Archive for August, 2013

LEED from the rear

Emily Badger, writing for The Atlantic Cities Project:

Why Are Some States Trying to Ban LEED Green Building Standards?

All of this means that one industry with a vested interest in the smallest sliver of an entire green-building rating system has so far been successful in undermining the whole model in a few states. And the standards set by government construction have the potential to cascade into the private market, too.

For LEED, this battle is a perverse sign of its expanding influence. But it’s unclear if the many proponents of green building – including all the businesses that have grown up around it – are ready yet to mount the kind of defense that could keep LEED from becoming another wedge between red states and blue ones.

“I think we are at an inflection point,” Burt says. “The green building industry has grown to 45 percent of the marketplace in new construction. That’s significant growth. It’s become a real industry. And if these political attacks from certain sub-components, certain special interests are going to continue, the green building industry needs to get a lot more politically savvy.”

Twenty to twenty-five years ago, opponents of increased regulation sought a strategy of denying new government agencies tasked with overseeing such regulation. They argued that it would be more sustainable economically if such change developed directly from consumer demand rather than forced upon the economy by “new bureaucratic agencies”. Well in that time, many private certification boards have developed and, because consumers demand it, such boards have turned into household names. Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED), is one of the more recognizable of these certifications founded by the non-profit U.S. Green Buildings Council. Over time, as the consumer learned that this board is reputable for promoting energy, water, and supply efficiencies, consumers sought out this brand and demanded the same of our public projects. 34 states now rely on these standards to some extent when constructing buildings for public and private projects. Consumer demand is driving the marketplace.

But now that the original strategy of regulation opponents (who, mind you, claim to be proponents of the free market) has backfired upon them, it appears they are attempting to discredit these private groups and prevent public moneys from going to projects that receive such certification. I suppose it’s not surprising that in states like Alabama and Georgia, such acts to prevent moneys going to such projects were done by Executive Order.

So, supposed defenders of the free market have exposed themselves as nothing more than supply-siders. LEED was established by organizations filling a demand, certification standards were passed by the wide variety officials on the board with 86% approval, and have been embraced by the consumer, driving demand. Yet these same folks that demanded such action are now seeking the action of a single pen in the Executive branch to prevent such demand from working as intended. Yes, free market indeed.

March on Washington at 50

Obama, speaking at the Lincoln Memorial on the anniversary of MLK’s great speech.

The arc of the moral universe may bend towards justice, but it doesn’t bend on its own.

Pretty respectable tribute.

What authority did Obama have to change the employer mandate implementation date?

So has President Obama, in fact, broken the law and abused his constitutional authority by delaying the Affordable Care Act’s “employer mandate”? This may be the top Republican talking point right now. But what does the law actually say about this?

In essence, the President’s job is to enforce the laws, but not to enforce logistical hiccups at all costs. Moving a deadline back a year to ensure the overarching enforcement
of the law runs more smoothly is something the Executive branch (throughout the years) apparently does regularly.

Zimmerman asking Florida to pay his legal bills


Bike Share coming to Philadelphia

Implementing a top-quality system will boost the City’s transportation network and further advance Philadelphia’s position as a city of choice. Mayor Nutter has committed $3 million of the City’s capital budget as the seed for bringing a world class bike share system to Philadelphia in 2014. The program is expected to cost between $10-15 million which will be raised from State and Federal grants as well as private sponsors.

Gerrymandering Jigsaws

Coolest way ever of educating the public on gerrymandering and how both parties use it to affect political landscapes in this nation.

Can You Solve Slate’s Gerrymandering Jigsaw Puzzle?

Gerrymandering is simply the rules of the political game. Districts need to be redrawn every ten years based upon the census, so we can’t completely get rid of its effects. But perhaps Congress should impose a limit on the number of sides (or changes of angle if they outsmart that restriction with curves) with which a district can be drawn to limit the outlandishness of some of the redistricting process.

Widening Main Street, Shrinking Community

Dennis Gaffney writes for the NYTimees about Hamburg, New York, a town set out to reclaim Main Street in an era built for cars.

In fact, all of Hamburg’s Main Street was redesigned to slow vehicles, a technique known as traffic calming. Two lanes, instead of the three that had been planned, were built, and the lanes’ width was shrunk from 12 feet — highway-size ribbons that invite drivers to go fast — to 10 feet. That created more room for trees; on-street parking, which is good for businesses; and “safety lanes,” which provide room for drivers to open car doors safely and also serve as de facto bicycle lanes.

Four years since the project, business and development in Hamburg is booming, mostly because the plan to slow down cars encourages foot traffic in downtown.

Dustin Cable’s Racial Dot Map

A look at racial geography in the U.S.


Why Nonprofits Should Operate Commuter Trains

Philanthropic involvement in US transit has mainly been in the form of funding advocacy work. The Rockefeller Foundation, for example, promotes “equitable, sustainable transportation” largely through funding advocacy groups such as Transportation for America, Building America’s Future, and the Regional Plan Association. Advocacy plays an important role in transit, but it has fundamental limits. If there are structural problems with the way public transit is organized, defined, or managed, advocacy will be largely ineffective. This is especially true if no single policy or change can solve a given problem. Although advocacy may be effective in gaining passage of a law or supporting a program’s funding, it is less effective in ensuring ongoing good management.

If the philanthropic and nonprofit sector is going to achieve meaningful change in public transit, it needs to expand the scope of its efforts—from advocating change to actually running transit systems.

Great thoughts by Rohit T. Aggarwala. Personally, I think public transit (and media) may be the perfect reason to support L3Cs.

Charting psychological change via Google Books

200 Years of Books Prove That City-Living Changes Our Psychology

This implies that as a society slowly urbanizes over time, its psychology and culture change, too. But Greenfield hasn’t been able to prove that until now. In her latest research, published in the journal Psychological Science, she leverages an enormous quantifiable dataset on American culture over the last two centuries that never existed before: the Google Books Ngram Viewer.

Wild Stuff.