MuniLand

Greening the city

Greening the city

Many cities took a big step forward for clean air when they adopted buses fueled by natural gas. But there are other important projects that will make getting around easier, quieter and less polluting. New York City is getting ready to take a big step. From American City:

New York City has the potential to take those [bike sharing] concepts and scale them up to a size unseen on this side of the Atlantic. Mayor Michael Bloomberg, a man the transportation community has a complicated relationship with, has been dangling a transformative bike sharing program in front of alternative transportation advocates since 2009 when New York’s city planners issued an “exhaustive proposal” that included a 10,000 strong fleet of safety-equipped, GPS-ready bikes.

Economically, the deal is a victory for innovative financing because it fully absorbs the burden of maintenance, damage, and —as this is a city— theft, vandalism, and “artistic destruction.” New Yorkers would buy their memberships on weekly, monthly, or yearly bases and get an unlimited number of free rides that take less than 30 minutes; ride a little longer, pay a little more. New York has decided that an initial burst of capital will serve their purposes the best not least because of their uniqueness among American cities in terms of density and population.

Take with one hand, then the other

A rich guy makes a gain at the expense of his state’s teachers’ pension fund and then asks for public funding for his stadium project. This is now how things should work — the public should just say “enough,” or at least demand more transparency around this deal that lost the teachers’ money.  Bloomberg reports:

Philip Anschutz, who seeks taxpayer support for a $1.4 billion downtown Los Angeles football stadium complex, bought out a partner in his nearby hotel and condo project at a loss to investors including state teachers.

$96 for noise citations

America generally has done a very good job in reducing water and air pollution. If you have been in Beijing or Manila where the air is so polluted that most people wear air-filter masks in public, then you can appreciate the only slightly dirty air of New York City or other urban areas.  There is one form of pollution, though, that we haven’t fully tackled yet: noise pollution. In residential areas the decibel levels can climb in the summer months as souped-up motorcycles are brought out of storage and people roll down the car windows and crank up the tunes. A little history from Wikipedia:

In the 1960s and earlier, few people recognized that citizens might be entitled to be protected from adverse sound level exposure. Most concerted actions consisted of citizens groups organized to oppose a specific highway or airport, and occasionally a nuisance lawsuit would arise. Things in the United States changed rapidly with passage of the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) in 1969 and the Noise Pollution and Abatement Act, more commonly called the Noise Control Act (NCA), in 1972.

Passage of the NCA was remarkable considering the lack of historic organized citizen concern. However, the United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) had testified before Congress that 30 million Americans are exposed to non-occupational noise high enough to cause hearing loss and 44 million Americans live in homes impacted by aircraft or highway noise.

Muni sweeps: How much job creation?

Job creation or program pass-through?

The Congressional Budget Office has published a new report entitled “Estimated Impact of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act on Employment and Economic Output from January 2011 Through March 2011.” It makes some large claims about how many jobs stimulus funds have created:

Various recipients of ARRA funds (most recipients of grants and loans, contractors, and subcontractors) are required to report, after the end of each calendar quarter, the number of jobs funded through ARRA. The law also requires CBO to comment on those reported numbers.

During the first quarter of 2011, recipients reported, ARRA funded more than 571,000 full-time-equivalent (FTE) jobs.

Doors of the legislature must remain open

“The right of the people to monitor the people’s business is one of the core principles of democracy.” –Schill vs. Wisconsin Rapids School District, WI 86

Judge Maryann Sumi of Dane County Circuit Court cited the above quote today as she ruled that Republicans in the Wisconsin State Senate had violated the state’s open meetings law on March 9th, 2011.  The New York Times described the legislature’s actions on that day:

The Senate’s 19 Republicans approved the measure, 18 to 1, in less than half an hour, without any debate on the floor or a single Democrat in the room.

Issa’s municipal pension hearing

House_Oversight_April_14_2011

Congressman Darrell Issa’s Committee on Oversight and Reform meet today on state and municipal debt.

The hearing was really a dressed up fight over municipal pensions and collective bargaining rights.

The concern is that bond investors, worried about unknown pension liabilities, will increasingly require more yield for the risk of owning municipals. And some think a  solution is to remove the current form of guaranteed pensions.

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