Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Financing Green Urban Infrastructure

Cities play a critical role in planning and investing in urban infrastructure. In many cases, local governments have authority over the selection of infrastructure projects made at the municipal level. Therefore, they exercise influence over the nature of infrastructure renewal and expansion, and have the ability to promote greener and more sustainable urban centres.

Their leadership role extends to the kinds of investment mechanism selected to finance, for example, improvements in the transportation, building, waste and water and, to a lesser extent, energy sector. Because cities have revenue sources that are tied to many aspects of these sectors, their design can stimulate or dissuade the development of greener and more sustainable cities.

Click to view report (pdf)

The greening of municipal financial instruments, such as congestion charges, variable parking fees, toll lanes and split-rate property taxes, is an important first step toward achieving greener urban infrastructure. Public sector financing, however, may not be sufficient to stimulate a paradigm shift. Therefore, the second critical step is to mobilise private sector investments to fill funding gaps for many urban green infrastructure projects.

There are certain conditions that need to be put in place in order to attract and capture private sector investments.

The three main conditions are:

  • markets for green urban investment projects,
  • good return on investment and
  • limited risk.

Cities and countries differ with respect to these conditions; as such, some of these instruments could be more appropriate for cities in industrialised and medium income countries than lower income developing countries, for which grants, loans and other development finance instruments could be more relevant.

Further information
For more information about OECD’s study, please contact Olaf Merk in OECD’s Public Governance and Territorial Development directorate by e-mail: or phone +

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Cities and Climate Change Contacts

La Federación Latinoamericana de Ciudades, Municipios y Asociaciones de Gobiernos Locales, FLACMA es la representación regional de la organización mundial  de Ciudades  y Gobiernos Locales Unidos, CGLU.

Cumbre sobre Liderazgo de los Gobiernos Locales en el Cambio Climático
Hosted by the  Local Government Denmark (LGDK) which is the interest group and member authority of Danish municipalities.

Local Government Climate Change Leadership Summit
Copenhagen, Denmark.
The Summit sent a united message on the role of municipalities and regions throughout the world in combating climate change. The organizer – Local Government Denmark – would like to thank co-organisers, speakers, exhibitors and not least the more than 700 participants for all the contributions that resulted in a successful Summit.

The Local Governments for Sustainability
Climate Roadmap
Leading local government associations world-wide which represent communities around the globe, are driving the Local Government Climate Roadmap; a process that started during COP 13 in December 2007. The Roadmap advocates for a strong and comprehensive post-2012 global climate agreement, which will hopefully be adopted during COP 15 in Copenhagen (Denmark), in December 2009.

Latin America and Caribbean Web site
Local government associations in the international climate negotiations aim to emphasis the crucial role of cities and local governments in climate protection, and want this key role to be recognized in the post-2012 climate regime.

Housing Authority

La Comisión Nacional de Vivienda es la instancia federal encargada de coordinar la función de promoción habitacional, así como de aplicar y cuidar que se cumplan los objetivos y metas del gobierno federal en materia de vivienda, plasmados en el Programa Nacional de Vivienda 2007-2012: Hacia un desarrollo habitacional sustentable

Fundación para la Vivienda Progresiva (FVP), a partner of CHF International

Fondo de Operación y Financiamiento Bancario a la Vivienda
FOVI es un Fideicomiso Público constituido en 1963 por el Gobierno Federal a través de la Secretaría de Hacienda y Crédito Público en Banco de México, el cual es administrado por la Sociedad Hipotecaria Federal, S.N.C. a partir del 26 de febrero de 2002.

The International Union for Housing Finance (IUHF) is a primary source of information for trends and innovations in housing finance and mortgage lending from around the world. In doing this, we hope to increase the rates of home ownership globally by expanding the availability of mortgage credit.

World Bank
Housing and Land Development

Harvard Joint Center for Housing
Current Housing Situation in Mexico 2005
Prepared by Centro de Investigacion y Documentacion de la Casa (CIDOC) and Sociedad Hipotecaria Federal with support from Comision Nacional de Fomento a la Vivienda and Joint Center for Housing Studies of Harvard University.

Inter-American Development Bank
Effects of Land Titling on Child Health

Economic Development

Economic development is an elusive topic because it embodies various aspects of life. This essay will try to define the term, distinguish it from economic growth, and describe related theories and tools. Finally this essay will provide policy suggestions for specific target business and certain beneficiaries of South Florida’s low-income areas.
Economic growth is centered on the short-term expansion of the local economy by creating jobs, adding additional business, and increasing the household median income (or GNP at the country level). In general, growth models are concerned with stimulating business cycles, attracting new business and creating employment. Tools used evaluate the industrial mix, the export industries and the rate of growth in a particular locality (Malizia & Feser, 2000, pg. 244). “Growth typically leads to more employment and aggregate income, a larger tax base, and higher property values,” (Malizia & Feser, 2000, pg. 248). Therefore, the role of institutions, like the Beacon council or similar Chamber of Commerce, who measure the increases in jobs in a specific area are promoting economic growth and not development.
Economic development is a long-term process. City planners and economic developers use analytical tools (like shift share analysis) to understand the longer trends in a local economy and make comparison with other areas (reference economy). They are more concerned with competition to other areas than the short-term gains in a particular market. Economic developers are not only interested in income level, but also the distribution of wealth (equity) and its long-term stabilization. They look at growth trends, studying their origins, spurts, and outcomes.
The bottom line, if there is no growth, there will be no economic development. Specifically economic developers are interested in the diversity in the market place, centrality to information and transportation hubs and resiliency for producing goods efficiency with a skilled labor force. Most notably, economic developers do not create jobs, but facilitate their creation by providing a good quality of life, promoting a investment climate, offering credit to start-ups and servicing the public in their perceived business needs. Essentially, economic developers must adjust their strategies to their local realities, including their labor market, universities, business climate, centrality or access to transportation hubs and the like.

This essay argues that the government should intervene in the market place. Encouraging economic development consists of “federal polices like taxation, monetary policy (interest rate, money supply, strength of dollar), trade, welfare, healthcare, employment/training, environmental regulation and funding” (Revell’s notes). If government did not intervene with subsides, regulation, tax, management or other controls: businesses would heavily pollute; the value of the dollar could become unstable depending on marketplace woos; trade with foreign countries would be sporadic; and citizens would not receive proper healthcare, education and training, so necessary to confront the ugly neo-classical world. Although the counterfactual, and a more radical view, is noteworthy, often intervention perpetuates wealth within the small space of the few involved, whether they are in business or government (Blair, 1995, pg. 7). Therefore citizens of a country should be mindful and watch this effect closely.
Theories are used to understand how and why economic development happens. Although they are not always directly used in practice, they may assist policy makers define their agendas (Malizia & Feser, 2000, pg. 255).  For example, economic base theory suggests that local economies consist of basic industries and non-basic that support a high quality workforce. The non-basic industries, including services like a laundry mat, specialty shops, restaurants and entertainment places, drive the character of the local area and basic industries drive the growth. Economist use location quotients with SIC/NAICS data to determine which industries are located in their area. This can help identify business located in a region and construct comparisons to the reference economy. The export-lead businesses are typically highlighted by government agencies to generate new capital into an area. They use industrial recruitment, promotion to diversification and growth of forward and backward linkages for developing good local multipliers and generate the promotion of clusters (Porter, 2005; Revell’s notes). Public policies to promote increased efficiency in public services are typically used.
On the other hand there are newer theories to promote growth. They include endogenous growth theory, production cycle theory, entrepreneurship and human capital theory. These theories promote the creation of a new type of worker, with higher-level human capital, skills and entrepreneurship, who invent new technologies, which will drive the production cycle to new levels. These individuals start at the top of the cycle, as consumers use more products, they will earn higher prices for inventing new products and services, pushing the cycle to new levels. Florida suggests local governments should attract this new “creative class” by changing traditional policies of industrial recruitment and creating an “eclectic” environment (Florida, 2002). The past polices suggested creating workforce training centers, universities and technical colleges, and employment services for connecting the talent to the job market.  Florida’s radical policy change has generated many critiques. As an economic developer, it is too soon to tell whether his model works and cities should change totally adopt his mantra. 
There should be at least three-prong approach to policies for south Florida. They include: a) the promotion to current businesses and the attraction of new ones; b) research of target industries and promotion of clustering; and c) the engagement of an integrated welfare-to-work approach for the very poor. Next I will outline each and define their target communities and strategies to meeting the needs.
First, although typically seen as unfavorable, South Florida needs an active Chamber of Commerce or Beacon council type facility, which provide advertisements, promotion materials, but also engage the private sector to do business in the region (to keep the competitive advantage). They should be most interested in growth with the increases of community’s numbers of jobs. Their target audiences are businesses.  But I would transform the current organizational structure into a Community Development Corporation. This more inclusive non-profit community based organization will not only do the development promotional activities, it will also have a public-private board of directors including business representatives and citizens. Their work will include activities from filing for tax credits of the enterprise zone initiative to paining older façades in developing areas. This will require citizen’s involvement in their mission, vision and work plans. This inclusive model will cut the insular feel of the current institution and hopefully solicit new ideas for and from the community.
Next, the region should engage in synergies between research centers at university, government officials and businesses. The core audience should be long-term development planners.  This is Michael Porters use of target industries studies and cluster analysis (Porter, 2005, pg.17).  For example, it would encompass The Metropolitan Center’s Target Industry Study, which provided an assessment of growth and competitive of existing industries in Miami. By using NAICS data, the center identified the motion picture, furniture and plastics as places for potential industrial development. Inconsequentially, all of these industries could be categorized as Richard Florida “Creative Class.”  Beyond the method of analysis, the Metropolitan center, or similar public-private partnership think tank on innovation for the region, should promote and define specific policy to promote these areas, which have potential growth in the region. They could include policy recommendations like: 1) start developing the FEC corridor as mix used space; 2) create workers guilds in the identified geographic areas of motion picture, furniture and plastics industries; 3) set up an incubators, industrial parks and tax-free areas for locals to meet and interact; 4) design user-friendly open spaces for artist to display their work and create community support; 5) promote products by hosting trade shows and fairs. Finally as the study suggests the city could develop a Business Development Office within the City’s Department of Economic Development to provide economic assistance for small business in the FEC Corridor and develop a Mayor’s Invention Award to advertise the Mayor’s progressive work in this area.
Finally at the local level, I would prescribe a Wisconsin’s welfare-to-work model program aimed at getting jobs for the poor.  This consists of job banks, technical training programs, assistantship, and promotion of apprenticeship programs.  The jobs banks should facilitate computerized systems for linking jobs to the unemployed. They should offer daycare facilities, transportation vouchers and be linked to other social service assistance like signing up for Medicare and Medicaid, aids testing, driver’s licenses services, etc.  These one-stop shops aim at the poorest of the poor, in order to help them find jobs in the neo-classical economy and doggy-eat dog world.

Miami-Dade County Government

Briefing Paper describing the basic structure of Miami-Dade County Gov.

On January 26, 2007, Miami-Dade County implemented the Home Rule Amendment and Charter, allowing the County to be managed by a Strong Mayor.  This amendment, voted by the people of the County, radically revolutionized the potential for the Mayor’s role in advocating public policies for the regional area. This amendment passed changed 50 years of Council dominated management.  This essay will attempt to explain how the mayor, commissioners, and the county manager are chosen and what powers and responsibilities they have in the new form of government.
It is first noteworthy to mention, cities are not mentioned in the US Constitution. (Revell’s notes) Rather their autonomy and management is appropriated at the State level. Thus fulfilling the constitutional dreams of our Federalist fathers like Alexander Hamilton, James Madison and John Jay. The United States is just that, a unification of autonomist states that share the vision of unity.  Furthermore, the State Florida applies Home Rule, which means cities have self-determination of making decisions.  Home Rule fosters the devolution of authority. This is different than the Commonwealth of Virginia, which makes codes and regulations at the state level and mandates cities and counties to follow them. Commonwealth’s promote a consensus of the people for its policies mandated.
Not without standing, the State of Florida adopted Home Rule on November 6, 1956, making it remarkable that the county of Miami-Dade had not changed its authority structure in more than 50 years. (Miami –Dade adopted the home Rule Charter just a few months later in May 21, 1957, which further illustrates the devolution of power) . Furthermore, the Strong Mayor initiative came from the current Mayor Carlos Alverez in 2007, from his experience as police chief in the county.
The Strong Mayor form of government allows the mayor to have complete administrative authority. He or she can hire and dismiss all department heads without council approval, prepare and administer the budget, suggest ballot referendums, and manage all administrative aspects of the city. The Mayor’s most important job is to provide big picture policy initiatives and has the authority to veto the council’s legislation.  This is a simulation of the executive power of the Presidency.
The mayors’ rights and responsibility are also key. He or she may not be a member of the commission, but is elected with a direct vote from the people. The mayor reports his policy ideas and budget to the council every year.  His major role is in setting funding priorities by working with his appointed professional staff. Typically this includes the County Manager but it may also include a Chief Administrative Officer—often for larger cities—in addition to directors of finance, personnel, parks and recreation, clerks and circuit court members, etc. (Revell’s notes) Furthermore, as stated in the statute, the elected mayor must have lived in the county for at least three years before qualifying for the job, thus suggesting his alliance to the people. (Article 2 Section 2.01)
The County Manager is the right hand person to the mayor. This professional administrator reports directly to the Mayor (Article 4). It is important that the county manager is not a political position, but rather selected for his or her administrative capacity to run the city. Often times, the manager handles “operational duties”, while the mayor perform political event of “ceremonial capacity.” (Revell’s notes) The non-political nature of the county manager is important as to end the spoils system and the political machine where one political party operates and provides “benefits” to those who follow them.  Although potential collusion is still a threat with the Strong Mayor system, the Commissioners’ watchful eye is an important factor for evading corruption.
Each voting district selects a member of the Board of County Commissioners. The board is the governing body for Miami Dade County. They have the power collectively to set the county’s boarders, its name, and provide function and authority to any smaller level of government including municipal corporations. For example the board can create the special taxing districts that allow for chambers’ of commerce (the Beacon Council in the case of Miami Dade County) to attracted business and promote growth. The Board may abolish any units except school districts superintendents, Circuit Court or any other court’s actors, like the judges, clerks, etc. Furthermore, the Board has the power to override any of the laws created by these special districts if it so chooses. For that matter, the power that overrides the Board of County Commissioners is that of the State of Florida. It operates as a proxy senate for the regional area, but must abide by the State’s laws.
The Home Rule charter suggests the Board is in charge of the personal welfare of the citizens living in the county.  That includes the provision of health and welfare programs like housing, pollution control, and regulation of sewage and the water supply. The members do their job through levying and collecting taxes, barrowing money by issuing bonds and revenue certificates. They also provide licenses, maintain central records, regulate public transport and train fire fighters, among other things.
 There are only a few limiting powers of the Board. The largest is that it may not be a member of Public Utility and Railroad Commissions (managed at the State level). This is because the Board provides and regulates public goods for the citizens like toll-roads, bridges, tunnels, air, waterways and bus terminals. (Article 1: Section 1.01) The duplication of rules creates a conflict of interest and if not corruption, the perception thereof.
Additionally, the Board prepares and enforces the comprehensive plan for developing the county. This is particularly important to relate to the class of economic development and community renewal.  The Board of County Commissioners establish, coordinate and enforce zoning; issue licenses; regulate, control and manage franchises for the implementation of public services (mentioned above). They are in charge the special assessments and general tax levying districts used to attract new business for tax collection. Interesting, the Board must use 2/3-majority vote to select a franchise to manage public services, but it cannot operate light, power or telephone utility. (Article 1: Section 1.01.14) Otherwise, technically the County can run any free business it wants, just as long as it returns the wealth back to the community. The Board does mange these operations and its public employees through performance standards. It may also contract subunits to manage these operations. Furthermore it can use public funds to promote and advertise the development of the region.
The Board’s role in the use of eminent domain is vital in the future of economic development for the region. This vital tool allows the Board to “condemn property for public purposes.” (Section 1.01.14) The process of taking private property and using for public utility is of great debate in the State of Florida especially after the Supreme Court Case of Kelo vs. The City of New London. (Revell’s notes) Such occurrences have developed highways, railroads and now recently a strip-mall to generate wealth for the state.
The separation of power and authority between the various official positions is important as to eliminate and minimize the potential for corruption. This foundation of the American democratic system not only applies to the Federal level, but the roles and responsibilities of how our cities are run. This essay has tried to argue the current Strong Mayor position has created a further separation of power, while creating an elected official over all accountable to the bureaucracy that runs Miami Dade County—a job that thirteen current Board of Commissionaires are less capable of doing with efficiency and efficacy. Rather their support and supervisory role to the Mayor is appropriate to ensure that all the voices are heard in Miami Dade County.

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Effective Public Service Delivery in Latin America: Can it be done at the Local Level?

Local governments in Latin America are perceived to have low levels of autonomy, fiscal capacity and human resources, which apparently makes it difficult for them to deliver public services effectively and efficiently (Campbell 2003, Tulchin and Selee 2004). 

Yet increase devolution of authority has increased their necessity to effectively deliver public services. Countries in the region started to decentralize by entrusting state functions, like implementing social policies, managing local budgets and contracting out public services, to local governments in the early 1980s (Montero and Samuels 2004). 

This was coupled with various democratization movements throughout the same period, local elections became prevalent (Gibson 2004, Tulchin and Selee 2004). Increasingly, local governments have become a unit of analysis for research in the region, just as many academics have separated the decentralization movement into political, administrative and fiscal reforms (Falleti 2005, Tulchin and Selee 2004). 

The purpose of this paper is to better understand the capacity of local governments in Latin America to implement public policies and distribute public goods. It seeks to answer the following questions: What is the relationship between decentralization and its local public budgets? Are more fiscally autonomous cities in Latin America better able to promote better public policies? How are cities paying for their local public services? 

The research uses a mixed methodology to explore how cities make decisions to innovate, develop and finance public services. First, this study will provide a comparative analysis of decentralization policies in Argentina and Mexico as a means to gain a better understanding of the degree of autonomy exercised by local governments. Next, it will examine the budgets and fiscal capacity of cities within Argentina—Santa Fe, Rosario, and Rafaela—and Mexico—Leon, Guanajuato and San Miguel de Allende. Specific attention will be paid to each city’s efforts at collecting taxes and paying for public services. 

Finally, this research will also use statistical data gathered from Latin American municipal associations to test whether cities which report being more fiscally autonomous (measured by the collection of more own-source revenue) are better able to effectively deliver public services.

Thursday, November 15, 2012

Bogotá, Medellín, and Cali

Successful Citizen Security Initiatives in Bogotá, Medellín, and Cali,
Colombia:  Are They Sustainable and Replicable?

Thursday, November 29, 2012
9:00 a.m. – 1:00 p.m.
Sixth Floor Board Room
Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars
1300 Pennsylvania Avenue, N.W.
Washington, D.C.

Improvements in citizen security in Bogotá, Medellín, and Cali, Colombia have been widely celebrated and these cities have become models of “best practices” for combating crime and violence in urban areas worldwide.  What explains these success stories and why have there been some setbacks?  A distinguished group of analysts and practitioners will identify the key policy initiatives undertaken at the municipal and national level in order to assess the sustainability of security gains and whether they are replicable in other settings.

9:00-9:15 a.m.:  Introductory Remarks                                     
          Cynthia J. Arnson, Director, Latin American Program

9:15 – 11:00 a.m.: Panel I – What Has Happened and Why?

          Dr. Rodrigo Guerrero, Mayor of Cali
          Jorge Giraldo Ramírez, Universidad  EAFIT, Medellín
          Ariel Ávila, Corporación Arco Iris, Bogotá

11:15 – 1:00 p.m.: Panel II – Cross-Cutting Views: Lessons Learned, Sustainability, and Replicability

          Aldo Civico, Rutgers University
          Nathalie Alvarado, Inter-American Development Bank
          María Victoria Llorente, Fundación Ideas para la Paz

We hope you can join us for this critical discussion.  Please click here to RSVP or email, acceptances only, to

Cynthia J. Arnson
Director, Latin American Program

Latin American Tax Reserach Centers

Revenue Statistics in Latin America aims to provide internationally comparable data on tax levels and tax structures for a selection of Latin American and Caribbean (LAC) countries. Using the same methodology as the OECD Revenue Statistics database, this publication presents cross-country comparisons between LAC economies, and, between LAC and OECD economies. This work is part of the OECD LAC Fiscal Initiative, which aims to improve taxation and public expenditure policies to support stronger economic growth and fairer income distribution. This publication has been financially supported by the Agencia Española de Cooperación Internacional para el Desarrollo (AECID) and the Fundación Internacional para Iberoamérica de Administración y Políticas Públicas (FIIAPP). For more information on Revenue Statistics in Latin America and the LAC Fiscal Initiative please consult and

The Inter-American Centre of Tax Administrations (CIAT)
CIAT ( is an international public organization with a non-profit aim, which promotes international cooperation and the exchange of experiences and information related to tax administrations. It also delivers technical assistance services, studies and training. It was founded in 1967 as an initiative of American countries to serve as a permanent forum to address the issues and concerns of tax administrators. Currently CIAT has 39 member countries and associate member countries from 4 continents: 31 countries of the Americas, 5 European countries, 2 African countries and 1 Asian country.

The Economic Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean (ECLAC)
ECLAC ( is one of the five regional commissions of the United Nations. Its headquarters are in Santiago, Chile. ECLAC contributes to the economic and social development of Latin America and the Caribbean through regional and sub-regional cooperation. Its objective is to integrate; gather, organize, interpret and disseminate information and data relating to the economic and social development of the region and provide advisory services to Governments at their request.

The OECD Centre for Tax Policy and Administration
The Centre for Tax Policy and Administration (CTPA) ( is the focal point for the OECD’s work on taxation. The Centre provides technical expertise and support to the Committee on Fiscal Affairs and examines all aspects of taxation other than macro-fiscal policy. Its work covers international and domestic tax issues, direct and indirect taxes, tax policy and tax administration. CTPA also carries out an extensive global programme of dialogue between OECD and developing country tax officials through events held annually on the full range of OECD tax work, bringing together almost 100 non-OECD economies.

The OECD Development Centre
The Development Centre ( helps policy makers in OECD and partner countries find innovative solutions to the global challenges of development and poverty alleviation. It is a unique institution within the OECD and the international community, where the governments of Member and developing and emerging countries, enterprises and civil society organisations discuss questions of common interest informally.

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

The Belly of an Architecture

November 6, 2012, 7:33 am

The Belly of an Architecture

BEIJING - Late last month, I attended the opening of the British-Iraqi architect Zaha Hadid's latest work, the Galaxy Soho. A gargantuan structure of white curved orbs connected by sky-bridges, it towered over the squat, Soviet-style buildings nearby - like a spaceship just landed in downtown Beijing.

Thousands of people had turned up to see the new structure unveiled. They swarmed three floors of indoor balconies, straining to catch a glimpse of Hadid giving a talk in an inner courtyard below. Despite the crush, the atmosphere was giddy.

The people of Beijing seem excited about how their city is being shaped. And so they should be. Architecture in China today is bold and unapologetic.

But it embodies China's rapid growth in less positive ways, too. Although the industry is buoyant these days, its long-term benefits for the people who live here are questionable. Too often, form trumps function.

The creative space given to architects in Beijing - despite complaints that too many are foreign - offers a welcome distraction to the ambient ugliness. Beijing is seeped in gray, and notable for vast boulevards and imposing squares, clogged ring roads and the drab tower blocks that line them. Until recently, relief from this bleakness could be found mainly in remarkable imperial sights, the historic hutongs - of which a tiny percentage are now left - and a handful of funky areas like 798 Art Zone, a former factory area that was converted into an art district beginning in the late 1990s.

Since Beijing won the bid to host the Olympic Games in 2008 construction has been rabid. But if impressive new buildings are improving the city's look, the real gems are few and far between. Concerns about visual context are less pressing here than in much of the United States or Europe. Ultimately, Beijing's skyline is being shaped by politics more than anything, leading to poor urban planning and questionable construction standards.

Many buildings created to inspire awe stand on huge, inhuman streets - themselves designed for cars rather than people - behind menacing gated squares. Iconic buildings, including those designed for the 2008 Olympics, have scant regard for the individual. The iconic "Egg," or National Center for the Performing Arts, is a gorgeous dome completely surrounded - and shielded - by a pool of water.

Poor construction - a byproduct of fast development, corruption and unskilled migrant laborers - also is a stain on Beijing architecture. Last summer, a large panel toppled from the sheer glass front of the Beijing Institute of Architectural Design, the state-owned institution responsible for large-scale public design; it remained unfixed for months.

Or take Sanlitun Soho, a project opened in 2010 by SOHO China Limited, Beijing's largest real-estate developer and the company behind the new Hadid building. Designed by the renowned Japanese architect Kengo Kuma, Sanlitun Soho's five shopping malls and nine office and apartment buildings cluster around an outdoor waterscaped courtyard. The complex is intimidating. Its commercial space is largely empty, thanks to a glut of malls elsewhere in Beijing. In winter, racing winds howl through the courtyard. Some finishings are already scuffed from lack of upkeep, giving the development a desolate feel.

Last month, just as I walked out of the Galaxy Soho after the glitzy opening, I stepped into a mega traffic jam on the 2nd ring road. However smooth and white the building's interior, the world outside remains noisy and chaotic.

Friday, November 09, 2012

Mars and taxes

Mars and taxes

By Matt Miller, Published: August 8

“The rover ushers in a new era of exploration that could turn up evidence that the Red Planet once had the necessary ingredients for life — or might even still harbor life today.” — the New York Times, Aug. 6.

(A subterranean classroom on Mars. Life forms appear humanoid except for much larger brains. All wear white garments that look like silk nightgowns. Students gab before their professor shows up).

Student 1: This one seems bigger.

Student 2: Pretty fancy landing.

Student 3: But it still doesn’t know we’re here, right.

S1: It scoops soil. It can’t detect underground cities. They’re still pretty primitive . . .
(Snickers and nods all around. Professor enters.)

P: All right, gentlemartians. Enough about the rover. Welcome to Advanced Topics in Earthling Political Economy. If that’s not the seminar you signed up for, now would be a good time to leave. Has everyone done the reading for our first class?

S1: Yes, mentor, but something is wrong. The earthlings at the — (looks down at paper) — “Tax Policy Center” obviously can’t do simple mathematics.

S2: He’s right, mentor, it makes no sense.

P: Why do you say that?

S1: Because their new report finds that the Republican primate Mitt Romney wants to cut taxes on wealthy Americans and raise them on everyone else.

P: Now, remember, colleagues, what’s the first rule you learned last year in analyzing earthling political behavior? The one thing you must never forget?
All students (in unison): “Never assume fairness or reason.”

P: Exactly!

S2: But, mentor, even granting this principle, there must be some practical limit.

S3: It’s true, mentor — or the judgment we would have to render is harsh.
P: Explain.

S1: Well, we collected data, as you suggested. The richest 400 Americans have more wealth than the bottom 150 million Americans combined.

S2: Half the jobs in America pay under $34,000 a year.

S3: One hundred million Americans have incomes of less than twice their poverty line. That’s $38,000 for a family of three.

S1: Forty-four percent lack savings or a pension to meet basic retirement expenses.

S2: Nearly half of all Americans say they’d have a hard time coming up with $2,000 in 30 days if an emergency arose.

S3: So to propose, in the face of these facts, to tilt the distribution of income even more toward the top would be . . .

P: What?

S3: Well, it would be illogical, mentor.

P: Republican primates care nothing for logic!

S1: It’s immoral, mentor. Even by Earth’s standards.

P: Republican primates care nothing for morality! If they did, they wouldn’t have cut taxes repeatedly for rich people during a decade of war! Stop thinking like a Martian and put yourselves in their shoes.

S2: But it also seems pathological. Not to mention self-defeating. Because squeezing the masses should eventually produce a violent reaction.

P: Ah ha! Self-preservation! Now we’re getting somewhere. Who can explain why the Republican primates might overreach to the point of risking violent backlash?

S1: I’ve wondered the same thing, mentor.

S2: Yes, mentor — what’s the matter with Kansas? (Giggles erupt around the room).

P: I see you’ve been reading ahead! The truth, gentlemartians, is that Kansas is frightened.
And numb. That’s what the Republican primates have figured out. And the Democratic primates are too witless to rouse them. In a global economy, Republican primates know that a billion poor souls across the planet would give anything to be America’s “working poor.” That’s why their de facto slogan is so, well, neanderthal. You’re lucky to be in America! You’re lucky to have a job! You’re lucky to have the emergency room!

S1: It’s shocking, mentor. For a quote-unquote “advanced nation.” But it seems to work.

P1: We know, of course, from our own history that primitive civilizations pass through such a phase. As humans evolve, these patterns will eventually be transcended. But not until progressive primates muster more convincing arguments and bolder ideas. Until then, they’ll anesthetize the population with Gabby the Flying Squirrel and . . . (winking his middle eye) Mars rover landings . . .

S2: These humans are so easily manipulated. Will there ever be intelligent life on Earth?

P: An excellent question to ponder until we meet next week!

S1: One last thing, mentor.

P: Yes?

S1: Who will the earthling Romney pick for VP?

P: I’m betting Rubio. These Republican primates may be perverse. But they play to win.
Matt Miller, a co-host of public radio’s “Left, Right & Center,” writes a weekly online column for The Post. His e-mail address is

USG and Urbanization....

Urbanization, City Planning, Global Health and Economic Development: How these Policies Affect Local Governments
by Heidi Smith

The new office of Special Representative of Inter-governmental Affairs at the US State Department, which reports directly to Secretary Clinton, works to engage State and Local leaders across the globe as they are critical actors in the governance processes. Work done today, focusing on management and technical roles for local governments, is key to successful implication of international public policy and also helps lead to stronger national governments and economies. Simply put, our goal is to see more efficient and effective local governments.

Truthful community discussions about city priorities and gentrification will lead to more promising economic development. Clear understanding and knowing of what cities do and how they are run, may help create healthy relationships between different levels of government. The US applauds Latin America in its work towards participatory planning and budgeting. This innovation comes from Curitiba where the HUD Sec. Shaun Donavon visited to learn about these experiences and replicate them back home in the US.

Furthermore, one specific example of how local governments play a necessary role to encourage economic development is in housing sector. Financial inclusion and the promotion of low income housing finance for the poor are top priorities to President Obama. We look forward to working with interested governments to help expand access to affordable housing.

We believe the US government, with Sec. Donavon’s renewed efforts at focusing HUD into a new generation New-Federalism, can help ensure affordable housing is assessable to everyone by sharing lessons learned in the housing finance sector. This is just one area where we can work to strengthen our international presence.

A Call for Wilsonian Reform in Latin America

A Call for Wilsonian Reform in Latin America: Public administration as a reference for implementation of the Summit of the Americas agreements

ABSTRACT This paper is a theoretical and historical view of the field of American public administration. It describes how researchers have evaluated the governmental structures; sought after the implementation of efficient and equitable public policies; and inquired about the most effective political-administrative dichotomy. The study of Public Administration is the search for the best way to run public institutions. As an applied political science, this paper will call into question the promotion of democratic practices and ask: Who in Latin America is studying public administration?

Why does the United Sates have a strong democratic government? Is it that the US has a stronger constitution than Latin American governments? Maybe in the US the political parties are less corrupt? Or does the US government have fewer predispositions about influences citizen lives? Even more frequently cited is America’s strong “democratic culture” vs. the weak ones in Latin America. If one reads the newspapers or follows American politics, there is frequent reference to possible legislators corruption, with campaign finance reform always a hot topics to solve the “party problems.” Additionally, gerrymandering still lives on to this day; with frequent redistricting requests proposed by congress for “preventive measures.” The Supreme Court reviews hundreds of cases each year to investigate for plausible constitutional reform. The Americas Civil Liberties Union, a watchdog to ensure that the government does not invade people privacy, receives handfuls of complaints of possible constitutional violations each year. Equally disturbing, Americans are some of the poorest to participate in the political system, with voter turn out typically below fifty percent. And now social scientists have determined that Americans are “bowling alone.” Without social groups to volunteer with, there are declining levels of social capital. So why does the US government work at all? 
Maybe theorists should look at the field of public administration for answers. Too often political scientists analyze constitutional reforms, political parties or state-society relations, civil society, or social capital bonding as rational for why Latin American governments don’t work. But few researchers evaluate the governmental structure; it’s ability to implement efficient and equitable public policies; or it’s effective political-administrative dichotomy. The study of Public Administration is the search for the best way to run public institutions. It is applied political science. Who in Latin America is studying public administration? It can be argued that there has not been a true Wilsonian governmental reform in Latin America. This essay will define the history of US public administration as a subfield of political science, provide its significant heritage, and will argue that Latin America needs a Wilsonian transformation in order to modernize their government structures and systems.
Traditional study of American public administration is consistent with US history. Major tenets within the field follow along with events in American history. Although recently several postmodernist scholars, namely Camilla Stivers, Charles Fox and Hugh Miller, have called into question whose history is correct, suggesting that the relativity of truth is in the eye of the beholder—a topic, which will be treated and applied later in the essay. Frequently referenced in the traditional American literature is the field of American public administration began in the progressive era, a period of reforms in the US lasting from the 1890s through the 1920s, and with former President Woodrow Wilson’s foundational essay.
Wilson wrote “The Study of Administration” in 1887, before he was president, as a response to the Pendleton Civil Service Reform Act.  This federal law established the merit base system for bureaucrats, eliminating nepotisms in public agencies. Wilson’s essay, which was discovered years after it was written, argues for the separation of politics from administration. He argues that public administration should take a business like approach performing its work to be more appropriate, efficient and cost effective. This is the first positivist view of how to analyze public problems. It uses a scientific formula and business, models applying managerial techniques, to organize public structures. In this essay, Wilson is quoted for saying “it is getting harder to run a constitution than to frame one.” Wilson is arguably called the father of American Public Administration.
Approximately when Wilson’s essay was found, several people used it to professionalize the field of public administration. With a strong argument to better manage government, New York’s citizens began a movement to improve local governments to be more responsible to communities. Namely in this group included academics like Larry Gulick, Frank Goodnow and Leonard White. They were unhappy with the way New York City and other New England towns were managing its finances and providing public services. The New York group set up the Bureau of Municipal Research to study how the government was using city resources.
The Bureau Men, as Stivers later coined them, not only created an independent government watchdog, they also envisioned training future bureaucrats to manage city governments, budget and policies. For example the first of such was when the New York Bureau of Municipal Research opened its training school for public service with a small class in 1911. Students, primarily men, had diverse backgrounds in business, government and the social services. The hope was to convert the students into professional bureaucrats with classes in business, finances, organizational design and management. Furthermore, they also engaged philanthropists like Andrew Carnegie and John D. Rockefeller, Jr. to start professional schools of PA. With this financing, these entrepreneurs organized the National Institute of Pubic Administration (NIPA) incorporated in April 1921 and soon certified additional training schools of pubic services.
Various schools popped up to advocate for the scientific management of public institutions. For example, the Maxwell School in Syracuse, New York; Harvard’s School of Government in Boston; also programs were later developed at Yale in Connecticut and Columbia in New York City. The University of Chicago set up a school in the 1920s to include both public administration and social work. In the quest for teaching scientific based management and analysis, the school’s founders also had a personal dedication, to the students and professors. The founders vision for a better American society lead their pursuits to build more schools. Their mission was to establish PA schools in order to analyze government’s work and make it work better for the American society as a whole.
While the practical teaching took off, theorists questioned various assumptions of what to teach the students. Of particular importance was the scientific-positivist approach of management described by Fredrick W. Taylor in his essay “Scientific Management.” Taylor felt that the best management is like science in that “it rests upon clearly defined laws, rules and principles.” He suggested methods to make workers more productive and provided a framework for future positivist work. Additionally to this movement, Henry Ford’s model of processing widgets and assembling cars over a conveyer belt was used to describe the quest for efficiency in production.
Adding to the efficiency literature, political scientist Larry Gulick theorized how to provide government services more effectively. His suggested that a strict division of labor and the coordination of workers in an organization could make it more efficient. He suggested chief executives follow his POSDCCORB typology, which stands for Planning, Organizing, Staffing, Directing, Coordinating, Reporting, and Budgeting. He taught at Columbia University and was a staff member of the New York Bureau of Municipal Research (later renamed to NIPA).
Political scientist Leonard White furthered Wilson’s discussion of the political and administrative dichotomy, by adding that management should adjust to America’s federalist state and its organizational structure.  For example the centralized power—moving from the local, to the state, and the national level of government, should have a powerful executive—or the mayor at the local level, governor at the state, and the president at the national level. He argued that administration is the heart of the modern government, and you must have a strong executive to weave through its politics. For him, politics is inherently managed by the administration and vice versa. White argued that on the political side, it is important to design the best governmental institutions. This further analysis of the politics-administration dichotomy (White 1926) of the US presidents furthered the field. Interestingly White was not only an academic, but also worked as an advisory for the federal government. After working in the (three) administrations of Franklin D. Roosevelt, White left the federal government to serve as a professor at the University of Chicago. 

Another influential professor in the quest for administrative-political dichotomy was Frank J. Goodnow. He also inspired the Bureau’s municipal research agenda. In his essay “Politics and Administration” written in 1900, he attempted to give different roles and purposes to government’s administrative and political sides. Goodnow argued that the administrative side dealt with the implementation and the processes, while the political side focused on creating the institutions that formulate, adopt, and implement policies. But again each side influenced each other, reinforcing the others actions. Goodnow was president of John Hopkins University, advisor to the Roosevelt and Taft administrations and taught at Amherst on both public administration and administrative law.
Around the same time Jane Adams organized the Hull House in Chicago. With the central mission to provide social and educational opportunities for working class people (including many recent immigrants) in the surrounding neighborhoods, several hundred of these homes were established throughout the US in the 1920s. This social service provision was one of the first of its kinds. The houses are remembered as a large asset to in the development of the US, assisting many new immigrants to settle into American communities. Adams, although only recently recognized for her PA work related to public administration, advanced the field of social policy. She used social evaluations of her residents and neighbors to better define the type of care they needed. One tangible outcome of Adams’ PA work was her cohort from the Hull House Julia Lathrop adopted Adams models as the chief of the US Children’s Bureau, a federal agency aiding families and children, in 1912.
The academic discussions between business and politics, efficiency and effectiveness and the importance of politics and management, continues even today. Another major theme in PA history is the study of the organization. Notable work in this area was by Paul Appleby, in his essay “Government Is Different” written in 1945. He suggested that the “public” part of public administration made it different than running a business. For him, this organizational animal was inherently different. Public decision-making processes are more pluralistic and not solely developed on standards of efficiency or profit maximization. Also, the public scrutinizes government outcomes more than business. Appleby describes the public-interest attitude that government official must have, intrinsically makes it less efficient than a private business and should be analyzed as such.
Additionally, Max Weber’s ideal hierarchical typology is used in the field of public administration to define organizational structural roles like leadership, management, and efficiency. For Weber, programs are clearly assigned by function. Organizational unit interact with formal relationships, interaction is typically in writing. There is little chaos or cross-fertilization of ideas in a bureaucracy. Instead an administrator’s work should be smooth and managed in an orderly fashion. Weber defines the hierarchy in “pure types,” which authority is divided into legal, traditional and charismatic. Ideal types and models allow academics a place of comparison, to describe how the real world actually works.
Furthermore, organizational structures are discussed in “ The American System,” written in 1966 by Morton Grodzins, and “Administrative Decentralization and Political Power,” written in 1969 by Herbert Kaufman. These essays argue that government must represent society, as a whole, and in doing so, have organizational issues. Grodzins suggests that functions overlap in government. He describes chaos found in the US government, with its mixture of powers from the various layers of local, state and national governments. Each layer has a separate propose and intent, which makes a “Marble Cake” affect in America—overlapping tensions and roles of government. Whereas the functions may overlap, this chaos defines the American system as a whole. Furthering this discussion, Kaufman calls for more decentralization and direct democracy, where citizen controls of local resources by participating in government agencies. He also advocates for the creation of an “Advisory Commission of Intergovernmental Relations,” which he suggest would assist local actors to navigate though federal agencies and programs in order to provide appropriate services to citizens.
These characteristics of the American system of government not only establishes the field of American public administration, but they also distinguish the US’s form of government from other nations. Each of the above theorists, academics and practitioners alike are concerned with producing better public policies, making government more efficient and creating a better society. In studying government, it furthers academics to push further in understanding why the US works as it does.
 In that same vein, Dwight Waldo is best known for his use of political theory and history to define the field of public administration, viewing past US presidents and how they administered the country as examples of PA. Although an advocate of administrative efficiency, Waldo warned the use of too much positivist and scientific approach to understand how government work is insufficient. In his writings of the 1950, he includes the art of maneuvering politics in the PA framework. Waldo’s criticism was instrumental to develop the separate new field of public management, which used more scientific proofs than PA.
Finally the last notable American scholar studying PA is Herbert Simon—the only political scientist ever awarded a Nobel Prize for his intellectual achievements. This professor from the University of Chicago, not only studied government and public administration, but also incorporated behavioral characteristics, problem solving, complex systems and system theory into his analysis of why governments work as they do. And the list continues as American public administrators and theorists originate and create an academic debate on how to make an effective political system.

Additional PA topics not addressed in this essay are many.  The work of “public” and ethics movement of government, public policy vs. public management, New Public Management and the efforts of reinventing government are all relevant in today’s society. Also academic have studied decision-making models, organizational culture and management, issues like taking orders, are among many other ideas theorist have used to define how to run the American government. But what is relevant, is that the US has a strong political culture to question authority, separate the political institution and create education institutions for further academic debate, suggest new ways to go about is public business. The development of the US is also associated with the development of its political institutions.  The US’s political heritage has evolved over time and will do so in to the future.
Postmodernists argue that it is important to recognize ones “history” and each “history” is told through the eye of the beholder. They question what our common history is and how was it derived. The “relativity” of perspective is important also in the field of PA. It can be argued that Latin America needs to develop its own public administration history in order to create a field for itself. It is not what the American’s have done, but what each country has developed for itself as how to manage its own state of affairs. The foundational wisdom of Woodrow Wilson in creating the first political-administration dichotomy is relevant for Latin America but only insomuch as it can develop its on country-by-country past for analyzing public institutions.
Recently, the International Committee of the US-based National Association of School of Public Affairs and Administration (NASPAA) has decided to help this process along. It is assisting to develop the Inter-American Network of Public Administration Education (INPAE).[1] Created in 2000, this regional network of schools working in public administration and policy analysis in Latin America and the Caribbean has more than 25 members from top research schools in various countries throughout the hemisphere. Its mission is to develop the professional study of public administration and public policy outside of government control or management. Creating this political-administration dichotomy is the first step towards true administrative reform and state modernization efforts. Further creativity by academics, practitioners and researchers will need to use this field to model a better state for each country in Latin America.
Moreover, the Summits of the Americas is just another international agreement and event for presidents to come together and discuss top priorities of the day. Whether the governments are able to interpret the signed agreements and implement them on their own terms will depend on how they manage their own bureaucracies.  Americans must realize that each country must administer policies and political commitments on their own time and bureaucracies. Finally, above all else, the study of public administration has long been criticized for its tensions between science and art. The current new focus in the US is on New Public Management, which is just another push for more scientific approach to public policy, or positivism in the social sciences. But politics is an art and it must equally be studied. Therefore maybe the best way to define PA is that it’s a craft. If Latin American can take this craft and adopt it for its own, they will also have strong institutions to manage public issues.


Appleby, Paul (1945). Government Is Different

Goodnow, Frank J. (1900). Politics and Administration

Grodzins, Morton (1966). The American System

Gulick, Luther (1937). Notes on the Theory of Organization

Kaufman, Herbert (1969). Administrative Decentralization and Political Power

Simon, Herbert A. (1946). Proverbs of Administration

Stivers, Camilla (2000). Bureau Men, Settlement Women

Taylor, Fredrick W. (1912) Scientific Management

Weber, Max (1922). Bureaucracy

White, Leonard D (1926). Introduction to the Study of Public Administration

Wilson, Woodrow (1887). The Study of Administration

Waldo, Dwight (1948) The Administrative State: Conclusion

Thursday, September 13, 2012

Pragmatic Mayors in America

Mayors at the convention Urban nation Democrats give cities their due respect

Sep 8th 2012 | CHARLOTTE, NORTH CAROLINA | from the print edition

At last, a good Castro ONE, the grandson of an immigrant maid, delivered a moving keynote address centred on upward mobility, opportunity and education. Another praised the “black and white families [who] met and decided together to break down the barriers that had so long divided their children.”

A third recalled his widowed mother’s struggles to run an inner-city pharmacy. And a fourth introduced his party’s platform, which, he said, “is not about partisanship but pragmatism”. These four mayors—respectively Julián Castro of San Antonio, Anthony Foxx of Charlotte, R.T. Rybak of Minneapolis and Cory Booker of Newark—all spoke on the opening night of the Democratic convention. So did Barack Obama’s former chief of staff, Rahm Emanuel, now mayor of Chicago.

Three more mayors spoke the next night, including Antonio Villaraigosa of Los Angeles, who chaired the convention. The Republican convention, by contrast, featured just three, including Bob Buckhorn, mayor of Tampa, the host city, who, as is customary, welcomed the delegates early on the first day; and Mia Love, a picture-perfect candidate (a black woman and a Mormon who is mayor of a small city in Utah).

 Democratic National Convention Democratic Party (United States) Politics Government and politics Local politics The uncharitable might point out that the Democratic convention featured mayors because they have little else left. In the 2010 mid-terms Democrats lost 63 House seats, six Senate seats, six governorships and a whopping 680 seats in state legislatures, giving Republicans bicameral legislative and executive control in 15 states and the biggest tally of state legislators since 1928.

Cities remain one of the few reliably Democratic power bases: of America’s 20 biggest, just three (San Diego, Indianapolis and Fort Worth) have Republican mayors. But the featured role given to American cities also is a useful reminder that while Mitt Romney’s roots, like George W. Bush’s, are in the business world, Mr Obama’s are in the messy pragmatism of city politics. He worked as a community organiser in Chicago before representing the city’s South Side in the Illinois senate. Less than a month after his inauguration he created the White House Office of Urban Affairs in order to “articulate goals for cities and metropolitan areas” and to “advance the goals of competitiveness, sustainability and inclusion”.

 Many of his cabinet secretaries share his urban roots: Shaun Donovan, for instance, ran New York’s public-housing department before becoming secretary of housing and urban development, while Arne Duncan, Mr Obama’s education secretary, previously ran Chicago’s schools. Those positions, like much of city governance, tend to be more pragmatic than partisan, and tend to focus on more tangible goals than national politics does. A candidate can get elected to Congress on the strength of a shiny grin and gauzy rhetoric; people want their mayors to fix potholes and keep the streets safe.

And as much as the right wants to turn Mr Obama into a blend of Karl Marx and Huey Newton, he is at base a rather cautious pragmatist—an approach that reflects not just his temperament but also his roots in urban politics. The prominence given to mayors at the convention is also a reminder that, for all the amber waves of grain and frontier nostalgia, more than four out of five Americans today live in urban areas. The rate of population growth in America’s cities exceeds the national average. America’s large cities generated nearly 85% of its GDP growth in 2010—a greater share of national output than cities in Europe, India or China. To feature the leaders of America’s economic engines and population centres is simply sound politics. from the print edition | United States

A comment on Napoles, World Urban Forum WUF 2012

URBAN WONK In Aiding Struggling Megacities, Can Any Conference Solve These Problems? ANTHONY FLINT9:00 AM ETCOMMENTS Reuters NAPLES, Italy – At the beginning of the World Urban Forum VI here last week, a conga line of sorts wound its way past the exhibits, from the solar-powered refugee shelter to the prototype gondola used as an alternate transport system in some favelas in South America. A large group, some in traditional African dress, chanted "Africa’s future is your future!" and "Toilets for all!" The boisterous invocation left no room for subtlety. Cities in sub-Saharan Africa are expecting an influx of tens of millions of poor rural migrants in the years ahead, flooding into already precarious conditions in sprawling megacities like Lagos. Overall, Africa will account for about half the total increase of urban population in the developing world, from 2 billion to 4 billion, over the next 30 years. Just picture these four billion people, living in cities in the developing world – places where, by some estimates, there may be one billion people already living in informal settlements, slums, and shantytowns, with no access to basic services such as clean water or sanitation, let alone education or arts or recreation, the fundamental elements of the metropolis elsewhere. Urbanization seems almost impossible to coordinate on a global basis. Each city is in some ways proceeding alone. All of which raised the question: is any conference up to this staggering challenge? Could any problem-solving gathering possibly make the way this trend plays out even a little bit better? More humane? Conferences about global cities struggle with the reputation of this pattern: advocates, government officials, academics and generally a great many smart people fly in from all over for several days, and then nothing happens. The World Urban Forum is run by the United Nations organization UN-Habitat, which has as its slogan "a better urban future." Under current director Joan Clos, a salt-and-pepper haired former mayor of Barcelona, the organization has shifted its emphasis from housing to cities in a broader perspective. The ambition of the gathering – held every two years, most recently in Rio de Janiero, and Nanjing before that – might be described as the definitive gathering on the great planet-wide urbanization project, the Davos of global cities. This year’s forum, from September 1 to 6 in the southern Italian port city overlooking Mount Vesuvius, was initially contemplated to be in Bahrain, but that fell through. Naples took up the cause admirably enough, welcoming some 10,000 registered participants to the Mostra D’Oltemare – a convention center complex built in 1940 as a fairgrounds to celebrate Mussolini’s imperial designs on Africa. One morning, both the bus drivers and the volunteers helping participants with logistical questions went on strike. Then the acoustics were so bad in the temporary conference rooms – inexplicably fitted with fabric ceilings – that translation headphones were needed to make out what the speakers were saying, even for English speakers. But the conversation went ahead, from the broad to the technical: how to create inexpensive sanitation or water-delivery systems; how to "regularize" informal settlement through titling or upgrading; how to deal with the impact of climate change in fast-growing cities, where poor populations will be most vulnerable to things like flooding associated with sea level rise. I was there with a delegation from the Lincoln Institute, in part to launch the book Planet of Cities, in which author Shlomo "Solly" Angel makes the case for acquiring urban land for major expansion of cities, rather than worrying so much about compactness or densification.  The earnest dedication to this one single problem – how to accommodate so many millions moving into cities as this century progresses – was uplifting, though not everyone thought so. An alternative group called Habitat International Coalition issues its own urban manifesto to match UN-Habitat’s, asserting that not nearly enough was done to address the plight of poor people and their "right to the city." But even considering this Occupy-style dissonance, as a policy challenge, urbanization seems almost impossible to coordinate on a global basis. Each city and each nation is in some ways proceeding alone. And who knows what unknowns and disasters await to complicate the project even further. A 30-minute train ride away from Naples lie the ruins of Pompeii, a glorious example of functioning urbanism with water and sewer infrastructure, open space, commercial centers, housing and the arts – all the more amazing for being in place more than 2,000 years ago. They had everything, my wife remarked. Everything, I said, but an evacuation plan. Top image: High-rise buildings are seen behind informal settlements in the Angolan capital of Luanda. (Siphiwe Sibeko/Reuters) Left inset: A talk at the World Urban Forum (Anthony Flint) Keywords: Urbanization, Megacities Anthony Flint is a fellow at the Lincoln Institute of Land Policy, a think tank in Cambridge, Mass., and author of Wrestling With Moses: How Jane Jacobs Took On New York’s Master Builder and Transformed the American City and This Land: The Battle Over Sprawl and the Future of America. His next book, The Raven: The Life of Le Corbusier, Maker of the Modern will be published in the fall of 2014 by Amazon Publishing. All posts »

Sub national Green Financing

Content Alert: The Avenue Blog
Banking on the States for Clean Energy Innovation
Posted: 12 Sep 2012 08:00 AM PDT

With Washington mired in unproductive argument this fall, it’s a great time to look elsewhere in America for smart, constructive problem-solving. Specifically, it’s a great time--in the realm of energy policy--to look at what’s going on in U.S. states, many of which have been at the forefront of implementing innovative clean energy solutions. Which is why my group at the Metropolitan Policy Program at Brookings (working with the team at Ken’s Coalition for Green Capital) just posted a new brief this morning on the growing interest among multiple states in state-level clean energy finance banking—a new innovation in U.S. energy finance and sub-national pragmatism.

Written by Reed Hundt of the coalition, Devashree Saha, and ourselves, the new brief (part of our Brookings-Rockefeller Project on State and Metropolitan Innovation) describes Connecticut’s path-breaking design of the nation’s first “green” bank and proposes ways other states might get into the act.

They probably need to. Financing the broad deployment of clean new energy and energy efficiency solutions remains one today’s most challenging energy policy problems. Energy efficiency projects remain complicated to finance given their large up-front costs and the limited capital resources available to consumers while the delivered cost of energy from renewable energy projects--even though its has been dropping rapidly--is still generally more expensive than the delivered cost of energy from conventional sources, making the widespread deployment of these projects problematic.

Most notably, clean solutions tend to falter in the marketplace because neither their full social benefits not their dirtier competitors’ full social costs are priced in, leaving those dirtier solutions cheaper. Yet, here is where Connecticut innovated.

By consolidating several existing programs into a new quasi-public corporation and then securing for the new entity the ability to raise and leverage funds from private sources, the state set up the nation’s first clean energy finance bank to leverage scarce public dollars with private capital so as to provide a combination of low-interest rate funding for clean energy projects and low-cost up-front loans for energy efficiency projects.

The result was the Connecticut Clean Energy Finance and Investment Authority, and over the last year the new entity has been making progress at transitioning Connecticut’s clean energy programs away from relatively expensive grants, rebates, and other subsidies toward the attraction and deployment of private capital to finance commercially available clean energy technologies.

Though the start-up has been slower than hoped for the concept remains promising. And so in this way, Gov. Dannel Malloy, Energy and Environment Commissioner Dan Esty, and the state’s legislature have scored what appears to be a significant institutional and finance breakthrough on one of the truly hard problems.

Drawing on such models as the Overseas Private Investment Corporation, the Export-Import Bank, and several foreign examples, such as U.K.’s Green Investment Bank and Australia’s proposed Clean Energy Finance Corporation, a determined U.S. state has pushed ahead, and now other states are interested. Work is getting done and our paper seeks to suggest a variety of ways interested other states can design their own clean energy finance authorities beginning from their own starting points. In the vein, while some states may need—like Connecticut—to establish a new quasi-public corporation into which to gather existing funds and then leverage them, other states may prefer to repurpose an existing finance authority or adjust an existing state-level infrastructure bank so as to attach a clean energy finance bank.

Others, moreover, may want to attach to their finance entity a special “innovation window” to provide financing solutions for scaling up riskier emerging technologies. There are many ways to proceed and states are looking at all of them, just as they have embraced the important concept of state-level infrastructure banks, as reviewed in a companion paper by my colleague Rob Puentes. In a way, then, the new paper represents a more encouraging follow-up to the story of pending federal policy roll-back I told earlier this year with colleagues from the World Resources and Breakthrough institutes.

Though Washington is gridlocked and retrenching, states are stepping up and inventing--once again. In that sense, clean energy, or “green,” finance banks look a lot like American federalism at its best.

Authors Mark Muro Ken Berlin Publication: The Avenue,
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Thursday, September 06, 2012


Tuesday, July 31, 2012




enough money within her control to move out
and rent a place of her own, even if she never wants to or needs to...


something perfect to wear if the employer, or date of her dreams wants to see her in an hour...


a youth she's content to leave behind....


a past juicy enough that she's looking forward to
retelling it in her old age. ...


a set of screwdrivers, a cordless drill, and a black lace bra...


one friend who always makes her laugh... and one who lets her cry...


a good piece of furniture not previously owned by anyone else in her family...


eight matching plates, wine glasses with ste ms, and a recipe for a meal, that will make her

guests feel honored...


a feeling of control over her destiny.


how to fall in love without losing herself.


how to quit a job, break up with a lover, and confront a friend without ruining the friendship...


when to try harder... and WHEN TO WALK AWAY...


that she can't change the length of her calves,
the width of her hips, or the nature of her parents..


that her childhood may not have been perfect...but its over...


what she would and wouldn't do for love or more...


how to live alone... even if she doesn't like it...


whom she can trust,
whom she can't,
and why she shouldn't take it personally...


where to go...
be it to her best friend's kitchen table...
or a charming inn in the woods...
when her soul needs soothing...


what she can and can't accomplish in a day... a month...and a year...

13 lineas para vivir

1. Te quiero no por quien eres, sino....... por quien soy cuando estoy contigo.
2 Ninguna persona merece tus lágrimas, y quien se  las merezca no te hará llorar.
3. Solo porque alguien no te ame como tú quieres, no significa que no te ame con todo su ser.
4. Un verdadero amigo es quien te toma de la mano y te toca el corazón.
5. La peor forma de extrañar a alguien es estar  sentado a su lado y saber que nunca lo podrás tener.
 6. Nunca dejes de sonreír, ni siquiera cuando estés triste, porque nunca sabes quien se puede enamorar de tu sonrisa.
7. Puedes ser solamente una persona para el mundo, pero para una persona tú eres el mundo.
8. No pases el tiempo con alguien que no esté dispuesto a pasarlo contigo..
9. Quizá Dios quiera que conozcas mucha gente equivocada antes de que conozcas a la persona adecuada, para que cuando al fin la conozcas sepas estar agradecido.
10. No llores porque ya se terminó, sonríe porque sucedió.
11. Siempre habrá gente que te lastime, así que lo que tienes que hacer es seguir confiando y solo ser más cuidadoso en quien confías dos veces.
12. Conviértete en una mejor persona y asegúrate de saber quien eres antes de conocer a alguien más y esperar que esa persona sepa quien eres.
13. No te esfuerces tanto, las mejores cosas suceden cuando menos te las esperas.

Making Bonds Work

Are governments always O ver-Indebtedness and Fiscally Irresponsible? Governmental debt and financial sustainability are pressing i...