A few things to know this week: June 24, 2019

A few things to know this week: June 24, 2019

Happy Monday! Every week here, we package up a collection of things that caught our attention during the week. The following list is compiled by the whole Verdunity team — our favorite relevant or thought-provoking pieces of news, commentary, research, discussions, or cat videos we came across (or were thinking about) this week.

Here are this week's things to know:

1. Fatality Facts Yearly Snapshot

Most American's would probably say that wars are overall bad. Wars mean unavoidable death and destruction. They're also REALLY expensive financially. We generally applaud successful diplomacy, and I think many would voluntarily pay a higher price tag for diplomatic solutions than a lower price tag for going to war over something. Can we name a price we would not pay for the safety and welfare of our neighbors, friends, and family?  I can, it's however much it costs to make our transportation network safer.

The annual death rate by auto crash outpaces the annual death rate for the American Revolution, Vietnam, Korean, Iraq, and Spanish-American Wars combined. Over a combined 69 years of warfare (including the American civil war, WW1, and WW2) we lost approximately 1.5 million lives across the 12 highest-casualty wars in U.S. history. Over a 43 year period from 1975 to 2017 we lost 1.8 million people to auto crashes. Over 85,000 of those deaths were children under 13. – Felix

2. Why FOMO Is the Enemy of Good Urban Mobility Policy

It's a simple but necessary reminder – and everyone working in cities should give it a read as a calibration exercise. In mobility, FOMO ("Fear Of Missing Out") drives so many endeavors. Before jumping on the latest bandwagon, sometimes we need to remind ourselves (and others!) that being the first to try something isn't all that impressive when it doesn't meet a community need. Sometimes simple and small steps towards improvement are the best – and they are certainly the most cost effective. – AJ

3. Freddie Mac announces fixer-upper mortgage

Freddie Mac is jumping in to help close the financing gap for those wishing to reinvest in existing homes. Their new "CHOICERenovation" mortgage program can be used to purchase a refinance property and fund renovations all in one loan, or allow current homeowners to invest in their property without having to do a cash out refi. The program was just announced this week, but I expect it to be a popular option for the growing fixer upper/small developer movement. – Kevin

4. Back Row America

This excerpt from Chris Arnade's brand-new book, Dignity: Seeking Respect in Back Row America, is something I read about a month ago, but I keep thinking about it. I think all of Arnade's work does a great job of bringing to light (with some truly emotional and gripping amateur photography) some of the great many people that the more privileged members our society—including many progressive "urbanists," for one—have tended to ignore. Specifically for those of us in professions that shape the everyday experiences of people, we should all be encouraged to get out and spend more time in undesirable parts of town. In places where people struggle. With people who struggle in those places, and in a listen-first capacity. – Jordan

5. Boondoggle: A Texas-Sized Mess of a Highway Plan

It's an unfortunate reality that some of the cities we work with—and any more across the country—continue to see more and more revenue-producing space (an asset) converted to road space (a liability). This story covers a highway expansion in Houston that is doing just that, adding more TxDOT liabilities to an already under-funded road system (without actually lessening the issue of congestion in the first place). In this project, four houses of worship, two schools, 168 single-family homes, 1,067 multifamily units and 331 businesses with 24,873 employees are displaced during the process of this project. It's no wonder that our cities face budget shortfalls as we dedicate more space to cars instead of people, and push people further from one another in the process. – Tim

6. Why Don't Americans Use Their Parks at Night?

Summer's finally here—unless you're in Texas, in which case it's already been here for a while. For those of us who live in hot climates, being outside in the daytime can be oppressive (and even dangerous), but at least sunset brings some reprieve. Unless you want to go to a park. That's because lots of cities prefer not to let parks be used at night. With more Americans moving to urban areas, perhaps U.S. cities could follow in the footsteps of cities like Paris and open parks longer (if not 24 hours), as a part of a "cooling initiative" to help people enjoy time outdoors without the threat of excessive heat. – Ryan

7. Cities Start to Question an American Ideal: A House With a Yard on Every Lot

This is something close to what we are also working on, hence, this seems to be a good first share from my end. I have personally always enjoyed the style of mapping that the people at The Upshot have developed. These maps give us a clear visual interpretation of the story that they want to share with the viewers. A simple map can make a greater impact than any data charts or diagrams. This impact can be positive or negative which is why colors need to be chosen carefully so that the nature of the data one is mapping has clear messaging. In this example, simply demonstrating the distribution of what development types are allowed (and not allowed) can give us a clearer picture of what parts of our cities we might be making off-limits to a large portion of our population. And that's not even getting into the question of who is subsidizing whom (though in many cities, it's the residents of the denser, "multi-family" neighborhoods who end up paying a disproportionate share of property taxes, to the benefit of those living in large-lot, detached single family homes). – Bhargava 

Hey, city people:

Have thoughts on any of the links above? Think we missed something essential? We’re discussing these topics and more over on our brand-new online community, exclusively for local government employees.* Sign up for the Community Cultivators Network and join the discussion!

* The network is currently only for those wonderful folks out there who work in local government. If you’re not currently working for a city, town, or county, we still love you (and are sure many of you would add value to the community), but we want to keep our commitment to making this a community focused specifically on our friends working in local government. Thanks for understanding!

A few things to know this week: July 1, 2019

A few things to know this week: July 1, 2019

A few things to know this week: June 17, 2019

A few things to know this week: June 17, 2019