Weekend Reading: City Journal

I couldn’t go through too many of these “weekend reading” posts without featuring America’s urban paper of record—City Journal. This is a quarterly published by the Manhattan Institute that counters, with its conservative viewpoint, much of today’s received wisdom on urban issues. It was begun in 1990 by Brian Anderson in response to decades of decline in New York City. To combat this, the journal had proposed that the city lower taxes and regulations, privatize services, modernize its policing, and demand a return to civic standards. Many of its policy suggestions were used by the Giuliani administration to great success; and more broadly, it became a bullhorn for the circus act that defined NYC in those tumultuous years, covering everything from Broken Windows policing, to race riots, to homelessness, to high-rise public housing, to the takeover by anarchists of Tompkins Square Park. While still covering NYC, it has shifted focus today to that other 800-pound gorilla of wasteful governance, California, and frequently discusses other U.S. cities.

The journal is unique not only because it defies the left, but by even bothering with urban issues, also much of the right. Today’s Republican Party, after all, consists of mostly suburban and rural constituencies, who deal only peripherally with city problems. But City Journal has long addressed these problems from street-level, offering a voice rarely heard in America’s heavily-Democratic city halls. I’ve compiled some of its best articles:

-Myron Magnet in 2008—on NYC’s degenerative atmosphere in the 1970s

-Nicole Gelinas in 2012—on why federal intervention into urban policy is a bad idea

-Daniel Patrick Moynihan in 1993—a transcript of a speech by the renowned Senator on how crime and illegitimacy skyrocketed in NYC

-David Brooks in 1994—before he became the famed New York Times columnist, comparing welfare in Europe and America

-Carolyn Lochhead in 1992—on Mark Green, the fanatical would-be mayor who ran against Giuliani

-Steven Malanga in 2008—on career panhandlers who travel to cities across the nation

-Heather MacDonald in 1993—on the bizarre story of Larry Hogue, a schizophrenic crackhead who for years terrorized the Upper West Side—vandalizing cars, setting fires to buildings, publicly masturbating, and punching children—but who couldn’t get committed because of New York’s unsound mental health policies


An Antiquated Ticket Law, Suspended but not Abolished

Baltimore, MD

If you buy numerous Baltimore Orioles tickets today for the series this September against the Yankees, and the O’s have a successful season, chances are you’re in for a windfall. Because while these tickets now cost around $20, you’ll be able to sell them that week for several times more, to fans counting down to the playoffs. But don’t do this outside the stadium, or anywhere else in Baltimore, for that matter, because then you’ll be breaking the law–or at least one that’s enforced assuming you’re not Ticketmaster. Continue reading

Weekend Reading: Motor City Takeover

-Detroit was everywhere in the news this week when it was determined, after several years of wrangling, that the city would be taken over by the state of Michigan. Whether or not the move was necessary, it undoubtedly has political connotations, since it will mean a Republican legislature and governor (Rick Snyder) controls operations for a Democratic city (Detroit went 98% Obama). But some say it’s needed in a place that’s near the top in murder, unemployment, illiteracy, poverty—and one that can’t even clean its parks, electrify its streets, and reign in its feral dogs. I’ve compiled some opinions from the “chattering class”:

1. One from the Detroit Free Press by a writer who actually flip-flopped on the issue, and now favors the takeover
2. A declaration by Forbes that Detroit is America’s “Most Miserable City” (this was actually published last week. Did it embarrass Snyder into action?)
3. A blog piece from The Nation saying the move is political, and antithetical to democracy, since it violates local autonomy
4. Pieces from the NYT , the National Journal, and the Atlantic Cities about the “problems” that have arisen from Detroit’s gentrification
5. A Planetizen piece about Detroit’s plan to shrink itself
6. One in the Wall Street Journal about the city’s disastrous political and business climate, and why the takeover is a welcome change

So, readers, what is the takeover of Detroit: an arbitrary seizure of local autonomy that is motivated by politics? Or something that will bring accountability—and perhaps even prosperity—back to a long-struggling city?

-Thanks once again to the Congress for the New Urbanism for posting a Facebook link to my latest article. The organization was started in 1993 to champion “New Urbanist” designs—a.k.a. street grids, alleyways, and public spaces—for suburban neighborhoods. It is one inspiration behind the “form-based” codes now being written in many municipalities. But since then it has broadened its purview to other urban issues, and is headed by John Norquist, who is famous for pioneering the nation’s first school voucher program as former Milwaukee mayor. CNU’s website has got a flurry of resident bloggers, so check them out when you get a chance…