Weekly Links

Atlanta Reconsiders Its Proposed Ban on Car Booting, Opts for Minor Changes Instead

Weekly Links: brief commentary on local, state, and national stories from (roughly) the past week



Atlanta Reconsiders Its Proposed Ban on Car Booting, Opts for Minor Changes Instead

From The AJC. Last February a bill was introduced in the Atlanta City Council that banned car booting within city limits. However, that bill was revised in committee on Tuesday to rid it of its most important part: the actual banning of car booting. Instead, the bill increases background check requirements for booting company employees, allows business owners to boot cars directly in some circumstances, and requires better signage of booting practices.

In a previous edition of Weekly Links, we highlighted the sign changes being worked on by council member Amir Farokhi. If they end up being anything like what we saw then they’re a huge improvement over the poorly designed signs currently scattered across parking lots. But the rule changes appear to still fall short of requiring lot owners to state with specificity the exact circumstances that will warrant a boot.

As we’ve previously written, booting is confusing, unfair, and counterproductive. The practice allows lot owners to arbitrarily enforce often unclear and confusing agreements with customers, encourages public arguments, and detains vehicles in parking spots when the entire point is to open those spots to other customers. As described in the AJC article, a man was recently shot by a booting company employee over a parking dispute.

While policing parking lot rules is generally a good thing, the ultimate problem is the parking lots themselves. We simply don’t need a bunch of small, privately owned parking lots scattered throughout neighborhoods. But if we can’t fix the fundamental problem and we’re instead going to allow private citizens to impound the property of others due to violations of an agreement then we better make sure both parties clearly understand the agreement before entering into it.

Urban Planning

To Lure Residents and Businesses, Some Cities Are Giving Cash Directly to People

From The Washington Post. What if instead of giving companies money to relocate to cities we gave money to people? Several cities across the country are offering people cash and other financial incentives if they become permanent residents. The idea being that cities will gain new residents and those new residents will use the money to create businesses and spend it at existing establishments. The cities tend to be clustered in the upper Midwest and Northeast, but the Post focuses their story on Tulsa, OK.

This, of course, is the alternative to giving tax credits, MARTA cars, street names, and other perks to large corporations hoping that they will improve your community. Other cities, like Chattanooga, have taken the path of investing heavily in internet infrastructure and free downtown public transportation to lure new residents and small to medium sized businesses.

Urban Planning/Weather

Large Cities May Change the Structure of Hurricanes to Produce More Rain

From Scientific American. We know that urbanized areas cause an increase in surrounding air temperatures – called the urban heat island effect – but new research suggests that cities themselves may affect weather in another way: altering the structure of hurricanes. When researchers at MIT replaced the City of Houston with croplands in computer models, Hurricane Harvey produced far less rain. This suggests that the city itself altered the structure of the storm to such a degree that it actually increased rainfall amounts.

Once cities get large enough they can mimic natural features such as forests and mountain ranges. Large mountain ranges can push air higher in the atmosphere, which then condenses and falls as rain. Houston’s tall buildings seemingly acted in a similar way to slow Hurricane Harvey and push air higher in the atmosphere. More research is needed, but this effect could increase rainfall amounts by as much as 50 percent.

Flooding in Houston following Hurricane Harvey. Credit: US Army via Wikipedia


Local Libraries Are Getting in the Seed-Sharing Business

From The Conversation. If you thought sharing books for free was a good idea then you’re probably going to like this one. Libraries throughout the country are beginning to offer seed-sharing programs where residents can check out seeds, grow plants, and then return seeds from that plant to the library. You can find just about any seed on the internet today, but a library offers the opportunity to browse and find something you didn’t even know you wanted. It’s a great way to preserve native plants and increase plant diversity.

Unsurprisingly, the seed industry is well-regulated to not only protect property interests, but to encourage proper labeling and efficacy. This means some libraries have had to alter their sharing models, but some states are now offering exemptions from these rules for non-profits and other seed-sharing programs.



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