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→ RIFuture.org: RI Should Lead, Not Follow, On Pot Legalization

Look around and you’ll notice the era of reefer madness is dying a slow death all over the country. Last week, Colorado and Washington became the first two states to to officially legalize it, as Peter Tosh might say. And yesterday Reason.com, somewhat fittingly, broke the story that RI state Rep. Edith Ajello plans to reintroduce a bill that would legalize and regulate marijuana much like alcohol. Maine is considering doing so too.

This is how we would get people from Massachusetts and Connecticut (and further afield) to come here and spend money. People will not be driving past much better casinos in their home states to come to our little joke of a casino in the woods of Lincoln. And unlike gambling addiction and the toll it can take on families and communities, smoking pot doesn’t really hurt anyone else and we all know massive amounts of people are doing it, legal or not.

So, legalize it, tax it, allow for a number of Amsterdam style cafes to allow for the consumption of it (is consumption the right word?). I’ve long said that Providence should position itself as the Amsterdam of New England. We should be the ones to fully shed the Puritanical guilt that pervades the region and embrace ‘sin.’

Follow the link to RI Future to view a short video interview with State Rep. Edith Ajello.

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News & Notes

→ DC Streetsblog: Oregon Takes the Next Step in Moving Beyond the Gas Tax

Rep. Earl Blumenauer likes to say that Oregon was the first state to adopt a gas tax and it will be the first state to get rid of it. In 2006-2007, the state conducted a pilot study of alternative revenue collection methods, with an eye toward moving to a better system. This fall, they’ll do another pilot, fine-tuning their process for replacing the gas tax with a vehicle-miles-traveled fee.


→ The Guardian: Paris to return Seine to the people with car-free riverside plan

The pedestrianisation of one of Europe’s most picturesque urban riversides means the death knell for the Seine’s non-stop riverside expressways. These were the pride of Georges Pompidou in the 60s when France’s love affair with the car was at its height. Opened in 1967 by him, under the slogan “Paris must adapt to the car”, the dual carriageway with perhaps the best view in France allowed a speedy crossing of Paris from west to east. But environmentalists have long complained it was a dreadful, polluting waste of architectural heritage.


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Providence FY 2013 Budget Address

Taveras

Press release from the Mayor’s Office:

Mayor Taveras Presents FY13 Budget to City Council

A Balanced Approach Protecting Taxpayers and Positioning Providence for Future Growth Proposed budget increases tax revenue without raising tax rates, begins to replenish reserves, counts on pension reform and increased contributions from tax-exempts


PROVIDENCE, RI – Delivering an address that outlined his proposed budget for next year to the City Council, Providence Mayor Angel Taveras today presented his progressive vision for moving Providence beyond its fiscal crisis to focus on jobs, economic growth, public education and public safety. The Mayor also called on the City Council to enact legislation reforming Providence’s unsustainable pension system and reiterated his call for all of Providence’s seven large tax-exempt institutions to contribute more to the city.

The Mayor’s proposed $638.4 million budget for the fiscal year that begins on July 1 holds the line on city spending, collects increased tax revenue without raising tax rates on homeowners, car owners and businesses, and begins to replenish Providence’s rainy day fund. The FY13 budget also counts on reform of city’s pension system and increased contributions from large tax-exempts.

“This budget shows our city successfully pulling back from the brink and positioning for a new era of growth and prosperity,” Mayor Taveras said during his 23-minute address. “But let me be clear: this budget counts on our ability to finish the difficult work of structural reform. It once again relies on increased support from all of Providence’s large tax-exempt institutions. And it rests on the conviction that Providence must finally fix its broken pension system in the days and weeks ahead.”

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News & Notes

→ The Atlantic Cities: The Simple Math That Can Save Cities From Bankruptcy

We tend to think that broke cities have two options: raise taxes, or cut services. Minicozzi, though, is trying to point to the basic but long-buried math of our tax system that cities should be exploiting instead: Per-acre, our downtowns have the potential to generate so much more public wealth than low-density subdivisions or massive malls by the highway. And for all that revenue they bring in, downtowns cost considerably less to maintain in public services and infrastructure.


→ The Hill: Transportation advocates see little hope for pre-election long-term highway bill

Transportation advocates are losing hope for passage of a highway bill before the election following Congress’s decision this week to pass another short-term funding extension.

Instead of approving the multi-year transportation bill that passed the Senate, lawmakers adopted a temporary extension of legislation that already funds road and transit projects. The short-term measure, signed Friday by President Obama, extends federal transportation funding until June 30.


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News & Notes – Transportation Bill

Traffic

Photo (cc) Steven Damron

→ Transportation for America: House Ways and Means proposal to end guaranteed funding for public transportation undoes bipartisan agreement since Reagan

After service cuts and fare hikes, House leadership plan gives transit riders more to worry about

Reversing policy begun under President Ronald Reagan, House Ways and Means Committee – at the direction of House leadership – could move Friday to end guaranteed funding for public transportation, and leave even today’s inadequate funding levels in doubt.

The proposal to bar public transit from receiving funds from the federal motor fuels tax is part of a bill coming before the House Ways and Means Committee Friday morning. That bill sets the revenue levels for the five-year surface transportation bill making its way through the House Transportation and Infrastructure committee today.


→ Politico: GOP highway spending bill ‘the worst,’ Ray LaHood says

Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood said Thursday the House GOP’s highway spending plan is “the worst transportation bill” he’s seen in decades.

“This is the most partisan transportation bill that I have ever seen,” LaHood said in an exclusive interview with POLITICO.

“And it also is the most anti-safety bill I have ever seen. It hollows out our No. 1 priority, which is safety, and frankly, it hollows out the guts of the transportation efforts that we’ve been about for the last three years,” LaHood added. “It’s the worst transportation bill I’ve ever seen during 35 years of public service.”


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News & Notes

United Nations

Is Smart Growth a United Nations plot to subvert local control and create a world government? Photo (cc) Ashitakka.

News & Notes→ Agenda 21 and other wacky theories [New Urban Network]

Anti-smart growth ideologues have never shied away from half-truths and dubious arguments, but recent references to Agenda 21, Portland, Detroit, and Denver are unusually strange.

This article co-authored by Wendell Cox and Ronald Utt focuses on the United Nation’s Agenda 21, adopted in 1992, and its supposed connection to the smart growth movement. I guess the point is that if the UN issues a proclamation – in this case in favor of sustainable development – then any related activity must be part of some kind of world-government plot. The UN is also in favor of economic growth, peace, diplomatic relations, and education, and for programs that fight hunger, disease, and tooth decay.

See also: How the Tea Party Is Upending Urban Planning [The Atlantic Cities]


→ Lawmaker’s high-speed rail plan: Will it fly? [CNN]

How fast can high-speed trains come to the Northeast corridor? Not fast enough for Republican Rep. John Mica of Florida.

The chairman of the House Transportation Committee recently came out with a proposal to create a high-speed rail line – trains that can travel more than 200 mph – between Boston and D.C. in 10 to 15 years. Can it be done in half the time Amtrak said it would take?


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News & Notes

→ In wake of Ohio River bridge closure, NBC Nightly News examines the sorry state of U.S. bridges [Transportation for America]

Visit msnbc.com for breaking news, world news, and news about the economy

Over the weekend, NBC Nightly News ran a sharp piece on our country’s structurally deficient bridges, focusing on the data in the T4 America bridge report.

At least one person somewhere in the U.S. is driving over a structurally deficient bridge, according to T4 America director James Corless in a report on the woeful condition of our nation’s bridges on NBC Nightly News Sunday evening.

Brought into the national spotlight because of the recent closure of a highly-trafficked interstate bridge over the Ohio River in Louisville, Kentucky and the President’s scheduled appearance at a Cincinnati-area bridge this Thursday, more national media outlets (and Americans and their leaders in Congress, one would hope) are paying attention to the real-life impacts of underinvestment in infrastructure.


→ Debunking the Cul-de-Sac [The Atlantic Cities]

This is where it’s most apparent – from an airplane window – that American ideas about how to live and build communities have changed dramatically over time. For decades, families fled the dense urban grid for newer types of neighborhoods that felt safer, more private, even pastoral. Through their research, Garrick and colleague Wesley Marshall are now making the argument that we got it all wrong: We’ve really been designing communities that make us drive more, make us less safe, keep us disconnected from one another, and that may even make us less healthy.


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News & Notes

→ Public Seating Beyond Parks and Playgrounds [Urban Design Week]

We’ve all been there: exhausted, hot, annoyed, and just looking for a seat! With over eight million people calling New York City home, finding a place to sit outside of parks and playgrounds can be a bigger challenge than one might imagine. Megan in Clinton Hill wishes there were places to sit in public space besides in parks: free, public resting spots on every block for a coffee, lunch, and conversation. Ultimately, she wants the city to be “more free and open to all! Not limited to only people who eat at outdoor cafes, etc.”

More and more this is how I feel about Downcity. You can sit at Grant’s Lot, and you can sit at the tables at Burnside Park, that’s about it.


→ The 1950s Called, and They Want Their Transportation Bill Back [AltTransport]

What costs $230 billion and shortchanges pedestrian and bicycle safety and already cash-strapped urban transit systems? If you guessed the new transportation reauthorization proposal from the GOP-led House Committee on Transportation & Infrastructure, you’d be right.


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