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.

Debt, Housing and How Young Adults Are Surviving the Great Recession

Thursday, February 28th, 2013

2.28.13 | Setting aside the irony of discussing resilience on the eve of what will be the biggest self-inflicted national wound since the designated hitter, we turn our attention to futures financial and regional.

The Pew Research Center recently released a study showing that young adults (24-35) are emerging from the Great Recession with much less debt than other 35-plus adult age groups “mainly by virtue of owning fewer houses and cars” despite having accumulated record debt-to-income ratios during the “Aughts” (2000s). (more…)

Struggling With Civic Capacity in the Suburbs

Tuesday, February 26th, 2013

2.26.13 | In Missouri, the aptly named “Show Me” state, a pair of regional cooperation efforts have drawn recent attention. Naturally, they’re at opposite ends of the state, for balance must be maintained between St. Louis and Kansas City (as there is in barbecue, and isn’t in baseball).

In suburban St. Louis, the Normandy School District encompasses parts or all of 24 inner-ring suburbs and struggles to overcome the negative aspects of regionalism. BRR Researcher Todd Swanstrom and three of his colleagues at the University of Missouri-St. Louis—Will Winter, Margaret Sherraden, and Jessica Lake—studied how fragmentation in local governance dug a deep hole from which the school district is struggling to emerge. Fittingly, their paper, published in the Journal of Urban Affairs, is titled Civic Capacity and School/Community Partnerships in a Fragmented Suburban Setting: The Case of 24:1. (more…)

Inequality Is Bad for the Economy

Thursday, February 21st, 2013

2.21.13 | When speaking of regional resilience, let’s take the concept a step further and consider national resilience (or, put another way, regionalism on a global scale). That’s just what Equity and the Future of the American Economy (pdf), a new report from PolicyLink, does, positing that inequity is bad for economic health, and regions with high inequality grow less rapidly over time.

The paper, which BRR network member Manuel Pastor helped along, takes as its starting point the coalition that elected and reelected President Barack Obama. The country’s long-forecast multiracial, multicultural future is here, and governments’ economic policies must reflect greater equity as a goal if the nation is to thrive. (The paper addresses federal policy, but I think its principal conclusions apply to state and local governments, too.) (more…)

The Rust Belt Adapts

Wednesday, February 20th, 2013

2.19.13 | Buffalo and Cleveland are two of America’s favorite cities when it comes to kicking the “Rust Belt” in the shin. But recent studies are indicating that they are also, perhaps, bellwethers, indicating that smaller urban areas are just as capable of attracting the generational migration that is reversing the one their grandparents and parents made over the last 60 years, and that regional resilience lies not just in Chicago, Los Angeles, New York City, Portland, or Seattle. (more…)

What Makes a Place Livable and Loveable? Thoughts on Placemaking

Friday, February 15th, 2013

2.15.2013 | At the intersection of resilient regions and placemaking today lie history, the here-and-now, and a good question about the future.  (more…)

Richard Florida sees City and Suburban Lines Blurring in the Third “Great Reset”

Tuesday, February 12th, 2013

2.12.13 | The economic distress of the last five or six years is not the only upheaval wracking the nation, according to Richard Florida, who suggests that the sharp delineations between city and suburbs are blurring as part of a third “Great Reset.”

A Great Reset is “more than just the crisis itself; it is the fundamental changes that follow crisis—changes not just in how we make and consume goods, but in how we live and work,” Florida says at the Urban Land Institute’s Urbanland blog. The first such reset followed the panic of the 1870s and created industrial cities; the second began after the Great Depression of the 1930s and coalesced in the rise of suburbia during the 1950s and ‘60s. (more…)

Friday Round-Up of New Reads on Urban Planning, Transit, and Technology

Friday, February 8th, 2013

2.7.13 | Here in Chicago, so far this week we’ve had snow (Monday and Tuesday), sunshine (today), and are preparing for tomorrow’s weather: the snow-sleet-cold, hard rain mix that chills you to the bone and soul in a way that makes you wish for a snowstorm, because hey, at least the snow is pretty as it falls. As long as you’re inside. To honor this meteorologic mish-mash, we present a roundup of interesting items found around the Web of late, and hopefully some sites that may be of interest. (more…)

Gas Prices, Social Media, and Resilient Cities

Tuesday, February 5th, 2013

2.4.13 | Two seemingly disparate items crossed the transom of post-Superbowl thought on Monday.

First, the U.S. Department of Energy’s Energy Information Administration (EIA) released a report noting that gasoline prices in 2012 took the biggest chunk of pretax income from U.S. household budgets during the last 30 years — an average of $2,912, or 4 percent of household pretax income.

And then there is this post at (hat tip to Hazel Borys for putting it on the URBANISTS listserv), discussing the evolving impact of social media and smartphones on how we interact with each other and our surroundings, both natural and human-made. (more…)

Citizens Redirect Funding to Bike Lanes, Community Gardens, and Street Lamps in an Experiment in Direct Democracy

Wednesday, January 30th, 2013

1.30.13 | In just four years, an experiment in direct democracy — and direct governance — has spread from the Rogers Park neighborhood on Chicago’s far north side to three other Windy City wards, a handful of New York City districts, and the city of Vallejo, CA.

Participatory budgeting (PB), which began in 1989 in Porto Allegre, Brazil, as a way to overcome inequality and improve living standards in the city’s poorest neighborhoods, reached the United States after spreading to hundreds of cities in South and Central America, Canada, Europe, Asia, and Africa. (more…)