Tag Archives: Chicago

Chicago — nicknamed ‘Chiraq’ — sees murder rate rises 80 per cent as gun crime reaches crisis level

Something is horribly wrong in Chicago

There is no doubt Chicago is facing a gun crisis. In the first three months of this year murders are up more than 80 per cent compared with the same period in 2015. A total of 135 people have been shot dead, more than in New York and Los Angeles combined.

At least 727 people have suffered gunshot wounds in the most violent start to a year in two decades. Guns are changing hands for less than US$50. Most of the shootings take place in parts of the city’s South and West Sides, where gangs have splintered into small factions fighting over a few blocks.

Increasingly, death is preceded by social media taunts in what has become known as “cyberbanging.” 

Professor Arthur Lurigio, a criminal justice expert at Loyola University Chicago said: “You have to be hyper-masculine, so if you get insulted on Facebook the only face-saving thing is to go shoot someone. The problem is they can’t shoot, they’ve never been to a practice range, so innocent children are getting hit.”

One of those innocent children was Zarriel Trotter, 13, who had recently appeared in an award-winning Internet campaign against guns. In the film Zarriel says: “I don’t want to live around my community where I’ve got to keep on hearing people getting shot.”

Last week Zarriel was himself shot in the back as he walked home from basketball practice and was left in a critical condition in hospital. According to witnesses, he was passing by as two groups of young boys opened fire following an argument over a girl.

Other incidents also stand out. One was the assassination of Tyshawn Lee, nine. He was murdered in an alleyway, allegedly by gang rivals of his father.

Actually the problem is that they are shooting each other after being insulted on Facebook.

Suburban Office Complex’s are Obsolete

Something for Saskatoon business owners to remember.

What tenants want in an office building is changing, and the old model of the isolated suburban office park is going the way of the fax machine. That’s according to a new report from Newmark, Grubb, Knight and Frank [PDF], one of the largest commercial real estate firms in the world.

Suburban office parks are losing their luster, industry analysts say.

The old-school office park does “not offer the experience most of today’s tenants are seeking,” according to NGKF. As a result, the suburban office market is confronting “obsolescence” on a “massive scale.” More than 1,150 U.S. office properties — or 95 million square feet — may no longer pencil out, the authors estimate, though a number of those can be salvaged with some changes.

“Walkability and activated environments are at the top of many tenants’ list of must haves,” the report states. Office parks in isolated pockets without a mix of uses around them must have “in-building amenities” –including a conference center, a fitness center, and food service — to remain competitive, according to NGKF: “If tenants are not going to be able to walk to nearby retail or a nearby office property to get lunch, they had better be able to get it at their own building.”

This is the same for many businesses.

The study took a close look at suburban office submarkets in and around Denver, Washington, San Francisco, Chicago, and New York. In the “southeast suburban” Denver office district, for example, office buildings within a quarter-mile of the new light rail line had a 1.7 percent vacancy rate. For those outside a quarter-mile, vacancy rates were nine percentage points higher.

NGKF’s findings don’t mean that office tenant preferences are in perfect alignment with walkability, however.

This explains the tension in Saskatoon’s governance who are older and therefore prefer to drive.

Parking was also important to the marketability of buildings in suburban Denver. The report notes that a lot of older management personnel prefer to drive, while younger workers want transit access. So buildings that offered both were in the highest demand.

So do you build a office complex (or a city) for the past or for those you want to attract.  So far around here, it is about building for the past.

6 Places Where Cars, Bikes, and Pedestrians All Share the Road As Equals

Can you imagine some select streets in Saskatoon doing this?

If you aren’t a traffic engineer or an urban planner, the word woonerf probably looks like a typo, or maybe the Twitter handle of whoever runs marketing for Nerf (woo!). But you might want to get familiar with the term—Dutch for “living street”—because the urban design concepts it embraces are on the rise.

A woonerf is a street or square where cars, pedestrians, cyclists, and other local residents travel together without traditional safety infrastructure to guide them. Also sometimes called a “shared street,” a woonerf is generally free of traffic lights, stop signs, curbs, painted lines, and the like. The basic idea is that once these controls are stripped away, everyone is forced to become more alert and ultimately more cooperative. Through less restraint comes greater focus.

The decades-old vision is not without its critics. Skeptics wonder if drivers feel too much ownership of the road to adapt their ways, or if shared streets can work fine for smaller towns but not in big urban centers, or if removing oversight is naïve at a time when people won’t even stop texting to drive. Then there’s the general critique pointed out by Traffic author Tom Vanderbilt in a 2008 article about shared streets: “people do act like idiots.”

All fair points (especially the last). Butwoonerf supporters can point to the success of shared streets projects in Europe as well as their gradual adoption inother parts of the world—including major cities in the auto-centric United States. Construction of Chicago’s first shared street, for instance, is expected to begin this spring.

I know this ship has sailed but Victoria Avenue with a pedestrian bridge would have been ideal for this.  So would parts of 20th Street.

Chicago in the 1940s

According to City Lab

At a recent estate sale on the south side of Chicago, Jeff Altman spotted a canister of film simply labeled “Chicago” and “Print 1.” That tidbit of information was intriguing enough for Altman to drop $40 on the print.

Altman, who works in film post-production, took two weeks to inspect and fix minor issues before scanning and turning it into a digital video.

The result is this short film, a marvelous and thorough overview of 1940s Chicago, when the Wrigley and Tribune Towers were still considered modern landmarks.

Sports reduce crime in Chicago

Criminals and police are distracted by sports

Researchers Ryan Copus and Hannah Laquer found that crime in Chicago — violent crime, drug arrests and property crime — all took a nosedive when there was a game on TV between 2001 and 2013.

The study, titled “Entertainment as Crime Prevention: Evidence from Chicago Sports Games,” was inspired by retired Baltimore Ravens linebacker Ray Lewis, who, during the 2011 NFL lockout issued this challenge: “Do this research. … If we don’t have a season, watch how much evil, which we call crime, watch how much crime picks up if you take away our game … [People have] nothing else to do.”

Lewis was mocked by social scientists, police and sports columnists who said there was no data to support the linebacker’s hypothesis that sports games on TV make Americans safer.

But Copus and Laquer, doctoral candidates at the University of California Berkeley Law School, say their research shows Lewis was on to something.

“We think our paper is pretty good evidence that Ray Lewis was right. Lewis claimed that an NFL lockout would lead to higher crime, and we find large decreases in crime during games, and no evidence of short-term increases before or after the game,” Copus said.

The study compared city by-the-minute crime stats during televised NFL, NBA and MLB games and non-game days. (They didn’t include Blackhawks games, but we’ll get to that later.)

“In general, we find substantial declines during games across crime types — property, violent, drug and other — with the largest reductions for drug crime,” Copus said.

The main reason: both criminals and police love sports to distraction.

“Potential offenders are distracted by the game,” Copus said.

“We don’t think other explanations can account for that. So, for example, the fact that potential victims are inside watching the game could explain why we don’t see as much violent crime, but we don’t think it’s a very good explanation for the reductions in property crime.”

And when it comes to game-time declines in drug arrests, Copus said the research suggests that police are willing to wait until after the game to make arrests.

“Police officers might be more lax on a big game day, but it’s hard to rigorously test the theory,” Copus said. “We do see particularly large reductions in drug crime that we think are probably in part due to police officers taking it a little easy on drug crimes during games.”

The researchers didn’t pick Chicago as its test case due to our city’s reputation for shootings that earned the nickname “Chiraq.”

“We ended up using data from Chicago mostly because [police] make their by-the-minute criminal incident reports publicly available. Most cities don’t,” Copus said. “Plus, Chicago is a city known for caring about its sports teams.”

And the sports team Chicagoans collectively care about the most — Da Bears — had the biggest positive effect on crime, especially on Monday Night Football, the study found.

When the Bears won Monday night games, total crime citywide dropped 17 percent. That’s second only to the Super Bowl, which posted a 26 percent decrease in total crime, including a 63 percent dip in drug arrests, according to the analysis.

Chicago: City of Necessity

Here is a 1961 video of Chicago called “City of Necessity” that is worth watching.

I know most people don’t watch longer videos online, but despite the 22 minute length, this one is a must for the serious urbanist. Among other things, it fills in part of the historical gap that exists in a lot of people (often including myself) about how our cities actually evolved to where they are today. This film was produced by local religious institutions in order to showcase the benefits of city living, while calling for a more fair and inclusive urban sphere. It’s shot in Chicago but is really about cities generally. 

What it is like to buy heroin in Chicago

The ritual of buying is just as exciting as the shooting up.

The fact is, and I don’t care who tries to dispute this, that a majority of the people who make the daily migration to the West Side to cop blows are as addicted to the ritual of copping dope as they are to the dope itself. It is an adrenaline rush no different than those achieved by people who jump out of airplanes. And dope fiends get to experience it every day.

A neurologist named Marc Lewis recently wrote an excellent book about how the addicted brain functions, “Memoirs of an Addicted Brain.” Written by a former junkie, the book offers cutting-edge explanations of how drugs, and a subsequent lack of drugs, work on the brain. Dr. Lewis goes chapter by chapter telling stories such as how he used to have unrestricted access to huge jars of pure morphine as a young medical student in the days before modern controls on these chemicals. And just as he is getting to a really funny or interesting part about the time his girlfriend took so much LSD that she thought she was a kitten, he digresses into a fascinating explanation of how the external chemicals are causing the brain to release, or block the reuptake of, certain neurotransmitters. It makes for really good reading, especially if you’re a junkie.

I came to realize that every time I exited the West Side with drugs in hand and my body and freedom intact, a highly gratifying rush of dopamine flooded my brain. Now imagine this everyday occurrence: you are on West Monroe, a block you know to be highly volatile. You are there to buy, say, fifty bucks worth of dope. You turn the corner onto Monroe from Pulaski. A Crown Victoria—the classic police car—slowly glides up the street, turns and disappears. The block seems empty, although you know of one or two abandoned buildings that the shorties sometimes use. You also see a few of them standing at the corner of Monroe and Karlov. This is relevant for a white person like me, because the goal is to stay as close to Pulaski as possible, so you can cop your dope, and then melt back into the foot traffic on Pulaski, a main thoroughfare. But today you see that you’re going to have to walk all the way down to Karlov. You sigh and start walking. The same Crown Victoria suddenly glides from behind you again, and then slowly disappears again. This has you on edge. Shit, it has you downright petrified. And as you get closer to the shorties standing at Karlov, you can just sense that they are on edge too.

A new vision for cities

As the global economies change, so will the roles of civic leaders if we want to stay competitive

In his presentation (and in our Metro North America report), Bruce Katz outlined a three-part playbook for how sub-national leaders are acting to further trade, investment, and economic growth in our three countries:

Set a vision. City and metropolitan leaders are setting bold visions for the future of their economies that can focus public, private, and civic sector actors on shared goals for growth. Mayor Smith outlined his city’s new mantra: Educate, Innovate, Facilitate, Elevate. His economic development agenda is focused around strengthening Mesa’s assets in healthcare, education, aerospace, and tourism (HEAT), and working together with partners in the Maricopa Association of Governments and the Greater Phoenix Economic Council to create and execute a metropolitan business plan . Taking greater advantage of the region’s already strong ties with cities and states in Mexico is an important part of those visions.

Invest in what matters. The factors that drive city and regional growth are innovation, human capital, and infrastructure. The quality of those assets, regardless of the sector in which they are applied, account for long-run economic success. Windsor, Ontario Mayor Eddie Francis described how the downturn in the auto industry in the late 2000s threatened tens of thousands of workers in his city, a major North American auto hub just across the border from Detroit. Recognizing this, the city and region invested in helping auto suppliers transition into the aerospace industry, taking advantage of workers with widely applicable manufacturing skills and excess plant capacity to diversify the economy towards a sector with growing opportunities. Working with the University of Windsor to develop a new aerospace engineering program, the region has succeeded in attracting thousands of new aircraft maintenance, repair, and operations (MRO) jobs. Even the university’s automotive research programAUTO21 has become a key partner in bolstering the region’s emerging aerospace cluster.

Network globally. The capstone of the GCI-Mexico forum was the signing of a new agreement by mayors Miguel Ángel Mancera of Mexico City and Rahm Emanuel of Chicago to partner together on strategies to grow the economies of both cities. While “sister cities” agreements have existed for some time—and Chicago alone has 28 of them, focused mainly on cultural exchange—the new agreement aims to take the cities’ already-strong relationship in an explicitly economic direction, exploring joint opportunities for foreign direct investment, export promotion, and increased tourism. As Mayor Emanuel described during a discussion with Mayor Mancera moderated by JPMorgan Chase Executive Vice President Peter Scher, Chicago is acting boldly because the city cannot be held hostage to the functioning (or dysfunction) of its state and national governments. And Mayor Mancera noted that even given the progress being achieved today at the national level in Mexico, mayors are ultimately co-responsible for generating local and regional growth and prosperity.

$500 Million Wrigley Stadium Renovation Plan

I know all of us are thinking of other things today but myself hitting refresh doesn’t help anything and depresses me.  In case you are the same way, here are the details of the $500 million Wrigley Field renovation plan.

The Chicago Cubs and the city have agreed on details of a $500 million facelift for Wrigley Field, including an electronic video screen that is nearly three times as large as the one currently atop the centerfield bleachers of the 99-year-old ballpark.

Under terms of the agreement, the Cubs would also be able to increase the number of night games at Wrigley Field from 30 to 40 – or nearly half the games played there each season. They would give Cubs chairman Tom Ricketts the ability to renovate the second-oldest park in the major leagues, boost business and perhaps make baseball’s most infamous losers competitive again.

Mayor Rahm Emanuel hailed what the two sides called a ”framework” agreement in a joint statement issued Sunday night, noting that it includes no taxpayer funding. That had been one of the original requests of the Ricketts family in a long-running renovation dispute that at times involved everything from cranky ballpark neighbors to ward politics and even the re-election campaign of President Barack Obama.

”This framework allows the Cubs to restore the Friendly Confines (of Wrigley) and pursue their economic goals, while respecting the rights and quality of life of its neighbors,” Emanuel said.

Still uncertain was how the agreement will sit with owners of nearby buildings who provide rooftop views of the ball games under an agreement with the Cubs that goes back years. They have threatened to sue if the renovations obstruct their view, which they claim would drive them out of business.

On Monday, a spokesman for the rooftop owners said the group would have a statement later, but in the meantime referred the AP to the group’s statement released earlier this month that says: ”Any construction that interrupts the rooftop views will effectually drive them out of business and be challenged in a court of law.”

The Cubs said the video screen they are proposing to build is 6,000 square feet, and would be built with ”minimal impact on rooftops with whom (the) Cubs have an agreement.” The current centerfield scoreboard is slightly more than 2,000 square feet; the Cubs also have plans to add a left-field sign of 1,000 square feet.

The Chicago Tribune has more details on how $500 million will be spent.

The Ricketts family, plans to spend $300 million in the stadium and another $200 million developing a hotel and office building on adjacent property. Mayor Rahm Emanuel, in a news release Sunday, hailed that the Cubs will restore Wrigley without taxpayer dollars.

The city will vacate sidewalk and one street lane on Waveland Avenue and sidewalk on Sheffield Avenue, which according to the Ricketts’ proposal would be at no cost to the Cubs. The Cubs sought to expand the footprint of Wrigley as much as 10 feet outward to mitigate the effect of a giant video scoreboard in left field and see-through-sign in right on rooftop clubs overlooking the stadium.

The team also plans to construct a pedestrian bridge over Clark Street without having to purchase air rights from the city. The bridge would have a “Welcome to Wrigleyville” sign.

The city also agreed to support the Cubs’ application to change its property tax status to reflect the private funding of the restoration of a designated landmark.

In return, the team is offering to make investments in the Wrigleyville neighborhood. Among them, it plans to:

— Contribute $3.75 million between 2014 and 2023 to Wrigleyville infrastructure projects and investments.

— Contribute $1 million to build a play lot on School Street.

— Pay for 10 of the 30 additional public safety personnel that will be stationed outside Wrigley after games.

The Cubs released additional details about signage in their proposal to the city:

— It plans an LED “ribbon board” along the upper deck grandstand, a new fan deck in left field and a new signs on the wall in right field and behind home plate.

— Also planned are signs on the new two-story Captain Morgan Club on Addison Street

— And 35,000 square feet of advertising outside the ballpark between the hotel, outdoor plaza and Captain Morgan Club.

Of course at the end of the day and after everything has been built, Chicago baseball fans will have a great stadium that is still home to a cursed baseball team, the Cubs.

This is when Rob Ford began to lose it

To call this radio appearance odd would be an understatement

Doug Ford spoke proudly of his frequent media criticism. “Think of this, folks, think of this: we’re the only two elected officials — think what I’m saying here — we’re the only two elected officials, Rob, in recent memory — federally, provincially, or municipally — number one, has put a halt on the gravy train, but number two, talks back to the media,” he said.

Rob Ford said, “We’ve done more in this administration than any other administration ever has, and the media just — I don’t know what, I don’t know what they want. I guess they want bankruptcy. I guess they want a ghost town. I don’t know.”

Doug Ford claimed that members of Chicago’s media had approached him during the trip to say, “What is wrong with your media? They’re embarrassing your city.”

Chicago outlets largely ignored the trip. NBC Chicago published a blog posting that called the mayor “obnoxious” and mocked his weight.

How big of a mess is Illinois’s finances?

Really, really messed up.  It is bankrupt.

As dire as Chicago’s finances are, those of Illinois are in even worse shape. The primary cause, once again, is pensions, which are underfunded to the tune of $83 billion. Retirees’ future health care is underfunded an additional $43 billion. There’s a lot of regular debt, too—about $44 billion of it. And Illinois, like Chicago, has run large deficits for some time. Despite raising the individual income tax 66 percent and the corporate tax 46 percent in 2011, the state is projected to end the current fiscal year with an accumulated deficit of $5.2 billion. While California has made headlines by issuing IOUs to companies to which it owes money, Illinois has taken an easier route: it just stopped paying its bills, at one point last year racking up 208,000 of them, totaling $4.5 billion. Some businesses have gone unpaid for nine months or even longer. Unsurprisingly, Illinois has the worst credit rating of any state. Unable to pay its bills, it is de facto bankrupt.

It’s dragging down Chicago with it.

What accounts for Chicago’s miserable performance in the 2000s? The fiscal mess is the easiest part to account for: it is the result of poor leadership and powerful interest groups that benefit from the status quo. Public-union clout is literally written into the state constitution, which prohibits the diminution of state employees’ retirement benefits. Tales of abuse abound, such as the recent story of two lobbyists for a local teachers’ union who, though they had never held government jobs, obtained full government pensions by doing a single day of substitute teaching apiece.

If the state and city had honestly funded the obligations they were taking on, their generosity to their workers would be less of a problem. But they didn’t. As City Journal senior editor Steven Malanga has written for RealClearMarkets, Illinois “essentially wanted to be a low-tax (or at least a moderate-tax) state with high services and rich employee pensions.” That’s an obviously unsustainable policy formula. The state has also employed a series of gimmicks to cover up persistent deficits—for example, using borrowed money to shore up its pension system and even to pay for current operations. At the city level, Mayor Richard M. Daley papered over deficits with such tricks as a now-infamous parking-meter lease. The city sold the right to parking revenues for 75 years to get $1.1 billion up front. Just two years into the deal, all but $180 million had been spent.

The debt and obligations begin to explain why jobs are leaving Chicago. It isn’t a matter, as in many cities, of high taxes driving away businesses and residents. Though Chicago has the nation’s highest sales tax, Illinois isn’t a high-tax state; it scores 28th in the Tax Foundation’s ranking of the best state tax climates. But the sheer scale of the state’s debts means that last year’s income-tax hikes are probably just a taste of what’s to come. (Cutting costs is another option, but that may be tricky, since Illinois is surprisingly lean in some areas already; it has the lowest number of state government employees per capita of any state, for example.) The expectation of higher future taxes has cast a cloud over the state’s business climate and contributed to the bleak economic numbers.

It also has some messed up city politics.

Another reason for Chicago’s troubles is that its business climate is terrible, especially for small firms. When the state pushed through the recent tax increases, certain big businesses had the clout to negotiate better deals for themselves. For example, the financial exchanges threatened to leave town until the state legislature gave them a special tax break, with an extension of a tax break for Sears thrown in for good measure. And so the deck seems to be stacked against the little guys, who get stuck with the bill while the big boys are plied with favors and subsidies.

It also hurts small businesses that Chicago operates under a system called “aldermanic privilege.” Matters handled administratively in many cities require a special ordinance in Chicago, and ordinances affecting a specific council district—called a “ward” in Chicago—can’t be passed unless the city council member for that ward, its “alderman,” signs off. One downside of the system is that, as the Chicago Reader reported, over 95 percent of city council legislation is consumed by “ward housekeeping” tasks. More important is that it hands the 50 aldermen nearly dictatorial control over what happens in their wards, from zoning changes to sidewalk café permits. This dumps political risk onto the shoulders of every would-be entrepreneur, who knows that he must stay on the alderman’s good side to be in business. It’s also a recipe for sleaze: 31 aldermen have been convicted of corruption since 1970.

It kills small businesses

Red tape is another problem for small businesses. Outrages are legion. Scooter’s Frozen Custard was cited by the city for illegally providing outdoor chairs for customers—after being told by the local alderman that it didn’t need a permit. Logan Square Kitchen, a licensed and inspected shared-kitchen operation for upscale food entrepreneurs, has had to clear numerous regulatory hurdles: each of the companies using its kitchen space had to get and pay for a separate license and reinspection, for example, and after the city retroactively classified the kitchen as a banquet hall, its application for various other licenses was rejected until it provided parking spaces. An entrepreneur who wanted to open a children’s playroom to serve families visiting Northwestern Memorial Hospital was told that he needed to get a Public Place of Amusement license—which he couldn’t get, it turned out, because the proposed playroom was too close to a hospital!

And these are exactly the kind of hip, high-end businesses that the city claims to want. Who else stands a chance if even they get caught in a regulatory quagmire? As Chicagoland Chamber of Commerce CEO Jerry Roper has noted, “unnecessary and burdensome regulation” puts Chicago “at a competitive disadvantage with other cities.” Companies also fear Cook County’s litigation environment, which the U.S. Chamber of Commerce has called the most unfair and unreasonable in the country. It’s not hard to figure out why Chief Executive ranked Illinois 48th on its list of best states in which to do business.

Rahm Emmanuel is making some progress

Some of those challenges defy easy solutions: no government can conjure up a calling-card industry, and it isn’t obvious how Chicago could turn around the Midwest. Mayor Emanuel is hobbled by some of the deals of the past—the parking-meter lease, for example, and various union contracts that don’t expire until 2017 and that Daley signed to guarantee labor peace during the city’s failed Olympic bid.

But there’s a lot that Emanuel and Chicago can do, starting with facing the fiscal mess head-on. Emanuel has vowed to balance the budget without gimmicks. He cut spending in his 2012 budget by 5.4 percent. He wants to save money by letting private companies bid to provide city services. He’s found some small savings by better coordination with Cook County. Major surgery remains to be done, however, including a tough renegotiation of union contracts, merging some functions with county government, and some significant restructuring of certain agencies, such as the fire department. By far the most important item for both the city and state is pension reform for existing workers—a politically and legally challenging project, to say the least. To date, only limited reforms have passed: the state changed its retirement age, but only for new hires.

Next is to improve the business climate by reforming governance and rules. This includes curtailing aldermanic privilege, shrinking the overly large city council, and radically pruning regulations. Emanuel has already gotten some votes of confidence from the city’s business community, recently announcing business expansions with more than 8,000 jobs, though they’re mostly from big corporate players.

It’s not the big cities that are the key to the United States recovery

It’s the Tampa Bay, Phoenix and 255 other cities that will determine the health of the United States economy

Collectively, large cities — which we define as metropolitan areas with a population of 150,000 plus — in the United States are the center of gravity of the economy, generating almost 85 percent of U.S. gross domestic product (GDP) and nearly 20 percent of global GDP today. While New York and Los Angeles, the two American megacities with populations of more than ten million, have continued to tower above all others among the 259 large U.S. metropolitan areas, it’s the 257 "middleweight" cities — with populations of between 150,000 and 10 million — that generate more than 70 percent of U.S. GDP today. The top 28 middleweights alone account for more than 35 percent of the nation’s GDP.

It is America’s large cities, and particularly the broad swath of middleweights, that will be the key to the U.S. recovery and a key contributor to global growth in the next 15 years. Large cities in the United States will contribute more to global growth than the large cities of all other developed countries combined. We expect the collective GDP of these large U.S. cities to rise by almost $5.7 trillion — generating more than 10 percent of global GDP growth — by 2025. While New York and Los Angeles together are expected to grow at a compound annual rate of 2.1 percent between 2010 and 2025, the top 30 middleweights (measured by GDP) are expected to outpace them with a growth rate of 2.6 percent.

What’s the formula for success?

Even when narrowing our focus to the strongest performing cities, again there is no single path to success — no unique blueprint that all urban leaders should pursue. The cities that outperform their peers simply find ways to make the most of the economic opportunities they face, get lucky, or both. Some cities have been able to reinvent themselves; many others make the most of their endowments or their location.

Even in these important middleweight cities, growing is going to be tough

The coming years are not going to be easy. As households and the government pay down debts built up before and during the recession, growth could be dampened for many years. Cities that have experienced real estate booms and busts will find recovery particularly hard going. In Orlando and Phoenix more than half of mortgage holders are in negative equity. In Las Vegas, it’s two out of three. And there are still pockets of stubbornly high unemployment — two-thirds of all the jobs lost during the downturn were in states that accounted for only 45 percent of the U.S. population.