Cities: December 2005 Archives

This morning I met up with Steve Patterson of Urban Review - St. Louis at Shades of Brown Coffee in Brookside to talk about urban developments here and there.

Steve was heading back to St. Louis after visiting family in Oklahoma City. True city aficionado that he is, he wanted to get a sense of the urban situation here in Tulsa and set aside some time this morning on his way home to explore and take a few photos. He quizzed me about interesting urban places in Tulsa, and I look forward to reading his observations of our city.

One topic that came up in our conversation was Tulsa's "East Village", the 115 acres between 1st and 7th, Elgin and Lansing. A St. Louis developer, Desco, had won a contract to redevelop the area, but they failed to do anything, which Steve indicated was a good thing. Desco is a suburban developer, connected with the Schnucks supermarket chain. Here's an example of how Desco builds in an urban environment -- cookie-cutter suburban design with the big parking lot, no pedestrian connection to the neighborhood, no respect for the traditional street grid. Looks like we dodged a bullet.

Lately he's been writing about the fight to preserve a historic church building, St. Aloysius Gonzaga and about revitalization in Old North St. Louis. This entry about the conversion of a north St. Louis middle school into apartments not only reviews the project itself, but gives you a sense of the context -- the surrounding neighborhood.

If we're going to make headway in preserving and recreating urban places in Tulsa, we'll have to learn lessons from other cities. The number of urban design blogs is growing, and Steve's blog is a great example of the emerging genre.

Not "free" the adjective, but "free" the imperative verb. America's most public-transit-dependent city has been hit with a strike of public transit workers, and the solution is to liberate public transit from the state-owned monopoly that controls it.

Karol at Alarming News sees a silver lining in the cloud of the transit strike:

I like that people get to see what Unions really are, and what they really do. What private sector employee gets a mandatory 8% non-performance-based raise each year? What private sector employee has a standard retirement age of 55?

In the comments one of her readers defended the union's strike as an exercise of freedom of association and good ol' capitalism, using the leverage they have to get more money. Here's my reply:

If this were a situation where free markets and freedom of association were at work, the city would be able to fire every worker who didn't show up today and replace them with someone willing to work. Instead, the union can put city government over a barrel because they have a federally-enforced monopoly over the labor supply for the transit system. That, in turn, puts the citizens of New York over a barrel because of laws that keep the private sector out and give city government a monopoly over mass transit.

I linked to a background paper by the Institute for Justice, which was involved in a case in New York defending entrepreneurs who wanted to provide bus service in areas that aren't well-served by the city's system. Click through and read that paper -- these are classic examples of creative people who saw a need and a way to earn a fair wage by filling that need, but they were shut down by unnecessary regulation. Ultimately, state law in New York allows the city to keep private bus companies out, which is the case in most of the country. Laws against private bus companies don't serve the public interest -- they serve entrenched interests like the union and the city transit bureaucracy.

About this Archive

This page is a archive of entries in the Cities category from December 2005.

Cities: October 2005 is the previous archive.

Cities: February 2006 is the next archive.

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