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COMMONS MAGAZINE

A Vision for Architecture as More Than the Sum of Its Parts

November 11, 2013 | By Jay Walljasper

Many research studies show a remarkable divergence between the way architects see their work and the way non-architects do — to such a degree that it is not uncommon to hear ordinary people wondering aloud how it is that architects, and architecture students, seem to want to make such strange and unpleasant buildings today.

"Olam Ha-Ba"

November 11, 2013

Vancouver Values Sharing

November 10, 2013 | By Jessica Conrad

Eager for the sharing economy to bloom in Vancouver, Chris Diplock, co-founder of the Vancouver Tool Library, designed the first research project to measure and report on people’s interest in the sharing economy at a municipal scale. He called it The Sharing Project. Diplock’s primary goals were to understand Vancouverites’ attitudes toward sharing, to measure the demand for shared assets in the city, and to highlight opportunities for growth within the sharing economy.

Stop the Presses!

November 9, 2013 | By David Morris

In the November 7th New York Times business columnist Floyd Norris writes about the conclusions of a study of a 2009 federal law intended to force down the hidden fees credit card companies impose on their customers:


When Neale Mahoney, an economist at the University of Chicago’s Booth School of Business, set out to evaluate the effect of that law, he was confident he knew what he and his colleagues would find: It didn’t work.

Time is Running Out to Save the Post Office

November 5, 2013 | By David Morris

In July 2011 the United States Postal Service (USPS) management announced it would rapidly close 3600 local post offices and eventually as many as 15,000. And shutter half the nation’s mail processing centers.


A frenzy of grassroots activity erupted as citizens in hundreds of towns mobilized to save a treasured institution that plays a key and sometimes a defining role in their communities. Only when Congress appeared ready to impose a six month moratorium on closures and consolidations that December did USPS management agree to a voluntarily moratorium of the same length.

Goldman Sachs Embraces Small Businesses in PR, But Not in its Portfolio

October 30, 2013 | By Jay Walljasper

For years Goldman Sachs gave only a tiny fraction of its profits, less than 1 percent, to charity. Then the depression hit in 2008 and the huge bank was in the public’s crosshairs for its role in that collapse and the billions it continued to give out in bonuses.

Six Poets to be Featured in UNCOMMON/WORD

October 29, 2013 | By Elizabeth Dingmann

On behalf of everyone at On the Commons, I am thrilled to announce the six poets whose work has been selected to be published over the coming months in our new commons-inspired poetry column, UNCOMMON/WORD. The poets include Julia Kolchinsky Dasbach, Laura Hansen, Elizabeth C. Herron, Roger Higgins, Rumit Pancholi, and Mike Rollin.

Creativity, Collaboration and the Art of the Right Word

October 29, 2013 | By Camille Gage

Elizabeth Dingmann is the inaugural poetry fellow for Commons Magazine’s new commons-inspired poetry column, UNCOMMON/WORD. She worked with the magazine’s team of poet advisors, guiding the process of selecting poems that will be featured in the column over the next six months.

Discovering the Good Life

October 27, 2013 | By Jay Walljasper

“There’s More to Life than the Pursuit of Private Pleasure”:http://www.utne.com/community/reimagining-the-good-life.aspx


Ah, the Good Life. Fine wine. Fast cars. Beautiful people. The beach house on St. Bart’s. The ski chalet in Switzerland. The apartment overlooking Central Park. The ranch in Montana. The castle atop . . .


Dream on!

Art for Everyone's Sake

October 26, 2013 | By Jay Walljasper

Is art a commons? Or does collective creativity violate the individualistic nature of artists themselves? That’s a topic I’ve explored both in my art and in conversations with artists around the U.S.

Are Bike Lanes a White Thing?

October 26, 2013 | By Jay Walljasper

Rev. Kenneth Gunn’s ministry at Chicago’s Bread of Life Church covers both the Bible and bicycles. He organized a bike club that regularly rides from the South Side church to Lake Michigan and along the Lakefront Trail. In his spare time, Gunn repairs donated bikes that he gives to kids in the predominantly African-American neighborhood.

Public Beats Private

October 23, 2013

Private systems are focused on making profits for a few well-positioned people. Public systems, when sufficiently supported by taxes, work for everyone in a generally equitable manner.


The following are six specific reasons why privatization simply doesn’t work.


1. The Profit Motive Moves Most of the Money to the Top

How One Farmer Protects His Land from Fracking

October 20, 2013 | By Jay Walljasper

When J. Stephen Cleghorn realized that Paradise Gardens and Farm, his certified-organic farm in Pennsylvania that sits above the Marcellus Shale formation, was at risk of being “fracked” for shale gas extraction, he knew he had to act. But he did more than just act against fracking when he became the first private property owner in the United States to use a deed easement recognizing the Rights of Nature to ban all activities that would do systemic harm to the ecosystem both above and deep below the surface of his farm.

The Forgotten Idea That Shaped Great U.S. Cities

October 17, 2013 | By Jay Walljasper

With Connecticut following Pennsylvania’s century-long lead by enacting legislation this year that applies the work of the Gilded Age economist and reformer Henry George, it is timely to look back at similar efforts in the U.S. of his Progressive Era followers, known then as Single Taxers.

Renew the Commons, Recharge Your Life

October 9, 2013 | By Jay Walljasper

“I arise in the morning torn between a desire to improve (or save) the world and a desire to enjoy (or savor) the world. This makes it hard to plan the day.” —American essayist E.B.White.


The fate of the commons appears dire today. The environment is under full-scale assault. Public services are being slashed. Community bonds are fraying. Campaigns to privatize what belongs to all of us are on the march.


What can we do to protect all we share?

Let Red States Opt Out of Obamacare

October 7, 2013 | By David Morris

In 2009, when Congress passed the health care bill, only one Republican voted in favor. In 2010, with opposition to the new health care law as their rallying cry, Republicans gained a net 63 seats and control of the House of Representatives. They also won control of 11 additional states, bringing their total to 25.


On October 1st, the first day of the new federal fiscal year and the launch of the new health care exchanges, the victors of 2009 collided with the victors of 2010. The entire nation felt the impact.

XL Not the Only Pipeline Carrying Tar Sands Oil

September 30, 2013

As controversy over TransCanada’s Keystone XL pipeline has captured most of America’s attention, Minnesotans have been dealing with a different pipeline carrying tar sands bitumen to the United States. On July 17, 2013, the Minnesota Public Utilities Commission (PUC) granted Enbridge, L.P. a 120,000-barrel-per-day (bpd) capacity increase to line 67, the “Alberta Clipper”, “from 450,000 bpd to 570,000 bpd”:http://www.startribune.com/business/215881221.html.

Getting America Back on Its Feet

September 29, 2013 | By Jay Walljasper

Americans’ #1 favorite physical activity is walking, reports the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Walking also plays a fundamental role in our transportation system, with 11 percent of all trips made on foot, according to the US Department of Transportation. Neighborhoods that rank high for walkability (where walking is safe and convenient) enjoy a greater sense of community and higher property values according to recent studies.

On Developing a Co-Owned Food Council for Minneapolis

September 25, 2013 | By On the Commons Team

Since our founding twelve years ago, On the Commons (OTC) has played a lead role in advancing discussion and exploration of on-the-ground models for regenerating public life and the public sphere. One of our focuses has been the concept of shared-powered principles and structures—especially between municipal bureaucracies and communities—to fully tap the potential and creativity of the whole community.

A Powerful Commons Tool We Overlook

September 25, 2013 | By Jay Walljasper

Social customs are a force modern society underestimates when trying to influence desirable behavior in people. Even in troubled economic times when people vote down tax increases for essential public services, the vast majority of us voluntarily add 10-20 percent of the cost of a restaurant bill as a tip. There’s no law requiring this, no one will chase down the street after you shouting “thief, thief” if you don’t. But people tip anyway because it’s a time-honored custom. You feel guilty, like some kind of Ebenezer Scrooge, when you don’t.