CityLedes is a weekly roundup of urban-related news happening across the country and globe, as compiled by Mark Bergen, Harry Moroz and David Sparks.
The Lede: As Detroit’s financial situation continues to deteriorate, the city’s financial advisory board approves emergency manager restructuring. Refusing to give up on the city’s finances, Mayor Dave Bing vows to do what he can to avoid both bankruptcy (which would be really, really bad) and state intervention. Meanwhile, Detroit unions hit back against state Republicans’ lame-duck foray into right-to-work. Support swells for an MLS stadium in Queens, and a plan for a new NFL stadium in Atlanta moves ahead tenuously. Trenton’s Mayor is indicted. Examining non-white gentrification in Chicago. Just because Atlanta is stagnant doesn’t mean its restaurant industry should be. A land bank may happen in Philadelphia. Charlotte’s Mayor offers up streetcars as a budgetary sacrifice, while a tax for a downtown L.A. streetcar project is approved by voters. The debate over whether to enable parents to convert public schools to charters heats up in Miami-Dade. Atlanta schools’ embattled Superintendent gets an extension. How the spread of HIV and infrastructure may be linked in Africa. Mexico City gets a new logo. D.C. cabs may soon be ugly, but they’ll be uniformly ugly! The naked jogger runs again in Springfield.
Click to jump to a topic:
Mayors and City Councils
Economy and Development
Transportation and Infrastructure
Energy, Environment, and Health
Culture and other Curiosities
- Detroit Mayor Dave Bing assures us he hasn’t “given up.” The city’s financial advisory board approves its emergency manager restructuring. And analysts offer dire warnings of the bankruptcy that may come:
Detroit could end up with legal bills in the hundreds of millions of dollars and far more cuts in its already-meager public services, meaning potentially fewer cops and firefighters and more city departments privatized or eliminated outright. Workers could be terminated, and those who stay would face deep pay and benefits cuts. A federal bankruptcy judge could allow the city — or the state, through an emergency financial manager — to rewrite labor contracts or toss them out altogether. The city could find itself proposing the sale of major city assets to pay down its enormous debts.
- Thanks to lower health care costs, Milwaukee county will have surplus budget bounty of $11 million.
- Charlotte’s mayor offers to axe streetcars from the capital plan to break a budgetary stalemate. Charlotte Democrats hope that the White House’s reversal on the ban on corporate contributions for the inauguration can help ease some DNC debt.
- Detroit unions take on the state’s flirtation with right-to-work. A strike of clerical workers at the Port of Los Angeles and Long Beach is over.
- All is still not chummy between the Chicago teachers union and Rahm Emanuel.
- Looking back on the mayoralty of San Diego’s Jerry Sanders:
In San Diego, his legacy includes guiding the city back from the precipice of its worst financial debacle in history through a series of politically controversial cutbacks in city services and then hard bargaining with labor unions that led to a salary freeze, reduction in health benefits for retirees, increased payments by employees to the pension fund and the end to guaranteed-benefit pensions for new hires.
Although the city’s financial future, like that of other cities, remains uncertain, San Diego appears to be ahead of other cities, including Los Angeles, in dealing with the common problem of spiraling pension deficits.
- San Francisco Mayor Ed Lee stays quiet in a scandal involving the city housing chief. Trenton Mayor Tony Mack is indicted.
- Gristides’ founder and billionaire John Catsimatidis mulls a run for NYC mayor, which would represent a challenge to potential candidate and MTA chief Joe Lhota.
- Portland Mayor-elect Charlie Hales lends his voice to combat the “Walmartization” of the local grocery industry. D.C. Democrats elect Anita Bonds to fill the at-large seat on the D.C. Council.
- San Francisco will post a guide to private spaces open to public use. Protesters took advantage of private spaces for public use at Deutsche Bank’s headquarters in Manhattan.
- Support grows for an MLS team and stadium in Queens. The proposed new home of the Atlanta Falcons moves ahead:
But for the plan to work the legislature has to boost the GWCCA’s borrowing cap to $300 million, said GWCCA Executive Director Frank Poe. It is $200 million now.
Voting down a higher borrowing cap “would pretty well put the brakes on (the stadium)” Poe said.
- A look at ‘non-white’ gentrification in two Chicago neighborhoods.
- Oakland’s pot farm case moves up in the courts.
- The restaurant industry booms in Atlanta despite stagnation.
- A land bank looks like a real possibility for Philadelphia:
Sauer said that a land bank would need to balance competing interests for market-rate and affordable housing, and commercial and green space, and that the process of acquiring and disposing of land “needs to be predictable, accountable, and transparent.”
He also said the land bank would need clear plans for swaths of vacant land, developed with the input of community groups and district City Council members.
- Developers in Hartford, Conn. plan smaller, more affordable apartments:
More modest-size apartments with lower rents, experts say, could attract many different renters: young professionals paying off student loans; those without college degrees who work downtown; and the newly divorced or separated. Students who attend classes downtown when the University of Connecticut moves its West Hartford campus to the city might want to move nearby, as they did in Stamford when UConn moved to that city’s downtown.
- Post-Sandy, NYC focuses on returning people to their homes, not transitioning them from temporary housing:
More than 10,000 homeowners have signed up for NYC Rapid Repairs in the three weeks since Mayor Michael Bloomberg launched the initiative to bring in hundreds of contractors to restore power, heat and other essentials free of charge.
Contractors have done initial assessments of about 7,000 homes in the city and 2,000 in similar initiatives on Long Island, but just about 400 projects have been completed so far.
Officials stress that they’re still ramping up the program. But a community meeting last week in hard-hit Staten Island boiled over with complaints that repairs and other aid aren’t coming fast enough, a familiar refrain in storm-damaged areas.
- Miami’s historic preservation board votes down landmark status for The Miami Herald building.
- After the razor-thin defeat of L.A. proposed transit tax, proponents blame the two-thirds requirement for passage. Meanwhile, downtown L.A. voters approve a tax for a streetcar project.
- 50-plus miles of bike lanes for Jersey City. Philly gets moving on a bike-share program. NYC’s will launch in May.
Activists working to better the G train say the Metropolitan Transportation Authority has created a catch-22 by refusing to make any service improvements on the line due to low ridership. But critics claim ridership on the so-called Brooklyn Local remains low simply because service is so bad.
- The CTA posts its 2013 budget.
- Nearly two-thirds of Atlantans would pay a new fee or tax to improve regional transit and relieve traffic congestion. Amtrak sets a new Thanksgiving ridership record. Former D.C. Mayor Anthony Williams pushes for public-private partnerships for District infrastructure.
- A new taxi plan would increase the number of new taxis, make credit card machines mandatory, and improve access for the handicapped. New Orleans issues its first new taxi permits since the ‘50s. D.C. Mayor Vince Gray unveils the fairly awful candidates for the District’s new uniform taxi color scheme.
- The New Orleans City Council passes major sewer and water rate hikes:
But the estimated $583 million the increases will generate is expected to fall heavily on companies such as restaurants and laundromats where water is central to daily operations. Also taking a hit will be poor and working-class residents, as well as those living on fixed-incomes.
- A split Atlanta school board gives embattled Superintendent Erroll Davis an 18-month extension.
- The debate over whether to enable parents to convert public schools into charters simmers in Miami-Dade. Houston-area college degrees rise, but slowly.
- Innovative special ed projects in New Orleans will receive $4 million in competitive federal grants. Making D.C. schools’ foam food trays greener isn’t easy.
- The Supreme Court hears the NRDC’s case that L.A. should be held responsible for pollutants detected at its monitoring stations after heavy rainstorms:
The justices tried to sort out a complicated regulatory dispute over the highly polluted water that flows down the Los Angeles and San Gabriel rivers in the days after a heavy rainstorm. They sounded split on how to rule, however.
They could free Los Angeles County from any liability on the grounds that its two monitoring stations in the rivers do not point to the source of the pollution. The county made just that argument. Or they could send the case back to a judge in California to hold further hearings aimed at pinpointing who is to blame for the polluted runoff.
- Opponents slow down Philly Mayor Michael Nutter’s attempt to privatize the city’s gas utility.
- The Windy City had a hot, dry year.
- A court-appointed “compliance” officer takes over reform of Oakland’s police department:
Oakland Police Chief Howard Jordan praised the agreement and insists it would provide city officials with greater latitude and input on decisions than they would have had under a receiver. Jordan described the city’s ability to nominate candidates for the compliance director’s job as a benefit of the newly forged agreement.
But in reality, city officials would have little more than an advisory role. A compliance director could listen to a city recommendation but is under no obligation to follow it. The compliance director would be able to make unilateral personnel decisions in police administrative ranks without ever bothering to notify anyone at Oakland City Hall.
- Hate crimes fall in the Bay.
- Charlotte-Mecklenburg police want to monitor private business’ cameras. New Orleans voters refuse to pay higher fees on their phone bills to support 911.
- Unemployment has increased 12 percent in Madrid in the last year. The concessions keep coming for Sheldon Adelson’s Eurovegas project.
- High-speed rail opponents claim 172,000 homes are blighted by a proposed route from London to Birmingham. A weekend traffic jam – that is, a traffic jam lasting the entire weekend – hits the highway linking St. Petersburg and Moscow. The State of Australian Cities 2012 (pdf).
- Mumbai’s vegetarians impose meatlessness in their neighborhoods. The spread of HIV is linked to infrastructure in Africa.
- Mexico City gets a new logo.
Three blocks away sits the corner of 1st street and 2nd Avenue, a busy spot of pawnshops, bookstores and low-income apartments. It’s a kind of capital for Duluth’s dark side. Herb, a 54 year-old African American, who moved to Duluth decades ago from Mississippi, reflects on living in his low rent community. “It’s like being one pea in a big ole’ pot of white beans.” “Everybody is set in their own way, its like, you stay in your area, and I’ll stay in my area. It’s still back in the day where white’s stay in their place, and blacks stay in their own circle, and that’s how that goes.”
- Krasnodar, Russia gets in the Christmas spirit:
The city’s Engels Street is to be renamed Snegovik (Snowman) Street, while Lenin Street will be renamed Father Christmas Street. Soviet Street will be renamed Festive Lights Street.
The mayor’s office has also proposed renaming Novorossiysk Republic Street as Present Street, while the Myskhakskoye Highway will become a whiter Snezhinka (Snowflake) Street.
- Same-sex couples flock to Seattle to be wed.