Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Things to read

- Second City Cop with a good read taking apart Mary Mitchell of the Sun-Times:
The trouble is we're stretched too thin now and what used to be "normal" deployment is more of a stopgap or "reactionary" and doesn't prevent a thing. Not only that, the Uptown eruptions are a direct result of manpower being shifted to higher crime areas and less pressure being placed on the local hood rats who figure out very quickly that they can act out with less repercussions.

- I've been giving newspapers a hard time, but the New York Times has been doing what I suggested for a while.  Only, they get actual economists to write about policy and economics.  This piece on high speed trains is worth the read:
A second economic argument for high speed rail is that it will revitalize troubled regions of the United States. This argument would never be made about Dallas or Houston, which are booming, but some argue that high-speed rail can save Buffalo, Detroit and Cleveland. Transportation can have a significant impact on urban growth. Josh Gottlieb and I estimated that counties with access to a rail line in 1850 grew 20 percent more over the next 40 years. Gilles Duranton and Matthew Turner found that a 10 percent increase in a metropolitan area’s stock of highways in 1980 caused a 2 percent increase in population growth over the next 20 years.

This logic has led some to think that high-speed rail will do wonders transforming Buffalo into a back office for Manhattan. Buffalo is 376 miles from Manhattan, so a 150-mile-an-hour rail line will take two and a half hours, which is not going to be significantly faster than air. Moreover, vast amounts of low-cost space are closer to Manhattan than the shores of Lake Erie. Faster connections between Buffalo and Toronto might do more, but in that case speed is hampered by the burdens of border crossing.

Remember people will do anything for their pet projects, even if they don't make any sense... Buffalo to New York City?  REALLY?!?!?!

- And on the bright side, Illinois is a bit more transparent:
The new law tightens many of the loopholes exploited by public officials to keep taxpayers from prying into their own affairs. It shortens the deadlines for responding to records requests and prohibits governments from charging outrageous fees to produce public documents.

Most significant, it comes with teeth. The law authorizes a public access counselor to mediate disputes over records and issue binding opinions. It provides penalties of up to $5,000 for governments that don't follow the law, and it requires them to pay legal costs if a citizen has to go to court to force the release of a public record.

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