Monthly Archives: January 2010

If I Were Mayor: Part 1

In a run-up to the Toronto municipal election to be held on Monday, October 25, 2010, the National Post has started a series of interviews where they are asking people what they would do if they were mayor of Toronto.  The first one is with George Stroumboulopoulus and with Annie Kidder.


Urban Institute’s Top Ten List of most read papers 2009

The Urban Institute published a list detailing which of their papers attracted the most attention for 2009.

Dogs make cities Greener

Bradford Plumer comments that because dogs make cities safer, and therefore more desirable, there is also a spin-off effect of making cities Greener.

And if the parks and streets are safer, wouldn’t that convince more people to live in those urban neighborhoods (say, instead of the suburbs)? Doesn’t that ultimately have a green effect? I don’t know how it all tallies up, but surely there are a few marks on the positive side of the dog externality ledger.

Dogs and safe neighbourhoods

Ezra Klein, in the Washington Post for Jan 5, 2010 reflects on Richard Kayman’s post about dog walkers notes how in his experience a few poodles on the sidewalk makes a big difference.  He suggests that perhaps transitional neighbourhoods should offer tax incentives for dog ownership.

Richard Kayman’s paean to dog walkers describes my experience perfectly:

I am not a dog person myself, but I am deeply appreciative of well-managed dog parks because in many urban neighborhoods, dog owners are some of the only regularly walking people in a community — many neighborhoods outside of the inner core of Washington are dominated by automobiles and there is relatively little positive pedestrian activity on often empty sidewalks.

Dog walkers contribute positive activity not just to streets and sidewalks but to parks. It’s very easy for a park to devolve into a dangerous place. One technique for people committed to disorder to keep people (especially families and children generally) out of parks is to break a lot of bottles — broken glass keeps a park free of children, making it easier to conduct illicit business and activities.

My neighborhood isn’t the world’s best, but nor is it the world’s worst. After dark, the streets fill with dog walkers. A couple per block, at least. In the winter, they’re the only people on the streets. Without them, the neighborhood would be lot emptier, and the streets would feel a lot more forbidding. Placing a couple of poodles — and my neighborhood has a lot of poodles — on the landscape really does wonders. Developing neighborhoods should give some sort of tax credit for dog ownership.

Actually, my area is doing the next best thing. The city is building a big park/open air drug market near my house. At least, that’s the joke. But the design is smart: It’s got a big dog park, in addition to a community garden and some playgrounds. And if the streets are any indication, the dog park will be used, which means the park will be used, which means the plan might work out after all. The blogosphere is oddly thick with cat owners, but this is just one more reason dog people are better than cat people.

Dogs make cities safer

Richard Layman points out that because dog owners take their pooches for a walk on a regular basis, dog owners prevent city parks from becoming centres of crime.   Wherever you see people with dogs in the city it’s a good indicator that you are in one of the safer neighbourhoods.

Urban Economics is “lumpy”

Regions and cities do not build up evenly, but rather unevenly as talented people and businesses cluster together in close connection.

Here’s a partial quote from the longer post/article by Ryan Avent:

The value in economically dynamic cities is the people that populate them. Where once, firms would pay high land prices to be near coal deposits or harbors, based on the economic advantages those amenities conferred, they now pay high land prices to be near talent. This yen to concentrate in particular areas has a number of dynamics. Firms want to be near customers and clients. Workers want to be near firms. Firms want to be near workers. Where there are lots of firms and workers, there will also be businesses serving those workers — in business and in the provision of consumption opportunities — and those services attract additional firms and workers. Everyone wants to be where everyone is, and it’s tough for anyone to go somewhere else because somewhere else is where people aren’t.

The result is an urban geography that’s very lumpy. People clump together, because there are gains to doing so.