadily declined from about 20% of commute trips in the 1970s to less than 10% now (see figure).

There is a good chance that some of the decline in carpooling is attributable to lower fuel costs. The average cost per gallon of gasoline in the USA was $1.22 in 1980 and in January 2018, it was $2.50. This seems like a significant increase. But when you adjust for inflation, the $1980 cost of $1.22 per gallon is equivalent to $3.92 in 2018. So, the real cost of gasoline in January 2018, was 36.5% less than in 1980.

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The limits of trial by jury when public trust in government declines by urbanexus

An article published on August 31, 2017, at the High Country News website highlights the limits of trial by jury. The title of the article by Tay Wiles is "Why the Bundy crew keeps sinning in court". It reports on how a Las Vegas jury acquitted two men for their role in the 2014 armed confrontation between the federal government and supporters of rancher Cliven Bundy.

The article points out that when trying the Bundys and their supporters federal prosecutors have only one two convictions after two trials of six defendants in Nevada in 2017. And in 2016, Bundy's sons Ryan and Ammon and five others were acquitted of leading the armed occupation of the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge during January and February 2016.

Mr. Wiles points out that the convictions probably reflect growing skepticism about government authority in the Mountain West of the USA. He writes that " .  .  . Juries have long been influenced by cultural norms outside the courtroom." He quotes Rory Little, a University of California Hastings College of Law professor who said, "In the 1950s, people were tried and criminally convicted for simply believing that communism is a good idea. .  .  .  In the 1960s there were civil rights cases where certain juries in certain states just wouldn't convict a white person for interfering (with the lives of African Americans) .  .  ."

The problem is that jurors are instructed to use common sense and lived experience when evaluating evidence. Mr. Wiles cites a Pew Research Report released in late 2015 that revealed that 80 percent of Americans did not trust the federal government to do what is right just about always or most of the time. That percentage was up from 66 percent in 2000 and 27 percent in 1958.

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More efficient parking management--now! by urbanexus

On January 29, 2018, Todd Litman posted at the Planetizen blog a review of the perverse effects of municipal parking requirements. The article is entitled, "Fun Parking Facts." Mr. Litman also presents some shocking statistics on the amount of land consumed by parking in the USA as well as the extent to which municipally mandated parking is often under utilized. The conclusion is that we need more efficient parking management--now!

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The limits of zoning by urbanexus

Bryan Barnett-Woods, a transportation planner with the Maryland-National Capital Park and Planning Commission, has posted a great short article on the limits of zoning. His main point is that while zoning can set limits, it cannot mobilize the demographic and economic factors that are critical to urban vitality. See Mr. Barnett-Woods' article here at the Greater Greater Washington website.

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Arresting service-resistant homeless residents in San Francisco by urbanexus

On February 1, 2018, Mission Local (a neighborhood news service for the Mission District in San Francisco) posted an interesting article by Julian Mark about a police captain in San Francisco's Mission District who is trying to deal with homeless people in who refuse services.

 Shy, who lives in a homeless encampment on Alameda Street at San Bruno Avenue in San Francisco, sits on the curb while a Public Works cleaning crews sorts through her belongings. Photo by Laura Waxmann.

Shy, who lives in a homeless encampment on Alameda Street at San Bruno Avenue in San Francisco, sits on the curb while a Public Works cleaning crews sorts through her belongings. Photo by Laura Waxmann.

Private residential construction spending in the USA by urbanexus

As reported by the Eye on Housing blog of the National Association of Homebuilders, spending on private residential construction in the USA increased in the last months of 2017, following a slight dip earlier in the year. Expenditures on residential construction have increased dramatically in recent years following the dramatic declines that began in 2006 for single-family housing and 2008 for multifamily housing. The drop in single-family housing expenditures from the peak in 2006 to the valley in 2009 was about 75%. The magnitude of the multi-family expenditure decline from 2008 to 2011, was similar. Multi-family expenditures now exceed the levels achieved in the run-up to the Great Recession. Single-family expenditures still lag behind the peak level of 2006.

 Source: National Association of Homebuilders

Source: National Association of Homebuilders

Analyzing land use in the UK by urbanexus

A posting at the website of Local Authority Building Control in the United Kingdom (UK) summarizes what has been learned about land use in that country via analysis of high definition satellite images.[1]  Based on these digital images, maps were created consistent with CORINE (coordination of information on the environment) Land Cover protocol of the European Environment Agency.

Key land classifications include:

  • continuous urban fabric--the most built-up urban areas, where at least 80% of the land surface is built on and up to 20% is gardens or small parks
  • discontiguous urban fabric--where 50% to 80% of the land surface is built on
  • Industrial and commercial areas
  • green urban areas -- golf course, football fields, parks, etc
  • farmland--pasture, arable land, vineyards and orchards
  • natural land--forests, lakes, and moors (low growing vegetation on acidic soils)

Interestingly, continuous urban fabric (CUF) only accounts for 0.1% of UK land and discontiguous urban fabric accounts for 5.6% of the land area.

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A map posted on Twitter by @georgia_coor highlights those areas of the UK where nobody lives.

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[1] Local Authority Building Control is a network of approximately 3,000 professional surveyors. It represents all local government building control teams in England and Wales. Their goal is to ensure buildings are safe, healthy and efficient to meet the standards set by the building regulations.


Family of armed Malhuer occupier files wrongful death lawsuit by urbanexus

Lavoy Finicum participated in an armed occupation of the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge near Burns, OR, that took place during January and February of 2016. Mr. Finicum was shot to death on January 26, 2016, when he tried to drive past a roadblock on U.S Highway 395 and crashed into a snowbank. Upon exiting the vehicle, law enforcement officers said Finicum appeared to be reaching for a weapon and shot him. The officers found a 9-millimeter pistol in his pocket. 

As reported in an article by Sean Hart posted on January 29, 2018, by the Blue Mountain Eagle, a newspaper based in John Day, OR, the family of Lavoy Finicum has filed a wrongful death lawsuit against the U.S. Government, the State of Oregon and local governments. The complaint claims Mr. Finicum was shot "assassination style'' by the Oregon State Police and/or FBI as he was trying to drive "across the county border'' to seek the protection of  Grant County Sheriff Glenn Palmer on Jan. 26, 2016. And, oddly, as reported in Mr. Hart's article, " .  .  . The suit compares Finicum’s shooting in Harney County to a defector who was shot by North Korean officials in November as he crossed the demilitarized zone into South Korea, stating '... in the American psyche, the idea of being shot in the back by your own government for trying to cross a border — is unthinkable'.”

The lawsuit identifies Mr. Finicum’s widow, Jeanette, their 12 children and the estate of LaVoy Finicum as plaintiffs and seeks at least $5 million for each from a collection of defendants: the United States of America, FBI, Bureau of Land Management (BLM), BLM employee Daniel Love, BLM law enforcement director Salvatore Lauro, former Nevada Sen. Harry Reid, FBI Special Agent in Charge of the refuge occupation Greg Bretzing, FBI agent Joseph Astarita, the state of Oregon, Oregon State Police, Oregon Gov. Kate Brown, Oregon Sen. Ron Wyden, Harney County, Harney County Sheriff David Ward, former Harney County Judge Steve Grasty, the Center for Biological Diversity and “John Does 1-100” — described as other unknown federal and state employees — according to the complaint.

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Reinforcing urban innovation in Cascadia by urbanexus

Jonathan Fink, a geographer affiliated with Portland State University and the University of British Columbia has posted an article entitled "Cascadia Showcases How a Coordinated Corridor Strategy Can Reinforce Urban Innovation", at the Meeting of the Minds blog. The article describes efforts to share innovation in managing urban growth, transportation and climate change amongst across three metropolitan areas of Cascadia--two n the northwest of the USA (Portland, OR and Seattle, WA) and one in the southwest corner of Canada (Vancouver, BC). It will be interesting to see if anything significant results from this effort to share innovation.

 Map of Cascadia showing three main metros (Citynoise, 2006).

Map of Cascadia showing three main metros (Citynoise, 2006).

Out in front landscape leading by urbanexus

On January 22, 2018, I came across an exhibit on display in Gould Court, the ground floor of Gould Hall, which is the building that houses the College of Built Environments at the University of Washington. The exhibit offers a reprise of recent work by landscape architects who work out of offices based in Seattle and nearby cities of the Pacific Northwest.

The following are selected images from the exhibit emphasizing recent landscape design work in the Seattle area.

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Innovative construction in Seattle by urbanexus

Articles in Architects Newspaper call attention to two stuctures in Seattle. One is a recently completed mid-rise science building on the University of Washington campus. The other is a tall (58-story) mixed-use structure soon to be built in downtown Seattle on land owned by the university.

The structure on campus is the 90,000 square foot Nano Engineering and Sciences Building designed by Seattle office of Zimmer Gunsul Frasca Architects (ZGF.) The innovative aspect of this building is custom-engineered products from Wausau Window and Wall Systems as described in this article.

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The downtown structure designed by NBBJ is a complicated mixed-use building that will rise to a height of 850 feet. It will feature a steel plate system in lieu of a traditional concrete-and-rebar core as described in this article. The structural engineer is Magnusson Klemencic Associates (MKA) and the developer is Wright Runstad & Company.

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Demand for quality income properties remains strong in Seattle by urbanexus

The demand for newly developed real estate assets in good Seattle locations remains strong. The sale of an apartment building on Seattle’s First Hill Illustrates the strength of the market. The recently completed property called Zig is located near hospitals and Seattle University offers an example of the premium that investors are willing to pay for a new high-quality income property.

The 117,000 sure foot structure houses 170 residential units and some retail space. As reported by Marc Stiles in the Puget Sound Business Journal, the price was 60% greater than the development cost. The building sold for $68.5 million—or $585 per square foot. A Loopnet listing of the commercial space contains additional property details.

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Malheur National Wildlife Refuge occupation two years later by urbanexus

An armed occupation of the Malheur National Wildlife Reserve in the southeastern portion of the State of Oregon in the USA took place between January 2, 2016, and February 11, 2016. I became fascinated with this test of governmental authority over public lands and followed the occupation and the aftermath as reflected in prior postings on this blog, which include:








On January 18, 2017, an article by Jennifer Percy appeared in the online version of the New York Times Magazine, entitled "Fear of the Federal Government in the Ranchlands of Oregon" This article offers extensive background and perspective on the mindset of folks in this part of the American West. Ms. Percy concludes that two years after the standoff at the Malheur Refuge, many people in the region remain convinced that their way of life is being trampled.

The slag of Anaconda by urbanexus

My interest in the small town of Anaconda, Montana is somewhat personal. In 1911, two years before my father was born, my mining engineer grandfather moved his family to Anaconda. He went to work at the copper smelter, which was the economic engine of the community. My grandfather relocated to San Francisco in the mid 1930s when the demand for copper declined during the Great Depression.

Copper smelting revived during the 1940s to meet the demands of war production. And the dominance of US industry during postwar decades kept the big copper smelter going through the 1970s. In 1977, the Anaconda Copper Company, sold the smelter and other assets to the Atlantic Richfield Company (ARCO). And just three years later, ARCO abruptly shut the smelter that had been in operation since 1905. The closure immediately put 25% of the town's population out of work. And since then, the community has struggled with a massive economic decline as well as a copper smelting legacy--a huge environmentally contaminated slag pile (see photo below.) 

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More recently, Zachariah Bryan wrote about Anaconda in an article posed at the High Country News website on January 18, 2018, Mr. Brayan reviews in some detail how Anaconda has tried to restore its economy and mitigate the slag pile during the nearly four decades that have passed since the copper smelter closed. It is not a pretty story. 

Jonathan Rose Companies sells "environmental" buildings in Seattle by urbanexus

As reported by Marc Stiles in the Puget Sound Business Journal on January 18, 2018, the Jonathan Rose Companies sold the adjacent Joseph Vance and Stirling buildings in downtown Seattle on Third Avenue between Pike Street and Union Street. The Following acquisition in 2006, the Rose firm, which advocates environmental sustainability and social responsibility, restored the Vance building. The $3.5 million of retrofits included enhancements to operable windows--a rare feature in a downtown high-rise building. Numerous environmental oriented organizations were attracted to the building, including the Washington Environmental Council, Climate Solutions and Progress Alliance of Washington. It looks like the Rose firm also did reasonably well by doing well as the buildings sold for 87 percent more than the purchase price.

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