Publications by Jon Davis

Jon Davis is a writer with HiredPen which offers social media services to research institutes and nonprofits. A freelance journalist in Chicago, he has covered municipal government, transportation and development for 21 years. He also worked with the Congress for the New Urbanism on its Emergency Response & Street Design Initiative. His stories have appeared in the Chicago Tribune, New Urban News, and Planning Magazine.

A Worldly Top 10 List: What Cities Need to Go Global

Thursday, August 29th, 2013

8.29.13 | This is the Summer of Metro Love for the Brookings Institution. The think tank’s meme that U.S. metropolitan regions’ resilience is bound hand-and-foot to their capacities to think—and act—globally began with the release of “The Metropolitan Revolution” and continued with the suggestion that it’s not enough to export to the world; metros also must import investment.

Now comes Brookings’ Metropolitan Policy Program and its list of top ten traits signifying a successful global metro area, which it’s been unveiling weekly since the end of June. The overall gist of the list is that the world is global and metros must become more global themselves if they want to compete. Each trait is basically a step toward achieving this global reach and perspective. (more…)

Exports Report Boosts ‘Metro Revolution’ Meme

Tuesday, August 27th, 2013

8.27.13 | On the heels of Bruce Katz and Jennifer Bradley’s “The Metropolitan Revolution,” which we noted argues convincingly that cities and metro regions are leading the way in cutting-edge social and economic solutions without waiting for state or federal seals of approval, comes another other sign that metros are the economic vanguard.

First, there was the U.S. Commerce Department’s July announcement that 29 metro areas hit record export levels in 2012. Canada and Mexico are U.S. metros’ biggest trading partners (natch). Whether that’s because of, or despite the North American Free Trade Agreement, I can’t tell. And while NAFTA decimated much U.S. manufacturing, an occasional phoenix still rises. Which poses an interesting resilience conundrum: It’s definitely resilience when a factory survives, albeit a shadow of its former capacity. But what, if any, regional factors mattered in those survivors’ relative success? (more…)

DNA or Zip: Which Code Really Determines Your Well-Being?

Wednesday, August 21st, 2013

8.21.13 | Just as where you live helps determine the odds of your upward mobility, your zip code is apparently more important than your genetic code in determining your health.

Research keeps turning up a strong link between poor neighborhoods and poor health. The latest comes in a report from the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation’s Commission to Build a Healthier America. “Overcoming Obstacles to Health in 2013 and Beyond,” (PDF) argues that income segregation is just as bad for people’s health as it is for the nation.

Maryland’s Montgomery County and Virginia’s Arlington and Fairfax Counties can expect to live six to seven years longer than babies born to residents of Washington, D.C.—just a few subway stops away.

Even more dramatic differences are seen in New Orleans, where the average life expectancy at birth varies by as much as 25 years across nearby neighborhoods just a few miles apart. (more…)

There’s an App for That Local Government

Monday, August 19th, 2013

8.19.13 | Can a nonprofit transform local government and public service by mashing up cities and hackers? And can the model work in Washington?

Code for America, the nonprofit that pairs web developers with local governments across the country, has—to honor Baseball’s All-Star Game—made it to The Show; its leader, Jennifer Pahlka recently joined  the Obama Administration’s government innovation effort as Deputy CTO for Government Innovation in the Office of Science and Technology Policy at the White House.

The idea that current tech in the form of the now-ubiquitous app can be applied to local governments to make it easier for citizens to interact with their government and get good service isn’t new. Nor is the conviction that this will in turn boost governments’ efficiency, repair public trust, make public service attractive again. But is the logical latest step of the mindset Apple introduced back in 2008 (was it really just five years ago?!) when it rolled out the iPhone 3G: “There’s an app for that.” (more…)

Does Homeownership Make for More Resilient Cities?

Friday, August 2nd, 2013

8.2.13 | The readers of tea leaves are searching cup bottoms to discern the housing habits of Millennials or Gen Y—those currently in their 20s to early 30s. Homeownership is down and renting is up. Many are wondering if this is more than a passing fad, and what it means for cities. Is homeownership an anchor for metro areas, making them more resilient? The jury is still out. (more…)

What Do People Talk about When They Talk about the Future of Cities?

Wednesday, July 31st, 2013

7.31.13 | Guggenheim Lab is posting its list of the top 100 urban trends. Over the past two years, the BMW Guggenheim Lab, a mobile urban laboratory that is exploring life in cities today, has asked visitors to the lab in New York City, Mumbai, and Berlin for their thoughts about cities. As their website says, “Created as a resource, 100 Urban Trends aims to identify the most talked-about trends in urban thinking, as they were discussed in these three venues.” Here’s what they have to say about it:

“In recent years, there has been an unequivocal shift in the study of cities. Urban thinking, whether related to architecture or urbanism, has become dramatically less focused on infrastructure, and more on the ultimate goal and reason for the existence of cities—that is, the well-being of the people that inhabit them and constitute their very soul and essence.” (more…)

Movin’ on Up: Income Mobility Depends on Where You Live

Friday, July 26th, 2013

7.25.13 | A new study lays bare a disturbing truth: Where you live seems to greatly affect your upward mobility. And if you live in the Midwest or Southeast, your odds of moving up are not good.

The New York Times published a fantastic breakdown of the study (’s story is the only other news citation posted at the Equality of Opportunity Project site; apparently the birth of another country’s third-in-line-to-a-throne was more important to the US news media). Here’s what the Times had to say:

“The study—based on millions of anonymous earnings records and being released this week by a team of top academic economists—is the first with enough data to compare upward mobility across metropolitan areas. These comparisons provide some of the most powerful evidence so far about the factors that seem to drive people’s chances of rising beyond the station of their birth, including education, family structure and the economic layout of metropolitan areas.”


The Revolution Will Be … In Our Cities

Thursday, July 18th, 2013

7.18.13 | Given the raging dysfunction on 24/7 display in Congress, and the idea that states are antiquated political constructs, cities and metropolitan regions are pulling themselves up by their own bootstraps.

Bruce Katz and Jennifer Bradley are raising quite the wonk ruckus (wonkus?) with their new book, “The Metropolitan Revolution: How Cities and Metros are Fixing our Broken Politics and Fragile Economy.” (more…)

Why Feds, Suburbs Should Look to Metros for Models of Immigrant Integration

Friday, June 28th, 2013

6.28.13 | On Wednesday, we reviewed the first of two papers examining the effects of immigration on regional resilience, and today we close this series with a summary of the last of the working papers presented by BRR Network colleagues at a closed-door symposium at the Urban Institute on May 31 (full list of papers here).

In “Struggling over Strangers or Receiving with Resilience? The Metropolitics of Immigrant Integration,” John Mollenkopf and Manuel Pastor consider regional reactions to immigration “shock” waves and the implications for national immigration policy as Congress considers reforming our broken immigration system. (more…)

The Economic Integration of Immigrants and Regional Resilience

Wednesday, June 26th, 2013

6.26.13 | How does immigration affect regional resilience, especially during an economic downturn as severe as the Great Recession?

T. William Lester and Mai Thi Nguyen, of the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, explore that question in “The Economic Integration of Immigrants and Regional Resilience” — the latest, and penultimate in our series looking at working papers presented by the BRR Network colleagues at the closed-door symposium at the Urban Institute on May 31 (full list of papers here). (more…)