By Tim Redmond
Nancy Pelosi has stuck a $231,000 earmark in the federal budget to help the San Francisco Planning and Urban Research Association build a new Urban Center in San Francisco. The move stirred up some controversy on the floor of the House today, when Rep. Jeff Flake, an Arizona Republican who likes to criticize earmarks, asked whether federal money ought to be going to a private nonprofit think tank.
It's a relatively tiny amount of money -- the who-really-gives-a-shit level -- and some good progressive people love the idea of a SPUR Urban Center -- a downtown building that could be a community center of sorts for city planning issues. I'm not sure I hate it myself.
"We want to become much more public and democratic," Jim Chappell, SPUR's president, told me when I called him just now about the earmark. Pelosi's money, he said, "is a statement of confidence in our cities and our program by a federal government that has declared war on cities."
But SPUR has over the years been way on the wrong side of a lot of important planning issues, and is still dominated by developers and their architects, and ... I don't know. It struck me a worth noting.