Assessments

Elected as a Tea Party Conservative But Governing as a Centrist

Surely I’m not the only person who’s wondered at times what got into John Kasich. This is the man who kept company with the militant right as a young congressman in the 1980s, preached the gospel of tax cuts as House budget chairman in the 1990s, then served up conservative commentary on Fox News in the 2000s. 

Perhaps more to the point, it’s the same man who swept into the Ohio governorship in 2010 on a wave of Tea Party enthusiasm and anti-union rhetoric, and proceeded to push through a law curtailing collective bargaining rights for public employees. It’s the same governor who promoted budget reductions that cut deeply into the fiscal health of cities. READ MORE

Is Syracuse Necessary?

What would happen to the state of New York if Syracuse ceased to exist? Maybe not a lot. Life would go on pretty much as before. Unless, of course, you were a resident of Syracuse. In that case, you might have cause to wonder what would justify folding up the state’s fifth-largest city after a productive life of 192 years.

All right, I’m exaggerating. Syracuse isn’t going to be literally wiped off the map. The struggling city will continue to exist as a geographic entity, 26.6 square miles of territory with fixed boundaries and roughly 150,000 people inside them. But if the plans of a blue ribbon commission become law, Syracuse wouldn’t be much more than that. READ MORE

Are We Repeating Our Public-Housing Mistakes?

Over more than three decades in Texas politics, Sylvester Turner has absorbed a lot of blows and been called a lot of names. He has survived them all. In 2015, on his third try, he was elected mayor of Houston. But there’s one insult Turner never thought he would encounter. He never expected anyone to call him a promoter of racism.

For 27 years, as an African-American member of the Texas House, Turner was an outspoken liberal voice. In his last term there, the progressive activist group Equality Texas gave him an A+ rating for his work on LGBT issues. But that was before he chose to intervene in the Battle of Fountain View. READ MORE

The Limits of Café Urbanism

Picture yourself on a bustling commercial street in a hip neighborhood of a newly revived city. You cruise the sidewalk, checking out the businesses that line the glitziest block or two. Here’s what you’re likely to see: a high-end restaurant with pricey small plates and an ambitious chef; a gourmet pizzeria with locally sourced toppings; an artisanal yogurt shop; a microbrewery; and a coffeehouse. And maybe another coffeehouse. 

A thought pops into your head: This isn’t a business district, at least not in the old-fashioned sense. This is a food corridor. Scarcely any commerce other than restaurants exists here. What we’re talking about is café urbanism. READ MORE

Shopping Inside Is Out

If you’ve ever been a stranger in downtown Minneapolis or St. Paul, there’s a good chance you’ve done the same thing I’ve done: wandered into the maze of glass-enclosed second-floor skywalks that crisscross the city center, then found it impossible to work your way out again. It’s a unique form of urban panic. You worry about getting locked in for the night -- then manage to escape only through the Minnesota kindness of a local who leads you to the street by a virtually unmarked exit.

In a situation like that, you may also have had the thought that I’ve had: Why would any city, especially one in the midst of an urban revival, want to trap its residents in nine miles of faded and monotonous corridors rather than encouraging them to create a vibrant street life down below? There’s one simple answer, of course: It gets cold in Minnesota in the wintertime. That’s why the skyways were built in the first place. READ MORE