I’ll be away for a week or so (some of it in Toronto, where I’ll get to attend some workshops preceding Walk21), so…

* John McCarron writes in the Trib about a new book by UIC’s John McDonald about the fortunes of American cities:

The good news for Chicagoans is that, while we fell as hard as any of the big cities on McDonald’s list during the ’60s and ’70s, we turned it around during the late 1980s and mounted the most dramatic comeback of all.

But we had a long way to come back. Chicago lost 17 percent of its population between 1970 and 1990. During that time, the poverty rate jumped to 21.6 percent from 14.4 percent. The average annual family income, measured in 2005 dollars, dove to $48,500 from $54,300. The murder rate jumped by 30 percent and the percentage of single-parent households nearly doubled to 41 percent from 22 percent.

Then came the turnaround. “The reversal for Chicago and the region during the ’90s was truly remarkable,” McDonald said in an interview. “Far more so than was the case for New York and the other Northeastern cities.”

Of course, that turnaround cannot be taken for granted; underinvestment in infrastructure, in particular, is a problem. Hence…

* “Illinois Works,” according to the Southtown, will consist mostly of accelerating current IDOT highway plans. The Trib reports:

The legislation approved by the Senate would provide $425 million in capital funding to the Regional Transportation Authority. The CTA would receive 55 percent under the current formula. Brown said the $234 million the CTA would receive — roughly what the agency gets now — is far short of what’s needed. CTA officials said almost $6 billion in maintenance is required to put the bus and train systems in good repair.

Yes, that means just 8% of this massive capital package will fund transit in the Chicago region. The many Chicago senators who voted for this bill should be ashamed.

* The 26 September NYT included a feature on Portland’s food scene, citing its affordability and easy access to farms. Farmland at the urban fringe has value far beyond its aesthetic interest as green space, and the economic value has a multiplier inside the city as well. I’m sure that the Cato Institue doesn’t care, anyways.

* Leadership is about “follow me” not “after you.” — Tom Friedman on U.S. climate policy, responding to the insistent whine of “after you, China.” As I’ve said before, “Until you’ve taken constructive, positive action, you forfeit any right to waste my time with whines and complaints.”

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