Tuesday, March 24, 2020

Stop the Bagby closure, oil import tariffs, Inner Katy MaX Lanes, virus vs density vs heat, HTX #1 home values, and more

Apologies for the long gap between posts - I wanted to give the 15-year anniversary post extra time as the lead post on the blog. But in the meantime we've accumulated a whole lot of news items to get out, only a few of which related to the coronavirus (maybe a good thing?).

First, following up on my post last month about the potential for a permanent closure of the Bagby and Brazos entrance/exit to/from the 59 Spur, there's now a formal opposition website to the closure where you can sign the petition.
There are more backlogged items, but I'll save them for a future post.

Finally, our quote of the week:
{NYC} Mayor de Blasio has scoffed at the “road diet” idea that traffic will melt away if fewer lanes are provided. “We have to be careful,” he told Gothamist recently. “If we say, ‘Hey, let’s reduce the amount of lanes,’ that’s not a guarantee people get out of their cars; it is a guarantee of traffic jams and other problems.

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Sunday, March 08, 2020

The best posts from the first 15 years and 1.5 million pageviews

Today is the 15th (!) birthday of Houston Strategies with our 1,280th post. Wow, time flies. It's hard to believe I've been doing this for 15 years.  We're also up to more than 1.5 million pageviews, which is an amazing acceleration given that we just hit one million page views only three years ago at the 12th anniversary, and that's not counting views at the Chronicle, URI/COU, or the Google Group email distribution list. In honor of those milestones, I've decided to update my best posts from the first dozen years - which is now over three years out-of-date - by pulling from my annual highlights posts.  Since 15 years is still a lot of highlight posts, I've created an even shorter list of my fifteen all-time favorite posts. As you skim this list, I hope you find some of interest that you missed, forgot, or may have been posted before you discovered Houston Strategies.  Enjoy.

For those of you a little put off by the old-style webpage design, I should take this opportunity to mention again that it is sort of stuck, and that's because I have a legacy blogspot template that can't be upgraded to a newer design without either a lot of work outside my expertise or losing my archive of old posts.  One of the penalties for being an early blogger, lol.  Hope you don't mind the old format.  I'm kinda assuming the content matters more to my readers than a slick modern design ;-)

As always, thanks for your readership.

Absolute all-time favorites: 15 posts from 15 years (out of 1,280)
  1. A new brand identity for Houston: Houspitality
  2. MaX Lanes: A Next-Generation Strategy for Affordable Proximity
  3. MetroNext's bold moonshot opportunity
  4. Elements of an Opportunity City
  5. Ten years of Houston Strategies retrospective
  6. Maximizing Opportunity Urbanism with Robin Hood Planning (COU White Paper)
  7. How Opportunity Urbanism can save the global economy (Part 1Part 2)
  8. The Ultimate Houston Strategy
  9. Seizing the Astrodome opportunity to establish Houston's new global identity
  10. My TEDx Houston talk, mostly about Houston (a summary of some of my better ideas from this blog)
  11. A Pragmatic Approach to Houston’s Future (part 1part 2)
  12. A Map to Houston’s World-Class Future (part 1part 2)
  13. Architects vs. Economists (the planning vs. free-market spectrum)
  14. Applying Jane Jacobs' 4 tenets of vibrant neighborhoods to car-based cities (mobility/draw-zones for vibrancy)
  15. Why does Houston have such a great restaurant scene?

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Monday, March 02, 2020

Solving the anti-vaxer problem, Houston's dynamic culture, TX #1 food state but needs VC, city govt vision vs. competence, and CA ineptness

Before this week's items, my idea of the week: I'm probably treading on dangerous ground here with the growing coronavirus pandemic, but I've been thinking about the child vaccination problem (anti-vaxers) and new laws in some states requiring the vaccines to enroll kids in public schools, which is really causing a lot of turmoil with many families.  Now I'm a science guy all in favor of vaccinations (annual flu shot every Sept-Oct), but I also believe in more freedom and less government coercion (there are also some valid arguments on specific required vaccines and their timing).  My solution is this: ~95% of a population needs a vaccine to protect the whole population. Instead of requiring 100% of students to be vaccinated, auction off up to 5% exemptions at whatever price that clears the market.  The parents that really care the most about not vaccinating (vs. the more unsure/on-the-fence/going-with-the-herd ones) will pay that price for an exemption slot.  They may not be happy about it, but it's a better option than not enrolling their kids in school.

Moving on to just a few small items this week:
  • Great piece from Alain Bertaud in the MIT Press Reader: Do We Really Want Our Mayors to Have a Vision? Mayors and their municipal staff should not be considered visionaries, but a coordinated team of managers and janitors. Key excerpts:
"An unfortunate trend has developed over the past quarter-century: Many municipalities have begun describing their development plans as a “vision,” a word once reserved for spiritual gurus and artists. Calling a simple municipal action and investment program — such as collecting tolls on bridges — a “vision” is symptomatic of the grandiose misunderstanding that municipalities have concerning their role. A city, after all, is entirely created by its citizens’ initiatives. These citizens are required to act within a set of “good neighbor” rules, and to be supported in their endeavors by a network of physical and social infrastructure managed by a mayor and a city council. Mayors and their municipal staff, including urban planners and economists, should be considered not visionaries or rulers, then, but a well-coordinated team (one hopes) of competent managers and janitors.
Visionary leadership implies a top-down approach, in other words, but a city is mostly created from the bottom up.  A visionary mayor may feel compelled to impose her unique insights on the life of her Philistine citizens.
To be sure, a top-down approach is required to design infrastructure and services, but only as they are needed to support citizens’ activities. The support role involved in this top-down design is not trivial and requires good data and outstanding technical and financial skills, but a personal vision is not a requirement. It might rather be a hindrance.
They did not need vision, but something much less romantic: extreme competence."
"It’s a look at the role of the culture of cities in economic dynamism and resiliency. I examine a few case studies, and from these try to draw out some cultural traits that seem to be relevant to success, notably an open social structure, invested leadership and institution building by civic elites, and a high value placed on education."
Interested to hear your thoughts in the comments on how Houston does on those indicators?...

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