Could Closing the ‘Corporate Inversion’ Loophole Rebuild America’s Infrastructure?

With Burger King and Tim Hortons moving forward with a merger that would shift the American fast-food chain’s headquarters to Canada, a new wave of conversation has come up about a practice used by many corporations to avoid paying U.S. taxes. The tactic is called ‘corporate inversions’ and it is estimated that the practice costs America a lot of money. But what if some kind of program could be set up that would allow companies to bring that money back home while also allowing them to see a more direct return? More from Next City:

One could imagine Apple and Facebook would be very interested in helping speed up the creation of a high-speed rail system that connects San Francisco to Los Angeles. That Coca-Cola and Starbucks would see the value in improving the country’s water infrastructure. Or that Ford and GM would see the benefit in better roads and bridges.

Currently the stockpile of cash held abroad to avoid American taxes is estimated to be $1.95 trillion. What if instead those profits were brought back to the U.S. with a percentage invested in infrastructure? At just two percent, this deal could pay for all of the country’s currently deferred maintenance.

Until the region’s sewer problem is fixed, you might want to hold off on flushing your toilet

By now just about everyone in the region knows we have a combined sewer overflow problem. If you think it sounds pretty technical and boring, you’re right. But the reality is that it’s pretty gross. To put it in simple terms, next time it rains you might want to avoid flushing the toilet. More from Next City:

Every time it rains, stormwater runoff from roofs, parking lots and driveways washes pollutants into the nation’s streams, rivers and lakes. At the same time, in many cities with antiquated infrastructure, combined sewer overflow systems send untreated sewage into waterways. The resulting contamination often entails violations of the federal Clean Water Act.

“Who ever thinks about the plumbing code? On the other hand, there is a simplicity to the concepts. When it’s raining, when you flush the toilet, what you flush goes straight to the river. If you can wait until it stops raining, you should do that.”

 

Are ‘poor doors’ the best affordable housing practice in America?

Affordable housing is always a hot-button issue. In cities like Cincinnati it typically revolves around some communities believing that they have too much affordable housing, with others also claiming that there is not enough affordable housing out there to meet the need. What it ultimately boils down to is a location and distribution issue.

In the case of larger cities where housing prices are incredibly higher, a different discussion takes place. In New York City, for example, providing affordable housing units can buy a developer increased density rights, but some have taken to creating separate entrances for the lower income residents. While such practices have been widely condemned, is it an example of the best practice currently in place in America? More from Next City:

Of course, it is disgusting to even have to express that every resident should enter through a main entrance, an entrance of dignity. The idea of residents entering some type of back alley or service door to their home is unacceptable. In making this the focus, we are being distracted into an attention-grabbing and very visual battle — we can picture the different door. But we are losing sight of the context I have outlined here. As far as inclusion goes, for better or for worse, the poor door is about as good as the U.S. gets precisely because many of the people expressing outrage over the poor door would not support any of the set aside schemes outlined above at the ballot box.

 

How to grow the ranks of minorities riding bikes?

It can sometimes feel like the growing amount of discussion regarding bike infrastructure is being driven by wealthy white people moving back into the city. But between 2001 and 2009, the League of American Bicyclists found that it was Hispanic, African American and Asian America populations that saw the fastest growth as a share of all bike trips, and that those numbers could grow even more if the right policy choices are made. More from Urbanful:

The LAB report found that 26% of people of color would potentially ride more but worry about safety of riding in traffic. Part of that could be fixed by better infrastructure like bike lanes.

Bike infrastructure like protected lanes is critical a long-term investment in minority communities. “People need to keep a close eye on the plans to ensure that communities of color get the same high-quality infrastructure as everywhere else. That will provide for the hundreds of people already pedaling along as well as attract more to join them,” said Marven Norman, vice president of the Inland Empire Biking Alliance, in response to a Green Lane Project article on minority bike use.

Just how valuable are America’s iconic urban parks?

We all value and love parks, especially iconic ones like New York’s Central Park or Atlanta’s Piedmont Park, but what are they really worth?

Using a rather straight-forward, but potentially overly simple calculation, data gatherers determined the real estate value of 10 of America’s most iconic urban parks. While not yet complete, one can imagine that Cincinnati’s Smale Riverfront Park would rival some of these parks in terms of real estate value once fully built out. More from Urbanful:

The existential value of public parks to city dwellers has fueled their expansion and sheltered these urban oases from encroaching neighborhoods. No developer will ever be able to purchase Central Park because it is priceless to New Yorkers; however that doesn’t mean it’s not an interesting hypothetical.

Suppose Central Park was developable. This would change the entire fabric of the city, making specific property values inaccurate because these values are predicated on the existence of the park in the first place. Working forward from this assumption, apply broad averages for the development pattern and a rough estimate for total value can be established.

Using this example, Central Park has an area of 843 acres, or 36,721,080 sq ft. According to Trulia, New York has an average property value of $1,396 per sq ft, assuming mixed use development. This means, as a single story development, Central Park would be worth over $51 billion. The calculation is not quite finished yet. Using an estimate of 10 stories for average building height, the park would really be worth a staggering $510 billion based on this estimate.