Thursday, March 26, 2009

Green Sprouts in a Cold Environment

The current recession and the resulting fall in energy prices have slowed the development of the Renewable Range's green energy economy. Despite the fact that the economy (and weather) is really cold today, Spring is coming and there are a few green sprouts appearing.

A View of the Rockies is strictly non-partisan but we support Governor Ritter's green energy policies. Click here to sign an online petition to show your support for the Governor's New Energy Agenda for 2009.

Photograph of Danish Crown Prince Frederik, second from left, Crown Princess Mary tossing shovel of dirt at Vestas' factory groundbreaking near Brighton. Colorado Governor Bill Ritter is at the right and Vestas' president, Ole Borup Jakobsen, on the left.

Photograph from Denver Post Web Site, Copyright David Zalubowski, The Associated Press.

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Metro Denver Sports Commission

There was an interesting article in today's Denver Post about the Metro Denver Sports Commission, its President KieAnn Brownell, the Sportaccord event, and the possibility of Denver hosting the 2022 Winter Olympics. I think the MDSC's sponsorship of the 2008 Men's College Ice Hockey Frozen Four Championship brought a really great event to Denver last year.

Money Quote:

"When she was 9 years old, KieAnn Brownell would check movies out of the
library and charge friends admission to watch. Now the self-described "serial
entrepreneur" sells Denver as a potential host for national and international
sports events, including the Winter Olympics.

As president of the Metro Denver Sports Commission, Brownell is the
city's chief host this week as hundreds of Olympic sports power brokers gather
for "Sportaccord" meetings at the Hyatt Regency Denver. Delegates include the
executive board of the International Olympic Committee.

"If there's a message we can get out, it's 'Bring your world-class
events here, we're ready for them,' " Brownell said Monday while working a lobby
swarming with delegates from around the world."

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Brookings: "Miracle Mets"

The Brookings Institute Metropolitan Policy Program recently published another interesting report titled "Miracle Mets: Our Fifty States Matter A Lot Less Than Our Top 100 Metro Areas," by Katz, Mauro and Bradely.

Click here for link to full paper in PDF format. This article originally appeared in the Spring 2009 issue of Democracy: A Journal of Ideas.

For a metro area in the United States, where we generally lack effective metro-wide government structures, I have always thought Metro Denver did a pretty decent job of regional coordination with important regional bodies, such as the following, impacting metro-wide policy: Metro Mayors Caucus , Denver Regional Transportation District (RTD), Denver Regional Council of Governments (DRCOG), the Scientific and Cultural Facilities District (SCFD), the Denver Metro Chamber of Commerce, The Metro Denver Economic Development Corporation, the Metro Denver Sports Commission, and many others.

Its notable how often the terms "metro" or "region" are used in the titles of the organizations listed above which shows that the region recognizes and values the importance of metro-wide organization and cooperation. As an aside, I think this ethos evolved in part because of the Denver region's spatial isolation from other metropolitan areas which fostered the need for regional bootstrapping and self reliance.

In this context I thought it was interesting that the Brookings' paper cited FasTracks in Denver as an example of successful regional coordination.

"Of course, metropolitan-area leaders have no alternative but to try to
succeed, and many are working creatively and energetically to tackle big
problems and augment their regions’ stocks of crucial assets. In Denver, the
metropolitan mayors’ caucus spearheaded a $5 billion bond issue for transit
and changed local zoning laws to create the density that makes transit

Lets hope the region is able to pull together once again to develop a strategy and the political consensus for financing the full FasTracks build out by 2017 as planned.

Regionalism in Denver is something I hope to explore further in future blog posts.

See below for an extended summary of the paper from the Brookings Website :

"Though our economic development policies don’t reflect it, America doesn’t
really possess a national economy, or even a collection of 50 state economies.
Instead, America’s long-term prosperity stands or falls on the more local
prosperity of its 363 distinct, varied, clustered, and interlinked metropolitan
economies, dominated by the 100 largest metros—many of which cross county and
state jurisdictions and incorporate multiple city centers, suburbs, exurbs, and
downtowns in a way that the old hub-and-spoke model of urban geography never
did. In that sense, America is quite literally a “MetroNation,” utterly
dependent on the success of its metropolitan hubs.

From the hundreds of square miles that constitute contemporary London to
the sprawling Brazilian city-states of Sao Paulo and Rio, metros are the new
norm in global economic development, shaped by twenty-first-century forces of
globalization, innovation, and cultural diversity. These forces assign enormous
value to a relatively small number of factors—infrastructure networks,
industrial innovation, human capital, the quality of place—and then reward those
nations and places that are best able to marshal and align those assets. And
those places are, increasingly, metros—pulsating zones of urban, suburban, and
exurban synergies and exchange that revolve around cities. Metros—and not only
their constituent individual cities, suburbs, or isolated municipalities—are
therefore one of the most critical places where federal policymakers should
focus their attention and resources as they seek to restore prosperity to our

Yet here is the problem: While America is more metropolitan than ever, the
nation’s policies and structures rarely match economic reality. As a nation, we
remain fixed in old arrangements, established decades ago and kept in place by
bureaucratic inertia and entrenched political interests. Such a misunderstanding
of contemporary urban structures inevitably leads to bad public policy
decisions. Take as an example the nation’s crumbling infrastructure, now finally
in the public eye. We should be spending money on metropolitan infrastructure,
such as new transit lines or the maintenance and upgrade of existing roads and
bridges, because it gives the best return on investment, the most bang for the
buck. And yet the federal government sends the overwhelming bulk of national
infrastructure funds to states, not metros. Given the vagaries of state
politics, state departments of transportation in turn tend to scant metro
investments in favor of building brand-new roads in far-flung places. Money that
could be fueling the metro economic engine ends up widening a rural highway.

We can no longer afford this mismatch. As the nation gathers its energies
to emerge from the current rattling recession, President Barack Obama and
Congress need to re-imagine the relationships between the federal government,
states, and localities to more fully realize the potential of metropolitan
America. Washington must lead in areas that transcend the reach of local action
and require national vision, direction, and purpose—areas such as the provision
of world class interstate road and rail links, investments in science and basic
research, immigration reform, and the creation of a framework for controlling
greenhouse gas emissions. At the same time, Washington needs to get past its
focus on states and empower metro areas—often made up of dozens of independent
governments— to work closer together and begin asserting themselves as coherent,
if widespread, entities. And finally, Washington and all levels of government
need to maximize their performance by deploying information, standards-setting,
and data to improve decision-making and problem-solving.

America can no longer pretend that it is a single economy, nor can it
imagine that it is a nation of independent, small towns, punctuated by large but
isolated urban centers. It must embrace its metropolitan future—and all the
wrenching change that entails."

Saturday, March 7, 2009

What the Loss of the Rocky Means to Me

Like many people with ties to Colorado and the Metro Denver Area, over the last week or so I have been thinking about what the demise of The Rocky Mountain News means.

Clearly the elimination of jobs and economic activity is very painful particularly given the overall state of the economy. The broad civic loss of an independent and vigorous source of regional news will be felt immediately and for coming decades. The break in 150 years of historical continuity is like a sharp knife to Denver's soul.

As a blogger living in the New York City area but writing about economic development in Denver, The Rocky provided a tremendous news source for me, sparking and informing many of my blog posts (best wishes in future endeavors Rebchook, Milstead, Reuteman and team). Ironically the very same Internet which made my blogging possible, led to structural economic changes which are contributing to the loss of so many newspapers, including The Rocky, around the country.

One of the things which makes the City of Denver and the surrounding area so special is its status as a regional metropole -- a political, cultural, economic and financial capital for the intermountain western United States. The newspapers' very name - "The Rocky Mountain News" was emblematic of Denver's claim to regional supremacy.

The Rocky's
presence along with The Denver Post brought prestige to Denver making it, by my reckoning, the smallest of the remaining two newspaper towns in America. For many decades the two papers fought a legendary news war providing competing perspectives, promotional prices, spurring each other on to journalistic achievements, and helping to inform and entertain the citizenry. When a truce was called in 2001 and the two papers signed a joint operating agreement and combined their business operations, they still maintained separate newsrooms and editorial views.

Denver, the United States and most places around the world are going through a very serve economic downturn which is destroying well-loved institutions and traditions, dislocating millions of people and enveloping many facets of peoples lives with painful uncertainty. However, with this type of crisis comes changes and the seeds of new opportunity. Its hard to know exactly how and when that opportunity will unfold but I am hopeful that the Denver Region is well positioned to embrace the changes and ultimately thrive in the new reality -- its just a darn shame that The Rocky won't be around to keep us informed along the way.