Are suburbanites to blame for melting Arctic ice and other ills of the planet? Yes, according to National Public Radio which today uses the story of a typical Atlanta area suburbanite who moved far enough away from work that it requires more time and energy.
What we don't have in the story, however, is actual research. How far does the typical suburbanite travel to work? How much energy is used in the process. How much energy would be created if the cities created enough room -- somehow -- to nuke all the 'burbs?
Coincidentally -- I think -- MinnPost yesterday carried an op-ed piece by Robert Bruegmann, a professor of art history, architecture and urban planning at the University of Illinois. He's speaking at the U on Thursday. In the piece, called "Sprawl: It isn't new -- and it isn't all bad," Bruegmann notes that anti-sprawl policies have had the opposite of their intended effect, mostly in a huge spike in housing prices.
Although anti-sprawl measures continue to be popular in many places around the world, there has also been a growing recognition of the unintended negative consequences of these policies, particularly in the case of the unprecedented spike in housing prices in the most heavily regulated urban areas.
A study in Australia not long ago found, however, that the biggest environment footprint isn't so much where people live, but what they buy. Shopping was identified as the big culprit.
Shopping habits represent such a large part of greenhouse gas emissions that even if every household switched to renewable energy and stopped driving cars tomorrow, total household emissions would fall by less than 20 per cent, the study found. On average, every additional dollar of consumption was responsible for 720 grams of greenhouse gas emissions and 28 litres of water.
In America's first suburb, Levittown, N.Y., an aggressive plan is underway to get people to improve the energy use of their homes -- somewhat easy given that the homes are nearly 60 years old.
What would be interesting is to compare the so-called "carbon footprint" of city people and suburbanites around here.
Here's some calculators. Consider taking them and posting your results, indicating which camp you are in.
Greenhouse Gas Emissions Calculator - From the EPA. Enter your data, see how you compare to the average.
Cool Climate Calculator - An ongoing project from UC-Berkley, although it's a little bit lame that the only region you can select for Minnesota is Minneapolis.
Individual Emissions Calculator - A little bit different in that it calculates how much you emit getting from here to there.(2 Comments)
One had to cringe when reading the New York Times this morning, which reported that Minnesota is considering a 4 a.m. bar closing time during the Republican National Convention. We might as well get use to it, Aunt Bea: we're going to be the cute hicks in flyover country gearing up for the big city slickers a comin' to town.
In the MPR story, there is the required prediction of doom:
"It's only going to make it worse if it's until 4 a.m.," said Tait Danielson-Castillo, director of the district council serving the Frogtown neighborhood.
In this case, the concern is noise, something that would be hard to avoid with a few thousand delegates coming to town and three times as many journalists arriving to document their every drunken moment.
Let's head to the News Cut Wayback Machine.
It's May 6, 2003 and the Minnesota Senate has just passed a bill to allow bars in Minnesota to stay open until 2 a.m., ostensibly to keep Minneapolis St. Paul in the convention business.
Then Sen. Wes Skoglund, DFL-Minneapolis, predicted doom:
And the only way the bars are going to make more money is if they sell more liquor. And if they sell more liquor, that means there's more people drinking, and more people are drinking more. And more people drinking means more drunks and drunker drunks on the road. And more drunks and drunker drunks on the road means more crashes, more injuries and more deaths," according to Skoglund.
A couple of weeks later, Gov. Tim Pawlenty -- an opponent of a later closing time -- signed the bill because another 50 state troopers were going to be hired.
So what happened. Fewer people died in accidents in Minnesota in 2004, and even fewer still in 2005. The number of those attributed to drunk driving dropped from around 40 percent (where it had been for several years) in 2003 to 32 percent in 2004.(21 Comments)
This hasn't been a good week or so for people to feel entirely safe, wrapped in the loving arms of the nation's airlines.
Last week, American Airlines canceled about 300 flights to check some jets for faulty wiring. Earlier this month a House subcommittee found that Southwest Airlines and FAA inspectors falsified safety reports, resulting in its planes going more than two years without the required safety checks.
Sometimes the anecdotal evidence of trouble is even more upsetting. Take Tom Shoop, who writes the blog FedBlog. Last night he spent time at the Minneapolis St. Paul International Airport watching repair crews for an unnamed airline fix a hole in the wing with duct tape.
The hole had been covered up by what I swear appeared to be duct tape until moments earlier, when the tape had been ripped off during the de-icing process. We taxied back to the gate and, to my amazement, a couple of mechanics came out, applied more tape (which actually seemed to involve some kind of heat-activated adhesive) and pronounced the plane ready to fly -- which it then did, all the way to Washington.
Sen. Chuck Grassley, R-Iowa, was on the same plane.
At a time when the airlines are going bankrupt, the advanced age of the nation's aircraft fleet is troubling... unless you're in the duct tape business.(3 Comments)
Posted at 12:06 PM on April 1, 2008
by Bob Collins
MPR's Art Hughes is checking on the reliability of data that was used in a report out today that suggests Minneapolis schools are a basket case. Initial word is that the data is about 4 years old.
Analyzing the country's 50 most populous cities, the report said Minneapolis' schools came in at #45. Detroit, which apparently finishes last in just about every survey these days, finished last.
According to the report, only 43.7 percent of Minneapolis school kids graduate "on time," defined as the number of 9th graders who can be expected to graduate, based on the "old data."
The report also looked at the suburban-urban "education gap," and found Minneapolis' to be about average -- a 17-percent graduation rate difference between it and suburban districts. The report said 80.7 percent of kids in suburban districts graduate.
By Minneapolis schools' calculation, however, the graduation rate is 67.2 percent, and lists a near 87 percent graduation rate for the four largest high schools (Report available here). That data is through last spring's graduations.
Whether you're using the old data or the "new" data, the numbers are still disheartening. It means that in Minneapolis, four to six students per day drop out.
Up at the Capitol this year, a bill -- SF3001 -- would change the age at which kids can drop out to 18, from 16. It appears to have bipartisan support, but some educators reportedly think it focuses too much on the end of the school years and not the beginning. Maryland is considering the same sort of legislation (Hat tip to Mike Marchio, the Minnesota Fantasy Legislature boss.)
Behind every number, of course, is a person. What happens to the kids who leave? Some go on to get GEDs. By one calculation, more than 80 percent of those who get GEDs are in the labor force, and suggested most of those who drop out realize they need to further their education.
Posted at 12:30 PM on April 1, 2008
by Bob Collins
Need evidence that the world of blogging is usurping "mainstream media?"
The Democrats announced today that they will allow bloggers to sit with the state delegations in Denver's Pepsi Center. That leapfrogs bloggers over, umm, radio and TV, which are allowed access to the delegates for only a limited period of time. For radio folks, for example, floor passes are granted with, normally, 20-minute time limits.
Says Howard Dean, the boss of the Democratic Party in a news release today:
"The Internet is the most significant tool for building democracy since the invention of the printing press."
Of course, you can't really learn much from the infommercial known as a political convention (I'm speaking of the nightly program here). But the symbolism is significant, especially since at the last convention -- Boston in 2004 -- the bloggers were confined to a special section for irrelevancy.
In Denver, Daily Kos is providing free wiFi and workspace near the convention site and YouTube is sponsoring a blogging area. The Dems are also providing a live stream of the convention (and I presume the GOP will, too).
For the Republican convention in St. Paul, the party intends to credential a "limited number" of bloggers.
Here's the audio (mp3) from today's Democratic convention conference call for bloggers.
I had to hang up (I was waiting for a call from the Holy Cross prof for this post) before I could ask the question about what kinds of bloggers are going to be allowed on the floor -- would Republican-leaning "state blogs" be allowed.
Blogs, of course, are tailor made for a political convention. What will be worth watching is to what degree the partisan political blogs question what is happening, and also to what extent they seek out material that isn't being spoon-fed from the convention producers.
(h/t: Steve Griffith)
Can a city make any real dough by hosting a political convention?
In Boston, where Democrats met four years ago, a think tank projected $23.8 million in lost productivity. The Beacon Hill Institute at Suffolk University figured transportation delays would result in a net loss to the city of $12.8 million.
A rosier prediction prepared for Boston's mayor predicted a $154 million boost to the economy there.
How did it turn out? There was a $7.5 million decline in commuter spending and a $19.9 million decline in expected tourist spending. Boston claimed a net $163 million increase in its economy, the Suffolk University's final tally showed a mere $14.8 million gain. And out of 100 businesses surveyed, only 11 showed an increase in business (See report here).
In Denver, where the Democratic convention will be held this year, officials decided not to do an economic analysis of the convention, preferring instead to use Boston's data. Officials say "The Big Dig" was a major reason for the disappointing results there.
The Beacon Hill Institute also studied the impact of the Republican National Convention in New York the same year. It projected a $163 million impact, far less than the the $260 million boost predicted by Mayor Bloomberg. By the way, its analysis showed that the non-delegate (i.e. media) spends more money during the convention than the delegate.
As for Minnesota, officials estimate the event will generate $149 million in spending and boost the Minnesota economy by $163 million. Finance and Commerce reported last week that because of the federal government's subsidy of security costs, and a new way of calculating the economics of the convention, it will likely still be the most lucrative convention in the history of the Twin Cities.
"Most economists think these numbers are wildly inflated, " says Victor Matheson, a professor in the economics department at Holy Cross, who studies the economic impact of 'mega-events' on cities. "What typically happens in these economic impact studies is that the studies do a good job at measuring the activity that does take place at the convention, but they don't do a good job at measuring the activity that doesn't take place. So, for example, St. Paul is going to be overrun with delegates, overrun with news folks. It's going to be chasing out, anyone who normally would be spending time in downtown St. Paul."
What will we be saying about the Republican National Convention after it leaves town?
"What you'll probably see is this: The hotels will have done well; they'll be full for a week and full for a week, perhaps, at a time that is not normally a peak season for them," according to Matheson. You will see that some people did quite well. Catering services in the local area will probably have done quite well. Other places will find probably that they did not do so well. Probably a lot of watering holes did not get too many folks. You had delegates going to specialized parties rather than the usuals who go into bars and restaurants."
There is, Matheson acknowledges, an opportunity "to put St. Paul on the map," but he says a poor showing would strip the region from any net benefits of the convention.
"St. Paul is probably in for a worse situation than Denver is because you've got an unpopular president in town and that's the sort of thing that's likely to attract demonstrators."5 Comments)
The Census Bureau today released a survey of education finances and determined that on average, the U.S. spends $9,138 per pupil per year.
Minnesota? It spends $9,138 per pupil per year.
According to the data, which is based on 2005-06, Minnesota spends $5,891 on salaries, wages, and employee benefits related to instruction, and $2,832 in support services. $385 -- 4% -- goes to administration.
This ranks Minnesota 22nd in the nation. New York and New Jersey top the list with Utah trailing the pack at $5,437 per student. North Dakota leads the nation in administrative spending.
Download an Excel spreadsheet of the data here.(3 Comments)