The Urbanophile for some reason has re-posted a six-month-old piece from Keep Houston Houston, a high-quality heterodox urbanist blog that I wish I saw linked to more places. In it, KHH makes a number of interesting claims about population density that I should really check out on some of the NYT’s Census maps (There are pockets of 20k+ people per square mile neighborhoods in HOUSTON? Denser, in other words, than pretty much every neighborhood in the Midwest outside of Chicago and Milwaukee?), but the broader and more important point is about the regionally (and locally) beneficial consequences of large municipal borders. While some sort of neighborhood-level responsiveness is important, of course, when there are no empowered political bodies at the regional level, you get a bunch of people pursuing their own (perceived or actual) provincial self-interests, which often includes things like exclusionary zoning and dumb economic development turf wars, and leads to a general failure to coordinate necessarily regional services like transportation between jurisdictions. Not to mention the waste involved in having dozens of administrative bodies each doing their own police departments and trash pickup, instead of one centralized body.

Anyway, one urbanist tendency is to look at the municipal borders of a place like Houston–which, at over 600 square miles, is twice the size of New York and nearly three times bigger than Chicago–and scoff at the travesty of sprawl. A better reaction would be to envy their much more rational form of political organization.