Image by: Alpha Stock Images (CC BY-SA)

As President Biden continues to promote the administration’s historic proposed $2 trillion-plus American Jobs Plan (aka “the infrastructure bill”), there is significant debate as to what is and is not infrastructure. I thought I would weigh in to offer a definition: infrastructure is a set of physical things a society deems as necessary to enable that society’s economic and social activity at a way of life that the society desires. By my definition there are three important elements to infrastructure: 1) it is physical, 2) it is deemed necessary by a society in its time and place (and not always…


Thanks to Trump, millions of Americans might unwittingly take a loan they didn’t ask for in the first place

The IRS New Carrollton Federal Building in Maryland. Photo: Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images

Tuesday marked the first official day of the “payroll tax deferral,” the White House’s new policy purportedly aimed at providing relief to American employees during the Covid pandemic via a temporary suspension of the 6.2% share of their Social Security tax. It’s a wonky law, and perhaps because of that has gone unnoticed by much of the general public. But beware: In the history of tax policies, the payroll tax deferral may just be the mother of bad tax policy. In effect, it could force millions of Americans to take a tax loan in 2020 that they will have to…


Las Vegas. Photo by Jean-Phillippe Delberghe via Unsplash.

In response to Mr. Stanley Kurtz and National Review.

For urbanists, it is very rare that our issues of urban planning and transportation matters get national media attention; and when these issues do appear at the national level it is important for us to clarify important policy meanings. Recently, Stanley Kurtz at National Review has led a national pearl clutch suggesting that Joe Biden, and by extension Democrats and liberals, are conspiring to “abolish the suburbs.” While this is an inflammatory shock-phrase that some urbanists — leftist and neoliberal — do use, it is just that: inflammatory without policy nuance…


Original illustration by Therrious Davis

[This article was originally published on Greater Greater Washington]

Imagine it is your first week of work at a large company. You are young, just-out-of-college, new to the industry, and are introduced to the leadership team and many of the senior professionals.

You quickly realize that there is not one Black person in the senior leadership; there is maybe one Black senior professional in the whole office out of a few dozen; and while you did notice more Black people around, eventually you realize that they are mostly support and administrative staff. …


I am without words after seeing communities of color speak out this past week — and act — against centuries of inequality. The brutal, senseless killing of George Floyd in Minneapolis leaves me heartbroken. My words will come, but I need time to respect the space of my black friends, reflect more, and use my voice compassionately and intelligently. Right now, as a researcher and scholar, my best response is to offer important books that I have read that shaped my thinking in my role working as an urbanist.

I recommend these books to those of us who work in…


Renderings of Poplar Point Redevelopment and Capitol View Corridor by HOK

A lot of talk about economic recovery in cities has been something like this: there was a NY Times shot across the bow blaming density for a public health crises; and then urbanists (myself included) saying, no, it is not density that ails us. While I believe there will indeed be an increased focus on public health in urban design and architecture, more work from home, and less demand for office space, cities will generally continue growing in the direction they were back in the pre-Covid times. …


One common measure of “the economy” is the wages of American workers who are not managers or supervisors, and their inflation-adjusted wages grew 1.6% in 2019. Economists call these workers “production and nonsupervisory employees” (I’ll call them ‘PNS’) and their wages are a barometer of the economic health trickling down to the level of low-wage workers. While PNS real wages grew, and 2019 was a nice uptick, it is not quite historic. And if we were to put a reason why wages finally ticked up, it likely had to do with many states raising their minimum wage.

Real Wages Over Time

The long-term average…


Local residents might complain about cranes and “luxury” developments, but the truth is that cities with the strongest economies have not allowed construction of enough housing units to meet growing demand. This has caused what Rick Jacobus at Shelterforce calls “the new planning dilemma: where to put the rich?” While housing affordability in these cities must be addressed through a multitude of policies, a necessary condition is additional market-rate supply. There should be more cranes rather than fewer because building more units for the rich keeps them from outbidding others for the existing housing stock. …


photo by Philip Birmes

This review covers four urban scholarly works that explore questions of growth and its consequences. First, there is the seminal work of Logan and Molotch (1987) who’s article The City as a Growth Machine highlights the political economy of urban development with a neo-Marxist view. Secondly, Jackson’s Gentleman’s Agreement offers another critical view of growth (and exclusionary) processes, and he keenly notes the social and racial aspects of government policy that guide development (Jackson, 2000). He adds a critique of wealthy enclaves in contrast to urban poverty. Growth (or exclusion) has consequences, too, and the effects of unequal development are…


Originally published on Planetizen.com, WASHINGTON, D.C., Sept. 24, 2009
By Michael Rodriguez

Planners who have ever taken part of a public meeting know that the lack of planning knowledge out there is astounding — but we should not be surprised.

The fact is, when are students in K — 12 education ever taught planning concepts? Most of social studies, civics, and government is spent on history, federal government institutions, and world geography. Excuse my bias, but local government and planning are critical to the everyday lives of students. …

Michael Rodriguez

An urbanist working in D.C. who writes about the policy and economics of real estate, housing and transportation. I also write about other musings.

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