Monday, December 19, 2011

Berkeley National Laboratory (LBNL) Report

Delivering Energy Efficiency to
Middle Income Single Family Households

A study released today by researchers at Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory (LBNL) identifies steps that energy efficiency program managers and policy makers can take to deliver significant savings on home energy bills to middle income U.S. households. Middle income households – those making about $32,500 to $72,500 per year – account for a third of total U.S. residential energy use and figure prominently in meeting energy savings targets that now exist in most states.
The report offers a variety of strategies for making inroads on this challenging market, including:
  • Improving the effectiveness and appeal of outreach efforts specific to this market;
  • Increasing access to financing through credit enhancements, alternative underwriting, and new financial products;
  • Addressing health, safety and building structural issues in conjunction with efficiency upgrades;
  • Bringing additional complementary public policies into play.
This report weaves these strategies into a multifaceted approach to motivating and enabling middle income households to invest in energy efficiency.
The report includes a 10-page Executive Summary and four cases studies. 
  • The report is available HERE.
  • Register for the first webinar in the Middle Income Webinar Series on January 24 (11am-12PT) HERE
Coming in 2012 - additional resources, policy briefs and webinars related to this report available at:

HAS Manhattan gone MAD?

December 18, 2011

Rules Stretched as Green Cards Go to Investors

Affluent foreigners are rushing to take advantage of a federal immigration program that offers them the chance to obtain a green card in return for investing in construction projects in the United States. With credit tight, the program has unexpectedly turned into a mainstay for the financing of these projects in New York, California, Texas and other states.
The number of foreign applicants, each of whom must invest at least $500,000 in a project, has nearly quadrupled in the last two years, to more than 3,800 in the 2011 fiscal year, officials said. Demand has grown so fast that the Obama administration, which is championing the program, is seeking to streamline the application process.
Still, some critics of the program have described it as an improper use of the immigration system to spur economic development — a cash-for-visas scheme. And an examination of the program by The New York Times suggests that in New York, developers and state officials are stretching the rules to qualify projects for this foreign financing.
These developers are often relying on gerrymandering techniques to create development zones that are supposedly in areas of high unemployment — and thus eligible for special concessions — but actually are in prosperous ones, according to federal and state records.
One of the more prominent projects is a 34-story glass tower in Manhattan that is to cost $750 million, one-fifth of which is to come from foreign investors seeking green cards. Called the International Gem Tower, it is rising near Fifth Avenue in the diamond district of Manhattan, one of the wealthiest areas in the country.
Yet through the selective use of census statistics, state officials have classified the area as one plagued by high unemployment, the federal and state records show. As a result, the developer has increased the project’s chances of attracting foreigners who will accept little, if any, return on their investment in the project if it means they can secure American visas for their families.
A senior federal immigration official, Alejandro Mayorkas, acknowledged in an interview on Friday that the program might need more scrutiny. Mr. Mayorkas and other federal officials said they were concerned that some of the maps that New York and other states were approving might not adhere to the spirit and intent of the regulations.
The Times’s review of the program in New York indicates that several other major projects are also based on questionable maps.
For example, the Battery Maritime Building, at the foot of Manhattan near Wall Street, has been classified as being located in an area that needs help attracting jobs. That designation is the result of a development zone whose outlines resemble a gerrymandered political district, project documents show.
The zone snakes up through the Lower East Side, skirting the wealthy enclaves of Battery Park City and TriBeCa, and then jumps across the East River to annex the Farragut Houses project in Vinegar Hill, Brooklyn.
In fact, the small census tract that contains the Farragut Houses has become a go-to area for developers seeking to use the visa program: its unemployed residents have been counted toward three projects already.
The giant Atlantic Yards project in Brooklyn, which abuts well-heeled brownstone neighborhoods, has also qualified for the special concessions using a gerrymandered high-unemployment district: the crescent-shaped zone swings more than two miles to the northeast to include poor sections of Crown Heights and Bedford-Stuyvesant. A local blogger and critic of Atlantic Yards, Norman Oder, has referred to the map as “the Bed-Stuy Boomerang.”
Since 2008, developers have raised or have planned to raise close to $1 billion on these projects in New York City, according to federal and state records. Almost all of that money would come in increments of $500,000 — much of it from residents of China — and pour into wealthy areas.
In interviews, New York State economic-development officials praised the program but were reluctant to accept responsibility for administering it. Indeed, some state officials who certified projects for the program acknowledged that they did not know what was being built. They said they were following guidance from federal regulators.
“This program serves as a valuable tool to support job-creating projects that will put areas of high unemployment on a continued path to economic recovery and growth,” said Austin Shafran, a spokesman for Empire State Development, the state agency that oversees the program in New York.
Urged on by federal and state officials, investors in faraway places like Shanghai and Seoul along with American developers have been flocking to the program, which was created by Congress during the recession of 1990.
Under the program, known as EB-5, investors receive a visa that provides residency for two years and can be converted into a permanent green card if the holders can show the investment produced at least 10 jobs, even if the project has not been completed.
With the surge in EB-5 projects, many lawyers and consultants, in the United States and overseas, are getting involved. In China alone, more than 500 agents are jockeying to connect wealthy Chinese people to American developers, experts said.
Investors throng EB-5 conferences. Many, successful in their own countries, said they wanted to secure American residency for their children. But the competition has given rise to unsavory practices, EB-5 lawyers and consultants said, like agents who falsely promise guaranteed returns. 
The minimum investment in the program was set at $1 million and has not changed in more than 20 years. But if the project is in a rural area or a place where the unemployment rate is 50 percent above the national average, the threshold for investing is $500,000, not $1 million.
By creating development zones that are ruled eligible for $500,000 investments, urban developers are at an advantage in luring contributions.
The zone drawn up for the Gem Tower consists of two census tracts in Midtown Manhattan. According to census figures, the tract that contains the project had an unemployment rate of zero for the last five years.
But the State Labor Department calculated that there were enough unemployed people in an adjoining census tract — one that includes Times Square — to justify calling the small zone an area of high unemployment.
Lela Goren, director general of Extell New York Regional Center, which is helping to raise the EB-5 investments for the Gem Tower, said she could not explain how the tower’s zone qualified as needy. “It qualifies, whatever the numbers, and it got approved,” Ms. Goren said.
The consultants arranging the EB-5 financing for the Battery Maritime and Atlantic Yards projects declined to comment.
Officials in other states expressed dismay over how New York developers were using the program. They said New York was unfairly siphoning off investments from less-developed areas.
“A lot of projects are in areas that are head-scratchers,” said James Candido, an official with Vermont’s Department of Economic Development.
Other states have sometimes not allowed such questionable development zones. California told a developer to relocate a manufacturing plant for a surgical-products company from a more prosperous part of San Jose to a poorer one, said Brook J. Taylor, a spokesman for the Governor’s Office of Business and Economic Development in California.
Federal regulators said states determined whether projects were located in areas of “greatest need.”
“The question is, are the state authorities adhering to the spirit of the law?” said Mr. Mayorkas, the federal immigration official who is the director of United States Citizenship and Immigration Services. “Where is the project being developed, and where are the jobs being created? Are the people from the areas of high unemployment being employed? Because that’s really the purpose. If they’re not being hired from those areas, then the question is justified.”
Mr. Mayorkas, whose staff has been scrambling to keep up with the boom in the program, said in the interview on Friday that he was concerned about allegations of gerrymandering.
If some project designations were not achieving “legislative intent,” he said, “then I think that is something that we need to consider as the laws are reviewed.”

Thursday, December 15, 2011

The Metro Movement

Amid recent calls that government needs to be put in the hands of the states, people seem to be forgetting that many state governments are bordering on dysfunctional. Albany is a national laughing stock. California has given new meaning to the term "ungovernable." Governors Sanford, Blagojevich and Paterson are late-night talk show punch lines.
In November, 37 states will hold elections for governor. State candidates will likely hit the campaign trail calling for a heavy dose of reform: Tighter ethics rules for legislators and more aggressive enforcement of those rules. New codes for lobbyists and lobbying. A commitment to transparency in decision making.
Yet the Great Recession and the fiscal meltdown require states to do more. Most critically, they must do the hard work of overhauling their bloated networks of local governments (all created by state law) so that they align more closely with the metropolitan geography of the economy and set the conditions for market growth and innovation.
States are super-powered by and dependent on powerful metropolitan economies, which are the nation's hubs of trade and commerce and centers of talent and innovation. Yet these same metropolitan areas are ruled by a hodgepodge of cities, counties, towns, villages, school boards, fire districts, library districts, workforce boards, industrial development authorities, water and sewer districts and a host of other special entities. America has a fragmented system of government more suited to the localism of the 18th century than the globalism of the 21st.
Pennsylvania, for example, has 3,133 local governments, including 67 counties, 56 cities, 1,547 townships and 501 school districts.
The result in most states is a fundamental mismatch between the real metro-scaled economy of innovative firms, risk-taking entrepreneurs and talented workers, and the inefficient administrative geography of government. The economic, fiscal, environmental and social price of this fragmentation is too high to bear any more.
The good news is that change is already happening. An unintended legacy of the Great Recession may be the most significant government restructuring in the United States since the modernization effort of the 1930s.
The real heart of the American economy lies in the top 100 metropolitan areas—from New York City to Modesto, Calif.—that take up only 12% of our land mass, but harbor two-thirds of our population and generate 75% of our gross domestic product.
These metropolitan areas dominate the economy because they gather and strengthen the assets—innovation, human capital and infrastructure—that drive economic growth and productivity. The Chicago metropolis is home to 67% of the population of Illinois, but contributes 78% of that state's GDP. Even smaller metros make powerful contributions to state economies: In Ohio, all 16 metros—ranging in size from Cleveland, Columbus and Cincinnati to Lima, Springfield and Sandusky—constitute 81% of the state's population, 84% of the state's jobs and 87% of the state's GDP.
The true economic geography, here and abroad, is a metropolitan one, enveloping city and suburb, exurb and rural town. Goods, people, capital and energy flow seamlessly across the metropolitan landscape. Labor markets are metropolitan, as are housing markets and commuter sheds. Sports teams, cultural institutions and media all exist in metropolitan space.
The geography of local government could not be more out of synch. New York State, for example, is a balkanized, fragmented mess. As the New York State Commission on Local Government Efficiency and Competitiveness found in its superb April 2008 report, there are "some 4,720 local government entities, that is, independently managed organizations that can make decisions affecting local taxes either directly or indirectly."
The list defies credulity and includes: 57 counties, 62 cities, 932 towns, 556 villages, 685 school districts, 867 fire districts, 181 library districts and 993 local public authorities.
A full and definitive count of all the local governments in the state (including those without taxing power) has never been done, so no one really knows how many local governments there are in New York State. The office of Attorney General Andrew Cuomo estimates that the number may exceed 10,500.
There are benefits associated with intense localism. Citizens feel a closer connection to their local officials (although does anyone really know the boundaries of their local library district?). And, in theory, individuals and firms can shop around for the government that most closely matches their preferred mix of efficiency, service and taxes.
Yet the drawbacks of fragmented governance far outweigh the benefits.
Fragmentation keeps government weak. With the landscape chopped into thousands of municipalities and special bodies, most local governments remain tiny, nearly amateur concerns, unequal to the widening challenges of global competition, suburbanization, revitalization and economic development.
Many states are bedeviled by what David Rusk, the former mayor of Albuquerque, N.M., has called a crazy quilt of "little box governments and limited horizons." In geographical terms, little boxes ensure that in almost every region scores of archaic boundaries artificially divide areas that otherwise represent single, interrelated social, economic and environmental communities. Such divisions complicate efforts to carry out cross-boundary visioning, plan cooperatively or coordinate decision-making across large areas.
At the same time, with the vast majority of municipalities essentially small towns, many if not most have limited tax bases and struggle to provide even the most basic services.
Little box governments create a problem of scale. More and more the geographical reach of local and metropolitan challenges exceeds the reach and capacity of its governmental machinery.
Second, fragmentation increases the cost of government. Political fragmentation often leads competing jurisdictions to duplicate infrastructure, staffing and services that could otherwise be provided more cost effectively.
The issue is not just about higher absolute costs; it is about the crowding out of critical investments. Ohio, for example, is saddled with 611 school districts. As a recent Brookings study found, the state ranks 47th in the nation in the share of elementary and secondary education spending that goes to instruction and ninth in the share that goes to administration. The proliferation of school districts, in short, is diverting scarce resources to bureaucrats rather than the classroom.
Finally, and this may be the most important finding in the current environment, metropolitan fragmentation exerts a negative impact on competitiveness and weakens long-term regional performance. This is partly because the sprawl and decentralization that naturally follows fragmentation weakens the downtown cores that attract young workers and foster greater access to ideas and technologies.
But it's also because jurisdictions are spending their time competing against each other rather than working together to compete in the global economy. Municipalities routinely expend scarce resources on tax incentives to lure firms from nearby jurisdictions, adding not one job or tax dollar to the overall economy in the process. In addition, fragmented regions often fail to recognize their distinctive clusters of strength in the global marketplace and take the actions, large and small, to leverage their competitive advantages.
The implication is troubling: Fractured metropolitan areas compete for growth and jobs at a deficit.
It doesn't have to be this way. Local governments are creatures of state law. What messes state law creates, state reforms can resolve.
Here is a three-part playbook for recovery, with relevance for every state in the nation.
First, states should move to consolidate units of local governments, starting with school districts and special-purpose authorities.
In 2007, Maine moved to consolidate its number of school districts from 290 to 215, with an ultimate goal of 80, saving $36 million a year in the process. Now, Maine is second among states in the share of educational spending that goes to instruction, and 41st on the share that goes to administration. Other states are following suit. Pennsylvania Gov. Ed Rendell, a Democrat, recently proposed that the state go from 500 school districts to 100. Mississippi Gov. Haley Barbour, a Republican, aims to reduce the state's 152 school districts by a third.
But why stop at school districts? Global competition requires metropolitan areas to speak with a unified voice on economic development, rather than add up the disparate strategies of dozens of tiny economic development agencies. The competition today is between U.S. metros and metropolitan areas in established nations like Germany and Japan and rising nations like China and Brazil, not between little jurisdictions within larger metros.
Second, states should move to delegate traditional state functions to entities that govern at the metropolitan scale. California, for example, allocates 75% of its federal transportation funding directly to metropolitan planning organizations, enabling these organizations (usually governed by city and suburban elected leaders) to make transportation investments in the service of metro housing, land use and economic development priorities. Other states should replicate this example and perhaps apply it to other policies like skills training, housing or welfare-to-work that naturally cross jurisdictional lines.
Third, states should promote a new generation of inter-jurisdictional collaboration to gain efficiencies. In New York, for example, the Commission on Local Government Efficiency and Competitiveness urged that municipalities be allowed to share the tax benefits of economic growth and create partnerships to deliver services, in order to lower expenses.
Some metropolitan areas aren't waiting for state laws to change. In Chicago, a metropolitan mayors caucus, formed by Mayor Richard Daley, meets regularly to develop consensus on shared, cross-border challenges such as air quality, transportation funding and workforce development. The Chicago model of city/suburban collaboration has been exported successfully to the Denver metropolis, where the metropolitan mayors' caucus advanced support for a metro-wide light rail transit system. States should establish mechanisms for disseminating these kinds of innovations quickly and effectively.
In the end, these concepts—consolidate, delegate and collaborate—are simple to describe and relatively easy to design and implement. The November gubernatorial elections offer a rare opportunity for states to regain their time-honored role as the nation's laboratories of democracy, vehicles for policy innovation and governance reform. Restoring order to local government chaos can enhance competitiveness, promote growth, cut waste and shift investments to what matters. Who will lead this governance revolution?
Bruce Katz is a vice president at the Brookings Institution and founding director of its Metropolitan Policy Program.

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Brain drain? Many young South Floridians seek brighter economic prospects elsewhere

Three recent studies reveal that South Florida suffers from an unhappy confluence of economic and demographic factors that prompt younger residents to seek a brighter future elsewhere

When Christina Caldwell moved back to her native Miami after living out west for six years, she planned to remain. But after two years of dead-end jobs as a bartender and receptionist, she left for California — for good. She now makes more than $100,000 a year at a post-production company in Venice Beach.
“I would never, ever move back to Miami,” she says.
Christina is not alone: South Florida is losing young people in droves, according to recent national and local studies. The area’s high unemployment rate, lack of innovative jobs and huge income gaps have created a perfect storm that many young people are unwilling to wait out.
One study by the Brookings Institute ranks South Florida as fifth among the top five metro areas losing residents in the 25-34 year-old demographic group along with New York, Los Angeles, and Chicago. The study, released in October, looked at six years’ worth of data, from 2005-2010, from the Census Bureau’s American Community Survey to rank 51 U.S. metropolitan areas by annual average net migration.
See the full-screen version of the map
The Miami Herald asked members of this group why so many opted to leave, using an online database of sources who are part of the Public Insight Network .
“There weren’t that many opportunities here,” said Victor Thompson, 33.
Thompson, who grew up in Miami-Dade, went to Florida International University and started his tech career in South Florida at a local office in Coral Gables.
When he outgrew the local tech industry, he took a position with Sony as lead producer for Crackle Movies en Español, a move that required relocation to California. He’s going in January with his wife and newborn daughter, although somewhat reluctantly.
“It’s tough to realize that you have to leave your home to stay in your job,” he said.
At 10 percent, South Florida’s unemployment rate is much higher than the country’s 8.6 percent, making it more difficult for first-time job seekers to penetrate the local job market.
The area also has one of the smallest shares of tech jobs, lagging most other competing metro areas, according to a study commissioned by Miami-Dade’s economic development agency, the Beacon Council. The council’s study, released earlier this month, also shows that South Florida trails behind in innovation and young professionals.
“I can’t think of one friend in South Florida who has a successful career,” Lauren Hord, 31, who moved back to Seattle in August after trying to settle in her native South Florida numerous times.
This time, she says, she’s not coming back.
“All of my high school friends with successful careers are in New York, Los Angeles, Seattle,” said Hord, who attended Pine Crest, a Broward private school with a stellar reputation.
The Beacon Council study supports Hord’s conclusion.
Despite South Florida’s high concentration of college students, the region has fewer young professionals compared to competing metro areas nationwide. The young professionals who remain have a lower educational attainment than those in most other competing metros. For instance, 27.8 percent of South Florida’s residents have a bachelor’s degree or higher, compared with 37.4 percent in Seattle’s metro area, according to the Beacon Council study.
In other words, not only is South Florida losing its educated young professionals, it may be losing the best and the brightest.
“People that I’ve worked with, that are geniuses, are gone,’’ said Thompson, who is gearing up for his relocation to Los Angeles. “That’s why I call it a brain drain — because smart people are leaving.”
Miami-Dade also finished last in its share of college-educated residents when compared with 15 similar metro areas, according to the Beacon Council-commissioned study.
Seattle, Denver, Houston, Dallas and Austin are the top five metro areas gaining residents in the 25-34 year-old demographic, in contrast to South Florida.
Those top cities have the right combination of “the three T’s,” says Richard Florida, an American urban studies theorist and Professor at the Rotman School of Management in the University of Toronto. He defines those as talent, tolerance and technology — qualities, he says, that are imperative in attracting the kind of people that will help build a better economy.
“Miami does very well on diversity, amenity and lifestyle, but it doesn’t have the tech economy or business base to create the kind of job activity that will draw or retain young people,” said Florida, who resides in Miami Beach half the year.
Not all the young professionals who move out of Miami, however, are finding success.
Lke most of the young migrants the Herald spoke to, Alex Montalvo, 33, had countless other reasons for leaving Miami for Seattle two months ago. Chief among them: sense of community.
“South Florida doesn’t offer much for the middle class. The nightlife, the eating options, the maneuverability, all favor the wealthy,” Montalvo said in response to a query from the Herald. “It’s a fun place, but becoming too expensive and with a lack of a vibrant middle class.”
But he’s having difficulty finding a suitable position.
In Miami, where he worked for seven years, he helped develop community environmental education programs for the City of Miami; at various times, he was interim executive director and program director.
Now he’s applying for less-senior positions at nonprofit organizations in Seattle. But he’s not getting any callbacks.
“I feel like Miami in some ways didn’t prepare me enough for a workplace outside of Miami,” he said. “Maybe I didn’t have the right professional development. I’m asking myself those questions now.”
South Florida had the nation’s second-highest rate of income inequality from 2005-2009, according to another report issued in October by the Census Bureau’s American Community Survey. This income chasm is among the reasons Liana Minassian, 25, is leaving for Los Angeles on Jan. 14.
After graduating from the University of Miami, she had hoped to settle in Coral Gables but is finding it hard to fit in.
“The majority of my friends have left,” said Minassian, who grew up in Pembroke Pines, and now works as a secretary at the UM Humanities Center. “It kind of confirms what I already think: that no one really wants to stay here.”
Despite the statistics, Richard Florida said things are looking up.
South Florida is “in the early stages of transitioning from a tourism to a quality of life city,” he said. It was becoming a place in which people want to live, he said.
The housing market implosion is helping, he says. Because of the depressed housing market, more young people and families — and fewer wealthy snowbirds — are moving into the downtown areas.
“That creates an active vibrant environment that is likely to serve the city and region well in the future,” he said.
Florida also pointed to the budding art communities in Miami’s Wynwood and downtown areas as a step in the right direction, but he thinks allowing proposed casinos in these areas would undo a lot of the progress.
“The casino is a step backward from where a great, vibrant, locally rooted, diverse community should be going,” he said.
Minassian is pleased with the urban growth in the Wynwood and downtown neighborhoods but says they aren’t yet thriving enough to keep her around.
“I just hope that the people who do like it enough to stay will have a hand in helping to make it so people don’t always leave.”
This article includes comments from members of HeraldSource, part of the Public Insight Network. To learn more about the network or to join, visit

Read more:

Working Together: Economic Ties between the United States and Mexico.

The Mexico Institute, part of the Woodrow Wilson Center for International Scholars, is pleased to present its newest publication, Working Together: Economic Ties between the United States and Mexico. The report looks at the ways in which regional economic cooperation can enhance competitiveness, stimulate growth and create jobs.

Mexico already buys more U.S. products than any other nation except Canada, but more than just an export market, Mexico and the United States are partners in manufacturing. Through a process known as production sharing, the two countries actually work together to build products. Imports from Mexico are therefore unlike imports from any extra-continental partner in the way they support U.S. jobs and exports. A full 40% of the content in U.S. imports from Mexico is actually produced in the United States (See page 17 of the report). This means that forty cents of every dollar spent on imports from Mexico comes back to the U.S., a quantity ten times greater than the four cents returning for each dollar paid on Chinese imports.

There is no doubt that the economies of the United States and Mexico are facing serious challenges. While some of the risk is due to external pressures, whether increasing competition from Asia or fears of crisis in Europe, much of the solution lies in strengthening regional competitiveness. The path forward, then, must be based in a clear understanding that the United States and Mexico are ultimately partners rather than competitors.

Investment: U.S. investment in Mexico has grown nearly six-fold since NAFTA was put in place, but the story of Mexico’s burgeoning investments in the United States is less understood. Though still a fraction of the size of U.S. investment in Mexico, Mexican companies have increased their FDI holdings in the U.S. from $1.2 billion in 1993 to $12.6 billion in 2010. The report explores the U.S. investments and job creation of some of Mexico’s largest companies, including Cemex, Bimbo, América Móvil, Lala, Gruma, and others.

Jobs and Trade, a State-by-State approach: This report provides a comprehensive look at the value, composition, and effects of each state’s trade with Mexico.

There are 6 million U.S. jobs that depend on trade with Mexico. Two border states that trade extensively with Mexico, California (692,000 jobs) and Texas (463,000 jobs), have the most.
Yet it is not only border states like Texas, Arizona, and New Mexico, that depend on trade with Mexico. South Dakota, New Hampshire, and Nebraska also send more than 20% of their exports to our southern neighbor.
Because of the size and integrated nature of the North American auto industry, Detroit exports $10.9 billion in goods to Mexico, more than any other metropolitan area.

Sunday, December 11, 2011

Local and regional governance crucial to sustainability debate

-UCLG Press Release-

Local and regional governance crucial to sustainability debate

500 local and regional leaders came together in Florence for UCLG World Council

At the invitation of Matteo Renzi, Mayor of Florence, the City of Florence hosted 500 local and regional representatives from over 40 different countries gathered in the UCLG World Council from 9 to 11 December.

The main decisions of the UCLG World Council focus on the definition of the UCLG Strategy for the coming six years and pay particular attention to the contribution of local and regional authorities to the international debate on sustainability around Rio +20.

In his opening address, the President of UCLG stressed that building governance from the bottom up will be crucial for the future of our planet. Our citizens are taking the streets demanding solutions. We the local and regional leaders will need to be engaged in the global solution that is being sought. The Florence Declaration, recalling the core values of the cities: culture, ethics, and sustainability, was read during the Opening ceremony.

Members of the World Council agreed that international and national strategies for sustainable development should take into account local and regional visions. Members recall the role of cities, local and regional governments in mitigating and adapting to climate change and the need to plan for disaster risk reduction and further develop sustainable urban planning. Furthermore, UCLG highlights the need to emphasise strong links between good governance and sustainable development. The importance to guarantee access to water as a basic right and to work on the rights of citizens to the city are also strong positions put forward. Brice Lalonde, Executive coordinator for Rio +20 emphasized the need to include local and regional authorities in the international sustainability debate.

In preparation of the World Water Forum to take place in Marseille in 2012, a memorandum of understanding was signed between the World Water Council and UCLG. Loïc Fauchon, President of the World Water Council highlighted the importance of the collaboration between both institutions.

UCLG members also agreed  to produce the Third Report of the Global Observatory on Decentralisation on the “Governance of Local Basic Services”, together with the development of an Index on local governments and decentralization, according to the views and experiences of local and regional leaders.

The World Organisation further commits to advocate for specific recognition of local and regional authorities before the international community and towards the third United Nations Conference on Housing and Sustainable Urban Development (Habitat III).  UCLG agreed to update the international urban sustainable agenda and to provide renewed impetus to the United Nations Advisory Committee of Local Authorities (UNACLA). UCLG further confirmed its commitment to the joint agenda with Cities Alliance.

UCLG members have expressed their solidarity and support to the democratic processes taking place in the Mediterranean region. A new Working Group on the Middle-East and Near East has been formed, and two others on the Economic Development.

The gathering counted with the presence of mayors from cities around the world such as Rabat, Dakar, Paris, Stuttgart, Sevilla and with the participation of numerous mayors of Italian cities. It further brings together private partners and key international partners, representatives of Cities Alliance, UNFCCC and OECD.

The Council was chaired by Kadir Topbas, Mayor of Istanbul (Turkey) and President of UCLG, and by the Co-Presidents Antonio Costa, Mayor of Lisbon (Portugal), Muchadeyi Masunda, Mayor of Harare (Zimbabwe), Ilsur Metshin, Mayor of Kazan (Russia), and Ted Ellis, Mayor of Bluffton (USA), Treasurer.

United Cities and Local Governments (UCLG) is the biggest organization of local and regional governments in the world, present in 140 countries. UCLG represents and defends the interests of local governments on the world stage, regardless of the size of the communities they serve. UCGL’s mission is to be the united voice and world advocate of democratic local self-government, promoting its values, objectives and interests, through cooperation between local governments, and within the wider international community.

Friday, December 09, 2011

Lincoln's Dissertation Fellowship Program announced

The annual C. Lowell Harriss Dissertation Fellowship Program of the Lincoln Institute of Land Policy invites applications from doctoral students who are writing dissertations in fields that address these areas of interest:

Valuation and Taxation
Planning and Urban Form

This fellowship program provides an important link between the Lincoln Institute’s educational mission and its research objectives by supporting scholars early in their careers. Please distribute or post this information in your academic department. Applications are due by email on or before February 1, 2012.

The description and Dissertation Fellowship Program Application Guidelines are available at our Fellowships page; or download the guidelines directly.  If after reviewing this material you have further questions, please contact

Information about other fellowship programs for graduate students at universities in Latin America or China is available here.

IDB launches plan for Latin America’s emerging cities

Goal is to improve infrastructure by supporting sustainable investments.

By Ligia Hougland for—29/03/2011

    “In Latin America, emerging cities have a role to play in climate change or they could become victims of that change,” said Luis Alberto Moreno, president of the Inter-American Development Bank. (Ligia Hougland for
“In Latin America, emerging cities have a role to play in climate change or they could become victims of that change,” said Luis Alberto Moreno, president of the Inter-American Development Bank. (Ligia Hougland for
CALGARY, Canada – Latin America, along with the rest of the world, is becoming more urbanized every day.
That’s what Luis Alberto Moreno, president of the Inter-American Development Bank (IDB), said during a presentation on the Sustainable Emerging Cities Platform during the organization’s 52nd annual meeting in Calgary, Canada.
Moreno said despite the fact that cities like Cairo, Egypt; Mumbai, India; São Paulo, Brazil; and Mexico City receive the bulk of the media’s attention, most of the world’s urban centers are small or medium-sized cities.
Moreno also pointed out there are more than 3,500 medium-sized cities worldwide, each having between 100,000 to two million residents. More than 80% of these cities are in developing countries, and about 500 are in Latin America and the Caribbean, according to the IDB.
“Only 143 of these cities are growing at a rapid rate – these are referred to as ‘emerging cities,’” Moreno said, adding that more than half of the world’s population resides in urban centers.
Moreno said these cities are growing because they offer jobs and economic opportunities, given their location close to agricultural, mining and manufacturing centers, or highly attractive tourist destinations. These cities also are connected with the rest of the world, even if they are geographically isolated, Moreno added.
“In Latin America and the Caribbean, almost all of the emerging cities have 100% mobile phone presence in their territories, and more than 40% of their inhabitants have access to the Internet,” he said.
The populations of the region’s emerging cities are growing at a rate two or three times faster than that of Latin America’s largest metropolises, such as Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, and Buenos Aires, Argentina, according to the IDB.
“A large proportion of urban growth over the next 20 years will take place in emerging cities,” Moreno said. “In order to keep up with this growth, municipal governments will have to spend trillions of dollars on new infrastructure projects, housing and public works. In addition, they will have to find vast new sources of water, electricity and fuel.”
What happens in these areas over the next 20 years will have a significant impact on the planet, given that cities are responsible for about 75% of all of the world’s carbon dioxide emissions, Moreno said.
“In Latin America, emerging cities have a role to play in climate change or they could become victims of that change,” Moreno said.
Moreno said emerging cities can achieve sustainable development if they can maximize their limited resources.
The IDB has launched the Sustainable Emerging Cities Platform to help these communities flourish.
The first phase of the platform will focus on the sustainability of urban centers.
The IDB will assist cities in identifying fundamental aspects of sustainable development, such as land use, housing quality, energy efficiency, public transportation, traffic congestion and safety.
The next stage will focus on environmental sustainability, and the project’s final phase will concentrate on fiscal sustainability and governance.
“We will seek new ways to increase revenue and obtain a greater impact with the investments that are being made,” he said. “We will help governments ensure that planning and budgetary decisions are transparent and that the return on public investments can be measured.”
Moreno added the IDB will help the cities participating in the initiative to prepare an action plan that features concrete steps, as well as short-, medium- and long-term priorities.
The projects – the majority of which will be financed by the IDB – will include solutions that have been successfully implemented in other cities.
Examples of these solutions are the non-polluting public transportation systems the IDB helped develop in several Latin American countries and Brazil’s garbage collection system, which uses trash to generate electricity and methane gas.

Thursday, November 24, 2011

Another Climate Change report for Cities

This issue features a special report on Climate change, sustainable cities and aid effectiveness. The fourth edition of United Cities adresses questions such as: What can cities expect from Durban COP17 meetings? Why local governments can be vital development partners? How can we get citizens to think green?
This edition features an interview with the Secretary General of UCLG, Josep Roig and with the President of Metropolis, Jean-Paul Huchon.

La quatrième édition de United Cities est en ligne

Cette édition contient un rapport spécial sur le changement climatique, les villes durables et l’efficacité de l’aide. La quatrième édition de United Cities répond à une série de questions comme : que peuvent attendre les villes des réunions de Durban sur le changement climatique ? Pourquoi les autorités locales sont des partenaires essentiels du développement ? Comment les citoyens peuvent-ils penser écologique ?

Cette édition comprend un entretien avec le Secrétaire Général de CGLU, Josep Roig, et avec le Président de Metropolis, Jean-Paul Huchon.
Lire le magazine de CGLU en format électronique

El cuarto número de la revista United Cities está en línea
Este número incluye un informe especial sobre el cambio climático, ciudades sostenibles y eficacia de la ayuda.  La cuarta edición de United Cities responde preguntas como: ¿Qué se puede esperar de las ciudades en la reunión COP17 de Durban? ¿Por qué los gobiernos locales son  socios vitales para el desarrollo? ¿Cómo podemos lograr que los ciudadanos piensen en lo verde?
Esta edición incluye una entrevista con el Secretario General de CGLU, Josep Roig, y con el presidente de Metrópolis, Jean-Paul Huchon.
Haga clic aquí para leer (en inglés) la revista de CGLU

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

On Writing

Your ability to exchange ideas, collaborate with others, and ultimately succeed hinges on the ability to write effectively. Here are some timeless tips, straight from the pens of the world’s most renowned authors, to help you develop both style and substance.


I try to leave out the parts that people skip. ~Elmore Leonard

Have something to say, and say it as clearly as you can. That is the only secret. ~Matthew Arnold

Say all you have to say in the fewest possible words, or your reader will be sure to skip them; and in the plainest possible words or he will certainly misunderstand them. ~John Ruskin

Try to always write with your readers in mind. What do they need to know and want to know? If you have nothing to say, or what you say has no meaning for the reader, there is no point in writing it.


I believe more in the scissors than I do in the pencil. ~Truman Capote

Substitute damn every time you’re inclined to write very. Your editor will delete it and the writing will be just as it should be. ~Mark Twain

The road to hell is paved with adverbs. ~Stephen King

Don’t be fooled into believing that words like really, actually, or extremely make writing more forceful. They don’t — they just get in the way. Cut them and never look back.


When you wish to instruct, be brief; that men’s minds take in quickly what you say, learn its lesson, and retain it faithfully. Every word that is unnecessary only pours over the side of a brimming mind. ~Cicero

Vigorous writing is concise. ~William Strunk Jr.

Maybe it was all those late nights as an undergraduate struggling to fill out mandatory ten-page papers that made us think the only worthwhile writing is long and drawn out. While it’s more difficult to express yourself in the simplest possible manner, it’s so much more effective. More work for you means less work for your reader.


You have to know how to accept rejection and reject acceptance. ~Ray Bradbury

You must keep sending work out; you must never let a manuscript do nothing but eat its head off in a drawer. You send that work out again and again, while you’re working on another one. If you have talent, you will receive some measure of success - but only if you persist. ~Isaac Asimov

Engrave this in your brain: EVERY WRITER GETS REJECTED. You will be no different. ~John Scalzi

Writing means putting yourself at the mercy of others who may not always say nice things about what you write. Learn to make the most of the insults and accept the praise with a dose of skepticism. Use the criticism from others to improve and strengthen your writing. Foster a relationship with a good editor—one who knows sound writing and isn’t afraid to teach as s/he critiques.


Quantity produces quality. If you only write a few things, you’re doomed. ~Ray Bradbury

By writing much, one learns to write well. ~ Robert Southey

For many writers, it’s hard to know where to begin. So forget about beginning—just write. Keep a journal to make notes and observations about your research and your reading. Comment on ideas you hear from others. Critique presentations you hear at conferences. And take every opportunity to write wherever you find one.


The best way to have a good idea is to have lots of ideas. ~ Linus Pauling

If any man wish to write in a clear style, let him be first clear in his thoughts; and if any would write in a noble style, let him first possess a noble soul. ~Johann Wolfgang von Goethe

Learn as much by writing as by reading. ~Lord Acton

Successful writing is all about trust and authority. It makes sense to write about your area of expertise. If you don’t have an expertise, reading and writing is the best way to develop one and put it on display.


Zest. Gusto. How rarely one hears these words used. How rarely do we see people living, or for that matter, creating by them. Yet if I were asked to name the most important items in a writer’s make-up, the things that shape his material and rush him along the road to where he wants to go, I could only warn him to look to his zest, see to his gusto. ~Ray Bradbury

Get it down. Take chances. It may be bad, but it’s the only way you can do anything really good. ~William Faulkner

Doing what worked once will only get you so far. Experiment with new styles, even if it means taking criticism. Without moving forward, you’ll be left behind.


10 Writing Tips from the Masters. of-writing/

Quotable Quotes on Writers and Writing.

City Finances in America

November 16, 2011

Mayor Urges Detroit to Accept Drastic Action to Fix Finances

DETROIT — In an address broadcast live on television stations across this city, Mayor Dave Bing told Detroit on Wednesday evening that its finances were in dismal shape and that without major concessions from unions, the privatizing of some city services and layoffs, Detroit would run out of money by early next year.
“Simply put, our city is in a financial crisis and city government is broken,” Mr. Bing said, adding later: “The reality we’re facing is simple. If we continue down the same path, we will lose the ability to control our own destiny.”
He asked for big pay cuts from city workers, a rise in the corporate tax rate and a lowering of payouts from the pension system.
Mr. Bing’s remarks were rare for a mayor, even in long-troubled Detroit, both because of the depth of the problem he outlined and because of the audience he chose to share it with: not just other top officials, financial consultants or union leaders, but an entire city.
In an address at times as sober as a spreadsheet and as pleading as a sermon, Mr. Bing appeared to be hoping to sway public opinion in favor of the deep, painful cuts he proposed.
“Tonight I am asking every Detroiter and all who care about this city to stand with us and work with us to keep Detroit our city,” he said. “I want you to know the challenges we are facing. I want you to know what we’re doing to address them. I want you to know that I love this city just like you do, and we need your help like we’ve never needed it before.”
At another point, Mr. Bing said: “The apathy that has paralyzed Detroit for decades ends tonight.”
One challenge that he faces is convincing people here that this really is an emergency, the financial end of the line. Some Detroiters are inured to urgent warnings, having heard plenty of gloomy news about the city’s finances, its miserable population losses (down by 25 percent last decade to about 713,000 residents), and its sometimes dubious political leadership. Mr. Bing, a former professional basketball star and a businessman, arrived at City Hall in 2009 in the firestorm that followed Mayor Kwame M. Kilpatrick, who pleaded guilty to obstruction of justice and still faces federal criminal charges.
Mr. Bing proposed hiring private companies to manage Detroit’s streetlight operation, which has been widely criticized for leaving portions of the city dark and dangerous, and the bus system, which has been plagued by delays, a shortage of equipment and repair problems.
He also called for sweeping cuts for city employees, proposals that immediately drew criticism from union leaders here but that he said could save the city $40 million by June, the end of the city’s budget year. Otherwise, he said, the city would run out of cash by April and face a $45 million shortfall by June. Mr. Bing suggested an end to furlough days but a 10 percent pay cut for workers, including police officers and firefighters; a 10 percent increase in employee contributions to health care coverage; a lowering of payouts from the pension system; and “additional strategic layoffs.”
“This is not an attack on labor or our dedicated employees,” Mr. Bing insisted. “The private sector, including the auto industry, was forced to accept tough cuts to survive. The terms we are asking for are no different than what most Detroiters receive at their places of employment.”
While some City Council members praised Mr. Bing for the new plan, a question loomed among Detroiters and analysts: Realistically, could all of this get done? Not to mention swiftly? In addition to seeking concessions from unions during their current contract, Mr. Bing said, he is seeking an increase in the city’s corporate tax rate, 10 percent pay cuts for city contractors and millions of dollars that he said the State of Michigan owed the city in lost revenue sharing from a 1998 agreement.
Minutes after Mr. Bing’s address, Gov. Rick Snyder issued a statement saying he was working closely with the mayor and remained supportive of the city’s efforts to solve its problems. Still, the governor also said he anticipated that Mr. Bing would soon submit a request for a preliminary financial review of the city — which can be an early step when the state is asked to assign an outside party to manage a city’s finances, though it is not an automatic sign that an emergency manager is imminent.
Around here in recent weeks, many, including Mr. Bing, have spoken of the possibility of a state-appointed emergency manager’s assuming control of city operations. On Wednesday, Mr. Bing said he wanted to make it entirely clear that such an outcome was the last thing he would wish.
“I don’t want an emergency manager making decisions for my city,” he said. “I am your mayor, and I want to continue to lead the city back. I am going tell you what we are doing to get buses up and running. I am going to tell you what we’re doing to turn the lights on and keep our city safe. And I’m going to ask for your help to push for the reforms, tough choices and structural changes we need to control our own destiny.”

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Goodbye, Sidewalks: London Planners Break Down Boundaries Between Cars and Pedestrians

Advocates for livable streets usually push for more sidewalks and bike lanes to protect pedestrians and cyclists from cars. Division is seen as the key to safety and participation. But a new project in London questions the idea of barriers to begin with, envisioning a "shared space" for the intermingling of vehicles and walkers. It may seem chaotic, but planners believe it could foster a more accessible, safer, pedestrian-friendlier thoroughfare by forcing everyone to slow down and be aware of who's on the road.
Exhibition Road in London—a half-mile strip in the city's cultural heart that draws 11 million visitors each year to its numerous museums and cultural institutions—will reopen next month without clear lane markers or curbs. As The Guardian describes it, the new design "is about suggestion rather than certainty." Similar projects on other streets in London have decreased accidents involving pedestrians, showing that both walkers and drivers tend to pay better attention when they realize that they can't rely on barriers to guide them.
Instead, visual and textural cues let the street's users know how to operate. The pavement is styled with strips of lighter granite crosshatched against a black backdrop, an elegant and leisurely look that hints at paths for pedestrians to cross. Installing corduroy "warning tactile paving" and drainage covers will indicate to vision-impaired pedestrians where the area for cars begins, while removing curbs will make it easier for wheelchairs to navigate the area.
The project was prompted by Exhibition Road's increasingly heavy traffic and crowded sidewalks, which made the area unappealing for many pedestrians. Rather than brave such conditions, many pedestrians opt for the area's underground tunnel, bypassing what should be one of the city's cultural treasures. In preparation for the 2012 Olympics and the onslaught of visitors to one of London's most-touristy areas, the area is ready to shed its image as "an area dominated by cars" and become "one that puts people first."

Monday, November 14, 2011

The Truth about America

Op-Ed Columnist

The Inequality Map

Josh Haner/The New York Times
Foreign tourists are coming up to me on the streets and asking, “David, you have so many different kinds of inequality in your country. How can I tell which are socially acceptable and which are not?”
This is an excellent question. I will provide you with a guide to the American inequality map to help you avoid embarrassment.
Academic inequality is socially acceptable. It is perfectly fine to demonstrate that you are in the academic top 1 percent by wearing a Princeton, Harvard or Stanford sweatshirt.
Ancestor inequality is not socially acceptable. It is not permissible to go around bragging that your family came over on the Mayflower and that you are descended from generations of Throgmorton-Winthrops who bequeathed a legacy of good breeding and fine manners.
Fitness inequality is acceptable. It is perfectly fine to wear tight workout sweats to show the world that pilates have given you buns of steel. These sorts of displays are welcomed as evidence of your commendable self-discipline and reproductive merit.
Moral fitness inequality is unacceptable. It is out of bounds to boast of your superior chastity, integrity, honor or honesty. Instead, one must respect the fact that we are all morally equal, though our behavior and ethical tastes may differ.
Sports inequality is acceptable. It is normal to wear a Yankees jersey, an L.S.U. T-shirt or the emblem of any big budget team. The fact that your favorite sports franchise regularly grounds opponents into dust is a signal of your overall prowess.
Church inequality is unacceptable. It would be uncouth to wear a Baptist or Catholic or Jewish jersey to signal that people of your faith are closer to God. It is wrong to look down on other faiths on the grounds that their creeds are erroneous.
Income inequality is acceptable. If you are a star baseball player, it is socially acceptable to sell your services for $25 million per year (after all, you have to do what’s best for your family). If you are a star C.E.O., it’s no longer quite polite to receive an $18 million compensation package, but everybody who can still does it
Spending inequality is less acceptable. If you make $1 billion, it helps to go to work in jeans and black T-shirts. It helps to live in Omaha and eat in diners. If you make $200,000 a year, it is acceptable to spend money on any room previously used by servants, like the kitchen, but it is vulgar to spend on any adult toy that might give superficial pleasure, like a Maserati.
Technological inequality is acceptable. If you are the sort of person who understands the latest hardware and software advances, who knows the latest apps, it is acceptable to lord your superior connoisseurship over the aged relics who do not understand these things.
Cultural inequality is unacceptable. If you are the sort of person who attends opera or enjoys Ibsen plays, it is not acceptable to believe that you have a more refined sensibility than people who like Lady Gaga, Ke$ha or graffiti.
Status inequality is acceptable for college teachers. Universities exist within a finely gradated status structure, with certain schools like Brown clearly more elite than other schools. University departments are carefully ranked and compete for superiority.
Status inequality is unacceptable for high school teachers. Teachers at this level strongly resist being ranked. It would be loathsome to have one’s department competing with other departments in nearby schools.
Beer inequality is on the way down. There used to be a high status difference between microbrews and regular old Budweiser. In academic jargon, beer had a high Gini Coefficient. But as microbrews went mainstream, these status differences diminished.
Cupcake inequality is on the way up. People will stand for hours outside of gourmet cupcake stores even though there are other adequate cupcakes on offer with no waiting at nearby Safeways.
Travel inequality is acceptable. It is perfectly normal to have separate check-in lines and boarding procedures for airline patrons who have achieved Gold, Platinum, Double Ruby or Sun God status.
Supermarket inequality is unacceptable. It would not be permissible to have separate checkout lines at the grocery store for obese frequent buyers who consume a lot of Twinkies.
Jock inequality is unacceptable if your kid is an average performer on his or her youth soccer team. If your kid is a star, then his or her accomplishments validate your entire existence.
Vocation inequality is acceptable so long as you don’t talk about it. Surgeons have more prestige than valet parkers, but we do not acknowledge this. On the other hand, ethnic inequality — believing one group is better than another — is unacceptable (this is one of our culture’s highest achievements).
Dear visitor, we are a democratic, egalitarian people who spend our days desperately trying to climb over each other. Have a nice stay.

Thursday, November 10, 2011

Extra Aid

Foundations Play an Increasing Role in International Development

Although foundations have boosted their involvement in global issues over the past decade, questions remain as to whether philanthropy is equipped to play a larger role in international development, the Guardian reports.
According to The Index of Global Philanthropy and Remittances 2011 (35 pages, PDF), a new report from the Hudson Institute, official development assistance from Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development members totaled $120 billion in 2009, private capital investment in developing countries totaled another $258 billion, and global remittances — transfers of money by workers in foreign countries to their home countries — totaled some $174 billion. While the $53 billion total from philanthropic sources lags those figures, it represents a significant chunk of total funding for international development activities.
According to Dr. Noshua Watson, a research fellow at the UK-based Institute of Development Studies, philanthropy's ability to take risks, fund new approaches, and form partnerships positions it to be a major driver of innovation in the international development field. By the same token, she said, because private foundations have fewer public reporting requirements than governments and multilateral organizations and therefore are less accountable and transparent than governments, there's a downside to more private sector involvement in development.
Still, as philanthropy's engagement with global issues grows, the relationship between philanthropy and development has become an increasingly popular topic of conversation. To help guide that conversation, IDS, the UK-based Resource Alliance, and the Rockefeller Foundation launched the Bellagio Initiative to bring stakeholders together to discuss ways to strengthen and coordinate collaboration between philanthropists and those working in the international development field. One of the central themes of the initiative, the concept of human well-being, aims to promote a broader measure of human development that includes factors beyond the traditional economic indicators.
"At the heart of the well-being approach is the recognition that we all aspire to live well together," said Bellagio Initiative director Allister McGregor, "to be content with the things that we have, the relationships that enable us to achieve our goals, and our feelings that we have about how well we are doing in life."
Tran, Mark. “Philanthropic Foundations Bring New Challenges to Aid Debate.” Guardian 11/09/11.

Monday, November 07, 2011

Cooking the Books

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Fight over Argentina’s inflation rate pits government against private economists

By Published: October 31

Washington Post

BUENOS AIRES — Graciela Bevacqua’s work, compiling inflation figures that turn out to be sharply at odds with Argentine government statistics, clearly irritates officials. First came a $125,000 fine, followed by a criminal complaint against her team of 20 university students.
These days, with the government basking in President Cristina Fernandez de Kirchner’sresounding reelection victory last month, Bevacqua and a smattering of economic consultancies that compile inflation figures make up a lonely dissidents movement.
Facing government sanctions, most continue to calculate their own inflation figures. But they do it quietly, their findings used mainly in private reports issued to clients, economists sanctioned by the government said in interviews.
“I feel that I am carrying out serious research and providing an alternative to the government pricing index, which is not credible,” said Bevacqua, a mathematician whose group, GB Consumer Price Index, is nonprofit.
For the first time since 2007 — when statisticians and field workers at the National Institute of Statistics and Censuses were replaced with political appointees and the official inflation rate started to fall — the once-hot-button issue of inflation in Argentina is fading from the front pages, said Victor Beker, director of the Center for Research on the New Economy at the University of Belgrano.
“What the government set out to do was to suppress alternative statistics,” Beker said. “The objective is to ensure that the consultancies stop publishing and that the official numbers become the only statistics.”
Calls and e-mails seeking comment from the Ministry of Economy and Finance and the president’s office were not returned. In speeches, though, Fernandez de Kirchner and other officials have defended the country’s unorthodox economic policies, including high taxes on agricultural exports, heavy spending and energy subsidies.
“Our different way of doing things has permitted growth and the creation of jobs,” Vice President Amado Boudou recently told reporters. “Argentines can be proud we did things our way.”
‘No one believes’ official figures
To be sure, public outrage over inflation numbers has given way to giddy optimism as Argentina’s red-hot economy continues to grow. That has won the loyalty of Argentines such as Veronica Mariño, 38, a state worker who contends that the higher inflation figures offered by private economic consultants are cooked up to tarnish the government.
“The inflation issue, to be honest, does not worry many Argentines as long as there is work,” Mariño said.
But the inflation data put out by private economic consultants — and what their findings ultimately say about the overall health of South America’s second-largest economy — have deep resonance among multilateral institutions in Washington, credit-rating agencies and banks that closely track this country’s debt, say economists here and abroad.
Noting that Argentina had not met its obligations to improve its data-collection system, the International Monetary Fund said in September that it would rely on “alternative measures of GDP growth and inflation,” including estimates by private consultants and provincial governments in Argentina. Creditors, angry at being shortchanged on Argentine debt payments indexed to inflation, also track what they consider the genuine economic data issued by Bevacqua and the consultants.
“No one believes the government’s statistics — not the IMF, not the World Bank, not the U.N.,” said Robert Shapiro, who helps oversee a Washington group lobbying for Argentina to pay its debt to American investors. “You can’t change underlying economic reality by decreeing it isn’t so.”
The Obama administration’s patience with Argentina has also worn thin, as evidenced by recent U.S. efforts to block loans by the Inter-American Development Bank to Fernandez de Kirchner’s government. Argentina defaulted on $100 billion in 2001 and has since defied numerous judgments from U.S. courts to pay up. The Argentine government owes an estimated $15 billion to hard-core creditors and more than $7 billion to the Paris Club, an informal group of financial officials representing the world’s wealthiest nations, said Arturo Porzecanski, an economist at American University and an expert in international finance who closely follows Argentina.
The controversy over the inflation numbers, Porzecanski said, is part of larger problems in Argentina: a lack of transparency in handling the economy and an unwillingness to abide by international obligations, such as permitting the IMF to evaluate the country’s economic performance. Porzecanski said Argentina is the only country in the Group of 20, which will hold its annual meeting in France this week, that refuses to do so.
“They’re like the black sheep of the G-20 family,” he said.
Contradictory evidence
The Argentine government’s efforts to squelch the consultants’ higher inflation numbers have been particularly baffling because of evidence revealing the true inflation rate.
Labor unions, for instance, routinely seek and win 30 percent annual raises for workers, not the single-digit increases that would be expected were the inflation rate as low as the government contends. Public spending also rises at that rate. Even a government-organized commission of economists from five universities concluded that the official inflation figure was vastly lower than the real rate.
None of that stopped the government from issuing letters to private consultants this year demanding details of how they calculated economic data. Orlando Ferreres, a well-known economist, sent a 200-page response.
But the government still leveled a $125,000 fine and called on Ferreres to apologize “for having fooled the public with mistaken information,” he recalled.
Later came criminal complaints accusing Ferreres, Bevacqua and another consultancy, M&S, run by Carlos Melconian, of speculating with local banks.
Some pressure has been taken off by congressman Ricardo Gil Lavedra and other opposition lawmakers. They have begun a monthly compilation of the average rate of inflation from data provided by the consultants and are publicly releasing the numbers.

Saturday, October 29, 2011

My Favorite Authors: William Julius Wilson

William Julius Wilson is Lewis P. and Linda L. Geyser University Professor at Harvard University. He is one of only 20 University Professors, the highest professional distinction for a Harvard faculty member. After receiving the Ph.D. from Washington State University in 1966, Wilson taught sociology at the University of Massachusetts at Amherst, before joining the University of Chicago faculty in 1972. In 1990 he was appointed the Lucy Flower University Professor and director of the University of Chicago's Center for the Study of Urban Inequality. He joined the faculty at Harvard in July of 1996.

Past President of the American Sociological Association, Wilson has received 44 honorary degrees, including honorary doctorates from Princeton, Columbia, the University of Pennsylvania, Northwestern, Johns Hopkins, Dartmouth, the University of Amsterdam in the Netherlands, and New York University. A MacArthur Prize Fellow from 1987 to 1992, Wilson has been elected to the National Academy of Sciences, the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, the National Academy of Education, the American Philosophical Society, the Institute of Medicine, and the British Academy. In June 1996 he was selected by Time magazine as one of America's 25 Most Influential People. He is a recipient of the 1998 National Medal of Science, the highest scientific honor in the United States, and was awarded the Talcott Parsons Prize in the Social Sciences by the American Academy of Arts and Sciences in 2003.

He is the author of numerous publications, including The Declining Significance of Race, winner of the American Sociological Association's Sydney Spivack Award; The Truly Disadvantaged, which was selected by the editors of the New York Times Book Review as one of the 16 best books of 1987, and received The Washington Monthly Annual Book Award and the Society for the Study of Social Problems' C. Wright Mills Award; When Work Disappears: The World of the New Urban Poor, which was selected as one of the notable books of 1996 by the editors of the New York Times Book Review and received the Sidney Hillman Foundation Award; and The Bridge Over the Racial Divide: Rising Inequality and Coalition Politics. He is the co-author of There Goes the Neighborhood: Racial, Ethnic, and Class Tensions in Four Chicago Neighborhoods and Their Meaning for America and Good Kids in Bad Neighborhoods: Successful Development in Social Context . Most recently he has written More than Just Race: Being Black and Poor in the Inner City.

Other honors granted to Wilson include the Seidman Award in Political Economy (the first and only noneconomist to receive the Award); the Golden Plate Achievement Award; the Distinguished Alumnus Award, Washington State University; the American Sociological Association's Dubois, Johnson, Frazier Award (for significant scholarship in the field of inter-group relations); the American Sociological Association's Award for Public Understanding of Sociology; Burton Gordon Feldman Award ("for outstanding contributions in the field of public policy") Brandeis University; and the Martin Luther King, Jr. National Award (granted by the Southern Christian Leadership Conference, Los Angeles).

Professor Wilson is a member of numerous national boards and commissions, and was previously the Chair of the Board of The Center for Advanced Study in the Behavioral Sciences and of the Russell Sage Foundation.

The Design of Cities, Intelligent or Otherwise


Swiss Dots
Downtown Detroit as seen in the documentary "Urbanized."

Those of us who live in cities — more than half the world’s population, according to many recent estimates — experience them mainly at eye and street level. Each urban environment has its own character and can therefore seem more like the result of natural processes than of complex human intentions. A city develops organically, through the complex interplay of economics, biology and countless local, individual decisions, but also by means of planning on the part of architects, engineers and politicians.

The mingling of design and happenstance is, to some extent, the deep subject of “Urbanized,” Gary Hustwit’s fascinating, idea-packed new documentary. In this remarkably concise film — which could easily have sprawled to 15 hours on public television — Mr. Hustwit and his crew survey both the challenges and promises facing some of the world’s important cities. Their itinerary may not take them everywhere you want it to, but it also turns up some unexpected vistas along with familiar ones.

Here is Paris, yes, and New York (looking especially gorgeous in the movie’s final shot), and here are the slums of Mumbai and the beaches of Rio de Janeiro. But have you heard about the bike lanes of Bogotá, Colombia? About the walkways threaded through the townships on the outskirts of Cape Town? About the new housing projects that are replacing the informal settlements in Santiago, Chile?

All of that was news to me, but even viewers with deep knowledge of modern urban planning are likely to learn something from the carefully selected images and thoughtful interviews that make up most of “Urbanized.” This is the third film in Mr. Hustwit’s trilogy of documentaries on the role of design in the modern world, and it can be thought of as the conceptual shell that contains the other two. The first, “Helvetica,” is about the shape of the printed word, and in particular the font named in the title. “Objectified” concerns itself with the shape and packaging of the things we buy, sell and carry. In both cases a phenomenon likely to be taken for granted is shown to have a complex back story, a set of often unexamined reasons for being the way it is.

“Urbanized” is less focused on the history of cities than on the way they are adapting to the challenges of the present and future, notably climate change and population growth. This slant leaves some inevitable gaps — the David-and-Goliath battle between Robert Moses and Jane Jacobs is mentioned, but important earlier figures like Daniel Burnham and Frederick Law Olmsted are not — and there is a distinct bias in favor of Jacobs-influenced new urbanism and against other approaches to city planning.

Defenders of mid-20th-century Brasília and early-21st-century Phoenix are heard from, but the prevailing argument in “Urbanized” is that these cities are examples of how to do it wrong. The Brazilian capital is seen as a monument of modernist arrogance, while Phoenix represents soul-killing standardization and the reckless overconsumption of carbon-based fuel. Against these follies, the case is made for pedestrian-friendly metropolitan cores, bicycle lanes and an ethic that combines the knowledge of experts with the desires and innovations of local residents.

Mr. Hustwit relies more on the testimony of professionals than on the wisdom of ordinary people, but that is in keeping with the overall mood of the film, which is lively, curious and pedagogical. Like a really good class taught by a team of enthusiastic professors, “Urbanized” supplies grist for many late-night arguments or solitary ruminations. It is worth venturing out of your room, climbing on your bike or boarding a low-emissions bus and fighting your way through a crowd to see.

Opens on Friday in Manhattan.
Produced and directed by Gary Hustwit; director of photography, Luke Geissbühler; edited by Shelby Siegel and Michael Culyba; released by Swiss Dots. At the IFC Center, 323 Avenue of the Americas at Third Street, Greenwich Village. Running time: 1 hour 25 minutes. This film is not rated.

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