Economic Engines

The Death or Life of a Sidewalk Ballet

When I first lived in New York City in the late 1980s, I was struck by how the proprietors of the tiny grocery store below my apartment on upper Broadway would hold keys for the children/guests/friends of nearby residents, as well as packages, notes and so on.

The late Jane Jacobs put a lot of importance on the practice. In her masterful and influential 1961 book The Death and Life of Great American Cities, Jacobs wrote it was an example of the “casual, public trust” that underlies the “casual, public contact” that constitutes a rich street realm. This is great -- except shopkeepers don’t do this much anymore in New York City, nor do people ask them to. READ MORE

Do Cities Really Want Economic Development?

So many cities and regions continue to struggle economically. Even within nominally well-performing places there are pockets that have been left behind. Most of the have-nots in the current economy have been struggling for an extended period of time, often in spite of enormous efforts to bring positive change.

Why is this? Perhaps we need to consider the possibility that these places are getting exactly the results they want: Maybe they actually don’t want economic development. READ MORE

Faster Cars, Hotter Tech, Fewer Drivers

Since the Model-T, Americans have brought cars not only onto their streets, but also into their lives and their homes. Government has been handmaiden to this marriage, building millions of miles of roads, requiring vast seas of parking as a condition of development, and setting up traffic systems like stoplights and left-turn lanes that indicate paved thoroughfares are principally for drivers.

Like all relationships, the one Americans have with their cars evolves. In recent years, it would seem the nation’s long-term romance with the auto is beginning to wane. Stats from a recent U.S. PIRG report say Americans are driving less per capita, particularly young people, who are also getting licensed at a later age. Young people view cars more like refrigerators. That is, like an appliance. They want one, and for it to work reliably, but it’s less a projection of who they are. READ MORE

The Benefits of Being a 'Necessary City'

This story is part of Governing's annual International issue.

One aspect of globalization that has received tremendous attention is the concept of the so-called “global city” -- a place like New York or London that is in some sense an exceptionally successful and dominant player on the world stage. These have been variously defined, but often with a focus on specific business services like finance, and on overall economic size, diversity of culture and attractiveness as a tourist destination.  READ MORE

For Infrastructure’s Sake, America Needs Skilled Workers

From the smartphone in our hands to the flat-screen TVs on our walls—and the Internet that now runs between them—we have a level of technological wizardry that would make Harry Potter envious. We all know that behind these gadgets and platforms is an amazing level of skill and knowledge: in the concepts that led to them, in the designs that take concept to reality and in the manufacturing that creates them. 

Outside our homes is a built environment of roads, train lines, bridges, water, power and fiber-optic lines that also requires skills to conceive, design, build and maintain. For whatever reason, though, we don’t often think about those types of skills. But we should. Because unlike smartphones or even trains, it’s hard to import that know-how from China or elsewhere. It’s crucial that we maintain those important skills at home. READ MORE