CityLedes: Referenda Roundup – Next City

CityLedes: Referenda Roundup

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: Cities limit marijuana, back a living wage, raise the minimum wage, defeat a sit-lie ban, reject sugary drink taxes, unseat a D.C. Council incumbent for the first time since 2008, and increase taxes. Transportation generally won on Tuesday, but lost in Los Angeles where condoms won. Walmart grocery stores only hurt businesses that are really nearby. New levees weren’t responsible for flooding during Hurricane Isaac. New Orleans launches an initiative against gang violence. Casinos galore, especially in Massachusetts. D.C. buildings should rise, Atlantans shed debt, and NYC gas rationing is dumb. L.A. residents will be able to obtain ID cards. Hot pastrami ecstasy is available in Buenos Aires, despite a trash crisis no one seems able to explain. Germans are abandoning the suburbs. Vivica A. Fox yells “Boom!” Mayor Nutter tried to hold the New York City Marathon in Philadelphia.

Click to jump to a topic:
Mayors, City Councils, and Referenda
Economy and Development
Transportation and Infrastructure
Energy, Environment, and Health
Public Safety
Culture and Other Curiosities

Mayors, City Councils, and Referenda

  • California cities limited marijuana dispensaries, backed a living wage for hotel workers (Long Beach), raised the minimum wage (San Jose), defeated a sit-lie ban (Berkeley) and rejected taxes on sugary drinks. Ballot measures will be used more as political tools in Los Angeles. A March ballot measure to raise the city’s sales tax would do the city good but be bad for sellers of building supplies. San Francisco’s Mayor Ed Lee won big in both Board of Supervisors elections and in ballot measures.

  • Boston Mayor Menino’s ill health has raised questions about whether he will run for re-election. He has been in office for five terms.
  • Florida elections are once again a national joke, but the Fair District amendments to the state constitution contributed to more competitive legislative and congressional races.
  • Portland’s Mayor-elect Charlie Hales hopes for a less melodramatic City Council, while lame-duck Mayor Sam Adams wants a tax on phone companies to pay for federally mandated police reforms and an expansion of the ban on plastic bags. Problems plague the Chicago 911 call center.
  • David Grosso becomes the first person to unseat a D.C. Council incumbent (Michael Brown) since 2008. But what does it mean? District voters overwhelmingly approve charter amendments that would allow the council to expel a member for gross conduct and would require the resignation of a mayor or council member convicted of a felony.
  • City Hall officials in Chicago are caught illicitly taping reporters’ conversations, to which the city responds: “much ado about nothing.”

Economy and Development

Four months ago, the state assessments agency informed Baltimore’s Finance Department that the owner of The Munsey apartment building had been under-billed by $517,930 on city property tax bills going back to 2007, all because of incorrectly calculated tax breaks.

In other words, the city missed out on more than $500,000 in public revenue. Since then there’s been no indication the city has moved to collect that money from the Munsey’s current owner, FCP Capital Partners, which bought the downtown building in 2010.

We find that Wal-Mart’s impact is highly localized, affecting firms only within a tight, two-mile radius of its location. Within this radius, the bulk of the impact falls on declining firms and mostly on the intensive margin. Entry of new firms is essentially unaffected. Moreover, the stores most damaged by Wal-Mart’s entry are the outlets of larger chains. This suggests that Wal-Mart’s expansion into groceries is quite distinct from its earlier experience in the discount industry, where the primary casualties were small chains and sole proprietorships that were forced to exit the market. This contrast sheds light on the role density economies play in shaping both equilibrium market structure and economic geography.
  • The Brookings Institution will launch an effort to remake federalism.
  • How Angry Birds explains why the poor have trouble saving.


The main issue is that DC area real estate is one of the primary “inputs” to the federal government. If housing in the DC area became cheaper, then in effect real compensation of DC-area federal employees would rise (allowing the government to attract better workers) at no cost to the taxpayer. Similarly, the federal government would just straightforwardly save money if it didn’t need to pay such high rents for office space.
  • A housing complex for homeless veterans opens in San Francisco.
  • Homes closer to Philly’s center fared better during the housing crisis. The Charlotte housing market picks up. A surge in no-parking apartments in Portland.

Transportation and Infrastructure

  • Like Alameda County (though the results there are not finalized), Los Angeles voters narrowly turned back the extension of a transportation sales tax:

Measure J would have extended that tax another 30 years, until 2069, and advocates said it would have allowed transportation officials to accelerate several transit projects by borrowing against future tax revenues.

Advocates also said Measure J would have helped stimulate the economy by creating hundreds of thousands of jobs in the near future.

But opponents, including Yang’s bus union, said transportation officials would be accelerating those transit projects at the expense of many bus riders, who make up a much larger overall share of the system’s users.

  • A new rail service to Orlando would entail a big station in downtown Miami. Miami-Dade Commissioners approve new Metrorail cars. A Minneapolis suburb is not pleased with the city’s light-rail plans. Seattle’s streetcar plans have new life:
In the next three years, the city might spend as much as $10 million to study or design streetcar lines, if Mayor Mike McGinn and the council follow through with budget proposals adopted Friday.
  • Army Corps of Engineers:  The new levee system was not the cause of New Orleans flooding from Hurricane Isaac. The New Orleans Sewerage & Water Board considers removing City Council members from the Board, while the Board of Liquidation, City Debt approves the sale of $40 million in bonds to fix the city’s streets (mostly). Inside the Bay Bridge Diary.

Energy, Environment, and Health

  • Sandy delays consideration of paid sick leave legislation in New York City.

  • The challenge is enforcing L.A. County’s condom-in-porn requirement.
“When they are captured, city birds are less aggressive, they produce alarm calls more frequently, they remain more paralysed when attacked by their predator and they loose more feathers than their countryside counterparts,” as explained to SINC by Juan Diego Ibáñez-Álamo.
  • Philly’s 311 systems matured during Sandy.
  • Owls attack visitors in Seattle parks. Washington State might ban some octopus hunting near Seattle.
At stake is more than $6 billion in federal funding for Miami-Dade and Broward over the next decade and the possibility of health insurance for a large percentage of the 1.4 million people in the two counties who now lack coverage….“Just saying ‘no’ is not an answer,” Scott said in a statement that repeated exactly what Sen. Don Gaetz, R-Destin, the incoming Senate president, told The Miami Herald on Thursday.


  • A Georgia legislator’s email to a constituent bolsters opponent’s claims that the state’s just-passed charter school amendment was intentionally misleading. Seattle’s charter-school initiative vote is too close to call. Atlanta Mayor Reed wants to give the city’s next superintendent more money.
  • D.C. school officials address high truancy rates.

Public Safety

  • Oakland resists efforts to put its police department in the hands of a federal receiver. San Fran Sheriff Mirkarimi might face recall. His city sees an increase in domestic violence incidences. Camden reaches a record-high number of homicides.

  • Colorado and Washington wait to see if the feds will sue to block marijuana legalization in those states, as 220 misdemeanor possession charges are dropped in King and Pierce Counties. Weed tourism?
  • New Orleans Mayor Landrieu announces a multi-agency unit to combat gang violence:
The approach, called the Group Violence Reduction Strategy, was devised by criminologist David Kennedy and has proved successful in Chicago, New York, Philadelphia and Boston, Landrieu told a news conference.

Kennedy has said he believes New Orleans will be seeing fewer bodies on the ground within six months.


Some hourly staffers who did not receive pay for six or more days seem to have fallen through the bureaucratic maze of government programs aimed at helping storm victims.

“The Department of Labor has given us different answers about whether employees can collect a benefit [under the federal Disaster Unemployment Assistance program],” said Carolyn Richmond, a labor attorney with Fox Rothschild LLP and counsel to the New York City Hospitality Alliance.

The federal program helps employees who would not ordinarily qualify for unemployment. Restaurants are not obligated by law to pay hourly workers for the time they do not work, but employers are trying to find ways to support their staff.


An ID card that would allow as many as 400,000 residents who now live in a cash economy to access banking services and learn the intricacies of finance is beneficial to everyone, Alarcon said, not just undocumented immigrants, who are expected to be the main benefactors.
  • Senators Lindsey Graham and Charles Schumer resume immigration policy talks.


  • A redistricting proposal by the Indianapolis Democratic council, which includes measures to increase police and fire hiring, collides with the Republican mayor.

United Airlines said Monday it will repay $5.6 million in economic development incentives it received from the city to redevelop its corporate headquaters at 77 W. Wacker. The company also said it will forgo up to $9.7 million in additional potential city grant funds that it will no longer be eligible to receive because it is leaving the site.

United recently redoubled its commitment to Willis Tower, extending its lease through 2028 in one of the largest office space commitments in Chicago’s history. The company has added 205,000 square feet to its existing lease of about 625,000 square feet in the iconic Chicago building.


  • Germans are moving to cities and shaking up the housing market in the process:
Long commutes and high transportation costs, for example, are making the suburbs increasingly less attractive. Likewise, many of the older homes in the suburbs no longer meet contemporary needs. Many young families don’t like their narrow floor plans, and they often require expensive improvements to make them more energy-efficient. This has led a number of experts, such as Franz Pesch, a professor of architecture and urban planning at the University of Stuttgart, to warn of a “large-scale devaluation” of the traditional areas full of single-family homes.

Today, Iran is a modern developing country with more than a 50-year long history of adopting town planning regulations, with the second largest population in the region covering the second largest area within the Middle East and West Asia. It also boasts the greatest (7 out of 28) number of cities above the million mark in the region; Tehran, Iran’s capital, being the most populated city in the Middle East.

Furthermore, Iran is experimenting rapid urbanisation with around 68.5% if its population living in urban settlements with remarkable economic, cultural and social development. Hence, the country’s policies respond to diverse driving forces, from cultural heritage and industrial activity to the development of resilient cities prone to natural disasters (Iran is the fourth most natural-disaster prone country in the world, with many of its cities frequently subjected to severe damages throughout their histories.)

Culture and Other Curiosities

We passed a couple of young white guys with beards standing on a corner, waiting for a light to change. “Some of the people coming here bring a sort of bacchanal spirit — like they’re out on the frontier and they can do anything,” Cusic said. “Detroit isn’t some kind of abstract art project,” she continued. “It’s real for people. These are real memories. Every one of these houses has a story.”
Soweto’s energy and creativity are as evident in Mr. Pettersson’s photographs as its many quandaries. He describes the photos as taking viewers on “a journey from the old into the new.” In almost all of the photos, the frames are packed with motion and color. In some, businessmen sip brandy in a upscale bar (Slide 4), children golf on manicured greens (Slide 9) and beauty pageant contestants strut across a stage (Slide 13). In others, street vendors sell their wares in a desolate urban landscape (Slide 15) and young women participate in a traditional Zulu rite of passage.
That day, Paolino found a sealed envelope addressed to him on the living room table. It was the first letter the eight-year-old had ever received. The message said: “We write to thank you for being part of our club in the 2011-2012 season. Unfortunately, we find ourselves obliged to tell you that for the upcoming 2012-2013 season we are unable to offer you the opportunity to continue your sporting activities with us. I wish you every success in sport and take this opportunity to extend my warmest regards”. Signed Spartaco Ventura, chairman of Paolino’s passion, the Trieste-based San Giovanni football club.
10:30 – Midnight The atmosphere settled back down to general merriment. I witnessed many, many bro hugs between volunteers. My spot at the front of the pen grew more precarious as people crowded towards the front in anticipation of Obama’s appearance. At one point I shifted my weight and it angered press representatives from three nations. Vivica A. Fox walked by shouting “Boom!” The remaining state projections received varying notice.
  • Neighborhood tension over film shot at A-Rod’s Miami Beach house could lead to tight restrictions.

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