Since last month's bridge disaster in Minneapolis, everyone's heard about America's 75,000 "structurally deficient" bridges. Although the label doesn't mean any of them are about to fall, the staggering stat reminds us how much government at all levels has neglected its infrastructure.
Want to know how hooked on drugs your town is? There's a remarkable and rather gross new way to find out. Scientists now believe they can measure the prevalence of cocaine, methamphetamine and heroin in a community's raw sewage.
A few years ago, I went to Phoenix in July. The temperature downtown was 106 degrees in the shade. Walking from my hotel to the convention center was a sweaty, lonely experience. Nobody else seemed brave enough, or perhaps dumb enough, to venture into this kiln on foot.
The sale of naming rights for stadiums, arenas and other public buildings is not nearly as controversial as it used to be. Perhaps we've all grown accustomed to the weird ring of venues such as Quicken Loans Arena or Merchantsauto.com Stadium. Or maybe, in an advertising- saturated world, we're now pros at tuning out corporate gobbledygook. Either way, our tolerance for sponsorship is growing
One reason why the affordable housing problem seems so insurmountable is that we usually try to build our way out of it. There's never enough money to finance new homes for all the low-income people who could use them. And if you want to wake up the NIMBYs, just propose building a large subsidized housing complex.
The town of Clayton, Missouri, loves neighboring Richmond Heights for its money. And Richmond Heights loves Clayton for its looks. If these two St. Louis suburbs get hitched, it'll be a Donald Trump-style wedding.
You can hardly blame Mayor Tom Menino for hating the building he
works in. Boston's city hall is an intimidating concrete battleship
from the 1960s. Nobody loves it except for a few architecture snobs,
who value it as an icon of a style fittingly known as "Brutalism."
Mike Langberg, a technology columnist for the San Jose Mercury News, dropped by a conference on "smart parking" recently. What he found was mind-boggling. Among the big ideas: You'll be able to use the Internet to reserve a parking meter before leaving home. Even if you forget to make a reservation, a navigation screen in your dashboard will direct you to a vacant spot.
The London bombings show the promise and limitations of surveillance cameras. In the July bombings, the cameras were extremely valuable as investigative tools, capturing the bombers and an accomplice on tape, but did nothing to deter the crime itself.
Last time you saw a parade, probably there were politicians perched on the back seats of convertibles or marching along, with supporters holding signs identifying them by name and office. If the parade was in Boston, then you can be sure that the grinning politicians paid for their places in the procession. It's a tradition, the Boston Globe reported recently.