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Urban Planning & Collaborative Development

We like to draw boundaries around our cities and towns and govern our own affairs. But certain issues have an annoying way of showing just how arbitrary those borders are. Challenges related to land and water use, infrastructure, transportation, tax...

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Entrepreneurship

Necessity is also the mother of re-invention. The staggering job losses of the Great Recession made entrepreneurs of many who'd daydreamed about striking out on their own, and some who'd never given it serious thought. Many of these ventures fit the...

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Citizen Engagement

Representative democracy is in the midst of a slow revolution. For decades, the transition to a more global economy increased the complexity and seeming intractability of challenges facing even local governments, and left many citizens with less tim...

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More about the Civic Commons

A commons is a public space that is shared for the public good. The Civic Commons will be that, as well--a shared space for the public conversation about the issues we all care about. This page can be a place to collect best practices in productive ...

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Vacant Property

Many once-vital urban cores have hemorrhaged residents for decades. As population centers shift to suburban and exurban communities, cities and inner-ring ’burbs are left with staggering numbers of vacant homes and shuttered stores. Similarly,...

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Connecting to Young Professionals

With the possible exception of funding public education, there may be no more vexing issue for cities than attracting and retaining young professionals. There is no universally agreed upon definition of the term (does it include those in blue-collar...

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Bicycle Safety

Since the motor vehicle began to replace the horse, our roads have been designed and built with cars and trucks in mind. Bicycles, not so much, and a tension that stems from generations of construction — and general, societal car-centricity &m...

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Local Food Systems

Access to food from around the world comes with hidden costs. Much of what we eat travels thousands of miles to reach us, burning a lot of fossil fuel along the way. Even with modern transportation these journeys take time, and food producers theref...

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Public Schools

For an issue that's under local control virtually everywhere in the U.S., public education raises remarkably similar discussions in every state. How do we ensure quality across districts with radically different tax bases? How should teachers be eva...

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Transparency

John Adams, second president of the United States, wrote, that citizens “have a right, an indisputable, unalienable, indefeasible divine right, to the most dreaded and envied kind of knowledge, I mean of the characters and conduct of their rul...

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Talent Attraction and Retention

“Brain drain” is not just shorthand for the erosion of a tax base — it also highlights the problem within the problem. It's one thing for a region see its population shrink; fewer people require fewer services. But it's quite anoth...

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Other Conversations that Matter

As you know, at the Civic Commons we strive to encourage diverse perspectives because we believe that diversity contributes to better conversations. So, with that in mind, we are guessing the issue pages we created so far may not cover all the topic...

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Arts Education

There is rising concern among educators and parents that the supremacy of standardized tests in American education is crowding out other traditional priorities, like the arts. At the very least that development is ironic, as evidence mounts that rea...

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Teacher Accountability and Compensation

After percolating below the surface for many years, the issue of teacher evaluation and compensation has emerged as a full-blown and highly politicized national debate. Influential people on the right and left are advocating for tying teachers&rsquo...

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Obesity

If you’re fit and inclined to think that obesity isn’t your problem, consider this sobering statistic: A U.S. Army analysis determined that more than one-quarter of all Americans ages 17 to 24 were too fat for military service. And that ...

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Elections

Election processes are managed at the county level, by Boards of Elections. Four members serve on the Board of Elections and are appointed to a four-year term by the Secretary of State. A sense of neutrality or balance is reached by the appointment ...

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Higher Education

There are few more unshakable beliefs in America than the value of higher education. A 2002 report from the U.S. Census Bureau suggested that college graduates earn roughly twice as much over their lifetimes as their peers who only finished high sch...

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Energy

Any region's ability to manage and expand its economy hinges on its access to energy. But as the cost of fossil fuels rises, some political and business leaders are looking for options closer to home. In some parts of the country that means natural ...

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Water

All communities rely on water systems every day in industry, horticulture, and agriculture; in health care, retail and food production; and, of course, in ordinary human lives as both a source of sustenance and sanitation. Stewardship of watersheds ...

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Libraries

Libraries are no longer just places for quiet reading. At a time when connectivity is vital but not universal, libraries bridge the gap for those who can’t access the Internet, print documents and make copies at home or in an office. They also...