All posts by David A. Smith

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The Guru Is In: Reclaiming the Carscape

In 1898, New York City hosted the first international conference of urban planners to tackle an urgent global crisis of health, congestion and overcrowding – what to do about the horses?

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The Guru Is In: Mutual Benefit Entities

As I showed in last month’s Guru, under-reinvested urban neighborhoods are left behind or shortchanged on economic capital, political capital, municipal infrastructure, coordinated government policy and local income and earning power.

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The Guru Is In: Underinvestment is Contagious

As the pandemic has demonstrated, for people to be healthy, their homes must be healthy, and for homes to be healthy, their communities must be healthy. Work we’ve been doing for the last half a year in Black neighborhoods of Milwaukee has uncovered six deeply rooted and mutually reinforcing causes of unhealthy neighborhoods due to contagious underinvestment:

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The Guru Is In: After the Eviction Moratorium

When the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) announced last August that it was declaring a nationwide moratorium on all rental evictions, not just those in federally subsidized properties, I instantly thought, That’s unconstitutional. Somebody will sue the government and it’ll get overturned. Sure enough, on May 5, 2021 the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia (DC for DC) did just that, and a good thing too, because well-met laws intended to offer short-term relief frequently do long-term damage – as I know from personal experience.

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The Guru Is In: Public Health and the Invisibly Housed

COVID-19 is in headlong retreat: infections down 70 percent since January, seven-day average hospitalizations and deaths down 66 percent and 77 percent. In less than six months, Covid-19 vaccines in America will have gone from impossibility through scarcity to surplus, with the administration announcing that “all willing American adults will be able to receive a COVID-19 vaccine by the end of May.”

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The Guru Is In: Pity the Misunderstood Developer

Over a long career of observing developers at close range, I’ve evolved an understanding of how they think and act, and, as a result, find myself with an unexpected sympathy for them. Though the algorithmic model that follows may seem reductive, time and again it’s been critical to making good deals happen and succeed. Consider it the wisdom of experience.

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The Guru Is In: NIMBY-da-fé

In November, 1478, Pope Sixtus IV by fiat granted Ferdinand and Isabella of Spain authority to name inquisitors plenipotentiary to protect the one true faith from unbelievers. In October, 2000, multiply re-elected Boston mayor Thomas Menino by fiat created for the Boston Redevelopment Authority the Impact Advisory Group process to protect communities from ‘large-scale’ developers. The mayor’s action, like those of many other big-city mayors across the country, reflected a pattern of increasing NIMBY empowerment now triumphant in far too many American cities: an elaborate public spectacle casting a veneer of altruistic morality over a power play culminating in an autocratic decision.

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