Publications by Barbara Ray

As owner of HiredPen, Barbara specializes in social media and strategic communications for nonprofits and research organizations.

Top 10 BRR Blog Posts of All Time, and a Goodbye

Friday, December 20th, 2013

 12.20. 2013 | As the year winds to an end, so too does this blog. This will be our final post. Building Resilient Regions was designed to be a temporary project, funded with a generous grant from the MacArthur Foundation. The goal was to bring together a group of scholars from a range of disciplines to think deeply about the ideas of resilience, regionalism, and metro staying power.

We started this blog far into the Network’s life, in April 2011, and with the help of a great team of writers at HiredPen, and the rich body of work that the members of BRR have produced, we’ve been writing twice weekly about all things metro resilience, including economic development, equity, infrastructure, immigration, and governance. Our plan was to use the day’s headlines as a pivot to discuss the deeper issue behind those headlines and add some context to the stories. Looking back on the posts,  I can see the ebb and flow of the defining trends of the past two years, from the rise of big data, to the tentative rebirth of manufacturing, to the foreclosure crisis.

We’re going to miss writing about topic. But the good news is that the site will remain as a repository and resource, so dig in and look back on the posts, as well as the great research on the site. To get you started, below are the top 10 posts since we launched. (more…)

Urban Planning Books for Under Your Tree

Wednesday, December 18th, 2013

12.18.2013 | Seven days and counting …until you’re that guy (because it is only guys) who rushes to Walgreens on Christmas Eve. Don’t be that guy. For the urban planners on your list, get thee to a bookstore.

Brent Todiarian is making it easy. A devoted city planning geek, he has listed his 100 favorite urban planning/ metro development books. Here’s his top 10 to make it easy on you. And I’m adding a few more at the end, including a new one from the University of Illinois Center for Urban Planning and Policy that addresses metro resilience post-recession. (more…)

Local Factors That Shape Immigrant Integration

Thursday, December 12th, 2013

12.12.2013 | Sometimes when you live through history, you don’t see the moment when it all began to change. We may be at one of those moments.

Forces are coalescing and changes are underway in the civil rights battle of this era: immigration.

It seems ages ago that Hazleton, Pennsylvania, was in the news for its draconian approach to an influx of immigrants. Remember Hazleton? Faced with an influx of newcomers into the largely white community, the city passed an ordinance to fine landlords who rented to supposed “illegals.”

In the intervening years, a recession grabbed the nation’s attention and immigration took on new proportions with movements like the Dream Act. On the ground in cities across the country, immigrants are demanding a voice and becoming a political force.

Yet not all cities are willingly ceding the battle. (more…)

Online Tool Shows The True Cost of Living in Metro Areas

Friday, November 8th, 2013

11.7.2013 | Back in August, the nonprofit National Housing Conference and Center for Housing Policy released an interactive online database that compares median incomes for full-time employees to the cost of living in 207 US metropolitan areas. Last week, researchers Maya Brennan and Janet Viveiros hosted a webinar to explain the uses behind the resource, called Paycheck to Paycheck, and discussed some of the striking statistics it exposes.

“Paycheck to paycheck is a housing affordability tool that provides a way to look at what challenges workers are facing,” explained the researchers during the webinar. (more…)

City Finances Rebound, But They’re Not Out of the Woods

Thursday, October 17th, 2013

10.17.2013 | Things are looking up for cities. More than 70 percent of those surveyed in the annual National League of Cities survey said that they were better able to pay their bills and keep services operating in 2013 than in the previous year. That’s up from 43 percent in 2010. Cities are also building up their reserves once again.

Interestingly, the level of optimism is just a notch shy of what it was during the boom years of the late 1990s. But some dark clouds still loom. (more…)

Secede! Rural Areas Want Nothing to Do with More Liberal Cities

Thursday, October 10th, 2013

10.10.2013 | From the Declaration of Independence to the Key West Conch Republic (we seceded where others failed), the nation has a long history of threatening secession. And we’re at it again.

The New York Times reports that several Colorado counties want to secede from the more liberal parts of the state, dominated by urban centers. They see these areas as being hijacked by liberals who want to promote pot, gay marriage, green energy, and most importantly, gun control. The liberal agenda is not for them.

So in November, 11 northern, heavily rural counties will vote on whether to secede from Colorado and form their own state, “one that would cherish the farm towns and conservative ideals that people here say have been lost in Denver’s glassy downtown lofts or Aspen’s million-dollar ski condos. It would be called New Colorado, or maybe North Colorado—a prairie bulwark against the demographic changes and urbanization that are reshaping politics and life across this and other Western states.” (more…)

Is Razing Homes Ever a Good Solution to Foreclosures? Cleveland Says Yes

Wednesday, September 4th, 2013

9.4.13 | As the foreclosure crisis shifts from crisis mode to cleanup mode, cities around the country are struggling to deal with a swath of abandoned properties. Chicago recently lost its effort to recoup some of the maintenance money it has spent on abandoned properties, and Baltimore is moving ahead with razing some properties. Land banks are popping up across the country to take over the properties and get them back into the market.

But it was a headline in the Cleveland Plain Dealer that caught my eye and made me reach out to BRR’s Edward (Ned) Hill in Cleveland. The headline read, “Bull-Doze War Truce: Feds say Ohio can divert $60 million to demolish vacant homes.”

As an outsider I was at first appalled that the city was bulldozing homes—homes that are most likely in low-income, largely minority neighborhoods. It smelled of “urban renewal,” the legacy of which still haunts my hometown, Chicago. And I also wondered, doesn’t Cleveland have a Land Bank to address this issue? 

So I asked Ned about it. Here’s his response: (more…)

Affordable Housing Makes for Stronger Metro Areas

Wednesday, July 3rd, 2013

7.3.13 | I’ve been spending an inordinate amount to time lately looking at real estate. My husband and I toss around the idea of moving somewhere warm since he’s now retired. It’s an exhausting search for that perfect, affordable place. And I stress affordable. Everything “nice” is too expensive, and everything affordable is a dump.

Our search of course falls squarely under the meme “first world problems.” Affordable housing takes on an entirely different dimension when faced with paying half your salary for an apartment with peeling lead paint, roaches, and a broken window, because that’s the best option available.

For far too many families, affordable housing is more than a perk. According to a report by the Bipartisan Policy Center, nearly two-thirds of extremely low-income renters (those with incomes at or below 30 percent of an area’s median income) spend half or more of their income on rent. When half your money is going to the landlord, it’s hard to buy the things that not only make life a smidge nicer, but that can also improve your children’s prospects. (more…)

New Working Papers from BRR Scholars

Thursday, May 30th, 2013

5.31.2013 | BRR members met at the Urban Institute in Washington, DC, on May 31, to present their latest research to a closed-door session with policymakers and other scholars. The topics cover economic resilience and governance, social equity among and within regions, an overview of regionalism, and the immigration challenge facing regions.

The working papers are available for download now.  (more…)

A Thaw in the Ice Over Immigration?

Tuesday, May 28th, 2013

5.28.13 | Half of Americans overstate unauthorized immigration levels into the United States, yet while Americans overestimate the number of undocumented immigrants, they are less threatened by illegal immigration now than at any point since 1994, a new national survey by the Chicago Council on Global Affairs finds. In 1994, fully 72% of those surveyed said that the surge of immigrants was a critical threat to the country. In 2012, that share had fallen to 40%. (more…)