CityLedes:  The Importance of Earnest Buy-In

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: Chicago’s strike vs. L.A.‘s teacher negotiations: A tale of two evaluation program implementations. Teacher accountability breaks down in Florida school districts. Putting a face on big transpo budget cuts. Miami’s new Metroride rail to the airport is a hit. An ol’ smile and a handshake are good enough for New Orleans airport officials. Atlanta begins to remove an eyesore at the gates of the city. The LA. Planning Commission okays an NFL arena proposal. NYC bans giant sodas. Frisco’s efforts to go green could pay off big for Shell. The streets get more dangerous for the nation’s patrolmen. The Spanish return to the country. Speed cameras persist in the U.K. Trenton corruption is the kind of corruption that works for everyone. D.C. backs the rights of the transgendered. Urban animal anecdotes.

Click to jump to a topic:
Education
Economy and Development
Housing
Transportation and Infrastructure
Energy, Environment, and Health
Public Safety
Mayors and City Councils
Budget
Immigration
International
Culture and other Curiosities

Education

  • Like Chicago, L.A. Unified is negotiating with its teachers union about teacher evaluations, but the negotiations are proceeding differently:

Several key differences in Los Angeles could temper the political climate for a labor walkout, said Deasy and others. They say there is more openness to L.A.‘s new evaluation system, more deliberation in rolling it out, more avenues for teachers to push their priorities and less pressure to immediately resolve the most controversial issue — how much student test scores should count in an instructor’s evaluation.

In Chicago, teachers railed against the school district’s system that counts student academic growth, as measured by test scores, for 25% of a teacher’s overall rating the first year and 40% by the fifth year. Illinois state law requires school districts to count student progress for a minimum of 25% and as much as 50%.

  • Many Florida school districts have no way of knowing whether or not K12 students are being taught by certified teachers.
  • The Charlotte Mecklenburg school board plans for the future:

Some ideas were fairly simple: List anticipated benefits, drawbacks and results for all actions the board takes; spend time delving deeper into issues before crises arise.

Some, such as the moderator’s suggestion to tap the corporate community for travel money, could prove controversial.

  • DeKalb County, Ga. schools will have to go on a state remedial budget plan to make up for a $24 million shortfall.

Economy and Development

  • The Los Angeles Planning Commission approved a proposal for a stadium in downtown L.A., but obstacles remain:

The Play Fair at Farmers Field Coalition filed a lawsuit last month seeking to invalidate a state law written for AEG that limits lawsuits against the stadium to a 175-day period. The group, which includes the renters’ rights group Community Action Network, said it wants AEG to provide $60 million for affordable housing, or $2 million a year over 30 years.

City officials are pursuing a timeline that would ensure that any lawsuit against AEG would be resolved in March, when NFL team owners are expected to consider the possibility of returning a franchise to L.A. If AEG’s special legal protections are nullified by a court challenge, stadium-related lawsuits could continue for two to three years, Pettit warned.

“It could take down the entire project,” said Pettit, who described his environmental group as a backer of the stadium since “Day One.”

  • Minnesota awards a quarter billion for a new St. Paul stadium, leaving the remaining $54 million for the city tab. Detroiters are stressed about the NHL lockout.
  • Plans for a Walmart in Atlanta’s Buckhead neighborhood get kicked back into the City Council. Walmart pulls out of an East New York development project, meaning NYC still doesn’t have a Walmart. D.C. is a model of walkability.
  • Venture capital pours into Cleveland. The Portland Seed Fund claims success at its halfway point.

Housing

In February, state officials announced that Wisconsin would be receiving $140 million as part of a $25 billion settlement. In April, Walker signed off on a plan in which the state kept $24.3 million of the estimated $30.2 million it received in direct payments to help plug the state’s budget gap. Then in June, Attorney General J.B. Van Hollen said $1.3 million would be used for raises and bonuses for state prosecutors.

The diversion of money came as state Department of Revenue officials estimated that the state was taking in more revenue than expected, translating into a potential $275.1 million surplus.

For Barrett, that meant the circumstances had changed. If the state has a budget surplus, he said, the state should give the city that mortgage settlement money so that it can be used for its intended purpose.

Transportation and Infrastructure

So the most likely reaction to funding cuts would be as follows: Large transit agencies will defer maintenance, which increases costs in the future. Mid-size agencies will reduce service levels. And smaller ones will implement even more substantial service cuts, shutting down some routes. “The transit impacts in many ways are greater than highway impacts – that was one of the key findings of this report,” Schank said, “because transit agencies don’t have the mechanisms by which to replace these revenues and they face little choice but to cut service or to defer investment.”
  • Rep. John Mica says “Amtrak needs to get out of the commuter rail business” (via Streetsblog). Austin breaks ground on the MetroRapid. Travelers love the new Metroline line to Miami International Airport. As the Twin Cities airport expands, complaints emerge of the noise, noise, noise.  Officials at The Big Easy’s Louis Armstrong International Airport apparently aren’t big on paperwork:
In addition to mopping up after a scandal that sent the director of aviation to prison and a controversy over lavish credit-card spending by board members, officials with the Louis Armstrong New Orleans International Airport are busy trying to clean up another mess: For years, the airport has conducted millions of dollars in public business without written contracts, leaving the agency vulnerable to a host of potential disputes and lawsuits.
But perhaps the most unusual of technologies to avoid overflows are the inflatable dams that have recently been installed by the city’s Environmental Protection Department at two locations in Brooklyn: Williamsburg and Red Hook. These dams, large cylindrical rubber structures attached to a concrete base and placed within sewer mains, are controlled by sensors and inflate during heavy rain. Once inflated, they block the flow of rain water and sewage and turn the sewer mains into a wastewater storage site; if the water gets too high, threatening to back up into homes or streets, sensors deflate the dam to release some water.
  • A Seattle City Council committee weighs a 22 percent hike in bills for sewer, garbage, and stormwater service through 2015. The tab for Miami’s water and sewer repairs could top $12 billion in the long term.
  • San Franciscans debate whether car sharing services should be able to use the city’s on-street parking. The city will get water taxis. And it will now get accurate on-time numbers from Muni trains, for the first time in over a decade.

Energy, Environment, and Health

In an ironic twist, San Francisco’s effort to go green with its own clean-energy program could wind up adding tens of millions of dollars to the coffers of one of the biggest oil companies in the world – Shell.

Under the terms of the CleanPowerSF program now before the Board of Supervisors, the city would contract with Shell Energy North America – a subsidiary of Shell Oil – to provide households and businesses with 100 percent renewable electricity…

What’s more, PG&E has just filed papers with the state Public Utilities Commission announcing its intention to start offering its own 100 percent green energy program in competition with Shell, and probably at a cheaper rate.

If San Francisco’s program can’t compete or goes sideways, the city would be on the hook for Shell’s losses, which could total $15 million or more, says the budget analyst.

  • The Seattle City Council votes to raise electric rates 10 percent on average over the next two years.

New York City’s Board of Health opened up a new, experimental front in the war on obesity Thursday, passing a rule banning sales of big sodas and other sugary drinks at restaurants, concession stands and other eateries.

The regulation, which was proposed in the spring by Mayor Michael Bloomberg and approved by panel of health experts after several months of review, puts a 16-ounce size limit on cups and bottles of non-diet soda, sweetened teas, and other calorie-packed beverages.

“Mayor Bloomberg will not be mayor forever,” said Eliot Hoff, a spokesman for New Yorkers for Beverage Choices, the industry-sponsored group that has spent more than $1 million on a public-relations campaign against the mayor’s plan, which would limit the size of sugary drinks to 16 ounces in the city’s restaurants, movie theaters and other venues. “It’s important for us to have our voices heard for the next administration.”
  • A group of Newark residents forces a vote on the creation of a Booker-backed municipal utilities authority, which the group opposes. Meanwhile, the nonprofit that runs Newark’s water system, which is under investigation, voted to divorce itself from Newark.

Public Safety

Among the areas that the Justice Department has focused on are “shockingly high rates” of violence, as well as suicide prevention measures that are “grossly inadequate” and have most likely resulted in multiple suicides (there have been at least 37 deaths at the jail, including 6 suicides, since January 2006, according to coroner’s reports compiled in a separate lawsuit against the jail). One of the cases cited in the Justice Department report was an unnamed 48-year-old man whose suicide in August 2011 was an “egregious example” of the jail’s inadequacies.
  • Mayor Jean Quan skips a deposition where she was to be asked about Oakland’s failure to implement reforms of the city’s police department.
  • A civil service board upholds a Seattle policeman’s firing for dishonesty. Seattle’s mayor wants to buy a gunshot-locator system and hire ten more cops.  Police shootings are trending up nationwide. The Portland Police Bureau’s practice of training all its officers in crisis intervention techniques isn’t working, according to the feds. The Atlanta PD closes in on the 2,000-officer mark. With beat cops in shorter supply, one Indianapolis neighborhood is hiring its own force.

Mayors and City Councils

  • An outsider billionaire mall developer contemplates a run for mayor in L.A. Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake can’t find the contract that entitles her office to free tickets at Baltimore’s 1st Mariner Arena.
“One thing about the Mack administration, when I say that, it’s me and Mack, we’re not greedy,” Giorgianni was recorded telling an FBI witness. “We’re corruptible. We want anybody to make a buck.”
  • New Orleans Mayor Mitch Landrieu backs up his call for sweeping changes in the city’s civil service and human services systems with a survey.
  • D.C. labor leaders are getting nervous that Council member Michael Brown could lose his reelection bid., and D.C. Council members are questioning vetting procedures in the Office of the Chief Financial Officer after learning new details about how the city’s chief tax appraiser was terminated for his actions in lowering property values in a previous job. Meanwhile, the District claims to be the first government in the U.S. to champion transgender rights.

Budget

  • Mayor Bloomberg requests large cuts from agency heads after the rejection of his outer-borough taxi plan blew a hole in the city’s budget.

Immigration

  • The White House’s Deferred Action program for young immigrants puts a strain on L.A. Unified, which must provide documents for applicants to the program. L.A. considers a proposal to turn library cards into ID cards for undocumented immigrants:

The ID card would include a user’s name, address and a photograph, and would be issued through the city’s libraries. The city would partner with a private vendor to set up bank accounts for those who want to use the library ID as a debit card. Banks generally require official identification to open an account.

But anyone able to provide proof of L.A. residency would be eligible for the library card, said Councilman Richard Alarcon, who proposed the concept. Banking services would include direct deposit, international and domestic money transfers and the debiting.

International

  • Sheldon Adelson’s proposed Eurovegas will take up one third of the area of Alcorcón, outside of Madrid. But the development will mean 16.9 million euros of new investment and 261,000 new jobs. When Barcelona was still a possible location for Eurovegas, Adelson’s wife suggested moving Barcelona’s airport and knocking down the Espanyol soccer stadium to accommodate the new complex. Eurovegas, an infographic.

Ms. Barcenilla is part of a movement within Spain that has swelled to such proportions that some sociologists have dubbed it “rurbanismo,” a term invented to describe the reverse migration from city to country that has stemmed a generations-old trend that has long been the usual pattern in most advanced industrial economies…

The movement is difficult to quantify, he said, partly since many of the new migrants do not bother changing their official residence. But it is clear, he said, that Spain’s cities of more than 100,000 inhabitants have recently stopped growing while villages of fewer than 1,000 are no longer shrinking.

But why was the school put on the road to closure? Because under the Berlusconi government, a decree from Minister of Education Mariastella Gelmini set a rule that no more than 30% of a class could be foreign children.

The rule has now been abolished by the new minister, Francesco Profumo. “It was not at all a figure picked out of the air. The 30% is a quota indicated by the best experts on integration,” says Diana De Marchi of the center-left Democratic party. “But we have tried to show that this needs to be interpreted case by case. When the children were born in Italy and have gone to nursery school in Italy, there are only minor language problems in integrating them.”

But reports of the death of the camera have proved premature.
Seagulls are invading towns and cities inland because the collapse of the fishing industry means they can no longer feed off the scraps from trawlers and more recycling means less food in landfill, according to the RSPB.
  • Buenos Aires sets strict limits on abortions in the case of rape. The Catholic Church there opposes the recent decision that permitted abortions in the case of rape. Bogotá had the fewest homicides in 27 years in August. Medellín prepares for the 2014 World Urban Forum.

With China’s growth slowing — a product of internal economic changes as well as the continued poor performance of the U.S. and Europe — the country’s government has decided to accelerate investments in its cities’ rapid transit networks as part of a larger transportation infrastructure program. About $127 billion (or 800 billion yuan) is to be directed over the next three to eight years to build 25 subways and elevated rail lines as a stimulus whose major benefit will be a increase in mobility for the rapidly urbanizing nation.

Though China’s high-speed rail network (now the largest in the world) has garnered most of the headlines when it comes to transportation there, the nation’s investments in urban rail have been just as dramatic and serve far more people on a daily basis. Its three largest metropolitan areas — Guangzhou, Shanghai, and Beijing — feature the world’s fourth, fifth, and sixth most-used transit systems, providing more than five million rides each daily, more than similar networks in New York or Paris. Most of these cities’ lines opened since 2000.

The high ridership of the lines that have been built thus far, however, have not brought operational profitability to these systems, as Stephen Smith highlighted in an article this week.

Considering the history of one of the largest Jewish settlements in the West Bank – Ma’ale Adummim – this article aims at demonstrating how the creation of a new metropolitan space has resulted from the convergence of ideological considerations, planning policies and consumer preferences, in parallel with suburbanization trends. It shows that this “Israelization” of the metropolitan space, however successful, has not ultimately led to an Israeli victory over Jerusalem, but instead created the intricate bundle of Palestinian and Jewish territorialities that is today at the very heart of the conflict.
Foreign journalists visiting Karachi use the word “resilient” about this city and often tell their audiences: There was a killing spree yesterday, but people have shown resilience and are out on the streets. As a citizen, I know that after a traumatic event, people don’t decide that they must go out and show the world how resilient they are. They go out and pretend everything is normal because they need to make a living. But then visiting journalists also need to make a living.

Culture and Other Curiosities

The story of these failed condos, bought out and converted into rentals, was repeated again and again. As a result, most of the properties abandoned at the bottom of the recession are suddenly full of affluent and young (Ed and I are the exception) renters. I feel as if we moved not to another neighborhood, but to a completely different city. I’ve never lived in a brand-new New York City apartment that’s unsullied by the patina of previous occupants. The newness was part of the attraction, but it’s a little disorienting. Today, Williamsburg has that mixture of alternative culture and tasteful indulgence that I associate mostly with San Francisco. The people who live here seem breezier than your typical New Yorker, less driven. (Let’s not even talk about the tattoos.) It’s exactly this quality—I used to think of it as a wholesale lack of desire—that drove me nuts in San Francisco. In Williamsburg, perhaps because Manhattan and all its hyperactivity is only a subway stop away, I’m enjoying it.
Throw a high concentration of humans into the mix and the opportunities for mayhem increase exponentially. Among my favorite vignettes: the woman who wanted me to suggest a natural area to release her pet alligator. It was cute, apparently, when she bought it, but now it is three feet long, won’t stay in the bathtub and seems inclined to eat the kids and Chihuahua.
  • Some New Orleanians learn to do without air conditioning.
  • D.C. goes from zero breweries to leading the nation in “brewery density” in three years.

Tags: chicagomayorsmichael bloombergmitch landrieustephanie rawlings-blakejean quan