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More Talk About Reforming Prop 13

And other stories in the news

More Talk of Reforming Prop 13

The drop in home values in California has created an interesting new reality. Very few people are benefiting from the property tax safeguards of Proposition 13. This is something LA Time columnist Steve Lopez has written about, and it seems he’s gotten the attention of Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa.

Villaraigosa plans to lobby to reform Prop 13. He wants to start with the part that affects commercial properties, which are sold so infrequently they are rarely reassessed and rarely see their property taxes go up.

So Villaraigosa wants reform. So what? Maybe not much. There’s been plenty of talk about this but no action, as Proposition 13 remains too hot touch. But take a look at Lopez’s article, highlighted above, and the arguments made to him by a USC academic named Dowell Myers.

The housing crisis might allow us to moderate the protections in Prop 13, and create a tax code that’s fair and financially stable.

The Horror Of Carmageddon

If you live in San Diego you probably could not care less that ten miles of the 405 freeway in Los Angeles will be closed this coming weekend. But if you live in LA you’ve heard the sounds of panic and the pleas that motorists take surface streets or – for the love of God – just don’t leave the house!

The coming cataclysm has been called “Carmageddon.” CALTRANS will close the freeway in order to add one northbound carpool lane to 405.

This past weekend NPR chose the event to highlight the research of a University of Toronto professor named Matthew Turner, who I’ve blogged about before. NPR interviewed him on Saturday. Turner argues that adding freeway lanes does nothing to relieve traffic congestion because demand for freeway space is basically limitless.

Create more lanes and you just create more demand. More discouragingly, he argues that creating mas transit systems also does no good. If you take one person off the freeway, by offering him a seat on a trolley, he’ll just make space for another car to fill his spot.

Turner’s answer to the dilemma appears to be charging money. Make it expensive to use freeways, either through high gas prices or congestion charges, and you’ll make a difference.

The Housing Bust And The Dwindling Middle Class

A provocative column appeared on Yahoo Finance about the housing bust and its affect on real people. Rex Nutting argues the depression in home prices has been a stake in the heart of the American middle class.

He argues that a stagnant economy and stagnant wages forced the middle class to look to their homes as a path to economic prosperity. When the home bust arrived they lost even that, and their future came to look bleak.

Nutting writes: “The housing bubble was the last chance most middle-class families saw for grasping the brass ring. Working hard didn't pay off. Investing in the stock market was a sucker's bet. But the housing bubble allowed middle-class families to dream again and more importantly to keep spending as if they were getting a big fat raise every year.”

Now that the dance is done, what will happen? If the U.S. economy and our political leaders can’t find a way to create jobs, nothing good.

Check Out These Cool Playgrounds!

Here’s something a little more lighthearted. Dwell.com had a series of photographs of the latest in playgrounds. These very cool modern parks range from undulating landscapes built from wood and spongy surfaces to odd little houses kids can climb in and out of.

Take a look at them and imagine all the fun you could have had as a kid in a city park.

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