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Tony Favro
City Mayors' USA Editor

Tony Favro, is a Fellow of the City Mayors Foundation and its USA Editor. He is an independent urban planning consultant.  He has held positions is government and business as municipal Director of Planning and Zoning and CEO of a real estate development firm. He has a PhD in Geography from the Maxwell School of Syracuse University. Tony is on the roster of Fulbright Specialists in urban planning and community development.  Fulbright is the US government's flagship international scholar exchange program. His most recent book Sustainability and the American City is available free of charge from The City Mayors Foundation.

Articles by Tony Favro
| Most recent | Society | Health | Government | Politics | Environment | Development | Economics | Finance |Transport | Education | Culture |


MOST RECENT
Local government in Kosovo:
Elected mayors are the key

Government: Kosovo became the most recent territory in Europe to claim the status of nation state when it declared independence in 2008. The credibility of any democratic nation depends on the strength of the institutions it builds, notably its capacity to meet citizens’ demands for service delivery and accountability. To this end, Kosovo has embarked on a process of enhancing the performance capacity of government by decentralizing power from the national level to the municipal level. Decentralization is considered a tool to deliver results shaped by local needs and market realities, engage citizens in decision making, and bridge ethnic divisions. And directly-elected mayors assume a primary role in helping ensure accountability, transparency and responsibility. MORE

SOCIETY
US mayors look to education
in response to school violence

16 April 2014: The 16-year-old boy who on 9 April 2014 stabbed and slashed 21 of his fellow students in a school near Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, will be tried as an adult. Law enforcement officials have no choice; the law requires the young offender to be accorded adult status. The response to repeated incidents of school violence in the United States over the past 20 years has led to ‘hard’ solutions, such as reducing the age at which youth must be tried as adults; posting police officers at schools; expanding the death penalty to juveniles; and making bullying a crime. Simultaneously, with much less fanfare, another type of response has been growing quietly. Public schools in at least 30 states now promote ‘character education’ as an anecdote to safety concerns, as well as troubling issues like teen pregnancy, truancy, and poor academic performance. MORE

A second tier of US metro areas
is attracting mobile Americans

18 November 2013: America is known as a mobile society, and Americans move for many reasons: better jobs, better weather, lower housing costs, lower taxes, and so on. The trend to urbanization is national in scope, affecting every state and almost every region of the country. General population movements between regions have also been notable, of course, the most prominent being the shift from Rustbelt in the north to Sunbelt in the south. While the general population migrations receive most of the attention, a more particular shift appears to be occurring among metro areas. Approximately 15 second-tier metro areas have become ‘centers of gravity’, attracting people and capital from other metro areas. More

Voting rights remain a contentious
issue after US Supreme Court ruling

4 July 2013: The practical limits of democracy in the United States are defined by who can vote in free and fair elections. As more groups gained the right to vote in America, especially women and minorities, political structures changed and the way people experienced democracy expanded. Democracy, of course, is never passive. It is both a function and a driver of popular struggles for rights and power. It’s not too much of a surprise, then, that voting - the most basic expression of democratic practice - continues to be a contentious issue in the United States. More

Racial profiling again under
scrutiny in the United States

5 April 2013: A federal court in New York City is considering the legality of the New York Police Department’s ‘stop and frisk’ practices. The NYPD maintains that stopping and searching suspicious persons has resulted in the confiscation of illegal weapons and drugs, thus preventing crimes and saving lives. The plaintiffs in the court case argue that Blacks and Latinos are illegally characterized, or ‘profiled’, as troublemakers and stopped and frisked at higher rates than whites. Moreover, they say, there is no constitutional justification for the majority of the stops - that most people stopped aren’t 'suspicious' in any meaningful, objective way - and that there is no oversight of the police department’s practice. More

Multi-faceted cities preferred
Obama’s vision for America

11 December 2012: Metro America voted solidly for President Obama in the 2012 election. But how important was geography? Were voters’ political preferences affected by the density of their living conditions? Or do Americans live where they do because of historical public policies, many of which were debated during the presidential campaign? More

US debates use of marijuana
and its effect on urban areas

10 May 2012: President Obama’s trip to Colombia in April 2012 threw a spotlight on America’s drug policy. The presidents of Colombia, Mexico, and Guatemala - countries that have seen limited returns for their inordinate sacrifices of human lives and financial resources to control the supply of illegal drugs - publicly chastised the United States for failing to curb its demand for drugs. The international focus on American drug policy has resurrected a debate within the US about the legalization of drugs, especially marijuana and how it may affect urban areas. More

The non-profit sector has become
a vital component of urban America

8 March 2012: Not too many years ago, American cities viewed the non-profit organizations working within their municipal boundaries with suspicion and even condescension. Non-profits opened soup kitchens and homeless shelters that made economic development difficult for city administrators, for what entrepreneur wants to open a new store with homeless people milling about? And city staffs often held the capabilities of their non-profit colleagues in low regard, considering them naïve rather than realistic, dreamers not doers. More

American cities fight back against
big government and corporations

6 February 2012: The Occupy Wall Street movement in the United States has been all but stopped by winter and the police, perhaps to be reinvigorated in the Spring with a new strategy. Regardless of the future of the movement, it gave a voice and a face to widespread public frustration. Many US cities also feel that state and federal legal and regulatory systems are biased towards businesses. More

American abortion debate characterizes the
relationship between city, state and the Union

1 November 2011: Few issues in the United States are more polarizing than abortion - President Obama once called the opposing camps on abortion “irreconcilable” - yet it is difficult to find a mayor of a large American city that is entirely against abortion. Democrats, Republicans, and Independents usually disagree about taxation, policing, housing, social welfare, and other policies. But the right of a woman to choose her own method of reproductive health is something upon which, say, Republican Mayor Jerry Sanders of San Diego, Democratic Mayor Vincent Gray of Washington, DC, and Independent Mayor Michael Bloomberg of New York City all agree. More

The larger the city, the larger
the gap between rich and poor

29 May 2011: The largest cities in the United States are generally considered to be at the vanguard of social and economic progress. For example, Pricewaterhouse Coopers’ 2011 Cities of Opportunity report on the world’s top cities calls New York, Chicago, and Los Angeles “vibrant engines of the global economy.” However, city size in the US is also directly related to income inequality according to another recent study — the larger the city, the larger the income gap between rich and poor residents. More

Cities bear the brunt of
prison closures in the US

29 April 2011: According to the 2010 US Census, two million of the 2.3 million prisoners in America’s federal, state, and local jails come from urban cities and counties. Wayne County (Detroit), Michigan, for example, has less than 20 per cent of the state’s population, but accounts for 40 per cent of the inmates in the state’s prison system. Harris County (Houston), Texas has 25,000 residents in state prison; Dallas, 20,000. More

US clergy increasingly
active in local politics

1 February 2011: Clergy in the US, particularly Protestant clergy, have become more politically active in the last decade. A new study, however, finds that the public is becoming uneasy with the political activities of religious leaders, raising questions about the future of government contracts with faith-based groups. More

American mayors take
action to reduce poverty

7 January 2011: The week before Christmas 2010, the US Census Bureau released its latest poverty statistics. The numbers are sobering. Forty-four million people - one in seven Americans - lived below the official poverty level in 2009, the most since the Census Bureau began tracking poverty rates 51 years ago. In 2009, 40 million Americans received government assistance to purchase food each month, and 50 million went hungry at one time or another during the year. Fifty-one million Americans lacked health coverage in 2009. More

American cities face new
realities after lost decade

8 June 2010: American market research firms systematically classify the residents of a metropolitan area according to their purchasing power. Each consumer group receives a descriptive moniker according to its specific demographic, economic, and social characteristics: “Successful Suburbanites”, for example or “Urban Working Families” or “Low Income Southern Blacks”. The communities in which these groups live are likewise labeled: “Wealthy Seaboard Suburbs”, “Distressed Neighborhoods”, “Rustbelt Neighborhoods”, and so on. More

Economics and politics of
Arizona’s immigration law

15 May 2010: US mayors who have reacted to Arizona’s controversial new immigration law have done so primarily on economic grounds. New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg wrote in the New York Daily News that “laws that have the potential to hassle [immigrants] could prove devastating to our economy. Basic free market economics tells us we need more legal immigrants - immigrants who will start new businesses and help build the foundation for future economic growth.” More

Socio-economic changes may compel
US mayors to consider power sharing

29 January 2010: Several research centers in the United States marked the beginning of the new decade with the release of demographic and economic data. Each data set provides a specific perspective of socioeconomic change and is compelling in its own right. Viewed together, however, they indicate a convergence of powerful trends with potentially momentous consequences for US cities, mayors, and government structures. More

US cities take the lead in advancing gay rights

Youth curfews popular with American cities but effectiveness and legality are questioned

US mayors maintain silence on high-profile racial incident

American cities debate English-only legislation

Critics of surveillance cameras fear racial profiling in US cities

Supreme Court rules against US cities fighting gun violence

American Catholic Church struggles to maintain presence in inner cities

Affordable housing crisis casts a shadow over the American Dream

Supreme Court rules against US cities fighting gun violence

America prefers to punish rather than to provide care

Blacks increasingly wary as Latinos become fastest-growing US minority


HEALTH
Black barbershops offer
health care in US cities

2 January 2012: In cities across the United States, African-American barbers are receiving accolades, not for cutting hair, but for improving health outcomes for African-American men. Their barbershops are functioning as informal health clinics and challenging American notions about how health care is delivered. More

Nothing short of a complete overhaul will cure America’s health care system


GOVERNMENT
Local government in Kosovo:
Elected mayors are the key

13 December 2014: Kosovo became the most recent territory in Europe to claim the status of nation state when it declared independence in 2008. The credibility of any democratic nation depends on the strength of the institutions it builds, notably its capacity to meet citizens’ demands for service delivery and accountability. To this end, Kosovo has embarked on a process of enhancing the performance capacity of government by decentralizing power from the national level to the municipal level. Decentralization is considered a tool to deliver results shaped by local needs and market realities, engage citizens in decision making, and bridge ethnic divisions. And directly-elected mayors assume a primary role in helping ensure accountability, transparency and responsibility. MORE

Glenn Lewis
Mayor of Moore, Oklahoma, USA

1 July 2013: Tornados, like lightening, alight in a hit-or-miss fashion, and not every community is touched more than once in an average person’s lifetime. One city in the US that was devastated twice by tornadoes in recent years was Moore, Oklahoma (population 55,000). Hundreds of buildings were severely damaged or destroyed when some of the most powerful tornadoes ever recorded tore through Moore in 1999 and again on 20 May of this year. The most recent tornadoes killed 24 people, including 10 children. Glenn Lewis was the city’s mayor during both disasters, and, both times, his leadership was widely praised as exemplary. More

Elected mayors are more
effective, says US study

16 August 2008: An historical study of mayors in US big cities finds that mayors who are popularly elected are more effective than those who come to office through other means. The study, by Andrew D. McNitt* of Eastern Illinois University, examined the performance in office of 846 mayors of 19 US cities -- including New York, Chicago, Los Angeles, Philadelphia, Detroit, San Francisco, Boston, and Houston – between 1820 and 1995. More

Cities are the most neglected
layer of American government

1 January 2008: Eighty per cent of Americans live in metropolitan areas comprised of hub cities and surrounding suburbs. Metro economies account for 87 per cent of America’s total economic output. Central cities, in other words, are major generators of wealth that attract business, labor, tourists, and investment. One might expect that the health of central cities would be at the forefront of debate during the presidential election campaign, yet candidates pay little attention to cities. More


POLITICS
Rochester’s mayoral election reflects
power relationships in American cities

31 March 2011: William A Johnson lost his bid to return as mayor of Rochester, New York, in a special election on 29 March 2011. The result was not surprising considering that Johnson ran on a third-party line and only four of the 1,265 mayors of US cities with more than 25,000 residents were elected without the endorsement of the Democrat or Republican parties. But the Rochester election, more than most local elections, exposed the power relationships that operate in nearly all American cities. More

American politics falls
victim to consumerism

11 November 2010: The recent US Congressional elections are unlikely to lead to a settlement of issues particularly important to American cities: tax policy, and therefore the distribution of wealth; environmental and energy policy; the implementation of national health care; immigration reform; education reform; and federal transportation policy. That’s because elections in the United States – and political discourse in general – are no longer shaped by major ideological differences as much as a consumerist model of governmental responsibilities. More

Tea Party Patriots appeal to
Small-Town White America
20 February 2010: Small groups of fiscal and social conservatives in the United States began meeting in Spring 2009 under the moniker of Tea Parties -- the Chicago Tea Party, Kentucky Tea Party, and so on -- to organize small, but vocal local protests against big government and high taxes. Their name is intended to invoke the 1773 Boston Tea Party revolt of the American colonists against English taxation without representation, a pivotal event leading to the American Revolution. More

Obama promises to become
America’s first urban presiden
t

25 November 2008: Barack Obama has promised to advance a number of issues important to mayors of US cities soon after he takes office on 20 January 2009. America's 44th President says he will create 2.5 million well-paying jobs during the first two years of his administration by renovating infrastructure and schools and developing alternative energy sources. More


ENVIRONMENT
US mayors demand stronger
regulations on hydrofracking

21 February 2012: In December 2011, Mayor Matt Ryan of Binghamton, New York, signed into law a two-year ban on hydrofracking in his city.  Mayor Ryan had concerns about the natural gas drilling technique because of “regulation as it now stands”.  Three hundred kilometers away, Mayor Michael Bloomberg voiced his opinion that hydrofracking poses “unacceptable risks” to the water supply of New York City. More

US mayors spearhead moves
to lower energy consumption

28 October 2010: Metropolitan areas in the US exhibit notable paradoxes: high employment and high unemployment; rapid physical growth and near-total abandonment; social connectivity and social isolation. Underlying these extremes is the energy efficiency paradox. As energy efficiency increases in the US, so does demand. As cars become more fuel efficient, for example, Americans purchase larger vehicles, and second or third vehicles, and drive more. More energy efficiency results in more energy consumption, not less. More

American cities divided over
benefits of natural gas drilling

13 November 2009: Mayors have been the vanguard of the green movement in the United States. Their city governments have led the nation in such areas as weatherizing buildings, creating green jobs, adopting alternative fuels, and creating new tools for sustainable land use and development. A new process for extracting natural gas – hydraulic fracturing or “hydrofracking” -- highlights the opportunities and challenges of going green for hundreds of communities in eastern United States. More

US and Canadian Mayors demand
say in new Great Lakes Agreement

23 August 2009: In June 2009, US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and Canadian Foreign Affairs Minister Lawrence Cannon announced that the two countries would update the 37-year-old Great Lakes Water Quality Agreement. The five Great Lakes and the St. Lawrence River into which they drain contain 95 per cent of the fresh water in North America. More

US and Canadian mayors work together to protect Great Lakes

US mayors planning
for green prosperity

21 January 2009: It’s been said that the best way to predict the future is to invent it, and US mayors are intent on creating a future for their cities that is “green”. “Green” is the general term used to describe efforts to reduce waste and clean up the environment, and US mayors see the green movement as a new engine for economic growth and job creation. More

A city’s ecological footprint bears
no comparison to its actual area

2 April 2008: The US city of Rochester, New York State, and its immediate suburbs occupy about 160,000 hectares, or the same land area as London, England. The difference is that Rochester’s urbanized core contains 735,000 residents versus 7.6 million in London. London, for its part, has less than two-thirds the population density of Tokyo. More


DEVELOPMENT
Megaregions are predicted to propel
US population and economic growth

10 March 2013: It’s a commonplace among urban planners and many policymakers that regions are the basic unit of economic competitiveness in the global economy. America 2050, part of the Regional Plan Association, reckons that America’s population growth and and even a larger share of the country’s economic expansion will occur in 11 megaregions. Yet nowhere in the industrialized world are regions given fewer resources and less power than in the United States. More

Gentrification poses a new
dilemma for many US cities

29 September 2011: Gentrification has been a characteristic of major American cities like New York and Boston for over a century, but in the past decade it has become part of the growth cycle of smaller cities as well. Minority and working class neighborhoods such as Pittsburgh’s South Side; Northwest Fort Lauderdale, Florida; and East Austin, Texas are being transformed as white and middle-class residents move in. More

Studies uncover pros and cons
of efforts to revitalize US cities

6 October 2010: Three recent studies on mixed-use development, resident satisfaction with their neighborhoods, and community gardens offer insights into the effectiveness of some of the most widely-used urban revitalization strategies of mayors in the United States. More

American cities seek to
discover their right size

5 April 2010: Mayors in many American industrial cities are embracing urban revitalization through ‘rightsizing’, or shrinking their cities’ infrastructure to match shrinking populations. Buffalo, Cleveland, Detroit, and Youngstown lost half their population over the past 50 years and continue to lose residents. The cities’ built environment – buildings, streets, and utilities – far exceeds the needs of the current or projected population. More

New legislation could make
US cities great for everyone

10 December 2009: A characteristic of American metropolitan areas is residential segregation by race and class. “If you give me a person’s address, I can almost always tell you his income, the quality of public schools his children attend, and the color of his skin,” says William A Johnson, former mayor of Rochester, New York. More

US debates the preservation
of recent modernist buildings

17 October, 2007: The baby boom in the United States began in 1946 and lasted until around 1960. Four million children were born each year during this period, more than double the number of the previous two decades. One way the US government responded to rapid post-World War II population growth was by offering low-interest, federally-guaranteed home mortgages. More

Little action as some 160,000 US bridges are considered to be structurally deficient

City mayors must innovate where governments dither


ECONOMICS
US cities adopt highly creative
measures to increase revenue

22 June 2012: Mayor Michael Bloomberg’s highly-publicized proposal to ban the sale of large servings of sugary soft drinks in New York City is an attempt to reign in public health costs associated with obesity. The need to cut expenditures in public budgets has become acute in recent years and American cities have controlled costs by privatizing roads, parking meters, and water systems; outsourcing landscaping and other services that require special equipment; selling parks; demolishing buildings; laying off employees; and instituting many other measures to reduce expenses. More

US cities lose jobs and revenues as big
pharma companies close R&D facilities

9 April 2012: In 2007, Pfizer, the pharmaceutical company, closed its research and development facility in Ann Arbor, Michigan, displacing 2100 workers. In 2009, the University of Michigan purchased the vacant site and expected to create two to three thousand jobs over ten years. At the time of the sale, Ann Arbor Mayor John Hieftje expressed mixed emotions. More

Annual report stresses the economic
importance of American metro areas

27 June 2011: The gross metropolitan product (GMP) of the immense New York City region - that is, the total output of all goods and services produced in the region - is greater than the gross domestic product (GDP) of all but 12 countries in the world. But who would have guessed that the GMP of Jacksonville, Florida is bigger than the GDP of Syria? Or that Baton Rouge, Louisiana’s annual economic output is greater than Uruguay’s? Or that if metro Madison, Wisconsin (population 560,000) were a country, it would have a larger economy than Lithuania? More

US cities expect to be favoured by economic stimulus package


FINANCE
Troubled US local government divided
over benefits of fiscal control boards

5 December 2012: In 2009, Moody’s Investors Service put all local governments in the United States on negative credit outlook. It was the first time such a blanket report was ever issued for cities, towns, counties, and school districts. To date, the negative outlook remains. It’s an understatement to say that local governments have been caught up in unfavorable financial and market trends since the economic downturn began in 2008. Local governments have cut services and laid off workers, including police officers and school teachers. More

Even Community Land Trusts affected
by American cities’ financial problems

26 February 2011: Mayors in at least 100 municipalities in the United States, from Bridgeport, Connecticut to Los Angeles, California, are openly contemplating bankruptcy. The cities’ financial problems result fundamentally from widespread home mortgage foreclosures that have reduced property values and consequently the amount of property taxes local governments can collect. More


TRANSPORT
America debates how investment in
transportation affects the economy

22 January 2013: Highways and private motor vehicles are iconic features of American culture - the open road, the fast lane, the drive-in and drive through, the independent trucker, the soccer mom, the teen’s first car, and so on. The cultural icons are linked to the economic benefits that highways can bring. Ninety-eight per cent of US mayors point to investment in affordable, reliable surface transportation as an important part of their cities’ economic growth. More

US mayors lobby federal government
for fully funded transportation policies

13 October 2011: In September 2011, a group of 50 US mayors traveled to Washington, DC to speak with federal officials about funding for transportation projects. The nation’s omnibus transportation bill was set to expire in ten days, and the mayors, led by Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa of Los Angeles, Mayor Michael Nutter of Philadelphia, and Mayor Elizabeth Kautz of Burnsville, Minnesota, lobbied for a “comprehensive, fully funded” successor. More

US public bus systems face
rising demand and deficits

20 December 2009: Busses are a common, if unglamorous, feature of US cities. Each day they transport over 3.5 million people from home to work, according to the US Census Bureau. About 20 per cent more people rely on busses for their daily commute than all other forms of mass transit combined, including trains, subways, light rail, and trolleys. Busses are the workhorses of American public transportation, yet they struggle financially. More

US car parks amount to half the size of Belgium

US cities realise that cycling makes sense


EDUCATION
US state school teachers face
public performance scrutiny

Education: The new school year is beginning in the United States, and millions of public (state) school students and their teachers are heading back to their classrooms. Students can look forward to having their progress tracked by report cards, and, for the first time, so can many teachers. Teacher evaluations are moving beyond the perfunctory “thumbs-up” or “thumbs-down” to more detailed - and more public - performance ratings tied to student performance. More

Discipline and civil rights
in American state schools

2 November 2011: Discipline may be necessary for ensuring responsible student behavior, but “the application of discipline is unfair and unequal” in American state schools. Moreover, many student disciplinary practices employed by local state school systems may result in violations of US Civil Rights Law. Those are the findings of Discipline Policies, Successful Schools, and Racial Justice, a report by Dan Losen of The Civil Rights Project of the University of California at Los Angeles. More

College degrees are not the
only pathways to prosperity

17 September 2011: The last month of summer 2011 in the United States brought us a New York Times poll showing that New Yorkers remain extremely dissatisfied with their public school system despite years of reform under Mayor Michael Bloomberg; Republican presidential candidates debating the cost of a college education, sparked by conservative Texas Governor Rick Perry’s plan to offer affordable degrees; Chicago Mayor Rahm Emmanuel under fire from both average citizens and teachers’ unions for proposing to raise property taxes to pay for city school improvements; and the US Conference of Mayors passing a resolution urging the federal government to maintain its current level of financial support for adult education and training. More

Obama creates competition
to improve public schools

2 July 2010: When only two states – Delaware and Tennessee – were awarded funding in the first round of Race to the Top education funding, most US mayors were undaunted. “We will never give up,” former Tulsa, Oklahoma, Mayor Kathy Taylor said of her state’s initial failure. “We will be competitive in the second round.” More

American mayors welcome military
schools into poorer neighborhoods

3 June, 2008: A little-known occurrence in public education in American cities is the rise of military schools. These schools generally operate as a partnership between the local school district and the US Department of Defense. They target poor, minority students between the ages of 10 and 18, especially African-Americans, and offer academic instruction and athletic activities within a framework of military discipline. More

US mayors are divided about merits of controlling schools



CULTURE
Museums draw more visitors than
US sporting events and theme parks

9 April 2013: The website of the American Alliance of Museums has a section titled, “How do I start a new museum?” It’s a fascinating question, suggesting that anyone can start a museum. In fact, most of the museums in the United States were started by private individuals and are privately funded and privately operated. Most American museums are also readily accessible to the general public and most of the art museums are located in cities. More







Tony Favro's latest book 'Hard Constants: Sustainability and the American City' has now been published by City Mayors. You may order your FREE copy now. Order form


Tony Favro's latest book
Hard Constants: Sustainability and the American City
Americans can imagine a sustainable world, but can they attain it?

The answer may lay in the deeply-help beliefs—the hard constants—that Americans carry with them.  Sustainability, after all, means changing one’s behavior by using fewer resources, adjusting consumption patterns, altering daily habits, and thinking long-term.

In Hard Constants, we see how these beliefs influence many of the activities that ultimately determine the prospects for sustainability: job hunting, grocery shopping, purchasing a car or home, electing a mayor, following the news, and, especially, planning and designing the urban areas where most Americans live.

Tony Favro shows that sustainability is neither obvious nor assured.  The future of sustainability—if sustainability has a future—will be located in an acknowledgement of universal values, in participatory democracy, and in human-scale design.

Hard Constants reveals the hard truths about sustainability—and what we can do about it.

Hard Constants: Sustainability and the American City is now available free of charge from City Mayors. To receive a pdf copy, please complete our order form. Libraries of academic institutions may receive a hard copy. Please provide contact details such as name, occupation and any organisation. Order form