CityLedes: Prat on Wire

CityLedes: Prat on Wire

CityLedes is a weekly roundup of urban-related news happening across the country and globe, as compiled by Harry Moroz, Mark Bergen and David Sparks.

The Lede: Reducing the deficit without raising sufficient revenue would mean funding cuts for states and localities. The Atlanta Beltline will survive. Miami restaurant workers may not: 90 percent of them have no sick days. Southern mayors discuss trains for the South, Northern mayors discuss trains for the North, San Francisco just puts transit first. Shred standing up: L.A. passes new rules for skateboarders. The steepest streets. An eminent domain refresher. Mayor Lee proposes a not-so-frisky anti-violence plan and lots of people suddenly want in on the implementation of the New Orleans Police Department reform plan. Privatize socialist infrastructure! Occupy Frankfurt is shut down. A Mogadishu must read. Controlled discharge seeps into the Ironman. “Real eyes realize real lies.” On suspicion of chalking. Boris Johnson stars in Prat on Wire.

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

Economy and Development

[T]he result would be a huge cost shift from the federal government to states and localities. By contrast, a balanced deficit-reduction plan that includes significant new revenues almost certainly would lessen the resulting cost shift to states and localities.
Mahler is profoundly uninterested in understanding Oakland, or even in truly understanding his surface goal, which is to explain the vitality of Occupy and various forms of “radical” street protest in Oakland. Mahler, like far too many people who write about cities, is simply using Oakland to make a broader argument about politics and society.
  • The impact of the NFL: Noise, traffic and air pollution. A lawsuit the San Francisco 49ers brought against the city of Santa Clara after it retracted promised funds following the state’s withdrawal of redevelopment money is now settled “in concept.” In his budget address, St. Paul’s mayor floats a levy hike and touts a host of new projects, including a downtown stadium awaiting state approval. A hand-shake beforehand kept protesting firefighters away.
  • Can D.C.‘s maturing tech sector power a new local economy? A metro Atlanta baby boom. The Maryland Senate passes Prince George’s casino bill. The New York State Assembly speaker wants an New York City casino to be located in a “destination resort area.”


  • Detroit Mayor Dave Bing lays out a $160 million plan to fix the cities’ lights; its future is in the dark:

The city would retain control of the lighting system, but it would be run by an authority, likely composed of appointees from the city and state. Bing said he is hopeful the Legislature will vote on the issue as soon as next week.

…Senate Majority Leader Randy Richardville said he wants to put a proposal on the table next week with respect to the lighting authority legislation, but it’s unlikely the bills will pass the Legislature before September.

Richardville, R-Monroe, said a lack of cohesive leadership in Detroit makes it more difficult to sell the caucus on legislation aimed at addressing the city’s needs.

  • Indianapolis Mayor Gregory Ballard’s budget has no line items for new cops and firefighters.
  • On the El with Businessweek, Mayor Rahm Emanuel defends his I-Trust:
We’re the only economy that still does its infrastructure on a socialist model, state-owned. I mean, the Canadians came in here—do you know there are 147 different projects that are all public-private in Canada, just north of us? It’s a tool. It’s not an end.

With his newest advisor, by the Chicago Reader’s count, “all three of Emanuel’s top financial aides come from the same circle of firms known for their privatization work.” An L.A. budget official calls for theprivatization of the city’s convention center. Roll-your-own is not tax-free.

  • D.C. Mayor Vincent Gray reacts to a reported surge in property tax reductions. Legalized marijuana could net Washington State $2 billion in five years.

Public Safety

That has brought about the mayor’s new plan to combat gun violence that combines things the city was already doing – focusing on violent, repeat offenders – with planned-for new technology and a renewed effort to get young people jobs and formalize the role clergy will play as a conduit for gun drop-offs and information.
  • Meanwhile, a group of San Francisco law enforcement leaders want to to try something called “evidence-based sentencing.” Detained Baltimore youth get AC. Chicago’s newest anti-crime tactic bans cash bonds for misdemeanors. The NYT editorial board is glad there have been fewer stop-and-frisks, but is not so sure this means the stops they are doing are justified.
  • “The Oakland Police Department is the most dysfunctional police agency in California, and it may be the most dysfunctional governmental agency of any kind in the state.” (via SFist)
  • New Orleans’ police monitor and the Police Association of New Orleans want in on the federal court case that will govern how the NOPD’s proposed consent decree is implemented:
That makes a total of four organizations that asked for seats at the table this week as the city tries to put into action the laundry list of proposed reforms for the troubled police department.
  • The FAA temporarily bans aircraft from flying in opposite directions as they arrive and depart from airports after a close call at Reagan National in D.C.

Energy, Environment, and Health

  • Words you don’t want to hear before you do an Ironman in the Hudson River: “controlled discharge.”

  • Miami-Dade lags behind other cities in creating integrated healthcare systems for the poor and uninsured in preparation for healthcare reform.

Transportation and Infrastructure

The Atlanta Beltline project isn’t going away. Project staff want to make that clear. Sure, last week, Atlanta turned down — by a wide margin — a major transportation spending package that would have awarded $600 million to the Beltline project. But this project – an innovative transit and trails corridor that will circle Atlanta’s central city — has seen big setbacks before, says Ethan Davidson, the Beltline’s spokesman.
  • Grand jury: Muni switchbacks, a tactic of the San Francisco agency, are “an insult to passengers.” Planners propose simplicity, bike lanes, and fewer tourist trolley stops for Market Street in San Francisco. Transit before parking. But in a bidding war to build its new subway, San Francisco may be fooled again:

But history suggests that the transportation agency should proceed with caution: Collectively, 11 major Bay Area projects completed by the construction company since 2000 have cost local government $765 million more than expected, 40 percent above the initial bids, according to a review by the Bay Citizen.

“Tutor is doing the same thing that he has always done: He bids super low, but the project ends up costing a lot more in the end,” said Kevin Williams, a former city contract compliance officer who raised concerns about the company’s work at San Francisco International Airport. “The reason that he is repeating this on the taxpayers’ dime is because he gets away with it,” Williams said, referring to company CEO Ron Tutor.

  • Kansas City voters approve a special taxing district to pay for its new downtown streetcar, and the agency opens its doors.


With Chicago floating eminent domain as mortgage relief, much to the FHFA’s chagrin, a legal refresher helps:

Before the landmark 2005 Kelo vs. New London decision, Merrill says, there’s little doubt that the courts have upheld this kind of law. “Before Kelo, courts took a hands-off approach,” Merrill says. In the 1984 case Hawaii Housing Authority vs. Midkiff, the Supreme Court ruled that the Hawaiian legislature could take a property controlled by landlords and sell it back to leasees. “Condemning a landlord’s interest in property to transfer to a tenant is not too different,” Merrill says.

But Kelo changed that. In that case, the Supreme Court ruled that cities could use eminent domain to transfer land from one private owner to another, and that doing so for economic development purposes constitutes a public use. “At this point, I guess you’d have to say all bets are off in terms of what is and isn’t eminent domain,” Merrill says.

  • Activists in Chicago call for a one-year moratorium on evictions. There are 50,000 homeless in NYC:
[T]he Department of Housing Services has been rushing around the five boroughs, looking for anything or anywhere to place these struggling residents. Here’s a number to demonstrate the extent of this issue: in the past two months, the New York Times reported that nine shelters have been opened in the past two months, sometimes giving the nearby neighbors just a few weeks notice; hence the frustration on both sides.
  • Charlotte residents planning to rent out their homes during the DNC have to lower their price expectations. Thousands of D.C. rental units are set to open in the coming months:
The coming surge — a whopping 6,000 new units by the end of this year — will give prospective renters a slew of new options and could even halt the upward march of monthly rental payments, according to developers, analysts and real estate professionals.
  • A divided New Orleans Historic District Landmarks Commission withholds endorsement of a zoning exception for a proposed apartment project in Marigny.


  • Courtesy of a local company, all Detroit school kids present on “count day” will receive a new pair of kicks. With chatter of a teachers’ strike, Chicago’s schools chief is “optimistic” a deal will be struck before the school year begins.
  • Tensions between Michigan school boards and the system’s leaders rise and rise:

Highland Park school board member Robert Davis is asking the state attorney general to remove the emergency financial managers running the Highland Park and Detroit public school districts.

Davis, who has successfully sued public bodies for violating legal procedures of the Open Meetings Act, claims that Gov. Rick Snyder skipped several steps when he appointed the managers Wednesday.

  • The debate over a proposed Georgia constitutional amendment to guarantee the state’s power to authorize and fund charter schools heats up in the wake of T-SPLOST’s demise. The Miami-Dade schools chief sets some lofty goals for the new school year. More Austin-area schools fail to meet federal standards. Most Houston-area schools flunk also. The Houston ISD board approves a $1.9 billion bond measure. Test security is found to be a problem at a D.C. school.

Mayors and City Councils

  • Will New York even exist after Bloomberg?

Somehow, we’ve survived without Mr. Giuliani at the helm, as a few among us knew we would. Yet the indispensable-man theory endures. It’s as if these last 11 Giuliani-free years taught some New Yorkers nothing. They include editorialists and columnists. One hears the same tired question from them as they survey the present field of would-be mayors, only now they ask it in regard to Mr. Bloomberg:

How will we get along without him?

  • Anaheim voters won’t get the chance to change electoral districts to make city representation more reflective of the city’s residents:
Anaheim is the largest city in California that still elects leaders at large. An analysis by The Times shows Anaheim is a deeply segregated city with much of its political power concentrated in its eastern hillside neighborhoods, which are majority white. Overall, however, the city is 52% Latino.
  • The mayor of Miami has a follower: “Real eyes realize real lies.” A quick round-up of Miami-Dade’s nasty primaries. D.C. City Council challengers are raising more money than some incumbents. The feds are investigating D.C.‘s lottery contract for corruption.


  • The New Orleans firefighters union battles budget cuts. 90 percent of Miami restaurant workers have no sick days. A package of proposed changes to Portland’s public safety disability and pension fund will go before voters in November.


  • Mayor Bloomberg wants the presidential candidates to talk about immigration.
  • The Justice Dept. wants info about how nine Florida counties, including Broward and Dade, identified and purged potential non-citizens from the voter rolls. Young illegal immigrants in Houston are set to apply for deportation reprieve as Obama’s immigration policy kicks in.


Rebuilding the physical landscape is only part of the struggle. How can the city heal psychologically? Mogadishu’s deputy mayor, Iman Icar, believes that to transform the city it is essential to transform the minds of residents. He explains, “I realized one day how we could not do our jobs because we were all traumatized. People would just fight and hurt and undermine one another. We asked USAID to help us with this and they sent us people to do a workshop. It was very powerful. I remember people were crying, saying they find themselves doing things they do not understand. A woman said she discovers herself beating her children for no reason. And after we did this workshop the difference was immediate. Suddenly we could communicate. We could work together.”
The camp also lost its significance as a location for debate. In its first few weeks, regular assemblies were held where residents and visitors discussed ideas such as how the population can have a greater say in shaping society. But some of the people who were the driving force behind these discussions already left the camp in the spring, says one person who was a regular visitor to the camp. “There was less and less discussion about how they could embody direct democracy, and more and more about who should do the dishes,” he says.
  • Siena, Italy goes down along with its bank:

Siena was always considered a happy exception in Italy, a prosperous city with functioning hospitals, recycling and free buses for the schools. And now there isn’t even enough money to register the local women’s soccer club in Serie A. Siena’s coffers are empty, the main bank has to borrow money, the elites have failed and a commissioner has taken control of the city. Siena has gone from being an exception to a reflection of Italy’s general situation.

Most locals don’t perceive that as a compliment.

It is partly to do with the debt crisis, partly with the Italian state and a lot to do with Siena. It also has a lot to do with the fact that now, at 8 p.m., hundreds of Sienese wearing fake Yulia Tymoshenko-style braids and with pacifiers in their mouths are marching across the Piazza del Campo, banging on drums and waving blue-and-white flags.

Venice is doing all right, though.

  • Looking to strengthen the country’s “vertebral column,” Buenos Aires is giving pensions to writers. The city’s subway workers are striking. Bicycles are en vogue in Cartagena. Latin American cities are becoming the next bike havens. Córdoba bans smoking while driving.
The fate of Delhi’s attempt to use bus corridors as part of its public transportation system will be decided by the city’s High Court. If Delhi doesn’t proceed, it would be among the minority of world cities without bus corridors. Mexico City has opened Line 4 of its Metrobus system and Rio de Janeiro has inaugurated 30 kilometers of its proposed 150 km BRT (bus rapid transit) network. Globally, 140 cities, including Los Angeles, New York, Paris and Beijing use designated bus corridors to support the mobility of millions of people every day.

Culture and Other Curiosities

Tags: new york cityinfrastructurepublic transportationeconomic developmentchicagodetroitnew orleans

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