It’s the dolla dolla bills y’all. First, a semi- book review:
Last week, I destroyed Game Change in about three days, which does read occasionally like the hysterics of equally happy and jilted junior staffers aimed at their either current or former bosses. One thing that struck the biggest nerve with yours truly, was the level at which the old guard didn’t or couldn’t grasp the irresistible force that was the Obama Express ’08, next stop White House.
This was particularly mentioned with regards to the Clintons and in a specific case with his eventual running mate, Joe Biden, with regards to Obama’s proposed tax policy. Biden exclaimed, “that’s it?! THAT is your tax policy?!” with pronounced bewilderment toward the seeming simplicity of it (the book didn’t go into any explanation with regards to the two men’s policy differences). To Biden, it seemed like nothing more than hollow rhetoric.
This is something that I’ve seen at every level of government throughout the country, and IMO why we see so much backlash towards bureaucracy and the unnecessary complexities of government. Each particular level of government at the leadership level was too involved in the minutiae, when they really should be up at the proverbial 10,000 foot level offering direction, but little in the way of detailed policy.
This is particularly true when it comes to planning, zoning, review boards, and city councils. Too many city councils are worried about every detail of every property, when they should really be focusing on simplifying and streamlining their own zoning documents. If you don’t think the overwhelming complexity of city planning and zoning is a deterrent to real estate development, check your local 500- to 1000-page zoning document.
Set the goals, let your departments worry about administration, and focus on steering the ship.
At some level, I believe Obama gets that. His policies don’t have the depth that lifetime policy-makers and wonks expect, because they…well, don’t. Nor should they. This is the kind of simplified, tangled bureaucracy-cutting directive that this country needs, and all levels of government should take heed.
The lifers don’t get it simply because Obama is the leader of an entirely new generation; a new phenotype if Howard Bloom is to believed. Millennials think differently than the previous world changing generation that has preceded them, the Baby Boomers. It is no coincidence that Millennials went 66-31 for Obama and that they made up much of his campaign staff, including his still executive speech writer.
Like government bureaucracy, mathematics can be similarly complicated and confounding. Especially when you consider that our lives for the past fifty plus years have been defined and controlled by equations that are incomplete. By this, I’m referring to all those things that were determined to be too subjective to appropriately assess the value of, so they were in turn, left out. Who needs clean water, clean air, quality of life, etc.
Before such hysterical rationality dictated our lives, a politician once declared that the citizens of his city demand two things: Justice and Beauty. This is what we call, a pattern. A simple guiding principle, establishing a hierarchical decision-making process that empowers each level of the chain.
Cities are often also thought to be complex. Perhaps this is only so, because no mathematical equation has been able to accurately assess or predict a city, other than to simplify a city into its component processes. What if rather than looking for more complex equations, we start thinking simpler? The water bodies of the planet are infinitely complex in their physical permutations, but the defining equation is that all water seeks to find its own level, and gravity does the rest.
My recent post last week took recent examples of theft in downtown Dallas and extrapolated it to a larger issue, the requirement of all to own and maintain a car in order to participate in what we call civilized society. I suggested that some incremental measure of crime and despair is driven by the lack of mobility or choice in transportation. If we had a similar directive to assess problems and affect decision-making like “Justice and Beauty,” how much better off could we be (this makes the assumption that available lifestyle choice, in particular mobility, is a form of justice).
In the previous post, I referenced a study showing that more walkable cities can have car ownership per household rates at or near 50%, whereas Dallas finds itself at 10%. A new study referenced by the New Republic and conducted by Universities of Alabama and Florida (who knew they could cooperate?), states that residents of walkable communities save 16% of their income compared to those in non-walkable environs. Residents in walkable communities have a choice: they can have a care, if they so choose. The report goes on to suggest that this costs the nation trillions of dollars spent because of a lack of walkable communities providing adequate choice.
We know Dallas would look much differently if it were to approach a 50% car ownership rate, but how would it affect the local economy? Applying that % of $ savings number to two hypothetical cities of 1 million people, we will calculate the implications.
First, in order to compare apples to apples we need to define our variables and controls. The variable will be the rate of car-ownership per household, city A will be 90% and city B will be 50%. While these car-ownership rates would likely have drastic effect on spatial organization and, in turn, real estate values, we will for the time being ignore those differences (ahhh, too complex!!!).
The controls will consist of population size of 1 million, household size we will use 4, meaning # of households is 250,000, median income of 50,000 per household (if for no other reason than being a round number), while the report mentioned above used 16% as savings for walkable vs. sprawl, we will use 20% because that report makes no distinction for car-free which then averages and dilutes the savings.
Oh, and one last control: people are people. If you are the type of person that says, “shutup we love our cars u no good yella nazi hippie commie jerk.” I am applying a system where choice is part of the equation. You are transferring your personal preferences onto everyone else in that system.
“the economy is different now. It no longer revolves around simply making and moving things. Instead, it depends on generating and transporting ideas. The places that thrive today are those with the highest velocity of ideas, the highest density of talented and creative people, the highest rate of metabolism. Velocity and density are not words that many people use when describing the suburbs. The economy is driven by key urban areas; a different geography is required.”