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City Journal's 10 Blocks

City Journal's 10 Blocks, a weekly podcast hosted by editor Brian C. Anderson, features discussions on urban policy and culture with City Journal editors, contributors, and special guests. Forthcoming episodes will be devoted to topics such as: predictive policing, the Bronx renaissance, reform of the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey, homelessness in Portland, Oregon, and more. City Journal is a quarterly print and regular online magazine published by the Manhattan Institute.
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Urban policy and cultural commentary with City Journal editors, contributors, and special guests

Apr 17, 2019

Nicole Gelinas and Aaron Renn join Seth Barron to discuss recent developments in New York and Chicago.

In the first week of April, both cities marked milestones: Manhattan got the nation's first congestion-pricing plan, courtesy of the state legislature, while Chicago elected its first black woman as mayor.

New York City's transit system badly needs improvement, but Gelinas argues that this congestion-pricing plan is effectively a state money grab. Meantime, Mayor-Elect Lori Lightfoot is a political outsider, but Renn writes that she has an opportunity to change the "Chicago Way" of doing business.

Apr 10, 2019

Joel Kotkin joins Seth Barron to discuss China's urbanization, class tensions in Chinese cities, and the country's increasingly sophisticated population surveillance.

Rapid migration from China's countryside to its cities began in 1980. Many of the rural migrants arrived without hukou, or residential permits, making it harder to secure access to education, health care, and other services. The result: the creation of a massive urban underclass in many Chinese cities. Rising tensions in urban areas has led Chinese officials to look to technology for alternative methods of social control, ranging from facial-recognition systems to artificial intelligence.

Apr 3, 2019

Steven Malanga joins Seth Barron to discuss expanding efforts to legalize recreational marijuana use, a movement helped along by extensive misinformation about the drug's supposed health benefits.

This year, at least eight states are debating laws that would permit recreational pot. Marijuana advocates claim that the drug is therapeutic and that legalizing it will end the unjust imprisonment of casual users, especially in minority communities. But as Malanga writes in City Journal, "Even as the legalization push gains momentum, scientific journals report mounting evidence of the drug's harmful psychological effects and social consequences."

Mar 27, 2019

Rafael Mangual joins Seth Barron to discuss the disturbing leftward trend among urban prosecutors in major cities and the consequences of undoing the crime-fighting revolution of the 1990s.

In recent years, cities like Philadelphia and Chicago have elected district attorneys dedicated to the principles of social-justice and the goal of "dismantling mass incarceration." The shift away from proactive law enforcement has opened a rift between police and local prosecutors and points to more trouble ahead for many cities.

Mar 20, 2019

City Journal contributing editor Howard Husock joins associate editor Seth Barron to discuss the Manhattan Institute's Civil Society Awards, which recognize outstanding nonprofit leaders who develop solutions to social problems in their communities.

History has shown that free markets are the best way to organize economic activity, but a healthy society relies on charitable and philanthropic enterprises to help those in need and prepare citizens to realize their potential. To support these goals, the Manhattan Institute established the Social Entrepreneurship initiative in 2001, now known as the Tocqueville Project.

At its 2019 Civil Society Awards in New York, the Manhattan Institute will honor four outstanding nonprofits with gifts of $25,000 each. Until March 27, you can submit your nominations here.

Mar 13, 2019

Hoover Institution fellow and award-winning historian Victor Davis Hanson joins the Manhattan Institute's Troy Senik to discuss the presidency of Donald Trump and Hanson's new book, The Case for Trump.

Hanson argues that our 45th president alone has the instinct and energy to upset the balance of American politics. "We could not survive a series of presidencies as volatile as Trump's," he writes, "but after decades of drift, America needs the outsider Trump to do what normal politicians would not and could not do."

Mar 6, 2019

James B. Meigs joins City Journal senior editor Steven Malanga to discuss the limitations of renewable energy and the need to expand nuclear technology as a source of clean and reliable electricity.

For nearly four decades, environmental activists have opposed nuclear power in favor of "green" energy. But as Meigs writes in the Winter 2019 Issue of City Journal, "nuclear power is finding new pockets of support around the world."

Meigs is the former editor of Popular Mechanics and cohost of the How Do We Fix It? podcast.

Feb 27, 2019

Ray Domanico joins City Journal associate editor Seth Barron to discuss charter schools in New York City, the growing protests by education workers across the country, and Democrats' weakening support for charters.

In teachers' unions protests from West Virginia to California, activists claim that the growth of charters has come at the expense of district schools.

New York City's charter school students significantly outperform their state and local peers, and minority children from struggling families benefit most: over 80% of charter students are low-income, and 91% are African-American or Hispanic. But under current state law, only seven more charters can be created in the city before a mandatory cap on their number is met.

Feb 20, 2019

Daniel DiSalvo joins City Journal editor Brian Anderson to discuss the impact of last year’s Supreme Court decision in Janus v. ASFCME, in which the Court ruled that public-sector unions’ mandatory “agency fees” were unconstitutional under the First Amendment.

Unions provide an important source of financial support for politicians—primarily Democrats—around the country. In a new report for the Manhattan Institute, DiSalvo finds that blue states are taking steps to shield their public unions from the full consequences of the Janus ruling.

Daniel DiSalvo is an associate professor of political science at the City College of New York, a senior fellow at the Manhattan Institute, and author of Government Against Itself: Public Union Power and Its Consequences (Oxford University Press, 2015).

Feb 13, 2019

Glenn C. Loury of Brown University joined Jason Riley to discuss the persistence of racial inequality in America. Their conversation took place at a Manhattan Institute event in New York City entitled
"Barriers To Black Progress: Structural, Cultural, Or Both?"

Professor Loury, who has also taught at Harvard University and Boston University, is a professor of economics, with a focus on race and inequality. He's published several books, including The Anatomy of Racial Inequality and Race, Incarceration, and American Values.

Feb 6, 2019

Aaron Renn joins City Journal associate editor Seth Barron to discuss how some big public universities are expanding their tech departments to major cities to maximize their economic impact—creating new political battles in their states.

A senior fellow at the Manhattan Institute and contributing editor of City Journal, Aaron Renn writes on economic development and urban policy in America. "The Tech Campus Moves Downtown," his article examining recent expansions of universities into city centers, appears in the Winter 2019 issue of City Journal.

Jan 30, 2019

James R. Copland joins City Journal editor Brian Anderson to discuss President Trump's impact on the federal courts, the appointment of Supreme Court Justices Neil Gorsuch and Brett Kavanaugh, and the diversity in conservative judicial philosophy emerging today.

The director of legal policy at the Manhattan Institute, where he is a senior fellow, James Copland has written and spoken widely on how to improve America's civil- and criminal-justice systems. "Toward a Less Dangerous Judicial Branch," his article (coauthored with Rafael A. Mangual) assessing Trump's court appointments, appears in the Winter 2019 issue of City Journal.

Jan 23, 2019

Milton Ezrati joins City Journal editor Brian Anderson to discuss the Trump administration's trade negotiations with China and the "Green New Deal" proposed by newly elected Democrats in Congress, like Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-NY).

Proponents of a Green New Deal claim that the plan will prevent damage from climate change. The scale of the proposal is massive: its goals include expanding renewable-energy sources until they provide 100 percent of the nation's power and eliminating greenhouse-gas emissions for industry and agriculture. To pay for it, Ocasio-Cortez recently suggested a 70 percent income-tax rate on top earners, which Nobel Prize-winning economist and New York Times columnist Paul Krugman described as "reasonable."

A March deadline is approaching for the Trump administration's trade negotiations with China. With officials preparing for the next round of talks in Washington, Ezrati discusses the implications for the American and global economies.

Milton Ezrati is a contributing editor at The National Interest, an affiliate of the Center for the Study of Human Capital at the University at Buffalo (SUNY), and chief economist for Vested, a New York-based communications firm. His latest book is Thirty Tomorrows: The Next Three Decades of Globalization, Demographics, and How We Will Live.

Jan 16, 2019

Nicole Gelinas joins City Journal associate editor Seth Barron to discuss Mayor Bill de Blasio's State of the City address, his aspiration to run for president in 2020, and his attempts to position himself as a national progressive leader.

"There's plenty of money in the city—it's just in the wrong hands," de Blasio proclaimed in a speech loaded with tax-the-rich rhetoric. Since his first mayoral election in 2013, de Blasio has tried to position himself as a revolutionary. But in practice, Gelinas notes, he is "more old-school, big-city Democratic pragmatist than new-school, Democratic Socialist of America."

The Big Apple mayor took to national media outlets like Morning Joe and the Washington Post to unveil his latest proposals: a "universal" health-care plan for New Yorkers and a mandate that private employers give full-time workers two weeks' paid time off. Closer to home, though, nonpartisan reporting has exposed his failures: crumbling public housing, unaddressed challenges of homelessness and mental illness, transit dysfunction, and political corruption.

 
Jan 9, 2019

City Journal contributing editor Howard Husock joins associate editor Seth Barron to discuss problems at the New York City Housing Authority.

With some 400,000 residents, NYCHA is the nation's largest public housing system. In recent years, news reports have documented extensive corruption at the agency along with chronic problems at NYCHA properties, including heating outages, broken elevators, high lead-paint levels, and vermin.

These stories have put the agency under intense political pressure and renewed public interest in reform.Federal prosecutors launched an investigation into the environmental and health conditions at NYCHA in 2016. New York City could lose control over its own public housing: HUD secretary Ben Carson is expected to announce a decision in the next few weeks.

Jan 3, 2019

Christopher F. Rufo joins City Journal editor Brian Anderson to discuss an urban struggle with street homelessness and the political fight around it in the Pacific Northwest's largest city.

Known as the “Emerald City” because its surrounding areas are filled with greenery year-round, Seattle has recently seen an explosion of homelessness, crime, and drug addiction. Municipal cleanup crews pick up tens of thousands of dirty needles from the streets, and tent-villages have become a regular presence.

Seattle's political debate on the question has been maddening: city officials who propose practical solutions to remove individuals or encampments arouse fierce opposition from progressive activists. Ultimately, courageous political leadership will be needed if the city is to solve its homelessness crisis.

Dec 19, 2018

Heather Mac Donald discusses the decline of the university and the rise of campus intellectual intolerance, the subjects of her important new book, The Diversity Delusion How Race and Gender Pandering Corrupt the University and Undermine Our Culture. She spoke at a Manhattan Institute event in autumn 2018.

Toxic ideas that originated in academia have now spread beyond the university setting, widening America's cultural divisions. Too many college students enter the working world believing that human beings are defined by their skin color, gender, and sexual preference, and that oppression based on these characteristics defines the American experience. In The Diversity Delusion, Mac Donald argues that the root of this problem is the belief in America's endemic racism and sexism, a belief that has spawned a massive diversity bureaucracy, especially in higher education.

Heather Mac Donald is the Thomas W. Smith Fellow at the Manhattan Institute, a contributing editor of City Journal, and a New York Times bestselling author.

Dec 19, 2018

Naomi Schaefer Riley joins City Journal editor Brian Anderson to discuss how family court in New York fails vulnerable children and how reforms could improve child-welfare.

In the New York Family Court System, judges adjudicate cases ranging from custody disputes to child abuse. As Riley reports, though, the whole system can feel like an agonizing series of hearings, trials, and meetings—often without any resolution. The process can prove detrimental to a child's emotional well-being, in addition to draining money and resources from parents.

Family court's problems may have begun with the cultural revolutions of the 1960s, but "bureaucratic incompetence, outdated technology, and weak leadership have played major roles since then," Riley observes. "These problems can be addressed meaningfully." She explains how in her City Journal feature story, "The Tragedy of Family Court."

Dec 12, 2018

John Tierney joins City Journal editor Brian Anderson to discuss what the debate over prescription drugs gets wrong and the cost that government-imposed price controls could have on one of the world's most innovative industries.

The business practices of the pharmaceutical industry--or "Big Pharma"—are one of the most divisive political issues of our time. Leaders from both political parties, from Bernie Sanders to President Trump, regularly denounce drug companies for profiteering and call for lower drug prices. But as Tierney notes in City Journal, "of every dollar that Americans spend on health, only a dime goes for prescription drugs. The lion's share of health spending goes to hospitals and people in the health-care professions."

America has been called the "Pharmacy to the World" because it's where more than half of new drugs get developed and tested in clinical trials. Patients in Europe and elsewhere enjoy the benefits of these breakthrough drugs. Price controls in the U.S. would significantly curtail new research and development projects--resulting in a net loss for everyone.

Dec 5, 2018

Nicole Gelinas joins Seth Barron to discuss the chaos that commuters and tourists endure on a daily basis in midtown Manhattan—especially during the holiday season.

Every year, city officials are criticized for their poor handling of holiday crowds and the traffic that fills the streets. This year promises to be even worse. As Gelinas has documented, tourists visiting the Christmas tree at Rockefeller Center are being funneled between police barricades and concrete bollards, while cars move freely down the wide avenues.

Traffic in midtown has gotten measurably worse in recent years, even as tourism has reached record-highs. The city is considering proposals to close midtown streets to vehicles during the holidays, but officials will have to be more creative to solve a problem that grows more unmanageable every year.

Nov 28, 2018

Stephen Eide joins City Journal associate editor Seth Barron to discuss how America's health-care system fails the mentally ill, and the steps that cities and states are taking to keep the mentally ill out of jail and get them into treatment.

Urban areas have seen a disturbing rise in street disorder and homelessness over the last decade. Unfortunately, many of the street homeless suffer from serious mental illnesses, such as schizophrenia and bipolar disorder. Despite federalspending of about $150 billion annually on mental illness programs, individuals with the most severe diagnoses areoften thrown into a repeating cycle of jail stays, homelessness, and hospitalizations.

In response, many states and cities are developing their own methods to keep the severely mentally ill out of jail.Launched in 2000, Miami-Dade County's Criminal Mental Health Project is one of the nation's most admired and successful of these programs.

Nov 21, 2018

Oren Cass joins City Journal editor Brian Anderson to discuss his new book, The Once and Future Worker: A Vision for the Renewal of Work in America.

The American worker is in crisis. Wages have stagnated for more than a generation, and reliance on welfare programs has surged. Life expectancy is falling as substance abuse and obesity rates climb. Work and its future has become a central topic for City Journal: in 2017, the magazine published its special issue, The Shape of Work to Come.

Cass's book is a groundbreaking reevaluation of American social and economic policy. The renewal of work in America will require fresh solutions; Yuval Levin of National Affairs calls The Once and Future Worker "the essential policy book of our time."

Nov 14, 2018

Nicole Gelinas joins Howard Husock to discuss the resolution of Amazon's year-long "HQ2" competition. This week, the Internet giant announced that it would open new offices in Crystal City, Virginia—near Washington, D.C.—and New York's own Long Island City, Queens.

Located just across the East River from midtown Manhattan, Long Island City had struggled for years as a post-industrial neighborhood until the early 2000s, when rezoning allowed the construction of dozens of luxury residential buildings and modern office towers. The neighborhood still faces challenges, however: it's home to some of the city's largest public housing projects, and its schools are poorly run.

New York State is offering Amazon more than $1.5 billion in tax breaks and grants to create 25,000 jobs in Long Island City. That comes out to about $48,000 per job. Since the announcement, community leaders and elected officials are already making demands on Amazon. They want to see funding for transit fixes, employment for local residents, unionization, and more. As more details emerge on the terms of the city and state's agreement with the company (one example: Amazon's private helipad will be limited to 120 landings a year), many New Yorkers are skeptical.

Nov 8, 2018

Steven Malanga joins Aaron Renn to discuss the results of this week's gubernatorial elections. States such as Maine, Michigan, and Wisconsin flipped blue after eight years of GOP governance. In highly publicized races in Florida and Georgia and heavily blue states like Maryland and Massachusetts, Republicans prevailed. All told, Democrats gained seven governorships.

Ten years ago, Democrats won a host of governorships during President Obama's first election, and 2009 proved be a record year for state tax hikes. A decade later, state tax revenues have still not recovered to their pre-recession levels, and costs are rising (especially for state Medicaid programs). But if history is any guide, tax hikes and spending increases will be on the agenda after years of comparative taxing discipline.​

Read Malanga's story at City Journal about the gubernatorial elections, "A Tax-and-Spend Revival in the States?"

Oct 31, 2018

City Journal's Brian Anderson and Seth Barron discuss New York's upcoming elections and the prospects of a state government run entirely by Democrats.

New York's local politics have long been driven by a partisan split in the state legislature. With the help of moderate Democrats, Republicans have held a narrow majority in the state senate since 2010. This year, however, many of those moderates were beaten in the primaries by more progressive candidates. As a result, Democrats are poised to take over state government in Albany next year.

Democrats in the legislature will likely pass a progressive-policy wish list: a millionaires' tax, rent control, single-payer health care, and more. Governor Andrew Cuomo, however, who appears certain to win a third term, is the wild card. It remains to be seen how Cuomo will react to aggressive leftward pressure from his party.

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