Infrastructure

City Ledes: Sharing to the Curb

The Lede: California puts a stop to San Francisco ride share apps. Bike share fails to reach minorities and the poor. Chicago has its fair share of the tech economy. Ohio is saturated with urban casinos. Big urban growth in rural areas north of Houston. Foreclosures cause crime. Boston’s crackdown on vacant properties bears fruit. Urban bobcats get human diseases, and Ohio cities adjust to an influx of coyotes and wolves. New Orleans’ firefighter pensions are out of control. Detroit’s police chief is out amid scandal. The Boy Scouts’ perversion files are published in Portland. New Orleans’ criminal justice system is outdated. Berlin’s real estate market is booming. SoMo is born in D.C. Eating one live cockroach too many.

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Transportation and Infrastructure
Economy and Development
Labor
Housing
Energy, Environment, and Health
Budget
Education
Public Safety
Mayors and City Councils
International
Culture and other Curiosities

Transportation and Infrastructure

State regulators have issued cease-and-desist orders against two more firms that bill themselves as high-tech alternatives to the way taxi companies usually operate.

The latest orders were issued in August by the California Public Utilities Commission and assert that the companies — SideCar and Lyft — lack the required charter party carrier permits that make sure drivers are properly licensed, screened and insured to carry commercial passengers.

Unfortunately, although MAP-21 eliminated these inefficient calculations, it froze in place the funding levels that politicians arrived at through this wheeling and dealing. The new law based state-by-state allocations on the share of the total pie each state got in 2009 — and that share was determined by how well the state fared in flawed funding formulas and the equity bonus program.

Donna Cooper and John Griffith at the Center for American Progress just published a report called “Highway Robbery,” lamenting the fact that the equity bonus isn’t truly dead — its legacy still haunts our transportation funding system.

  • Some Zappos employees working in downtown Las Vegas are concerned about working in the “urban core”; others are bemused:

Wadsworth is told of the homeless man with the open-fly shorts from a few minutes earlier. Her eyebrows rise and she delivers in all seriousness the humor that can make living in a city core more tolerable.

“What?” she says, not missing a beat. “I call that a date.”

“It’s an indication of large growth between The Woodlands and Conroe,” said Bruce Tough, president of The Woodlands Township, the governing body of The Woodlands. With the new Exxon Mobil campus planned just south of The Woodlands, he added, “we’re going to see a lot of energy and manufacturing companies coming to Montgomery County contributing to unprecedented growth. People better put on their seat belt.”

Labor

  • Chicago’s new head of Streets and Sanitation stands accused of being an insider hire.

Housing

  • The Community Reinvestment Act didn’t cause subprime lending. Foreclosures cause crime:

We find that additional foreclosures on a blockface lead to additional total crimes, violent crimes and public order crimes. These effects appear to be largest when foreclosure activity is measured by the number of foreclosed properties that are on their way to an auction or have reverted to bank ownership. We find that effects are largest in neighborhoods with moderate or high levels of crime, and on blockfaces with concentrated foreclosure activity.
  • Boston’s crackdown on vacant properties is showing results:

A citywide crackdown on crime-ridden properties has led to a 55 percent drop in police calls to the troubled homes as officials say they’ve swept hookers, drug dealers, junkies and other outlaws from neighborhood eyesores, according to a report being released today.

The Problem Property Task Force — created by Mayor Thomas M. Menino a year ago to stem an “alarming” amount of city services from being sucked up by a handful of trouble spots — has probed 144 properties, 18 of which were officially designated “problem properties.” Forty-six more are currently under investigation to see if they should be added to the list.

  • Family homelessness is on the rise in the D.C. area, while the D.C. Housing Authority considers suspending its waiting list for housing aid. San Francisco’s homeless must tread a long and winding path to retrieve their stuff. Most everywhere else, it’s tough too:

Cities have long struggled with how to deal with the homeless, but the new ordinances here echo what homeless advocates say is a rash of regulations nationwide as municipalities grapple with how to address those living on their streets within the constraints of ever-tightening budgets. The rules may go unnoticed by most, but the homeless say they are a thinly veiled attempt to push them out of one city and into another by criminalizing the daily activities they cannot avoid.

There’s been a sharp uptick in the past year in the number of cities passing ordinances against doing things on public property such as sitting, lying down, sleeping, standing in a public street, loitering, public urination, jaywalking and panhandling, said Neil Donovan, the executive director of the National Coalition for the Homeless.

Energy, Environment, and Health

After struggling for years to regulate storefront pot shops, the Los Angeles City Council retreated Tuesday, voting to repeal the carefully crafted ban on medical marijuana dispensaries it approved a few months ago.

The move shows the political savvy of the increasingly organized and well-funded network of marijuana activists who sought to place a referendum overturning the ban on the March ballot, when the mayor and eight council seats will be up for grabs…

Like other cities in California, Los Angeles has strained to find a way to balance the state law that permits medical marijuana against federal statutes that continue to make its sale and use a crime. Federal officials recently launched a crackdown on pot dispensaries in the city, leading one council member to suggest that any regulation is beyond L.A.’s control.

The models also showed another curious development: Cool roofs — created when developers use reflective paint on rooftops — do perform their intended task of reducing temperatures in urban areas while cutting building energy costs. However, they shift rainfall patterns by reducing evapotranspiration, the process by which water evaporates from the ground and enters the atmosphere. In the maximum expansion scenario, cool roofs led to a 4 percent decline in rainfall.

“Does that suggest that cool roofs are a negative? I think what this leads to is future research to see how they should place cool roofs to minimize impacts,” Georgescu said. “Certain regions might be more appropriate for cool roofs than others.”

  • The Mecklenburg County, Ga. commissioners want to examine oversight of the Department of Social Services after the release of a memo detailing the Department’s failures to keep children safe. The North Carolina Attorney General considers steps toward reducing hospitals’ market power. Cuts for Louisiana public hospitals will affect uninsured patients:

In New Orleans, a $49 million reduction at the Interim LSU Public Hospital will mean that 432 workers lose their jobs, while the number of patient beds will shrink from 201 to 155. Some clinics associated with the hospital will close, while others will reduce their hours.

Dr. Frank Opelka, the new head of the seven LSU system hospitals in south Louisiana, told the board and legislators later in the day that the current model of delivering safety net care through the state hospitals is “unsustainable” over the long term.

  • D.C. small businesses push back on having to buy their employee health insurance through a city-run exchange come 2014.

Budget

The pension fund for the New Orleans Fire Department has long held too few resources to meet its obligations, but the problem has reached a crisis point. The city paid $54.1 million to the Firefighters’ Pension and Relief Fund last year and still left $17 million unfunded. That’s a large piece of the city’s roughly $488 million general fund budget, and the amount is rising. For perspective, the amount the city paid into the pension fund was 11 times more than it spent fixing streetlights and more than five times what it spent on recreation.

Gov. Chris Christie today made good on his promise to slash state aid to Newark when his administration announced the state’s largest city will receive less than half the money it requested for this year…

“I’m not willing to pay a nickel more than I have to on behalf of the state taxpayers and our folks are in there now forcing budget cuts on the city of Newark,” Christie said during a news conference Tuesday.

Education

Nearly 4,000 young people have participated in the first year of a sweeping effort to help young minority men in ways ranging from job internships to inmate education, New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg said Thursday…

The effort takes aim at a host of what officials see as underlying problems. Its year-one report describes initiatives as diverse as a “fatherhood academy” at a community college and a directive erasing criminal-history questions from initial employment applications for many city agencies. The idea is aimed at fields in which a conviction might not be relevant.

Asked if the mayor had concerns about how the college was run, McDonald said: “I’m not aware of that as an issue. Any institution can improve the delivery of services, and that’s true of city government, the School District, and any other institutions.”
  • Low-income D.C. college students are awarded scholarship money from the city. Dozens of Miami students protest out-of-school suspensions. The Houston ISD has paid millions to departing teachers for unused time off. A Houston lawmaker is expected to reignite the dormant school voucher debate.

Public Safety

  • Can L.A. County Sheriff Lee Baca be trusted to oversee reform of the county’s jails after overseeing the abuse that necessitated reform? Maryland is moving closer to building a special jail in Baltimore for youth charged as adults.

  • A Portland lawyer publishes an index from the Boy Scouts’ “perversion files.” The New Orleans Police Dept. goes door-to-door in Uptown after a spate of violent robberies. Consultants say that New Orleans’ criminal justice system is fragmented and outdated:

“In a world of Microsoft Outlook, the New Orleans criminal justice system is functioning in a bygone era,” the report notes of the court system’s reliance on hard-copy calendars and handwritten summonses.

The antiquated organization system, the report notes, creates poor communication between agencies and scheduling conflicts that bog down the entire system.

Mayors and City Councils

  • A federal judge allows Florida’s voter purge to continue. D.C. food trucks receive new vending regulations:

The regulations, which require D.C. Council approval to become law, offer a two-tiered system in which food trucks would still be allowed to sell from any legal parking space, as long as they follow the posted time limits. But truck operators would also be able to apply for a permit for a specially designated spot that would allow them to vend from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m.

Both options come with caveats. If truck operators continue to use legal parking spaces in the city, they must leave those spots when a meter expires or face a $100 fine per incident. Previously, the city charged $25 for the same offense; many food truck owners consider those tickets just the cost of doing business.

International

  • Home prices fall in cities throughout Spain. Tens of thousands of Spaniards protest austerity in 56 cities.

  • With an eye toward presidential elections in 2014, Brazilians hold elections for more than 5,000 mayors. In Río, the next mayor will oversee some pretty big events. Violence breaks out in Medellín in response to a new security plan. Without a consulate in Miami, Venezuelan ex-pats travel to New Orleans to vote in the Venezuelan presidential election.

What is currently happening in Manbij, once a sleepy provincial city in northern Syria, is the first future-oriented experiment in the midst of horror. While rebels fight regime forces elsewhere in the country, and entire towns are being bombed to pieces, Manbij is the first larger city in Syria to be liberated. Since regime forces withdrew in mid-July, local councils have governed the 150,000 residents of Manbij and the surrounding district, which is home to more than half a million people…

Manbij was left to its own devices. After four decades of dictatorship, its residents are suddenly faced with the task of running an independent city-state, one in which neither pensions nor survival can be taken for granted anymore.

The market is in a state of intoxication. Residential real estate prices in Berlin have risen by 32 percent since 2007, which is significantly more than in the rest of Germany. There were about 32,000 real estate transactions in Berlin in 2011 alone, a 20 percent increase over the previous year, and the trend is continuing. In that same period, sales increased by 28 percent, from €8.7 billion ($11.2 billion) to €11.1 billion.

Culture and Other Curiosities

  • At this point, we’re just republishing The Billfold’s Places I’ve Lived column:

One time they decided to make homemade dog food for their monstrously large and entirely untrained dogs, and let the stock pot full of blood- and oatmeal-based concoction simmer and boil over on the stove for a couple of days. One of the roommates could barely pay his share of the bills, but would spend hundreds of dollars each month on “power crystals” (oh, Portland). Another time we discovered (by finding the photographic evidence on the house computer) that one of the roommates was starring in pornography in which she dressed like a clown and smeared food all over her body, and that she had volunteered our basement as the set.
  • D.C.’s construction boom uncovers old burial sites.

Tags: infrastructure, chicago, michael bloomberg, michael nutter, bike share, foreclosures, cityledes, ray lahood, map-21, zappos