Calvin Trillin, the New Yorker magazine writer, used to say that most cities not located on either coast suffered from "hickophobia," which was not the fear of hicks but the fear of being thought of as hicks. Imagine, then, the fears of Fargo, North Dakota.
Shopping malls have a complicated relationship with public transit. Mall managers want buses to bring in shoppers and workers but don't want them to pull up too close to the door. Why? Various reasons are given, most having to do with safety, but class almost certainly plays a role.
What's the big deal about living in a loft? The classic New York lofts of the 1970s, which were illegally converted factory spaces in a neighborhood called SoHo, were dingy, drafty and cheap. But sometime in the late 1980s, the idea of living in big undivided spaces with brick walls and exposed heating ducts overhead caught on.
What's the worst calamity ever to befall New York's borough of Brooklyn? Easy answer: losing the Brooklyn Dodgers baseball team to Los Angeles in 1957. But now there's a serious effort to bring a big- time sports franchise to the borough.
This sounds like something Enron would have dreamed up. Cities across the country are being visited by financiers with a startling offer: Lease us your sewer systems, transit lines or civic centers, and we'll give you a pot of money.
Somebody keeps stealing garbage cans in Dallas, and it's causing a stink. Reason: These aren't your usual Rubbermaid trash cans; they're official City of Dallas receptacles, 90-gallon cans with wheels known as roll carts that are designed to work with automated garbage trucks.
Which city of 100,000 or more population has the greatest concentration of million-dollar homes? Star-studded Los Angeles? Nope. Chicago and its famous Gold Coast? Nah. Swanky New York? Not even close.
The New Urbanist dream goes something like this: People will give up their sprawling, inefficient suburban homes on half-acres of land and embrace the joys of compact living in places served by public transit and convenient walkways to schools, parks and stores.
Life is tough in city halls across the country, with tax revenues declining and expenses rising. And, as it turns out, death isn't much better. In Danville, Virginia, the city council recently was struggling with how to hold down costs at the city's cemeteries when one council member made an interesting suggestion: Why not bury people five feet deep rather than six feet?
Guess who once was given a key to the city of Detroit: Saddam Hussein. The Detroit News discovered recently that in 1980 the Iraqi president was awarded a ceremonial key by a pastor of Detroit's Chaldean Christian community.
If your community doesn't already have enough worries, here's one: You may be up against a celebrity gap. This is a particular problem for charities, which use movie stars, pop singers, athletic heroes, former presidents and big-time authors to draw donors to their fund-raising events. Clearly this isn't a problem in places such as Los Angeles or New York.
One of the handiest concepts for understanding how cities develop is the notion of "clustering," developed by Harvard business professor Michael Porter. Simple concept: It holds that, in some highly developed industries, leading practitioners need to be near one another, even when logic and high land costs might suggest that it's better to disperse.
Nationally, six straight years of revenue declines have put enormous pressure on state and local governments, nevertheless, some are thriving. Standard & Poor's, the credit-rating agency, reports that it issued more bond upgrades than downgrades in 2012.
The Medicaid expansion and the Affordable Care Act are in full swing. With the influx of people who will be applying for benefits and the ACA requirement for online enrollment, it is more important than ever to verify the identities of those accessing benefits up front.