‘I Abolished Tipping at My Restaurant, and Our Service Got Better’

When we switched from tipping to a service charge, our food improved, probably because our cooks were being paid more and didn’t feel taken for granted. […]

But the example illustrates, I think, the kind of person who will fight to save tipping culture: a person who lives in a world of offenses and punishment, someone invested in the idea of authority and the feeling of power. Incidentally, this kind of person is often a middle-aged white guy.

Exploding the Myth of the Fiscally Conservative Republican Governor

Aaron Renn at The Urbanophile:

Kasich’s biggest investment is a $440 million bypass around Portsmouth, a town of 20,000 people. That’s almost $22,000 for every man, woman, and child in town. […]

It’s hard to take Kasich seriously as a conservative if this is the type of project he wants to champion. Unlike some urbanists, I like roads. I’m not ashamed to say that we need to build more of them, even some expensive ones. But we ought to at least build ones that make sense, in places where people actually live in numbers commensurate with the money spent, and where there’s a real cost/benefit to be had.

Millennial Cohort Will Have Oversized Impact on Retail, Real Estate

This is a really good article explaining how the U.S. will be impacted as Millennials gain influence.

A few quotes that might pique your interest:

  • “[Millennials] are far less skeptical of government programs. In fact, many echo boomers believe government should do more to solve their problems.”
  • “The internet is drawing echo boomers away from television—particularly costly cable subscriptions.”
  • “The automobile thrills echo boomers much less than it did—and still does—their parents. One reason is that many of the young who can afford an automobile prefer to live in cities or mixed-use suburban locations.”
  • “Many higher-income/highly educated echo boomers grew up in the suburbs, but have happily abandoned life there for life in the cities.”
  • “Target, Walmart, and Best Buy already have developed smaller prototypes and are locating them in cities and larger suburban agglomerations, while at the same time closing some of their suburban and exurban stores.”
  • “During the 1980s and 1990s, business owners and managers were usually in the driver’s seat of the labor market, and thus were able to locate their offices in suburban locations close to their homes. But the shortage of creative talent with tech skills has made it much more important to locate the offices of startup companies and the businesses that need to interact with them where the talent they seek wants to live.”

But you should read the whole thing.

‘We can predict the next housing crash, and that’ll be in about 2020.’

In the 1990s and 2000s, 77% of housing demand was for large, single-family homes on grassy lots. But the previous generation’s wants don’t match the next generation’s:

“[Baby Boomers] will want to sell their homes, and they’re hoping there are people behind them to buy their homes,” says [Arthur C.] Nelson, director of the Metropolitan Research Center at the University of Utah. […]

A vast majority of today’s households with children still want such houses, Nelson says. But about a quarter of them want something else, like condos and urban townhouses. That demand “used to be almost zero percent, and if it’s now 25 percent,” Nelson says, “that’s a small share of the market but a huge shift in the market.” And this is half of the reason why many baby boomers may not find buyers for their homes.

Blue Ash, Ohio Mayor: ‘Local government is under attack’

Mark F. Weber (R), Mayor of Blue Ash, Ohio:

The Local Government Fund consists of tax revenue collected by the state from all of us and then returned to municipalities and townships to help defray the cost of essential services local governments provide. The Local Government Fund was reduced in 2012 by 25 percent. It will be trimmed again in 2013 by another 25 percent.

As of Dec. 31, the Ohio estate tax is no more. Many groups hailed its demise as a great achievement. What the anti-tax advocates didn’t tell you is that 80 percent of the Ohio estate tax collected was distributed to the local community in which the decedent resided.

Ohio Governor John Kasich (R) loves to cut taxes… but only when the state of Ohio doesn’t have to feel the pain, and the local communities are forced to make up the difference, somehow.

Meet the $4.7 Billion Birmingham Highway Only Cronyism Could Build

Angie Schmidt of StreetsBlog shines the light on another highway project that would never be built if we actually weighed the true costs and benefits of highway projects. This time, it’s a 52-mile bypass around the northern side of Birmingham, Alabama, at a bargain price of $4.7 billion.

Evidence has been mounting for years that Americans are driving less, and it’s likely a long-term trend. And we already don’t have enough funding to maintain our existing highway infrastructure, such as Cincinnati’s Brent Spence Bridge, which won’t be built until 2040 unless we accept tolling as a funding mechanism. But why pass up an opportunity to cut a ribbon for a new highway, adding another 312 lane-miles that Alabama won’t be able to afford to maintain?

According to a pro-highway group, the bypass would attract 372 new businesses and 6,527 new residents. But residents don’t pull off the highway and directly into a driveway. Alabama would also have to build new arterial streets, water and sewer, and other infrastructure before any of the newly-accessible land could be transformed into subdivisions and strip malls.

Kasich’s tax plan rewards rich, starves public services

Ohio Governor John Kasich wants to balance the state budget by raising state sales taxes, while simulatenously reducing the amount of sales tax that goes to cities and counties. Most Ohio cities are in a budget crunch right now because Kasich did the same thing last time — balancing the state’s budget by passing the problem down to the cities.

What’s the impact on an average Ohio resident?

The Institute on Taxation and Economic Policy, a nonprofit research group in Washington, calculated how Ohioans in different income groups would fare under Mr. Kasich’s plan. It concluded that he would give the most affluent 1 percent of Ohioans — those who made at least $335,000 in 2012 — an average annual tax cut of more than $10,000.

Households in the middle fifth of the income spectrum, which earned between $33,000 and $51,000 in 2012, would come out about even, with an average annual tax increase of $8. The bottom fifth of taxpayers, making less than $18,000 a year, would see an average tax hike of $63.

People making $18,000 can afford an additional $63/year in taxes, but six-figure earners need a cut of $10,000… according to Kasich.

And Kasich will certainly claim that this “isn’t a tax increase” since he’s raising one tax and lowering another, but overall, it’s an increase for anyone making $51,000 or less. Why not just be honest about it?

It’s awfully similar the tactic used by the Republican-lead 1996 Hamilton County Commissioners during the infamous stadium deal, when they supported a plan to raise the sales tax and use part of the income to roll back property taxes. The result is that taxes went up for anyone who rents, while anyone who can afford to own a home got a break.

U.S. Internet Users Pay More for Slower Service

In 2004, the [Lafayette, Louisiana] utilities system decided to provide a fiber-to-the-home [Internet] service. […]

From 2007 to mid-2011, people living in Lafayette saved $5.7 million on telecommunications services. […]

According to the Institute for Local Self-Reliance […] these community-owned networks are generally faster, more reliable and cheaper than those of the private carriers, and provide better customer service. […]

In 2011, six Time Warner lobbyists persuaded the North Carolina legislature to pass a “level playing field” bill making it impossible for cities in that state to create their own high-speed Internet access networks.

Thanks, Time Warner Cable!

We’re living the dream; we just don’t realize it

The one positive social trend that did generate a significant amount of coverage — the extraordinary drop in the U.S. crime rate since the mid-’90s — seems to have been roundly ignored by the general public. The violent crime rate (crimes per thousand people) dropped from 51 to 15 between 1995 and 2010, truly one of the most inspiring stories of societal progress in our lifetime. And yet according to a series of Gallup polls conducted over the past 10 years, more than two-thirds of Americans believe that crime has been getting worse, year after year.