Wednesday, January 17, 2018

Blogger Candidate Forum: The Cities Will Not Be Ignored

http://www.citylab.com; January 12, 2018


Hello Everyone:

It is time for the weekly edition of Blogger Candidate Forum.  Primaries for the Mid-Term Elections begin in March.  If the chatter on the social media is to be believed, a "blue wave" is coming this November.  Both the House of Representatives and the Senate are in play.  Slowly, the Republican majority is being chipped away.  Some it can be explained as a backlash to Republican complacency to Mr. Donald Trump.  With the primaries looming in the horizon, Yours Truly thought it would be a good idea to take a look at how one state is attempting to redraw electoral districts in favor of one party over another.  The state in question is North Carolina and the attempt to redraw electoral districts in favor of one party over another is called gerrymandering.  Barry Yeoman explains in his CityLab article "How Gerrymandering Silenced North Carolina's Cities," "When North Carolina's legislative leaders were ordered to redraw the state's 13 congressional districts in 2016, they gave their hired mapmaker an explicit instruction: Maximize the Republican Party's electoral advantage."

Here on the Blog, we talk a lot about red Republican states and blue Democrat states.  No reason why those colors were chosen.  We never mentioned purple states: states that "are closely divided in its support of the two major parties."  North Carolina is a one of those states.  If it was up to State Representative David Lewis, senior chair of the House Select Committee on Redistricting, the state map would be more red than blue.  At committee meeting (nbcnews.com; Sept. 22, 2017; date access Jan. 17, 2018), Rep. Lewis told the assembly,

I acknowledge freely that this would be a political gerrymander, which is not law,.... I propose that we draw the map to give a partisan to 10 Republicans and 3 Democrat because I do not believe it's possible to draw a map with 11 Republican and 2 Democrats.

That still does not sound right, does it.

Thomas Hofeller, the mapmaker, had an idea on how to achieve Rep. Lewis's dream map: strip electoral power from the cities.

There are two primary methods to gerrymander (prepublica.org; Nov. 2, 2011; date accessed Jan. 17, 2018): "packing" and "cracking". Mr. Yeoman explains: "Packing a district means cramming it with like-minded voters-more than are needed to guarantee a safe seat.  Cracking a community means spreading its voters across multiple districts in which they hold a minority view."  Tomas Lopez, the executive director of the non-profit advocacy group Democracy North Carolina (democracync.org; date accessed Jan 17, 2018), said together, the cumulative effect is that it dilutes voices including urban ones.

This is precisely what Mr. Hofeller did in five North Carolina cities, according to a decision issued last Tuesday by a three-judge federal panel which struck down the state's congressional districts.  This was the situation: voters in the Raleigh and Durham areas were packed into Democrat David Price's 4th District, Charlotte residents were grouped into Democrat Alma Adams' 12th District.  This made it easier for districts surrounding them to remain Republican.  Meanwhile, the blue-leaning Greensboro and Asheville were divided between Republican districts.

Democratic state senator Terry Van Duyn, a resident of Asheville a western North Carolina city that is counterculture, outdoor-oriented, and very progressive, told CityLab,

There are a lot of ways to neutralize urban votes, and this is one of them,... My vote just doesn't count,... And because they cut Asheville in half, we contribute to the fact that congressional delegation is not representative of out state.

 The January 8 decision, written by 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals Judge James A. Wynn Jr., was the first instance a federal court declared a congressional map unconstitutional because of partisan gerrymandering.  The federal courts have frequently tossed out maps because of racial bias-"...it was a race-based federal-court ruling [redistricting.lls.edu; Feb. 5, 2016; date accessed Jan. 17, 2018] that forced North Carolina's 2016 congressional redrawing."  Mr. Yeoman notes, "That decision was affirmed [supremecourt.gov; October Term 2016; date accessed Jan. 17, 2018] by the Supreme Court in May."  However, the courts  have been more liberal about electoral districts drawn in order to benefit one political party or another.

Judge Wynn's opinion (brennancenter.org; Jan. 9, 2018; date accessed Jan. 17, 2018) potentially could be appealed to the U.S. Supreme Court, sets precedent.  Mr. Yeoman writes, Out of 24,518 possible maps generated by Duke University mathematicians Jonathan Mattingly, the judge noted, more than 99 percent gave Republican fewer employees than the 10 House seats they currently hold in North Carolina."  This, Judge Wynn wrote, reflects an intentional effort to subordinate the interests of non-Republican voters. He continued,

Partisan gerrymandinering runs contrary to numerous fundamental democratic principles and individual rights enshrined in the Constitution,...Long-standing, and even widespread, historical practice does not immunize governmental action from constitutional scrutiny

The North Carolina legislature has never been friendly to cities.  For example, "Back in the 1990s, when it was controlled by Democrats, a National Rifle Association lobbyist courted legislators with seafood parties and Christmas gifts [barryyeoman.com; Feb. 24, 1997; date accessed Jan. 17, 2018] and convinced them to invalidate local gun-control ordinances, which cities like Durham favored."

When the Republicans took over the legislature in 2011, they went on a preemptive frenzy.  Remember the reviled House Bill 2, i.e. "The Bathroom Bill," "which forced transgender people to use the restroom corresponding to their birth certificates in public buildings (indyweek.com; July 13, 2016; date accessed Jan. 17, 2018)?  This reviled bill passed after the city of Charlotte passed an ordinance protecting its LGBTQ citizens.  Fortunately, HB2 has been partially repealed but it still bars cities from "enacting labor standards and civil-rights protections."

More precisely, the statehouse went after individuals.  When the Durham City Council refused to incorporate land in a watershed to accommodate a developer (wral.com; date accessed June 27, 2013; Jan. 17, 2018), the legislators expanded the city boundaries by acclamation (ncleg.net; Session 2013; date accessed Jan. 17, 2018).

It is no surprise to Barry Yeoman that "none of the current legislative leadership comes from a major metropolitan area."  Republican state leader frequently portray North Carolina's cities as outsiders to the political mainstream defined as "conservative and rural."  Former Republican Governor Pat McCrory invoked North Carolina values (whatever those are) to justify the reviled HB2 (youtube.com; date accessed Jan. 17, 2018) and a subsequent law banning sanctuary cities (huffpost.com; Oct. 28, 2015; date accessed Jan. 1, 2018).  Further, at a hearing this past August (wral.com), called to get public comment on state legislative district maps-NC state Republican Party executive director Dallas Woodhouse made the racially tinged suggestion "...that Donald Trump's sweep of white rural North Carolina should signal the state's political direction."  More accurately, the president won 50.5 percent of the vote in North Carolina but lost the seven most populous-urban- counties.

Mr. Woodhouse asserted,

It is not the job of this committee to make a political party that lost 76 [of 100] North Carolina counties in the presidential election competitive, because they are uncompetitive in vast swaths, vast areas,... The minority party in this body has a geographic problem.

Mr. Yeoman points out, "No one has suggested that North Carolina's congressional map was drawn with the overt purpose of harming cities.  But both gerrymandering and preemption suggest a willingness on the part of legislative leaders to diminish cities' power in the service of their electoral and policy goals."

Eventually, the question of politically biased gerrymandering will be settled by the Supreme Court, which listened to arguments in a similar case from Wisconsin (washingtonpost.com; Oct. 3, 2017; date accessed Jan. 17, 2018) and recently agreed to o hear a Maryland case (Ibid; Dec. 4, 2017).  There is possibility that the North Carolina case could also be heard by the justices however, "The legislative defendants have already requested [brennancenter.org; Jan. 11, 2018; date accessed Jan. 17, 2018] a stay."  If the Supreme Court agrees with Judge James A. Wynn, and declares extreme politically motivated gerrymandering unacceptable, it will be much harder to justify ignoring cities in the next round of redistricting.


Tuesday, January 16, 2018

Who Owns Your Mobility Data?

http://www.citylab.com; January 7, 2018


Hello Everyone:

Yours Truly is back from a restful three-day weekend.  What a weekend it was.  Where to begin? Oh right, the president's potty mouth exclamation on Thursday.  This was followed up by the president asking an aide what are they in response to being told that not all welfare recipients are African Americans.  Then there was the epic false alarm in Hawai'i. For 38 minutes, the good people of the State of Hawai'i thought their beloved home, and a popular tourist destination, was under nuclear missle attack.  Thankfully, it turned out to be a case of human error.  The person in charge of pushing the right buttons, mammothly failed at his or her task.  Although an article by Don Norman in today's Fast Company (fastcodesign.com; Jan. 16, 2018) blames faulty design for human error.  Where was the president?  You guess it, playing golf.  Real leadership (sarcasm alert).  Blogger had a chance to briefly chatted with someone on the Hawaiian island of Kauai, who told Yours Truly that it was the most terrifying 38 minutes of her life.  She thought the world was coming to end.  Rather than using his Twitter feed to re-assure the public that it was a false alarm, the first tweet issued by POTUS was on fake news.  The second tweet was more on topic.  After that weekend, Blogger needed the additional rest. Alright, on to today's subject: mobility data.

David Zipper asks in his CityLab article "Whom Owns Urban Mobility Data?" "How, exactly, should policy makers respond to the rapid rise of new private mobility services such as ride-sharing, dockless shared bicycles, and microtransit?"  Lyft, Zip Cars, bike sharing, and so forth have become facts of urban life.  Mr. Zipper argued in his article "Private Mobility Services Need To Share Their Data. Here's How" (citylab.com; July 2, 2017; date accessed Jan. 16, 2018) "in order to answer that question city leaders will need accurate and detailed information about all urban trips-however the traveler chose to get from one place to another."  That data needs to be shared by the private mobility companies, being used by a growing number of urban dwellers.

Last year was annus horribilis for private mobility services-just ask Uber.  Disastrous images (theguardian.com; Nov. 24, 2017;  date accessed Jan. 16, 2018) of dockless bicycles, tossed aside on the sidewalks in China, left American officials testing this model for bike sharing (nacto.org; Aug. 13, 2017; Jan. 16, 2018) madly dashing about to ensure that their cities avoid the same fate.  Let us not forget Uber's scarlet red-faced admission that it paid a $100,000 ransom (nytimes.com; Nov. 21, 2017; date access Jan. 16, 2018) to hackers who stole 57 million user account data, destroying the company's credibility as a guardian of passenger privacy.  Further, a widely share study, Disruptive Transportation: The Adoption, Utilization, and Impacts of Ride-Hailing in the United States  (itspubs.ucdavis.edu; October 2017; date accessed Jan. 16, 2018), authored by researchers at the University of California-Davis "refuted several optimistic hypotheses about ride-hailing's societal benefits: It found that companies like Uber and Lyft are spurring urban congestion, siphoning public transit riders, and failing to entice many people to give up their cars."  No big surprise that public transit agencies, such as Washington D.C.'s WMATA (washingtonpost.com; Dec. 3, 2017; date accessed Jan. 16, 2018), have launched their own investigations to find out if declining ridership is linked to the growth of ride-hailing apps.

David Zipper writes, "Beyond these broad issues, there are a number of specific questions that can't be answered without access to trip information from Uber, Lyft, and Limebike,..."  Without this data, for example, it is difficult for policy wonks or the general public to decide if it is more beneficial to "convert a parking meter to a ride-hailing drop-off, or ensure pedestrians aren't obstructed by heaps of dockless bikeshare bikes on the sidewalk."  However, data transparency is not the mobility services' strong suit.  They generally have refused to open their data vaults to the public sector.

However, the line between public and private forms or urban transportation is beginning to blur. Mr. Zipper reports, "American transit agencies are partnering with ride-sharing companies to offer late-night service [blog.lyft.com; Oct. 18, 2017; date accessed Jan. 16, 2018], move people to bus or rail stations 9'first mile/last mile' solutions)  [Ibid], and manage paratransit [washingtonpost.com; Sept. 16, 2016; date accessed Jan. 16, 2018] for riders with limited mobility."  The ride-hailing company's partnership with the public transit agencies put them in an awkward position if they are forced to share data with the governments that pay for them.  Mr. Zipper recalls a Texas transit official say to a ride-hailing executive, 

If I'm paying you to move a passenger, the data for that passenger isn't yours...It's mine

Mr. Zipper asks, "When will policy makers be able to access the data they need to manage streets and sidewalks in the public interest, and how will they get it?"  It is a basic question and the answer may come in form of "a data exchange that anonymizes rider data and gives public experts (and perhaps academic and private ones too) the ability to answer policy questions."

This idea is gaining traction.  In 2016, the World Bank established an OpenTraffic project (worldbank.org; Dec. 19, 2016; date accessed Jan. 16, 2018), initially developed strategies to aggregate traffic information gathered from commercial fleets.  A small group of private companies-Grab and Easy Taxi-offered their support when OpenTraffic began.  This past autumn, the project was folded into SharedStreets (sharedstreets.io; date accessed Jan. 16, 2018), "a collaboration between the National Association of City Transportation Officials (NACTO), the World Resource Institute, and the OCED's International Transportation Forum to pilot new ways of collection and sharing a variety of public and private transport data."  The founder of SharedStreets, Kevin Webb, forecasts a future where cities and private companies can use SharedStreets to remedy problems such as street safety, curb use, and congestion.

Mr. Zipper opines, "That's a laudable goal, by Shared Streets will have to solve several challenges in order to become a go-to resource."  Case in point, it is difficult to get the full picture of urban mobility unless big companies like Uber, Lyft, Didi Chuxing, Ofo, and Mobike get on board; thus far none of hem have pledged their support.  He also notes that "tech behemoths like Google and Apple-collectors of massive datasets about individuals' movement-can be involved."  Maybe they can still be a source of revenue that SharedStreets can mine ("at present the intiative is being incubated with philanthropic support")

Finally, there is the all important question of privacy.  Uber's hacking scandal severally damaged the popular ride-hailing company's credibility as a guardian of customer data, however, "new mobility services do have a point when they push back against handing over rider information to the government."  It is fair assume that some of customers will not be so excited at the prospect of public agencies accessing their personal ride information.

Mr. Webb said, "SharedStreets will handle those concerns by collecting aggregated data that is rich enough to allow for deep analysis while still hiding information about individual rides."  The new mobility service companies can take further steps to protect their riders by converting trip information to "synthetic populations" (staff.vbi.vt.edu; May 9, 2016 and July 10, 2016; date accessed Jan. 16, 2018) of artificial data predicated on rides people actually completed.

Nevertheless, [until] the new mobility service information comes, albeit aggregated, and possibly artificially modeled, there is a need to ensure its accuracy.  "After all, companies like Uber and Lyft have a vested interest in the question policymakers pose abut their impact on city streets.  Data validation-especially for modeled data-is crucial for such an exchange to be trusted."

Many unanswered questions still remain, but the movement to allow cities access to trip data is taking hold.  David Zipper states, "Indeed, it's hard to see how the elusive idea of a 'smart city' is attainable without shared set of facts about how people are moving within an urban area."  SharedStrees, along with a group of universities (uwtdc.org; date accessed Jan. 16, 2018), startups, and major tech companies are quietly developing methods to fill in the information gaps in the collective civic knowledge.  Mr. Zipper observes, "Most of those efforts aren't public yet, but I expect several to launch in 2018."  For those who subscribe to data-driven management of sidewalks and streets, it is reason to be excited and vigorously advocate for.

Wednesday, January 10, 2018

Blogger Candidate Forum: Fixing Instrastructure, Maybe

http://www.citylab.com; December 27, 2017


Hello Everyone:

Blogger Candidate Forum is back at its regular day and time.  Today the subject is Mr. Donald Trump $1 trillion infrastructure plan.

Throughout 2017, Mr. Donald Trump took frequent (citylab.com; March 22, 2017; date accessed Jan. 10, 2018) aim (Ibid; May 23 2017) to row over the state of American infrastructure, pointing to the catastrophic Amtrak derailment in Washington state (Ibid; Dec. 18, 2017) as example of the nation's deteriorating bridges, roads, and railways.  He tweeted (how else),

[O]ur soon to be submitted infrastructure plan must be approved quickly

A reference to his oft-repeated campaign promise to invest $1 trillion rebuilding the U.S.

Laura Bliss writes in her CityLab article "The New $1 Trillion Infrastructure Plan Could Pressure Struggling Cities," "That plan turned into little more than a punchline this past year."  Now that January is upon us, a senior official told Fox News that the White House will begin an intiative for a national infrastructure package that results in $1 trillion in overall investment (wsj.com; Dec. 24, 2017; date accessed Jan. 10, 2018), using $200 billion "seed" money (washingtonexaminer; date accessed Jan. 10, 2018).

The President's advisors previously described the infrastructure package as relying on "the private sector to make up the $800 difference.  In this version, most of the $200 billion would be rewarded on a competitive basis to states and localities that promise to raise new, infrastructure-dedicated revenue on their own, for a total of $1 trillion, according to White House officials [washingtonpost.com; Dec. 7, 2017; date accessed Jan. 10, 2018]."  Some of the $200 billion would be allocated to projects in rural areas.

Laura Bliss opines, "Such a plan could have its merits-many communities have long needed to look to themselves, rather than the federal government, for the means to build roads, pipes, and transit."  However, governors and mayors may not be too thrilled to take on more responsibility for infrastructure payments, especially in the wake of the newly signed into law Tax Reform which promised to "dramatically trim tax revenue coming in to certain states and cities" (citylab.com; Dec. 5, 2017; date accessed Jan. 10, 2018).  POTUS's new plan may intensify the debate over how involved the federal government should be in creating local planning and policy.

"The plan that wasn't"

America's deteriorating transportation and communication systems was a recurring theme during the Trump campaign.  Ms. Bliss writes, "A campaign proposal even sketched the philosophical outlines of a Trumpian infrastructure bill: $200 billion in federal dollars would be leveraged to attract $800 billion in private investments through public-private partnerships."

Like every other presidential infrastructure pronouncement, it was frequently upstaged buy other events (Ibid; June 9, 2017) following the inauguration and no serious funding proposal ever materialized.  Kevin DeGood, the director of Infrastructure Policy at the Center for American Progress, told CityLab the White House actually called to obliterate the primary source of funding for surface transit, following its draft budget release for this year (Ibid; May 23, 2017).  The 2018 budget proposes cuts the Department of Transportation's discretionary fund by $2.4 billion, and reduce government funding to the evaporating Highway Trust Fund by $95 billion by 2027.

In the meantime, the Republican Congressional leadership made it clear that infrastructure was not one of their top priorities, putting far behind the aborted attempt to repeal the Affordable care and reforming the tax code.  Ms. Bliss reports, "Then, in September something shifted: Trump began to emphatically state that private investment would not be the focus of his eventual infrastructure plan."  In a White House gathering the same month, the Washington Post (washingtonpost.com; date accessed Jan. 10, 2018) reported that Mr. Trump cited well-known examples in Vice President Mike Pence's home state of Indiana of how public-private partnerships can burden governments with debt if contracts are not roperly negotiated from the start.  The new funding focus: states and cities.

"Spotlight on states and cities"

At an event at a White House event, last month, Mr. Trump's policy adviser D.J. Gribbin said "that the administration's plans to make it easier for local governments and public-private partnerships to apply for federal infrastructure funding,..." (thehill.com; Dec. 12, 2017; date accessed Jan.10, 2018), described as incentive plan.  Mr. Grabbing said,

Part of what we want to do...is say, "LIsten, if you as a state or local elected official are willing to create a new revenue stream for infrastructure, we as the federal government want to partner with you in doing that,...

Adie Tomer, a fellow at the Brookings Institution's Metropolitan Policy Program, has previewed the draft plan.  Mr. Tomer told CityLab, "...that it emphasizes transportation projects, and that it basically resembles a discretionary grant program similar to New Starts and TIGER, two DOT programs popular across bipartisan lines for helping projects led by states and local transportation authorities meet their findings needs..."  Ms. Bliss notes that the "2018 budget blueprint called to eliminate TIGER entirely, and cut New Starts in half."

White House officials remain neutral about how civic actors would raise their share of the money.  An anonymous White House official told the Washington Post,

We will be agnostic as to the type of revenue, as long as it is new and dedicated to infrastructure.

At the state leve, this could translate into raising the gas tax, like politically diverse states such as New Jersey, California, Tennessee, Montana, and Indiana (pewtrusts.org; July 26, 2017; date accessed Jan. 10, 2018) have done over the previous year. "For cities, the answer might be in sales-tax-boosting measures, such as the ones that L.A. and Seattle passed last year."  Other jurisdictions might prefer to enact tolls, congestion prices, or assorted other user fees.  They could seek financing from the private sector investors.

D.J. Gribben said, "the White plan will lay out clear, measurable, objective criteria, for how localities and states would win money." However Mr. Tomer said "the details he's seen place less stress on the nature of the projects it would fund and more who would be paying for them."

The more you come up with new revenue, the more likely you are to get help from the Feds.  This going to be the key to the details.

Ms. Bliss adds, "Compared to what TIGER and New Starts have provided, states and cities would foot larger shares of the final bills of their infrastructure projects."

"Roads for the highest bidder?"

Laura Bliss makes this observation, "On one hand, an infrastructure plan that calls on states and cities to rethink how they raise infrastructure funds could be welcome."  The Highway Trust Fund is on life support, states and cities have been receiving dwindling outlays for roads and transit for years.  Tracy Gordon, a senior fellow at the Tax Policy Center, an allied project of the Brookings Institution and Urban Institute, told CityLab,

Doing things the old way and allocating [money] based on population, or trust fund contributions, or lane-milieus-that could use some revamping...It's not a bad idea to force some creativity in the sector.

Ms. Bliss also observes, "On the other hand, Trump's push to rebuild infrastructure would come on the heels of the most dramatic rewrite of the U.S. tax code since the Reagan years, with major implications for every tier of governance."  The new law, signed just before Christmas, would add almost $1.5 trillion to the federal budget deficit over the next ten years, according to the Congressional Budget Office.  This would likely trigger cuts to discretionary spending that help jurisdictions build roads, fly airplanes, drink clean water, and connect to the Internet.

Scott Goldstein, policy director for the lobbying organization Transportation for America, said,

That's where we are starting from,...With that as a foundation, it's hard to see how you'll find that trillion to invest.

Added to this is that almost of the states already faced budget deficits last year (cbpp.org; Oct. 4, 2017; date accessed Jan. 10, 2018).  Ms. Bliss writes, "A 2016 survey of municipal leaders by the Natinal League of Cities found that ever-lasting infrastructure needs were a top source of fiscal strain [nlc.org; date access Jan. 10, 2018]."  Further, now that there is a $10,000 cap in SALT tax deductions (citylab.com; Dec. 5, 2017; date accessed Jan. 10, 2018) on federal returns, state and municipal governments will likely find a myriad of essential services-e.g. public schools, first responders, fixing potholes, and streetlight repair-harder to pay for.

By using infrastructure grants as bait for the would-be bidders, "the White House's proposal old pressure those same layers of government to corral what few resources they have into paying their hare of an infrastructure plan."  Cities that have not financially recovered from the Great Recession-i.e. Detroit, Cleveland, Stockton, and Memphis (nytimes.com; Feb. 24, 2016; date accessed Jan. 10, 2018)-may feel particularly hamstrung in their spending if federal grants are only available for those willing to spend the money.

Tracy Gordon said,

It's an interesting time to be asking this sector to be more creative with revenue sources,...Trying to get them to share more of the funding burden is probably not going to go over that well.

Adie Tomer was more blunt, "For cities,"  it's going to be like, 'You're messing with my money.,' Insisting that cash-strapped states and cities to contribute more resources might adversely spotlight on the "poor fiscal health that many of those places are suffering."  The debate is now centered on how much should the federal government committ to helping local economic recoveries will intensify.

Let us be clear: all of this is still conceptual.  Whatever the White House presents ahead of the State of the Union address-scheduled for January 30 (bring popcorn), according to Politico (politico.com; Dec. 14, 2017; date accessed Jan. 10, 2018)-should be a white hot subject for the social media.  The White House hopes that nudge could be helpful in turning POTUS's sagging public polling numbers (Ibid; Dec. 19, 2017) around.  Laura Bliss reports, "Some Democrats in Congress are already criticizing the pacakage's small federal contribution, while others have said they'd be willing to negotiate to shepherd such a package [wsj.com; Dec. 24, 2017; date accessed Jan. 10, 2018]."  However, it is the mayors and governors who will be the ones to dealing with aftermath, soon, and they will not stay quiet.

Tuesday, January 9, 2018

Blogger Candidate Forum: Disconnect

http://www.citylab.com; December 21, 2017


Hello Everyone:

Blogger Candidate Forum is back from vacation and decided to make an early appearance to take a look at an issue that is absolutely sure to play out over the year, as mid-term elections loom in the horizon.  One of the greatest challenges facing the United States laid bare is the growing disconnect between Red (Republican) states and Blue (Democrat) cities.  This evident in some of legislation enacted by predominantly Republican state governments like cutting funding to universities, doing reprehensible things enacting a much reviled bathroom bill, or going back on women's and gay rights.  All of these backwards-minded legislation has the good citizens of a Blue Cities complaining: 

The folks in our state government and state legislature are against us or 

How can we prosper when our state leaders are cutting funding to universities, or doing intolerent things like reneging on women's and gay rights, and passing bathroom bills.

The frequent question put to Richard Florida, the author of the CityLab article "Anti-Urban States Aren't Just Hurting Their Cities," is 

How can we protect all the things we've done to improve our city in the face of backward policies and intiatives?

This is not just the quandary faced by Democratic mayor and civic officials, or community organizers and activists.  Mr. Florida reports "I'm hearing them from business leaders.  Several times in recent months, business leaders in big cities in red states told me how reactionary politicians in their state capitols were hurting their prospects for luring new investments..."  Just ask the good people of North Carolina how much the detested HB2-"The Public Facilities Privacy and Security Act" which mandated that people use the public toilet corresponding to their biological genders-cost cities new investments and revenues.

Urbanists, like Mr. Florida, love to wax prosaic over how much better it would be if cities had more power (citylab.com; Mar. 16, 2017; date accessed Jan. 9, 2018) and If Mayors Ruled The World (benjaminbarber.org; date accessed Jan. 9, 2018).  However, this kind of wishful thinking may not suffice.  Under the current administration, cities and metropolitans are fighting off "the distinctly anti-urban initiatives..." like the dystopian inner city narratives (citylab.com; Oct. 11, 2014; date accessed Jan. 9, 2018) or efforts to withhold funding from sanctuary cities (Ibid; May 25, 2017).

To make matters worse, an increasing number of cities and metropolitans are located in states which are directly undercutting their interests.  Mr. Florida writes, "While most or all state legislatures have been anti-urban [Ibid; Dec. 20, 2013], some states are far more anti-city than others."  These states are actively sabotaging their cities' ability to "...attract new talent, generate innovation, encourage new investment, and spur economic growth" by slashing funds to universities, transit, and affordable housing.  Even more alarming, state governments are enacting anti-tolerance bills like the "bathroom bill" (refinery29.com; Mar. 31, 2017; date accessed Jan. 9, 2018) or exerting preemptive measures to curtail local control on issues such as minimum wage, paid leave, and ride sharing platforms.  In short, what we have here is a failure between city and state interests to communicate.

Harvard political scientist Ryn Enos spoke with Mr. Florida (citylab.com; Dec. 12, 2017; date accessed Jan. 9, 2018),

One thing we see is this divide between big cities and the state governments that often control the resources that go to those big cities...If you're a big company like Amazon and you're thinking about where can pick a winner, it's not going to be in a red state that is unlikely to support this big city where they'd move.

The exact opposite is generally true: "...cities and metros benefit when they are located in states that work proactively to advance urban interests, and address their challenges."  In this group of places, city and state interests are more in sync and mutually beneficial a to each other "...from a more cooperative state-local federalism."

Richard Florida, together with his Martin Proposperity Institute Colleague Patrick Adler, developed a chart (which you can find at martinprosperity.org or at citylab.com) that divided cities and metropolitans into three basic categories: "Pro-Urban, Contested," and "Anti-Urban."  The cities and metropolitans were separated into two categories: "Global Cities and Tech Hubs" and "Other Large Metros."  The first category are the large boldfaced cities and knowledge hubs: Los Angeles, New York, San Francisco, Chicago, Atlanta, and Houston.  The second category are other large urban areas that are not quite as boldfaced: Vancouver, San Diego, Las Vegas, Baltimore, Phoenix, and Indianapolis.

States hostile to urban interests-e.g. Florida, Texas, Georgia, and Arizona-have a definite anti-urban stance.  Mr. Florida characterizes them as, "...typically controlled by a Republican governor and state legislature.  These states have cut back on investments in transit and affordable housing."  Essentially, they act contrary to the interests of their constituents. Case in point, in 2011, Governor Rick Scott (R-Florida) refused (politicalticker.blogs.cnn.com; Feb. 16, 2011; date accessed Jan. 9, 2018) funding from the Obama administration set aside to build high-speed rail.  In November 2017, Governor Eric Greitens (R-Missouri) voted against (usnews.com; Nov. 17, 2017; date accessed Jan. 9, 2018) voted not give out $140 million in low-income housing tax credits to help pay for affordable housing to low-income residents of his states.  There is more.

Other Red State governments have slashed monies to public universities, which act as crucial hubs for the knowledge-based economy.  For example, in 2015 Arizona Governor Doug Ducey eliminated (insidehighered.com; March 12, 2015; date accessed Jan. 9, 2018) state funding from two of the largest community college districts in his state.  Arizona State University wisely anticipated cuts like these and sought out private and local sector partnerships of deal with the loss of funds.  As Yours Truly said, acting contrary to their constituents own interests.

Slashing funds to affordable housing, universities and colleges is not the only things anti-urban states do, they have frequently tried to rollback LGBTQ rights (dallasnews.com; Dec. 4, 2017;  date accessed Jan. 9, 2018) and women's rights (upr.org; Aug. 25, 2016;  date accessed Jan. 9, 2018).  Increasingly, anti-urban states have been looking to curtail a city's ability to determine their paths on issues such as immigration and gun control.  Mr. Florida surmises, "Intiatives like these signal to many knowledge workers that these places are not open to diverse populations, and can chill the climate for business investment."  Returning to North Carolina's reviled HB2, it was estimated (washingtonpost.com; March 27, 2017; date accessed Jan. 9, 2018) that this discriminatory piece of legislation cost the at least $3.7 billion in cancelled events and business conventions.  Mr. Florida notes, "The majority of states, perhaps as many as 20 to 25 of them, seem to fall into this category."

All of these regressive measures make it far more difficult for their cities and metropolitans-Atlanta, Houston, Dallas, Austin, and Phoenix for example- to attract and retain talent or competitive for new investment.

Conversely, pro-urban states are those with policies in alignment with their cities and metropolitans.  Their chief character defining feature is a Democratic governor and state legislature, "but may at times be led by more liberal or moderate Republicans or have Republican-control over a state legislative body."  Examples include: California, Massachusetts, New York, and Washington.  Mr. Florida points out that his adopted home province of Ontario, Canada has been led by the center-left Liberal Party for the past 12 years.  These states act in the interests of their constituents by investing in transit, affordable housing, and higher education, to a name a few.  This is particularly important in light of th federal government's retreat from from funding these programs.  Further, pro-urban states foster a broad climate of tolerance and fairness.  Richard Florida's opinion, " At most, ten or so U.S. states fall into this category."

Blogger's home state of California is a great example.  Playing cheerleader for a moment, California maintains the very best public university system in the world.  Yours Truly should know, she got her Associate's degree from a public community college, her Bachelor's degree from a public state university, and was happy with the quality of education.  The Golden State has increased its investments in affordable housing and public transit.  Blogger takes issue with Mr. Florida's citation of the high-speed rail line between Los Angeles and San Francisco.  That project seems to have created a boondoggle.  California has also demonstrated a real commitment to inclusion.  In 2015, Democratic Governor Jerry Brown signed into law measures that give undocumented immigrants drivers licenses and access to state financial aid for post-secondary school education.  Under Gov. Brown, California has become an international leader (politico.com; Nov. 11, 2017; date accessed Jan. 9, 2018) on climate change, a positive indicator for talented people and the knowledge workforce.

Richard Florida makes a small case for Ontario, writing that the Canadian province "...has a distinctly pro-urban posture.  The province is investing in transit [news.ontario.ca; Oct. 23, 2017 date accessed Jan. 9, 2018], affordable housing, higher education, and healthcare, as well as upgrading service jobs, and experimenting with a basic income pilot program [ontario.ca; date accessed Jan. 9, 2018]."

Needless to say, cities and metropolitans in pro-urban states thrive from this convergence of interests.  Setting aside the the challenge of affordable housing and inequality for a moment, California's largest cities and metropolitans, specifically the San Francisco Bay Area, are rated among the world's most innovative far and away.  By comparison, Toronto has increased its competitiveness for top talent and tech companies, like Sidewalk Lab's recent decision to set up headquarters in the city.

Between the anti- and pro-urban states are the contested states.  They take a more neutral position that often swing back and forth between the two.  Their state governments are characterized as split between the two major parties.  Contested states include: Pennsylvania, Illinois, North Carolina, Minnesota, Nevada, Maryland, and Ohio.  Cities in these states-Chicago, Minneapolis-St. Paul, Baltimore, and Columbus-do not face the serious hardships of anti-urban states, but they do not benefit in the same way as cities and metropolitans in pro-urban states.

Look for these polarities to become yet another determinant in America's deepening spatial inequality.  Richard Florida writes, "Over time, the relatively small group of cities and metro in pro-urban states are likely to develop even deeper advantage in attracting talent and building the knowledge economy."  Pro-urban places, outside the U.S., particularly in Canada, could very well siphon off talent and appeal to tech companies.  The American economy will suffer and cities in anti-urban states will further regress, owing to their inability to remain competitive in attracting talent and high-businesses that power the knowledge-based economy.  This could fuel further anger and resentment toward the Blue States and cities-further driving the wedge in American society.


Wednesday, January 3, 2018

What Did We Talk About?

http://www.citylab.com; December 27, 2017

Hello Everyone: 

Blogger Candidate Forum will back next Wednesday, all rested and ready to go.  A big year for The Forum, the Mid-term elections are coming in November and there will be plenty to say.  In the meantime, Katie Pearce of CityLab has rounded up the "The 5 Stories We Couldn't Stop Seeing in 2017."

Let us be honest, if you could describe 2017 in a word, it would be WTF.  Okay that is three words.  Between Mr. Trump, fires (citylab.com; Dec. 6, 2017; date accessed Jan. 3, 2017) and floods (Ibid; Aug. 28, 2017), a news cycle gone wild, it was enough for even the sanest soberiest person to run screaming in the other direction.  Yours Truly managed to cope by avoiding any serious discussions with family.  However, our good friends at CityLab' s Lab Report (citylab.com; date Jan. 3, 2018)-the daily news roundup-scanned the headlines, followed the cultural changes, apocalyptic climate, and the hand-to-hand policy combat that roared through the year, a few recurring themes emerged from the mire.  Ms. Pearce highlights five urban stories that persisted throughout the year-the ones that we could not ignore.

"The Amazonian supremacy"

You know the part of a wedding where the bride tosses her bouquet and all the single ladies go lunging for it, hoping to be the next one to get married?  Brutal.  In 2017, Amazon was the bouquet tossing bride and 238 cities were the desparate single ladies elbowing each other out of the way for the honor of hosting HQ2, Amazon's second headquarters, and the promises of a billion dollar makeover.  Ms. Pearce writes, "Amazon's call for bids set off a courtship frenzy across the country, with a blitz of publicity stunts (Ibid; Oct. 10, 2017; date accessed Jan. 3, 2018) giving way to seriously huge offers of land and financial incentives" (Ibid).

Even before the HQ2 contest, this was the year that economic stories orbited around the Amazon sun.  Online retailers were pilloried for accelerated the "retail apocalypse" (theatlantic.com; April 10, 2017; Jan. 3, 2017)-the nationwide epidemic of dead and dying department and the empty storefronts we meditated upon (citylab.com; April 30, 2017; date accessed Jan. 3, 2018) again and again (Ibid. Dec, 19, 2017).  Looking for urban love was not the only thing Amazon did in 2017, it also flexed its physical store ambitions (businessinsider.com; Sept. 24, 2017; date accessed Jan. 3, 2018), buying high-end grocery chain Whole Foods for $13.7 billion.  The online behemoth could hit the trillion-dollar value (quartz.com; Nov. 30, 2017; Jan. 3, 2018) in the coming year and founder Jeff Bezos' net worth could reach $100 billion (bloomberg.com; Nov. 24, 2017; date accessed Jan. 3, 2018).

No surprise that many are suspicious of the company's outsized power and influence, and potential impact on HQ2's future host.  "Just look to 'HQ1' host Seattle (citylab.com; Oct. 19, 2017; date accessed Jan. 3, 2018), whose relationship with Amazon is best described as: 'It's complicated.'"

"The ghosts of the Confederacy"

The South shall rise again.  Okay, may be not.  The angst over Civil War-era monuments in American cities is not a new subject-following the heinous Charleston church massacre in June 2015, efforts to remove monuments associated with the Confederate States of America redoubled in many cities.  The city of New Orleans led the way with Mayor Mitch Landrieu delivering his famous speech this past spring after the city took down four monuments (the video is available on YouTube and you can read the transcript at citylab.com; May 24, 2017; date accessed Jan 3, 2018).

Charlottesville, Virginia became the flashpoint for defenders and foes of the CSA monuments.  Katie Pearce writes, "The 'Unite the Right' rally-a gathering of white supremacists, KKK, neo-Nazi, and so-called 'alt-right' groups-descended on Charlottesville on August 11, as the city considered a vote to remove two Confederate monuments."  The nation's attention was focused on chilling images of torchlight parades, chants, and a fatal car ramming aimed at counter protestors.

Additionally, the rally and subsequent protests raised major questions about free speech and protestor safety (Ibid; Oct. 13, 2017), Unite the Right set of a chain reaction of cities removing or considering removing (Ibid; Aug. 17, 2017) Confederate monuments.  Protestors in Durham, North Carolina took down statues (Ibid; Aug 14, 2017); days later Baltimore Maryland removed four statues overnight.  However, for many Southern states (Ibid; Aug. 17, 2017) the decision to remove a monument is complicated by state laws, which is why Memphis, Tennessee found a creative workaround solution (theatlantic.com; July/August 2008; date accessed Jan. 3, 2018).

Charlottesville is still dealing with a similar legal issue (dailyprogress.com; Nov. 20, 2017; date accessed Jan. 3, 2018)-the two monuments at the center controversy remain standing, covered by tarps.  Wisely, Charlottesville put a halt to plans for a one-year anniversary "Unite the Right" March (nytimes.com; Dec. 12, 2017; date accessed Jan. 3, 2018).

"Blue cities vs. red states"

Blue City, Red State sounds like a title of a Dr. Seuss story, however, it is a description of the American urban-rural divide that became an unavoidable talking point (citylab.com; Nov. 15, 2016; date accessed Jan. 3, 2018) in the wake of the Presidential election and throughout the first year of the administration.  This talking point fueled the notion that "urban enclaves with generally progressive values were facing off [theatlantic.com; March 2017; date accessed Jan. 3, 2018] against the conservative hinterlands."  Richard Florida's article "A Declaration of Urban Independence" for Politico (politico.com; July/August 2017; date accessed Jan. 3, 2018) get cities to find a way to work around the anti-urban White House (more on that next week).

The Blue City-Red State conflict played out across many policy combat zones over the past year.  After the administration withdrew from the Paris Climate Agreement (nytimes.com; June 1, 2017; date accessed Jan. 3, 2017), many cities responded by joining together (citylab.com; June 6, 2017; date accessed Jan. 3, 2018) for the "We Are Still In" movement and the Chicago climate charter, while redoubling their sustainability goals.  Cities also demonstrated their power on a variety of local policy intiatives such as: LGBTQ rights, marijuana, ride-sharing, gun control, and the minimum wage.  Going into the new year the new clashes will center on the much detested GOP tax bill (Ibid; Dec. 15, 2017) and net neutrality (Ibid).

Beyond clashes with the federal government, red state government present a more formidable preemption to the cities (Ibid; Feb. 2, 2017).  Ms. Pearce writes, "That's especially true for blues cities in rural or Southern red states, like, say, Texas [Ibid; Dec. 21, 2017]."  In an aside, she continues, "last week CityLab present a scale [Ibid] measuring 'anti-urban toppings."

The perfect storm of all these forces is brewing over the white hot subject of sanctuary cities,  just as the Department of Justice is tightened immigration enforcement, and many state fell in line.  For the majority of the cities, the response has been to either resist, ignore, or sue (Ibid; March 29, 2017).

"Uber's annus horribilis"

You thought you were having a horrible year?  Be grateful you were not Travis Kalanick, the ousted head of the ride-sharing app Uber.  In its short life, Uber has become enmeshed with the global urban fabric.  However by the end of 2017, it was stalled out in the wake of a series of scandals that even a jump-start cannot revive.  It seemed that it was one setback after the other.  Of course the biggest engine rattler was the dismissal of CEO Travis Kalanick in June after a group of shareholders demanded his resignation (Ibid; June 21, 2017).

  
Katie Pearce writes, "This announcement followed a dumpster fire of PR Crises [Ibid; March 9, 2017] that included the #DeleteUber protests, accusations of a sexist workplace culture, and a major lawsuit from Waymo, Google's self-driving car unit."  That was only part of Uber's horrible year.  To add more injury to injury, there was the revelation that  "...a pair of ominously named covert programs, 'Grayball' and 'Hell' that Uber used to evade regulations and track competitors."  There is more.  "Overseas, things are no better: Uber is struggling to keep its London license [Ibid; Sept. 22, 2017] and battling regulators in Europe [Ibid; Dec. 20, 2017]."   If this was not enough, Uber is dealing with a massive customer service data breach (the guardian.com; Nov. 22, 2017; date accessed Jan. 3, 2017) that, wait for it, it allegedly paid to conceal.  As Yours Truly said, you thought you were having a horrible year.

Inspite of scandal-fest, there was some good news to report: the ride-sharing app expanded its UberEATS, the launch of Uber Freight, the new Movement tool (citylab.com; Oct. 13, 2017; date accessed Jan. 3, 2018), assorted grandiose promises of autonomous vehicles (more on that in a moment), and vague notions of "flying taxis" (Ibid; Nov. 9, 2017).  The business news service Bloomberg reported,

Uber told stockholders that gross bookings,the key yardstick of demand for ride services, rose 11 percent to $9.71 billion in the period that ended in September...Net revenue grew 21 percent to $2.01 billion in the third quarter from $1.66 billion.

But losses, which had been narrowing in previous quarters, reversed course.  The net loss increased 38 percent from the second quarter, when it was $1.06 billion. (bloomberg.com; Nov. 28, 2017; date accessed Jan. 3, 2018)

Naturally, the biggest beneficiary of Uber's scandal-filled year has been its rival Lyft, which experienced a tripling of its revenue (techcrunch.com Nov. 30, 2017; date accessed Jan. 3, 2017)    Mr. Kalanick's replacement-for Expedia CEO Dara Khosrowshahi-definitely has a packed agenda for the new year.

"After the AV tipping point"

In 2017, we could not stop talking about autonomous vehicles and how they could affect our lives.  Frankly, Blogger is still a wary of a self-driving car but that has not stopped urbanists, futurists, and transportation policy makers from speculating about them.  Be that as it may, AVs were hard for the average citizen to ignore: "In November, the New York Times Magazine devoted an entire issue to the topic" (nytimes.com; date accessed Jan. 3, 2017).  Around the world, 55 cities are currently testing self-driving cars.  Ms. Pearce reports, "Sixteen of those in the U.S., according to an atlas tracking the trend [avcities.bloomberg.org; date accessed Jan. 3, 2018] from Bloomberg Philanthropies and The Aspen Institute."

The expanding pilot programs means that we are seeing more of them on public roads.  Ms. Pearce writes, "Chandler, Arizona's new Waymo pilot, for example, is putting everyday citizens in self-driving vans on public streets.  Unlike similar efforts by Uber in Pittsburgh, San Francisco, and Tempe, the Chandler model notably ditches human 'safety drivers' [theverge.com; Nov. 7, 2017; date accessed Jan.3, 2018] entirely."  Blogger is still not sure if she would want to get into an AV without a human "safety driver."

Waymo and Uber are not the only tech companies fully committed to an AV program-Tesla, General Motors, Volkswagen AC, and the Ford Motor Company are all developing their own version of an an autonomous vehicle.  In Ford's case, the company spent over $1 billion last year (Ibid; Aug. 16, 2017) for AI expertise, while dedicating its Detroit plan to building a fully AV within four years.  Startups are also getting on the AV bandwagon, nuTonomy's pilot program with Lyft in Boston (techcrunch.com Dec. 6, 2017; date accessed Jan. 3, 2017) is ready to go this month.

There is momentum growing in state legislatures: "33 states introduced new bills [ncsl.org; Jan. 2, 2018; date accessed Jan. 3, 2018] this year on various aspects of driverless tech.  To date, 20 states and Washington, D.C. have actually passed such laws."  The federal government has also friended the AV future on a massive scale.  This past September the U.S. Department of Transportation issued a landmark policy guidance (citylab.com; Sept. 15, 2017; date accessed Jan. 3, 2018) on AV development.  Surprisingly, the House of Representatives unanimously passed the first federal law regulating autonomous vehicles.

Katie Pearce reports, "At the year's end, that bill is now stalled in the Senate, but it's implicate are huge, barring states and cities from setting 'unreasonable' restrictions on the rollout of AVs."  A consistent national policy would override the existing hodgepodge of state and municipal regulations (Ibid; April 25, 2017)-potentially streamline tech growth (Ibid; May 14, 2017), but remove a city's ability to right-size.  A new Brookings Institute report, Gauging Investment in self-driving cars by Cameron F. Kerry and Jack Karsten (brookings.edu; Oct. 16, 2017; date accessed Jan. 3, 2018) measured worldwide AV tech investment at $80 billion.  This is a substantial amount that may grow as AV tech becomes more refined.  

The key issue that companies like Tesla, GM, Ford, Waymo, and Uber must address is passenger safety concerns.  Autonomous vehicles may sound like a great idea but unless the makers of of these cars can reasonably assure the public that they will get to where they want to go in a safe and timely manner, any and all investment-now or in the future-may be for naught.

Wednesday, December 27, 2017

The Tax Reform Law: What Is In Store For 2018: Updated

http://www.citylab.com; December 5, 2017


Hello Everyone:

#BloggerCandidateForum may be on vacation until after the New Year but he (it has to be a he) made sure we had plenty to talk about and do we ever have something to talk about.  Onward and upward.

If Mr. Donald Trump can claim any sort of legislative accomplishment, it is the much reviled Tax Reform Bill, which was passed and signed into law last week.  The new law is the first major overhaul of the U.S. tax code since the President Ronald Reagan's administration.  When the U.S. Tax Code was last overhauled in 1986, the legislative process took six months (newyorker.com Dec. 2, 2017; date accessed Dec. 27, 2017) and involved over a dozen public hearings. Not so with this Bill.  No Congressional hearings, last-minute changes scribbled in the margins in the middle of the night, a "late in the midnight hour" vote.  More surprising (not really), few of those who voted in favor of it completely read it through.  Party politics won the day.

Now that that #TaxScam is law Laura Bliss, Alastair Boone, Sarah Holder, Teresa Mathew, and Benjamin Schneider parse out what it all means in their CityLab article "What the Republican Tax Bill Means for Commuters, Renters, and Retirees."  We know who the winners are: corporations and the top one-percent would reap the majority of the benefits.  Who are the losers?  The rest of 99 percent.  The co-authors write, "Most American earning less than $75,000 a year would be worse off by 2027 than they are now,  mainly due to the repeal of the Affordable Care Act's individual mandate" (bloomberg.com; Dec 4, 2017; date accessed Dec. 27, 2017).  The national deficit would increase by over $1 trillion, "triggering automatic cuts to many federal agencies and programs [aarp.org; Nov. 28, 2017; date accessed Dec. 27, 2017] including Medicare, and setting the stage for future showdowns over social safety net programs such as Medicaid and Social Securty."

Aside from the very wealthy Americans, urban dwellers will feel the greatest impact from this newly passed bill.  Some of the most densely populated and wealthiest states like California and New York (no coincidence Blue States), are in line for a bigger increase than before, essential subsidizing cuts to less expensive states like Texas and Florida (citylab.com; Nov. 29, 2017; date accessed Dec. 27, 2017).  Renters could pay a wee less, but the poorest renters could wind up homeless.  For all income bracket, commutes are likely to get worse.  Little wonder why the public reject these proposals by a 2-to-1 margin (theatlantic.com; Nov. 25, 2017; date accessed Dec. 27, 2017).

Now that it is law the co-authors examine what could be in store in the coming year.

"For commuters: bumpier (and bumpier) roads ahead"

Laura Bliss leads off with a look at how the Tax Reform will impact commuters.  The law's most consequential affect will be felt on urban transportation systems and will play out over the long term.  Ms. Bliss writes, "Both the House and Senate proposals cap property tax deductions at $10,000, and completely eliminate deductions for state and local income and sales taxes."  The result would be a reduction in state funding to urban areas, shrink local budgets set aside for road maintenance, bus drivers' salaries, lay new train tracks, and otherwise support Americans' daily commutes.  Streets, freeways, airports, and mass transportation systems are already in bad shape now (citylab.com; Feb. 12, 2015; date accessed Dec. 27, 2017).  So much for paying for that sparkling new transportation infrastructure that Mr. Trump promised on the campaign trail.  In fact, this could make things worse,  "Unless leaders raised local taxes, which would make cities even more expensive places to live, and put the heaviest burden on low-income taxpayers" [Ibid; Jan. 20, 2015; date accessed Dec. 27, 2017].

The Senate version of Tax Reform would have, according to the non-partisan Congressional Budget Office, increased the federal deficit approximately $1.5 trillion over a ten year period (cbo.gov; Nov. 13, 2017; date accessed Dec. 27, 2017).  This would generate cuts to a myriad of federal agencies, including the Department of Transportation, implying less money for highways, airports, and local transit intiatives.  Scott Goldstein, the policy director of Transportation for American, told CityLab,

It's more than just a to bill,...It will have repercussions on programs we rely on to make reinvestment so in American.

With that much debt, it is unimaginable where Congress could find the resources for fabled $1 trillion infrastructure the president bragged about (citylab.com; June 9, 2017; date accessed Dec. 27, 2017).

The news is more grim for infrastructure dreams: "The House...version of the tax bill would eliminate private activity bonds, which allow developers and investors to borrow money at low interest rates for public works projects."  This would make re-paying the loans to build that new rail line or that new airport terminal more expensive and drawn-out.  "Even in cities like Los Angeles and and Seattle, where citizens have already overwhelmingly voted for multi-billion dollar sales tax measures" (Ibid; Nov. 9, 2016;  date accessed Dec. 27, 2017).  Adie Tomer, a fellow at the Brookings Institution Metropolitan Policy Program told CityLab, 

...promises made to taxpayers won't be kept, certainly in terms of timing.

At recent news conference (latimes.com; Nov. 27, 2017; date accessed Dec. 27, 2017), Los Angeles Mayor Eric J. Garcetti (Ibid) offered a more blunt assessment,

This will mean more traffic.

There are parts of the bill that refer directly to transportation, which could have more mixed short-term results.  Tax benefits for buying an electric car would disappear (citylab.com; Nov. 21, 2017; date accessed Dec. 27, 2017), slowing down EV adoption.  Commuter tax benefits were also in danger: the House version of the bil, companies that provide subsidized or free parking or transit passes would no longer be eligible for $255 per-worker tax breaks.  More commuters would have to pay for it themselves.  In an aside Ms. Bliss writes, "For the urbanist crowd a tax policy that eliminates parking subsidies could be considered a tiny win."  The Senate version kept the parking and transit benefit "but a $20 per-month tax available for the tiny-but-growing number who consistently bike to work would disappear."

Why pick on cyclists?  Spite, perhaps (washingtonpost.com; Nov. 25, 2017; date accessed Dec. 27, 2017)

"For homebuyers and owners: cheaper houses, but higher property taxes"

Sarah Holder looks at how the new Tax Reform Law will affect homeowners and buyers.  Both the House and Senate versions put a limit on mortgage interest and property tax deductions, decreasing home values-"as much as 10 percent nation-wide," according to the National Association of Realtors (nar.realtor; Dec. 2, 2017; date accessed Dec. 27, 2017).  It might help prospective buyers, but current homeowners would lose major equity.  Some buyer, upper middle-class in particular, might find buying that new or first home less appealing.

Be that as it may, not every deduction has been completely slashed.  The Senate version kept the $1 million cap for mortgage interest deductions on home loans, but the House version cut it in half.  Ms. Holder writes, "But these changes coincide with the doubling of the standard deduction, [money.cnn.com; Nov. 30, 2017; date accessed Dec. 27, 2017], which essentially cancels out the benefit of any mortgage interest deduction."  The MID has long been detested for preserving saving for the wealthiest Americans, thus reducing it to $500,000 might be little progressive.  However, rather than using the MID savings to pay for new affordable housing, as advocates hope, these saving would gravitate upward (citylab.com; Dec. 4, 2017; date accessed Dec. 27, 2017).

By re-configuring the mix of deductions available homeowners, the new tax law could upend where and when they choose to move.  Both the House and Senate and House versions capped state and local tax deductions, which could drive people away from the coastal states.  "We could see 'tax refugees' [bloomberg.com; Nov. 27, 2017; date accessed Dec. 27, 2017] streaming out of states with high state and local tax states like California and New York."  Further, other changes in the capital gains tax deductions could remove incentives to people from buying or selling.  Lawrence Yun, the chief economist for the National Association of Realtors, told CityLab,

Better jobs, a call to duty by the military-now we are preventing people from taking on these better opportunities.

"For renters: lower housing costs for some; no housing for others"

Benjamin Schneider points out, "How these proposals would affect the 43 million American households that rent their home is not clear."  There is a bit of a Catch-22 to how the new Tax Reform Law will affect housing: "Home values, will almost certainly decrease.  But that doesn't mean necessarily mean rents will start to fall."

The Tax Reform Law does away with home mortgage and property tax deduction-which would explain why property owners in Los Angeles lined up to pre-pay their taxes-thus, more Americans would have littl, if any incentive to buy a home and opt to rent, particularly in expensive cities.  This would more pressure on already tight rental markets, like in Los Angeles, which are experiencing historic levels of demand (washingtonpost.com; June 24, 2015; date access Jan. 2, 2018).  However, the lower home might induce some renters to become buyers.  Hard to say whether or not the drop in prices will out weight the greater tax burden of home ownership.

The big winners are rental property owners.  Mr. Schneider writes, "Under both House and Senate bill, Jim Seida, a professor at Notre Dame's Mendoza College of Business said,

...the owner of a rental property can still deduct the financing costs of purchasing that property, and can still deduct the property taxes without limit-unlike a homeowner"

Additional investment is likely to be funneled toward rental property, possibly leading to lower prices for renters by fueling competition among the builders and property owners.

Even so, as capital makes its way into the traditional rental markets, the affordable rental market will probably take a hard hit.  The big drop in the corporate tax rate "will significantly reduce investor interest in the Low-Income Housing Tax Credit [citylab.com; Dec. 4, 2017; date accessed Jan 2, 2017]."  The accounting and consulting firm Novogradac and Company (novoco.com; Nov. 3, 2017; date accessed Jan 2, 2017) conducted an analysis of the tax reform law, concluding that it would eliminate nearly 1 million affordable rental units.  They found,"...the bills' proposes 20 percent corporate tax rate would make the LIHTC 15 percent less valuable, which would result in $1.2 billion less in investment in affordable housing over the next decade."

The House's bill provision to end private-activity bonds could land an even mightier punch to the affordable rental housing market.  Private-activity bonds are "tax-free municipal bonds" which are primary tool for developers of affordable housing to access the LITHC tax credits and accounts for more than 60 percent (nlihc.org; Nov. 6, 2017; date accessed Jan. 2, 2017) of the construction and and rehabilitation of affordable housing units.  Without this instrument, as many as "880,000 rental units" could not be built or preserved over the next ten years.

Mr. Schneider surmises, "For urbanist, a federal policy pivot toward renters might be seen as a small victory amidst all of the bad news.  But for renters who were already in the most precarious economic position, things are likely to get more difficulty."

"For retirees: rising healthcare costs, Medicare cuts, and shrinking nest eggs"

Teresa Mathew looks at how the Tax Reform Law will impact the elderly.  She begins, "Currently, Americans who spend more than 10 percent of their income on medical expenses can deduct a number of additional expenses-like healthcare premiums and medical transportation costs-from their out-of-pocket health spending."  This deduction made medical care more affordable, considering that long-tern services and support are not usually covered by Medicare and private insurance.  The House version of the tax reform law cut these deduction, but the Senate version saved them.  The American Association of Retired Persons and other advocacy groups releases a joint statement (aarp.org; Nov. 30, 2017; date accessed Jan 2, 2017) expressing serious concern about the cut.

Further, the Senate's version of the law eliminates the mandate requiring all Americans to buy health insurance, premiums healthier younger people would longer subsidize the cost those who require more and more expensive healthcare.  Ms. Mathew reports, "The CBO states that, as a result, average overall premiums for health insurance would rise [thehill.com; Nov. 15, 2017; date accessed Jan 2, 2018] by about 10 percent over the next decade.  A study conducted by AARP's Public Policy Institute found that "there could Abe an average premium increase of up to $1,5000 for people ages 50 to 64 by 2019 (aarp.org; Jan. 2 2018).

Another major concern: the "$1.5 surge to the federal deficit that the CBO anticipates would force automatic cuts to Medicare-up to $25 billion in 2018, and more beyond [Ibid; Nov. 28, 2017]."  Both Medicare and Social Security may be exempt from the mandatory cuts thanks to the 2010 pay-as-you-go law, however as the deficit balloons, many can expect these programs-which prevent millions from falling into poverty- be ripe targets for privatization (thehill.com; Dec. 3, 2017).

For elderly homeowners who are dependent upon their home equity to supplement their retirement income, the pending drop in home values caused by the tax changes would be a hard blow to their long-term economic security.

Workers trying to set aside money for their retirement could also suffer as proposes deductions for pass-through income (cbsnews.com; Nov. 3, 2017; date accessed Jan 2, 2018) might discourage small businesses from offering retirement plans or other related benefits to their employees.  Ms. Mathew writes, "Currently, non-discrimination laws state that if owners are going to have retirement savings plans, they need to create similar ones for their employees."  If a business owner has no incentive to establish one for themselves, they may be less willing to do so for others, and more likely to to set aside money for their own retirements.  This is not good news for workers: "According to a survey from the AARP, 55 million Americans don't have a way to save for retirement out of their paycheck [aarp.org; Oct. 2014]."

Brian Graff, president and CEO of AARP told CityLab,

The data is very clear: People who make between $30,000 to $50,000 are 15 times more likely to save [for retirement] because of the convenience of payroll deduction, the fact there's a match and the culture of savings in the workplace,...If you're left on your own, you don't have those things.

"For students: higher costs for higer ed (especially grad school)"

Alastair Boone returns to take a look at what the new Tax Reform Law means for students considering university, graduate, or professional schools.  The news is not good. Both versions threatened to make higher education less accessible in a number of ways.  The House of Representatives' version had the biggest bite, "with about $65 billion worth of cuts to provisions that help students and families finance undergraduate and graduate programs."  The most eye-popping of these cuts was the tuition waiver for grad students working as teaching or research assistants while earning their doctorates, especially in the STEM subjects.

The tuition waivers differ from stipends-the taxable money provided by the universities to cover living expenses-the waivers are not funds that grad students actually spend.  Thus they are not currently taxable.  However, the House version treated the waivers like taxable income.  During an interview with Inside Higher Ed, University of Illinois Ph.D candidate Mary Grace Hebert compared taxing the waivers to taxing a coupon.  Graduate students would see their tax burden go through the roof, and advanced degrees would out of reach to all but the wealthiest.

There are more tax cuts slated for students.  Ms. Boone writes, "Today, under employer-provided educational assistance, an employer can pay working students up to $5,250, tax free."  The House version of the bill would have eliminated the exempt status for this reimbursements.  Further, the House version offered to repeal student loan interest deduction, "which currently allow those paying off loans to cut their annual tax burden by as much as $2,500 (washingtonpost.com; Dec.2, 2017; date accessed Jan. 2, 2018).  This would further deepened the already growing student debt crisis.

Steven Bloom, the director of government relations at the American Council on Education, told CityLab, 

If you wanted to design policies that undermine eduction for undergraduates, part-time students, folks needing re-training, and graduate students...you would do what the House did,...

The Senate version was more preferable, both versions of the tax reform law eliminate state and local incom and property tax deductions, which translates to fewer funds to pass along to public school districts. Further, fewer funds to public school districts could result in fewer students going to university in the first place (theatlantic.com; Aug. 25, 2016; date accessed Jan. 2, 2018)