urban

Today marks a decision point in the fate of cities. The two candidates for President of the United States present starkly different views on urbanism and the role of government in promoting sustainable development.

Which Romney to Trust

Throughout his decade-long pursuit of the White House, Mitt Romney has consistently advocated for a "devolved" government - moving responsibility for decision-making and service provision from the federal government to the states and to the private sector. No doubt, there are certainly policies that are best decided at a lower level. Too much proscriptive regulation and funding restriction at the Federal level can diminish innovation.

While his governing tenure in Massachusetts indicates a willingness to explore urban policy and sustainability, his long-term campaign rhetoric says otherwise... the question is which one would occupy the Oval Office? I think it is safe to assume that we would see much more of Candidate Romney than Governor Romney. There would be much more pressure from the right, and Romney has demonstrated an extraordinary capacity to fold to such pressure (case in point: the hard right turn he took in the Republican primary season).

I fear the Tea Party wing will not let him reset the Etch-a-Sketch.

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On August 11, 2011, the Census Bureau released the Iowa SF1 (summary File 1) data to the public. Being the obnoxious data hound that I am, I can't resist playing around with this information to see what jumps out... In this first installment, I'm going to take a look at the statewide data aggregated to the Street Crowd (historic): This image is in the public domain, via Wikimedia CommonsStreet Crowd (historic): This image is in the public domain, via Wikimedia Commons"place" level - identified towns and cities. Rural residents who don't live in an incorporated town or city are not included in these numbers.

You can check out Des Moines' stats below the break.

Iowa's total population is 3,046,055 people

Of that, 2,421,895 (79.5%) have chosen to live in an incorporated town or city. There are 1,009 incorporated towns and cities identified by the Census bureau for reporting purposes. However, 140 of those towns have fewer than 100 residents.

The average population of an incorporated city in Iowa is 2,400 residents. The top quintile (highest 20% by population) averages 10,334 residents. By a factor of 1.6, more people choose to live in Des Moines than the next most populated city, Cedar Rapids.

The Top 10 Iowa Cities by total population are:

    City Population
    Des Moines 203433
    Cedar Rapids 126326
    Davenport 99685
    Sioux City 82684
    Waterloo 68406
    Iowa City 67862
    Council Bluffs 62230
    Ames 58965
    Dubuque 57637
    West Des Moines 56609

Despite having the fastest growing suburbs in the state, only one of the Des Moines area suburbs makes the top 10 in total population. In fact, only one of the top 10 most populated cities in Iowa is a suburb.

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Urban Elements

02 Aug 2010

[Note: I'm reposting this blog originally written in 2008 because it's one of my favorites and because it is particularly relevant in relation to the recent bike lane and commuting blog posts]

Several factors go in to determining how "urban" a neighborhood is: compactness, connectedness, population diversity, diversity of use, and relationship between the private and public space.

The following graph plots these characteristics for a variety of different neighborhoods. The more area enclosed by the graph, the more "urban" a neighborhood is. Continue below the graph for some examples of how it relates to actual Des Moines neighborhoods.

Urban Elements GraphUrban Elements Graph

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From Obama transition co-chair Valerie Jarrett (via the Washington Post), plans are underway to establish a White House Office of Urban Policy in order to better coordinate federal efforts to help America's cities.

I have blogged about this before. I am excited that president-elect Barack Obama has such a clear understanding of urban issues and a demonstrated intent to deal with them in a comprehensive and straightforward manner.

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I stay on top of a lot of progressive architecture blogs. For my money (time), Progressive Reactionary is one of the best. The most recent blog post over there says in much better words than I could why Barack Obama is the right option for people who are interested in urbanism and urban revitalization.

A key quote:

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As I write this, Congressional leaders are meeting with the White House to hammer out details of a massive bailout of troubled financial firms and banks. The public has been presented with the following extortion scenario: pay us $700 billion or life will return to the dark ages. I've been doing a lot of reading and there seems to be a general consensus among academic experts and political analysts:

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Urban Schmurban

19 Sep 2008

According to the Des Moines Register, Hubbell Realty has purchased the mixed-use Fox Prairie development out of foreclosure for just over $10 million. Because Hubbell purchased the project at a discounted rate, they believe they will be able to offer the residential condo units at a competitive price. It is certainly not odd or surprising that suburban commercial and residential developments are feeling the pinch now, particularly with the tightening of the financial markets.

But that's not what I want to talk about here. The real shocker in the article was a quote by Rick Tollakson, Hubbell's chief executive:

"It's very convenient to everything," said Tollakson, who described the lofts as urban living in a suburban setting.

It is impossible to have urban living in a suburban setting.

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Of the six major candidates for president, only Barack Obama has outlined a specific and coherent Urban Policy platform. While each of the other candidates and parties have individual policy proposals to address specific urban issues, it is plain to me that sustainable revitalization will take a coordinated approach.

From Obama's official campaign web site:

Today, government programs aimed at strengthening metropolitan areas are spread across the federal government with insufficient coordination or strategy. Worse, many federal programs inadvertently undermine cities and regions by encouraging inefficient and costly patterns of development and local competition.

For the most part, it appears that Obama's urban policy pulls together elements from his other policy statements. Some of them are more applicable than others and several policy suggestions in his Urban Policy proposal appear to actually promote suburban expansion(?).

But it's a start. The difference between Obama and the other candidates is that he is clearly thinking about urban policy as a comprehensive agenda. I am quite certain that this stems from his experience as an organizer in Chicago.

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In an article published on July 10, 2008, the Des Moines Register claims that "More Iowans like suburban life". The article is based on updated Census estimates for 2007. In fact, an examination of the underlying data leads me to the opposite conclusion: More Iowans actually prefer living in central cities and towns.

Here are some reasons why.

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