Monday, September 15, 2014

Smart traffic lights could be our salvation, Scotland vs. Texas secession, the South's secret of success, and more

The smaller misc items have been piling up fast last week...
" Harvard’s Edward Glaeser and others have emphasized, high housing prices in slow-growing states also owe a lot to policies that sharply limit construction. Limits on building height in the cities, zoning that blocks denser development in the suburbs and other policies constrict housing on both coasts; meanwhile, looser regulation in the South has kept the supply of housing elastic and the cost of living low. 
So conservative complaints about excess regulation and intrusive government aren’t entirely wrong, but the secret of Sunbelt growth isn’t being nice to corporations and the 1 percent; it’s not getting in the way of middle- and working-class housing supply."
  • Houston needs this!  Love this new technology for dynamically adjusting traffic lights.  If you know anybody in CoH or Harris County Public Works, please pass it along.  Check out the amazing results:
"Smith's team installed nine smart signals back in 2012 and saw instant results. Travel times along the corridor with the new signals were reduced by 25 percent, idle time fell by 40 percent, and vehicle emissions dropped by 20 percent. The system is also scalable for cash-strapped cities, says Smith, because you can install the signals one intersection at a time as funding becomes available. "
    "Taken individually, each development requirement and restriction may be a legitimate exercise of a city’s police power. With increasing reliance on developers and their projects to satisfy societal goals through a multitude of land use controls, the potential cumulative effect of all regulations risks turning all proposals into discretionary or conditional approvals. When the increased number of regulatory constraints causes development to be so economically infeasible that the only way for a property owner to gain the right to develop is to request discretionary approvals, have we not effectively removed the right to make reasonable economic use of the land?"
    Finally, I'd love to hear your thoughts in the comments on how you think Houston measures up on these criteria for having a vibrant tech scene?...

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    At 7:38 PM, September 15, 2014, Anonymous Rich Robins said...

    Nice article. BTW, if Texas seceded, why couldn't it have more than merely 2 major political parties? Don't the world's other industrialized democracies have more than 2? Mexico has 3: PAN (Right); PRI (center-Right) and the PRD (Left of center). Fans of the Republican Party can find some reason to celebrate whenever either of the first two parties wins an election. A similar scenario could arise in Texas and conservatives could actually get some service for a change. For now, though, the Social Security tax continues to be shoved down our throats even though we'll never collect a dime from the program as the bottom lines at:


    At 11:20 PM, September 19, 2014, Anonymous Anonymous said...

    As far as I can tell, great tech scene needs an extremely liquid labor market. Recruiters must be constantly poaching talent almost like it is a discipline.

    This moves the competitive aspect to the economic-structural level allowing engineers to see themselves as tradesmen rather than competitors. It also drives salaries up, making the tech scene appealing to newcomers.

    And like the article says, it is good to have a local behemoth serve as a networking and learning crossroads. A lot of these small local firms, and even some of the big IT depts in O&G, might not exactly fit the bill. An important thing to remember is that tech talent almost always has other options (meaning other cities).

    At 7:42 AM, September 20, 2014, Blogger Tory Gattis said...

    I do worry that the high-paying energy industry keeps our tech scene down here by sucking up all of the good talent with attractive salaries and benefits. It makes it harder for that talent to leap out to a startup. As opposed to someplace like Austin, where there's a lot less competition for that talent from high paying big companies.

    At 7:42 PM, September 20, 2014, Anonymous Anonymous said...

    Well in that case, if big O&G firms are luring away potential engineers, the problem is lack of venture capital.

    It occurred to me once that it may be possible to create a successful tech scene by supplying amenities that venture capitalists (rather than engineers or "creative class" people) might want.

    Once they show up and decide to stay, they may be willing to supply the funds necessary to successfully entice the right engineers into local startups.

    However, not knowing any venture capitalists myself, it's not clear if this notion carries any weight.

    At 9:55 AM, September 21, 2014, Blogger Tory Gattis said...

    My understanding is that there aren't enough VCs here because there isn't enough quality startup deal flow to keep them busy. It's sort of a chicken and egg problem.

    At 12:31 AM, September 22, 2014, Anonymous Rich Robins said...

    In California and Massachusetts, if a start-up owner stiffs or otherwise short-changes the v.c. somehow, one can sue him or her for his or her house, and garnish his or her wages. That's not possible in Texas though, and v.c.'s have taken notice. Essentially, only Texas, Pennsylvania and the Carolinas prohibit garnishing wages outside of the child support, student loan and federal tax collecting realms. And homestead protections in Texas are so substantial, O.J. had to seriously consider Texas before ultimately opting for a home in Florida to which to relocate during the 1990's. His present Nevada lodging aside, it's also worth mentioning that the Texas Supreme Court allows one to engage in corporate shell-games to transfer one's assets from one business entity to the next with little if any repercussion. There are exceptions and one needs a legal mind to try and understand 'em adequately but my point is that it's hard to attract venture capital for start-ups in this sort of pro-debtors' climate.

    At 6:14 PM, September 22, 2014, Anonymous Anonymous said...

    I have noticed on the Shark Tank show sometimes the VC's will offer a line of credit instead of outright cash (for the same amount). I wonder if this has something to do with that.


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