National Links: Doughnuts and Free Speech

Every day, The Overhead Wire collects news about cities and sends the links to our email list. At the end of the week they take some of the most popular stories and post them to Greater Greater Washington, a group blog similar to that focuses on urban issues in the D.C. region. They are national links, sometimes entertaining or absurd but often useful.

Doughnuts cause a free speech debate: On the blank space above the front door of his doughnut shop in Conway, New Hampshire, Sean Young had art students paint a colorful mural full of doughnuts and pastries. But the happy painting became a target of the city’s zoning board and started a debate about free speech and what constitutes art versus advertising. Young has sued the city saying the rules discriminate based on the speakers’ identity and the content of the speech. (Kathy McCormack and Robert Buakty | Associated Press)

The design of a city block: City blocks are often emblematic of the place where they reside and the histories of how they came to be. They also dictate the designs of the buildings they encompass including apartment blocks and housing units. Adele Belitardo takes a look at six different apartment block types and how they interact with the proximate streets and within themselves. (Adele Belitardo | ArchDaily)

Cars deprive us of time: Americans spend a lot of their time in cars, but it doesn’t have to be this way, argues Doug Gordon. In order to get rid of the time penalty of driving, we must reduce the distances between important destinations, which is the heart of the 15-minute city idea developed by Carlos Moreno. While this particular phrasing of planning for proximity has received a lot of attention, it also is central to how cities have been planned and organized for millennia. (Doug Gordon | The New Republic)

In-person government services shrinking: As work from home grows in the public sector, many in-person services such as licenses and permits are not available unless by appointment. The reasons are not from lack of funding, but rather many cities have been slow to lift pandemic era rules in an effort to keep workers who have been in high demand happy. The lack of human interaction has been frustrating for many, especially when computer programs often can’t answer questions and are hard to navigate. (Alec MacGillis | Pro Publica)

Yes to building for a green future: Environmentalists have won a lot of hard fought battles by saying no to things that were dangerous to the natural world. But now in an era of climate change and a rapidly changing world, Bill McKibben argues that now we need to say yes more often. From building power lines to housing in urban areas, there are many ways that building can be valuable and saying yes will create a better environment overall than saying no. (Bill McKibben | Mother Jones)

Quote of the Week

“Even though GM warns that you should use the [Watts to Freedom] mode on a closed course, it’s not geofenced. Anyone can turn it on anywhere. There are so many scenarios in which that speed and that acceleration are just dangerous to others on the road.”

Michael Brooks of the non-profit Center for Auto Safety in Global News discussing the dangers of heavier and more powerful electric vehicles.

This week on the podcast, Yonah Freemark of the Urban Institute is back for our annual Prediction Show. This year, we chat about our predictions from last year and next year of course, but also regional rail in France, interesting transportation projects around the world, and the high cost and management of big transit projects.

Top photo by Elisa Kerschbaumer on Unsplash.

Jeff Wood

About Jeff Wood

Jeff Wood is an urban planner focused on transportation and land use issues living and working in the San Francisco Bay Area. Jeff blogs at The Overhead Wire and tweets @theoverheadwire. He also shares news links daily from around the country on issues related to cities at The Direct Transfer