So What Happens If the Delivery Trucks Don’t Come?

20171017_065436This past Labor Day, Paula and I did what so many Americans do over a sunny three-day weekend – we took a road trip. We had a wedding to attend in Austin and we thought we would make the most of it by dropping our kids off with the grandparents in San Antonio first. We had heard a few rumors floating around about a gas shortage following the devastation of Houston by Hurricane Harvey, but we noticed nothing unusual as we filled up the tank here in College Station and hit the road Friday evening for San Antonio. Now kid-free, we started out for Austin the following morning with half a tank of gas. We were surprised to see that the two gas stations on the corner were indeed out of gas but figured we would just stop further along the way instead. But the next station was out of gas too. And so was the next. And the next! After about an hour of this we started feeling a little panicky. If this continued on would we even be able to make it to the wedding? And what about the kids? Continue reading

Building a Local Economy: Where to Start?

P1000350Quite a lot has happened in the Golbabai house since I lased posted. After months of studying, I passed my American Institute of Certified Planners (AICP) certification exam so I can now write this blog as a certified planner! A few days later, Paula and I welcomed the newest addition to our family, our beautiful baby daughter. Both Mom and baby are doing well and we’re all adjusting to this new reality of life as a family of four!

Over the past few weeks I’ve been really struck by my two children. Looking at our newborn daughter, I’m amazed at just how completely dependent we are on others when we come into the world. Continue reading

Growing Deep

imageThe unique flavor of local businesses is as beautiful as it is important, helping to make each place special and combating the spread of “Anywhere, USA” towns. Yet one thing that has perplexed me is how do these same businesses retain their local image in the face of success? Isn’t expansion and the franchising of stores the logical next step?

Well, I recently discovered that growing deep in place can be an alternative to growing broadly. Here are two great examples of this concept: Continue reading

Stuart Scott: A Man Meant for the Big Stage

imageI spend a lot of time on this blog promoting local – a strong local economy, local businesses, and great local places. Local provides a broader opportunity for more people to participate, incubating talent.  With that said, it’s important to clarify that a vibrant economy exists on multiple levels, with those given a bigger stage having a real opportunity to serve as a unifying force between people and cultures.

Today, Stuart Scott, my favorite ESPN anchor, passed away after a long battle with cancer. I grew up watching Stuart on Sportscenter Continue reading

A Lesson In Community

imageCall it a rookie mistake.

As a new blogger I know I still have a lot to learn and this past week I got served up quite a lesson. Just as I normally do, I developed my content and posted it on the website Reddit in a topic area where I thought it was most likely to attract attention. Normally when I do this I am gratified with a temporary spike in page views and some good feedback. Last Monday I got nothing. No hits, no referrals, nada. Now I know I’m no Keynes or Hayek but I thought that the economic effects of local currency would at least solicit a reaction from economists. A few days later I tried again, this time posting in another topic section, and again I got nothing. I messaged the moderator about it and found out, to my surprise, that I had been shadow banned from the site for spamming! Continue reading

Small Town Decline: 1920s & the Rise of Chain Stores

Money MultiplierOne of the things I enjoy most about this blog is being able to test my own ideas and assumptions on the wider world. Any feedback I get, whether harsh criticism, enthusiastic agreement, or fraternal correction, presents an opportunity for deeper investigation and growth. The publication of my recent post, 1940s America – The Start of Small Town Decline, gave me just such an opportunity, as a number of readers wrote to me expressing their belief that the start of small town decline predated the war mobilization efforts of World War II. I agree that while war mobilization may well be one piece of the puzzle it is far from the whole story.  So what are some of the other culprits? To get a more comprehensive view of what happened to the small town, I took another look into our economic past. Continue reading

A Place for the Child Explorer

Montessori BedThis week my wife and I disassembled our six-month-old’s crib in favor of a Montessori bed, which is basically a mattress on the floor in the corner of the room next to a mirror. The idea seems strange at first, but as our son becomes more mobile he will be able to wake up, explore his room and play with his toys, discovering his own independence as he is able to do all of these things without our help. That’s an independence we want to continue to develop as he gets older. It may be just his room that he is exploring now, but there’s a whole world out there and we want him to discover it for himself. But in a society where you’re more likely to get the cops called on you than win parent of the year by letting your child roam, is this dream of ours possible? Continue reading

A Place Worth Coming Home To

imageIn my last post I made the argument that in order to build a legacy, LeBron James needed to root himself deeply in community, to become as closely associated with Cleveland as Michael Jordan was with Chicago. Cleveland is LeBron’s home, and I think most of us were thrilled to hear that he will be returning this coming year. He explained his decision by reflecting on his deep ties to Northeast Ohio – ties so strong that four successful years with the Miami Heat weren’t enough to make him forget. LeBron is coming home.

LeBron’s story is a great example of the kind of migration that hometowns across the nation are experiencing. Continue reading

LeBron’s Legacy: A Place-Based Perspective

Growing up as a Connecticut native caught in the middle of the Boston-New York rivalry, one has to pick a side. Thanks to my Mom’s Boston roots, I learned early on that rooting for the Red Sox and Celtics is not for the faint of heart. Being ridiculed by championship-winning Yankee fans and watching the deterioration of the Celtics after Larry’s heyday was brutal, yet this dark night of the soul is the way true fans prove their mettle. Continue reading

Placemaking The Spaces In-Between

fencePlace matters, yet for most of us it’s hard to see how one can make a difference in this area. Between zoning and building codes, we often leave the built environment to developers and urban planners, figuring if real change is going to happen it’ll need to be big.

But what if that wasn’t the case? Continue reading