Thursday, January 29, 2009

2 agencies in the gun sights of one commissioner

More from the Mecklenburg County commissioners' retreat:

In a discussion on the county's funding of outside agencies – sometimes a topic with lots of undercurrents – commissioner Vilma Leake, who spent years on the school board, made clear her displeasure with two school-related nonprofits that get county money:

Communities in Schools, a dropout prevention service, which gets $815,000 county money this year.
Partners in Out-of-School Time, which offers services to middle school-age students, and gets $200,000.

That's too much money for two agencies, Leake said. And she questioned why the county is funding services that, in her words, compete with services offered by Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools.

No action was taken – this is just a discussion meeting – but commissioners talked about the need to beef up county analysis of how all outside groups getting county money are performing.

Better access to local foods

Here at the Mecklenburg County commissioners' retreat – at the Lodge at the Ballantyne resort – the commissioners are spending most of the afternoon giving 10-minute talks on issues they'd like the board to take up later.   Meaty, but not exactly earth-shaking news.

For instance, they discussed homelessness and concluded, in effect, that it's definitely a problem, and they will look at what they might want to do about it in addition to what they're already doing.

But here's an interesting one: Dan Murrey made a pitch for the county to do more about helping people have access to locally grown, healthful foods.  "Our diet is based on foods being shipped from around the world," he noted, and he also pointed to the growing problem of childhood obesity. "There are some neighborhoods where there are no grocery stores," he said, or where the stores don't have good (or any) produce.

He suggested getting the Park and Recreation department to offer community gardens. (In fact, P&R already does that, but could do a lot more, as their program now is quite low-profile.) 

Long-term, he said, the county should look at the feasibility of a permanent farmer's market that's accessible by transit. He didn't say this, but much as I love the state-run Charlotte Regional Farmers Market on Yorkmont Road, whoever decided to locate it there was nuts. It isn't centrally located, isn't in any densely developed area, and isn't accessible by transit. 

Some other, seasonal markets have sprung up but they aren't in permanent sites or open year round, or well-distributed around the county.

Job losses at REBIC

I ran into Andy Munn from the Real Estate and Building Industry Coalition at Monday's City Council meeting, and he confirmed that due to the recession, which has hit real estate and development particularly hard, the REBIC lobbying organization has laid off staff, including Mary Thomsen, the former executive director, and staffer Tim Morgan. Developer and consultant Karla Knotts is acting executive director.

REBIC is funded by dues and donations from member companies and groups, such as the Charlotte Regional Realtor Association, Home Builders Association of Charlotte.

The REBIC home page also notes that City Council on Feb. 9 will make appointments to the Airport Advisory Committee (for a west Charlotte resident), the Keep Charlotte Beautiful committee and the Tree Advisory Commission. The link posted didn't work. Sorry. Check (I'm at Mecklenburg County commissioners' retreat and they're going through the dismal projections for next year's budget and need to pay attention.)

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Death of an ancient tree

Tom Low of Duany Plater-Zyberk Architects sent around this photo of a tree being removed at Queens Road and Granville Road in the heart of old Myers Park.

I saw it yesterday and mourned its passing. Because the tree was in the city's right of way, I asked City Arborist Don McSween what had happened. Here's what he wrote:

"The Willow Oak (approx. 125 years old) had root rot, and the crown of the tree was dying. There is no technology available to stop root rot. We had pruned the tree a year ago and more of the top had died since then. After a detailed examination, I decided it would only continue to deteriorate and needed to be removed. This was one of our largest Willow Oaks. It was a sad day for me."

And for us all. At 125 years, the oak would have pre-dated the development of the Myers Park subdivision. But as McSween says, with root rot there's no cure. And as someone who drives past that corner almost daily, I understand that for safety's sake, it had to go. Rest in peace.

Monday, January 26, 2009

What to do with a big-a-- Big Box

Here's why big box stores, while popular for a time with consumers, are bad for urban neighborhoods in the long term. The new Metropolitan development in Midtown, just over the creek from Uptown, is losing a whopper of a retailer. The Home Depot Expo is closing.

I don't know yet (though I'm doing some research soon as I file another blog item and write an editorial) who the official property owner is -- whether it's Home Depot, developer Peter A. Pappas or other development partners -- but I know there is probably going to be a very big, very empty floorplate at Kings Drive and Charlottetowne Avenue.

That's one of many reasons big boxes aren't good for the urban environment -- although here I tip my hat to the fact that yes, Big Boxes do bring in Big Sales Tax Revenues (until they close) and, for a time, Big Property Tax Revenues. But all it takes is one big retailer going bankrupt (Circuit City anyone?) or closing stores, and there's now a giant retail vacancy in a not-very-adaptable building.

Smaller buildings with smaller businesses also see vacancies and businesses failing. But one store closing shop doesn't affect a space as vast as that Home Depot EXPO Design Center.

A more traditional building can evolve relatively easily into something else. A Big Box needs a Big Tenant. Plus the buildings are usually so shoddily built they look like junk within a decade. Compare the aging boxes on Freedom Drive, Albemarle Road or Independence and Wilkinson boulevards to the aging old stores on North Davidson Street or along Central Avenue near the Plaza.

For now, whaddaya do with the space? Here are my ideas:
Break it into apartments for the homeless?
Cubicles for the job-seekers?
Break it into 1,000 very small offices for bloggers and other entrepreneurs in need of very small spaces at very small rents?
Workshop space for artists? (Not much natural light, unfortunately).
Rehearsal space for local theater, opera and performing groups?
A gigantic indoor farmers and food market, like the one in Florence with cheeses and sausages and plenty of food stands in addition to fruits, vegetables, fish, bakeries, etc. ?

The Obama effect on educational achievement?

In my non-blogging, editorial board job, I write an op-ed column that runs Saturdays. This past Saturday's (link here) was about Obama's penmanship (sort of) and speculating whether having an African American in the White House who is unashamed to act intelligent might have a positive, peer-pressure kind of effect, especially but not exclusively, on African American youths.

Guess what? Here's a link to an NY Times piece on a study that found something very similar.

Thursday, January 22, 2009

'Public hearing' and private lobbying

During an e-mail exchange that included background data on some proposed changes from the Charlotte-Mecklenburg planning staff to the transit-oriented development requirements, I came across this. It's from an official with REBIC, the Real Estate and Building Industry Coalition, which no one should be surprised to learn is opposing some of the changes and trying to get the staff to dial back on them.

I'm not passing judgment here on whether the proposals are good or bad. (Among the changes at issue are some involving parking requirements, and with transit-oriented development parking is a key issue, as you're dealing with conflicting needs: Trying to encourage people not to drive and trying to encourage walkable environments, yet also trying to help development projects offer enough parking so as not to lose potential tenants and customers.)

But the note sheds light on why some staff proposals seem to start out like icebergs and end up as a half-cup of lukewarm water, before the nondeveloper public gets much of a shot at them. The public hearing isn't until next week, and the developers' lobby has been working on this for weeks. One developer even pointed out: "Our best chance to influence is before the public hearing."

Here's what REBIC said:

"The public hearing is January 26th.

"The best way to affect [effect] a change is to get staff to see the 'error of their ways' prior to the public hearing. The staff responsible for this TA is John Howard and Laura Harmon.

"I will assemble a variety of comments & handle with John & Laura but it will be most effective if you could send your comments to them directly (changes of a few sentences of course). I always like to see how they respond to the various constituencies - to figure out what they are really trying to accomplish & what they are willing to bend the most on."

Now we live in a democracy, and all interest groups are welcome to weigh in to the process. Charlotte's development community is skilled at that, and some of nondeveloper groups are also skilled -- although they tend to have full-time jobs doing other things. The planning staff is diligent in trying to get public input for most of its proposed changes.

But too many things go on behind the curtain. That isn't good for public discourse.

And if public hearings are really just for show, can't they at least offer some popcorn and Cokes to the audience?

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Protest petitions strangle development?

Ahem, someone needs to get out more. Up in Greensboro, there's a discussion over whether the city should no longer be exempt from the law that allows protest petitions against proposed rezonings. The city council is to vote on Wednesday whether to ask the legislature to lift its exemption, so its citizens can file protest petitions as in most other N.C. cities.

One argument being raised against protest petitions is that they would strangle development. Whoever is saying this clearly has not been to Charlotte, where (until the recession slowed everything) it was quite clear that development here has been anything but strangled.

(What's a protest petition? When a rezoning is proposed, if enough adjoining property owners sign a protest petition, then the deciding body, e.g. Charlotte City Council, must pass the rezoning by a three-fourths vote. And the mayor gets to vote on protest-petition rezonings, unlike other rezonings.)

The art in transit

If you've ridden the Blue Line you've probably noticed some of the art at the transit stations. Most noticeable, of course, is Thomas Sayre's red-clay disks, "Furrow," in the South Boulevard median at the Scaleybark station.

From today through March 27, an exhibition at the Carillon building uptown, 227 W. Trade St., “From Studio to Site - Public Art in Charlotte-Mecklenburg” looks at 12 public art projects around the city.

Among the works displayed in the photographic exhibit will be Dennis Oppenheim's "Reconstructed Dwelling" (above, right) from the Tyvola station, and "Heritage 4 Charlotte," (above, left) from Myklebust + Sears, four columns recently installed at the airport.

The Carillon is home to one of my favorite Charlotte works, Jean Tinguely's "Cascade." Be sure to notice it if you visit the other exhibition.

Friday, January 16, 2009

No bike/walk path for NE corridor?

From the foot and bicycle traffic I've seen, the rail-side path along the new Lynx Blue Line is popular. It's a great way to walk or bicycle and avoid traffic. Too bad there might not be a similar path along its extension up to UNC Charlotte and beyond.

At a Tuesday night public meeting on plans for the extension, Charlotte Area Transit System and city planning department folks said it will be much harder to find money for, and build, a similar path. One key reason: The city owns the railbed from uptown south to Scaleybark -- where the path is. But heading northeast out of uptown, the rail right of way is owned by the N.C. Railroad, and CATS will lease space in the ROW. That section already carries freight as well as Amtrak passenger trains.

The bike/walking path was paid for mostly by city bond money for the so-called SCIP (South Corridor Improvement Project). The city hasn't yet prioritized its list of proposed NECI (North East Corridor Improvement, and they're calling it "nee-sie") -- and it's a bigger laundry list to start with. And a time of pinched local government budgets and tight credit all over the country.

Andy Mock of CATS tells me CDOT and the county park and rec department are working to see what can be done, perhaps with a walking/biking path that leaves the trackside and goes up North Tryon Street -- which the light rail will do, probably north of Old Concord Road.

If you think the city absolutely should put this project atop its NECI priority list, be sure to let your City Council representatives know.

Thursday, January 15, 2009

Stimulus: $30B for roads, $10B for transit

You'd think $10 billion extra for transit would have people cheering. Not so. The draft stimulus package details, released today, has three times as much money for roads and bridges as for non-automobile transport. And only a puny $1 billion for inter-city rail and an equally puny $1 billion for New Starts, which won't go far around the country.
The TransportPolitic blog here has a link to the pdf of the bill. This link takes you to a version of today's release, courtesy of Talking Points Memo.
Will the $30 billion for roads and bridges go for new construction or repairs? Hasn't been decided yet, apparently.
This TwinCities Streets for People blog notes that another chunk of stimulus money $31 billion, would go to modernize infrastructure with an eye to long-term energy savings, which might well include some transit projects.
Also note that a big chunk of the stimulus ($79 billion) is aimed to help states avoid service cuts, with the majority of that money aimed at education.

LaHood in trouble?
TransportPolitic also had this nifty tidbit about Transportation Secretary-designee Ray LaHood's background. "Today’s [Wednesday's] Washington Post broke the devastating news that just last year, Mr. LaHood sponsored $60 million of earmarks, at least $9 million of which went directly to campaign donors. $7.8 million of that money went to Caterpillar, a company from his district. "

(For Charlotte old-timers, the Post's story was written by former Charlotte-Observerite Carol D. Leonnig, who used to cover Mecklenburg county commissioners before moving to DC to cover, among other things, the Scooter Libby trial.)

How government created suburbia

OK, the headline is a lot broader than this brief posting will be. (And there are links to some interesting reading at the end.)
But please indulge me in a tiny bit more on the suburbia discussion. Several commenters point out, rightly, that Levittown, one of the first large-scale suburban developments, wasn't a government project but a private one, and that's right.
However, if you burrow into history, you find that starting in the 1930s, when the government began backing mortgages, its rules specifically encouraged suburbia's single-family housing and discriminated against urban neighborhoods, especially those with racial or ethnic minorities. In thrall to "modern" planning philosophy, the rules discouraged mixed-use neighborhoods. Banks and other lenders wouldn't lend in areas that the government discouraged -- hence the phenomenon of red-lining, which lasted into the 1970s and 1980s.
None of that means that there isn't a market for large-lot suburban homes. There is. But that kind of development needs to pay more of its own way. And where were the wails of "socialism" when the government (and private lenders) were actively discriminating against urban neighborhoods, where you couldn't get a loan to rehab or add on? Read Jane Jacobs. Read Kenneth T. Jackson's "Crabgrass Frontier." Etc.
OK, new topic. Three interesting links:
First, a piece about the weird ways traffic works, courtesy of "Jumper."
Second, a link to a piece in Grist about Charlotte's transit system, courtesy of reader William Howard. (Grist bills itself as "environmental news and commentary."
And this month's Atlantic magazine has a piece from last November's CNU (Congress for the New Urbanism) conference in Charlotte on transportation.

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

'Well-intentioned meddlers'

Thankfully, the state border make[s] it much for (sic) difficult for well-intentioned meddlers like Mary to "save" us by destroying our homes and property values.

That's from a comment on the previous posting, which linked to "What Will Save the Suburbs," about whether current suburban development can ever be successfully re-used after today's incarnations move and change.

My apologies to aforementioned commenter, but come on! How do you think present-day suburbia came to be? It took massive government "meddling."

The current single-family-only subdivisions would be completely unnatural if we had that mythical "free market." It takes constant government meddling, in the form of zoning laws and code and zoning inspectors, to keep some folks in those subdivisions from opening nail salons or small coffee shops in those houses, or renting out the bonus room above the garage to a grad student, or splitting their McMansions into quadraplexes and rooming houses to avert foreclosure. It took government "meddling" to create single-use suburbia and meddling is required to maintain it. Just try subdividing your large lot into three smaller ones and putting some apartments on one of the lots. Better yet, just try taking your lot in Morrocroft neighborhood near SouthPark and building high-rise condos - which you almost certainly could sell, or could have until last year.

One huge reason suburbia is hard to convert is because it was built under government rules that didn't allow mixing uses. So there are no stores inside single-family home subdivisions, and no apartment buildings or condo buildings either. Other government rules have mandated a certain number of parking places for businesses, hence the big asphalt oceans left behind when the big boxes bail out or go belly-up.

Sure, some of suburbia is built by choice - mostly by people who learned to tailor their development techniques to match what the zoning laws required, and now they'd just as soon not have to re-learn new techniques if the old ones are A.) Legal and B.) Making money.

Suburbia is just as much a product of government intervention as the newer, mixed-use and transit-oriented developments. Different rules, yes, but rules just the same.

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

What will save the suburbs?

About four different readers pointed me to this intriguing blog posting at the New York Times by Allison Arieff, "What Will Save the Suburbs?"

I hope all our city council members, city staff, county commissioners, planning commissioners take time to read it. Arieff points out that unlike the development of the 19th and early 20th centuries, the postwar suburbia is going to be difficult to re-purpose (ugh, horrible word). Yet in Charlotte, you can still build a three-houses-per-acre single-family subdivision without any City Council rezoning needed -- auto-pilot growth .

Empty big-box stores are just one of the problems. (I wonder if the book she cites, Julia Christensen's "Big Box Reuse" mentions that one old K mart in Charlotte was reused as a charter school.)

The difficulty of re-purposing development that was badly designed to start with is one major hurdle for attracting any serious uptown retail: There simply aren't enough good sidewalk-front spaces clumped together to attract enough stores. After all, retail loves to be near other retail. (See "shopping centers.") If you don't understand what I mean about good sidewalk-front spaces, take a field trip to downtown Asheville.
Maybe this development downturn will inspire the city of Charlotte to finally look with purpose at the kind of by-right development (meaning no rezoning needed) it's allowing.

Monday, January 12, 2009

Did developers slow naming of CDOT director?

Let's see, Charlotte Transportation Director Jim Humphrey left in late 2007. So why did it take until 2009 for the city to name a replacement? Today City Manager Curt Walton announced he was promoting Interim Director Danny Pleasant, who came to CDOT as deputy director in 2002.

A good source tells me one reason for the delay was nervousness in the development community about Pleasant, whose initiatives in the department have pushed the envelope for good community design. Apparently City Manager Curt Walton was able to get the City Council members comfortable with Pleasant as CDOT director.

As deputy director, he oversaw transportation planning that is putting more emphasis on walkable streets, bicycling paths, connectivity. One of his responsibilities was the six-years-in-the-making effort to rewrite the design guidelines under which streets widths and sidewalk widths and other such essential rules are written. Those urban street design guidelines came under criticism from the development community who didn't like the requirements for wider planting strips, required street trees and shorter block lengths.

Pleasant has a master's in urban planning, is a member of the Congress for the New Urbanism, the American Institute of Certified Planners and a fellow of the Institute of Transportation Engineers.

Is Charlotte getting dissed?

For those who think the Naked City is my only writing, here's a link to my Saturday column, "Should the Queen City feel dissed?" It's about Charlotte-Raleigh relations. I'll blog more later today.

Friday, January 09, 2009

Calif. city manager: Scrap zoning

Rick Cole writes that zoning codes are the problem, not the solution, in the effort to build and maintain great cities. He writes:

“The American Dream” of single-family tracts, shopping centers and business parks owes more to zoning mandates than to market economics. Zoning was imposed on the American landscape by an unholy alliance between Utopians preaching a “modern” way of life and hard-headed businessmen who profited from supplying that new model, including an auto industry steeped in the ideology that "What’s good for General Motors is good for America."

Cole is a former mayor of Pasadena, Calif., and now city manager in Ventura, Calif. Instead of zoning, he says, use "codes" -- something more and more municipalities are doing. Then he has a good analysis of the terminology of "form-based-codes" (a cumbersome term that addresses the how, but not the why you'd have one) vs. "smart codes" (a term that's been adopted by lots of developers whose projects were anything but smart).

A number of smaller municipalities in this region have adopted codes that are akin to the form-based code. Charlotte isn't one of them.

Wednesday, January 07, 2009

Build roads, repair roads or fund transit?

There's plenty of chatter about whether federal economic stimulus money should go for transit, for road-building, for repairs or building new. But there's also a big push to target the about-to-be-written federal transportation bill. A coalition group called Transportation for America is warning: ''Now is not the time to squander money on projects or plans that do not help save Americans money, free us from oil dependence and create long-term jobs.'' Here's a link to a blog item on it from Smart Growth Online. It quotes an Associated Press article:

''Now is not the time to squander money on projects or plans that do not help save Americans money, free us from oil dependence and create long-term jobs,'' warns a diverse Transportation for America coalition of environmental, urban design, housing and other groups, launching a campaign to make sure the 2009 federal transportation bill allocates a fair share for mass transit and infrastructure repair instead of funding mostly new roads, reports Associated Press writer Sarah Karush. The effort [has been] joined by Pennsylvania and Virginia Democratic Governors Ed Rendell and Timothy M. Kaine, and former Maryland Democratic Governor Parris N. Glendening, now the Smart Growth Leadership Institute president.

''That's always difficult politically,'' said Governor Rendell about his state's fix-it-first approach, but recalling the deadly August 2007 collapse of the I-35W Mississippi River Bridge in Minneapolis, he asked, ''How many more Minnesotas do we have to have as a country?''

Governor Kaine cited a decline in vehicle miles traveled (VMT) and an increase in transit demand, telling the writer, ''The key is to provide choices, so you invest in everything.'' And Governor Glendening said, ''Make sure that infrastructure really builds for the future. That's about transit, that's about walkability, that's about 'fix it first.' "

Tuesday, January 06, 2009

No crime 'czar' but guess what!

There was so much hoopla over the so-called "crime czar" that the county was going to hire, that many top county honchos decided the term "czar" was part of the problem.  So it was a bit of a surprise when County Manager Harry Jones – in introducing top aide Michelle Lancaster, who's apparently going to be the supervisor for a yet-to-be-hired and less-well-paid "senior manager for state justice services" – called her "new crime czaress Michelle Lancaster."

Here's the article from today's paper explaining what was about to happen. If April Bethea (who's sitting next to me here in the front row) posts a new story I'll add a newer link.

Oh, and commissioner Harold Cogdell is against recidivism. Well that's a relief!

Hot air about saving farmland?

Commissioners Dan Murrey and Dumont Clarke now talking about promoting local food, and preserving farms.

It would help provide wholesome food and affordable food, Murrey says, and also help energy efficiency.  "It is not energy efficient to fly asparagus from Chile in the middle of the winter,"
Murrey says. (Hmmm, the asparagus I buy in the middle of the winter comes from Peru.)

One teeny problem amid all this good feeling (and I'm a big proponent of local food and helping farmers and preserving farmland).  Mecklenburg has almost no working farms left, and even worse, has no mechanism for keeping the handful of remaining ones from being developed. Unless the county intends to buy all the farms – even this tax-and-spend librul thinks that isn't workable – there's no mechanism for stopping their almost inevitable development.  Tools such as buying development rights and urban growth boundaries have been left on the table* and there's no move from anyone to resurrect them. (*Except in Davidson. It has its act together.)

Live, it's Tuesday night!

County commissioners' meeting is only 50 minutes late starting. When they filed in, Bill James was mobbed by a TV camera and 2 or 3 other press types. So I wandered over, and asked if he had used his recorder-disguised-as-pen that he got at a "spy store" to tape the closed session, which he's been threatening to do. He swears he didn't. (A bad cellphone photo is above.) Let me just say Mont Blanc it isn't.

James says the board (at its 5 p.m. pre-meeting meeting) voted to support recording in concept but to get more details from the staff. The Observer's April Bethea's article indicates a bit less certainty.

Now we're hearing Andy Zoutewelle, who chairs the Environmental Policy Coordinating Council, tell them what the council's focus areas of interest will be for 2009-10. Commissioner Neil Cooksey is fanning himself. Most of the others are looking down, possibly reading the report.

CATS' budget woes

CATS honcho John Muth gave a presentation to the Charlotte-Mecklenburg Planning Commission on Monday, detailing the most recent projections for budget cuts by the Charlotte Area Transit System. Here's a link to a pdf version of his PowerPoint.

If you went to the December Metropolitan Transit Commission meeting (of course you did, and it was the highlight of your holiday season) you've already seen Muth's PowerPoint presentation. But for the rest of us it was a good summation of what they're looking at.

Note in particular the graph on slide 3, showing the old 10-year projections of transit sales tax income, and the new 10-year projection, based on the most recent few months. Ouch!

Note also, on slide 7, that CATS has submitted $295 million in requests for funding from the Obama stimulus bill. Muth pointed out it's highly unlikely CATS will get $295 million. But if you never ask ...

Monday, January 05, 2009

The details on what University City needs

If you'll recall, on Dec. 16 in "What University City needs," I referred to a study by the UNC Charlotte Center for Real Estate about housing and real estate in the University City area. University City Partners commissioned the study.

I've finally got a link to the report, if you've got a yen to burrow in. Here's the link. The study says it "evaluates the need for greater diversity across product types in the University City housing market. It also explores ways to encourage the production of higher–end housing through collaboration between the public and private sectors."

Here's one interesting tidbit about what homebuyers are seeking: "Interestingly, proximity to UNC Charlotte was identified as an amenity only for employees of the university. Athletic, cultural, and educational opportunities available at the university were rarely cited on their own as important factors to homebuyers."

Also pay attention to the sections on pages 8 and 9 about knowledge-based workers, a.k.a. the creative class. They prefer mixed-use, urban neighborhoods over homogenous suburbia, and tend to shun newly developed mixed-use neighborhoods because they feel contrived and lack "authenticity."

That doesn't bode well for U.C.'s hopes to attract the creative class. The area is total suburbia. Even if its new development is on a more urban pattern -- stores and homes not separated, apartments aren't sequestered from single-family houses and everything is closer than in conventional suburbia -- it isn't going to be "organic" for decades.

Quick disclaimer: I haven't read the whole report. It IS a workday, after all, and my regular job (editorial board member, op-ed columnist, etc.) nips at my heels. But I wanted to offer the full report to those interested.

Does transit subsidize sprawl?

Aaron Houck, in the January Charlotte Viewpoint (online magazine) asks: Does rapid transit subsidize sprawl? He concludes it does, sort of. (Also in this issue, Mark Peres -- dubbed one of Seven to Watch by the Observer's Local Desk late last year-- muses about business ethics.)

I'll give you my thought on the matter later, but here's the headline: Whatever transit might be doing to subsidize sprawl, the outerbelt is doing to the 10th degree. Building the outerbelt AND building a transit system was a truly schizophrenic approach to transportation planning.