The ‘Great State’ of San Francisco

Appearing in:

Orange County Register

The public stock offering by Twitter reflects not only the current bubble in social media stocks, but also the continuing shift in both economic and political power away from Southern California to the San Francisco Bay Area, home to less than one in five state residents. Not since the late 19th century, when San Francisco and its environs dominated the state, has influence been so lopsidedly concentrated in just one region.

The implications of this shift are profound not only for the ascendant northerners, but also for the increasingly powerless, rudderless regions that are home to the vast majority of Californians. With some 16 million residents by far the state’s largest region, Southern California long dominated both state politics and the economy. Today it, along with virtually all interior parts of the state, is effectively ruled by the Bay Area’s admixture of venture capitalists, tech moguls, political and environmental activists. Read more

L.A. Ports Face Challenge from Gulf Coast

Appearing in:

Orange County Register

In this strange era of self-congratulation in California, it may be seen as poor manners to point out tectonic shifts that could leave the state and, particularly, Southern California, more economically constrained and ever more dependent on asset bubbles, such as in real estate. One of the most important changes on the horizon is the shift of economic power and influence away from the Pacific Coast to the Gulf Coast – the Third Coast – a process hastened by the imminent widening of the Panama Canal. Over time, this could represent a formidable challenge to our status as a critical global region.

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Fixing California: The Green Gentry’s Class Warfare

Appearing in:

Orange County Register

Historically, progressives were seen as partisans for the people, eager to help the working and middle classes achieve upward mobility even at expense of the ultrarich. But in California, and much of the country, progressivism has morphed into a political movement that, more often than not, effectively squelches the aspirations of the majority, in large part to serve the interests of the wealthiest.

Primarily, this modern-day program of class warfare is carried out under the banner of green politics. The environmental movement has always been primarily dominated by the wealthy, and overwhelmingly white, donors and activists. But in the past, early progressives focused on such useful things as public parks and open space that enhance the lives of the middle and working classes. Today, green politics seem to be focused primarily on making life worse for these same people. Read more

Cashing in on So Cal Culture

Appearing in:

Orange County Register

Southern California has always been an invented place. Without a major river, a natural port or even remotely adequate water, the region has always thrived on reinventing itself – from cow town to agricultural hub to oil city, Tinsel Town and the “Arsenal of Democracy.”

Today, the need for the region to reinvent itself yet again has never been greater. Due in large part to regulatory pressures, as well as competitive forces both global and national, many industries that have driven the Southland economy – notably, aerospace, garments and oil – are under assault. A high cost of living, particularly for housing, stymies potential in-migration and motivates industries to look elsewhere to locate or expand. Read more

California’s New Feudalism Benefits a Few at the Expense of the Multitude

Appearing in:

The Daily Beast

Much has been written and spoken about the deep divide between “red” and “blue” America, but the real chasm increasingly is between Washington and the rest of the country. This disconnect may increase as both conservatives and liberals outside the Beltway look with growing disdain upon their “leaders” inside the imperial capital. Indeed, according to Gallup, trust among Americans toward the federal government has sunk to historic lows, regarding both foreign and domestic policy. Read more

Joel Talks to KABC Los Angeles About Metropolitan Growth

In: KABC Los Angeles

Joel recently talked with Doug McIntyre of KABC Los Angeles about metropolitan growth trends.
Click the Play button below to listen. (mp3 audio file)

A Map Of America’s Future: Where Growth Will Be Over The Next Decade

Appearing in:

Forbes

The world’s biggest and most dynamic economy derives its strength and resilience from its geographic diversity. Economically, at least, America is not a single country. It is a collection of seven nations and three quasi-independent city-states, each with its own tastes, proclivities, resources and problems. These nations compete with one another – the Great Lakes loses factories to the Southeast, and talent flees the brutal winters and high taxes of the city-state New York for gentler climes – but, more important, they develop synergies, albeit unintentionally. Wealth generated in the humid South or icy northern plains benefits the rest of the country; energy flows from the Dakotas and the Third Coast of Texas and Louisiana; and even as people leave the Northeast, the brightest American children, as well as those of other nations, continue to migrate to this great education mecca. Read more

California Homes Require Real Reach

Appearing in:

Orange County Register

In the 1950s and 1960s, Southern California was ground zero for the “American Dream” of owning a house. From tony Newport Beach and Bel-Air to the more middle-class suburbs of the San Fernando Valley and Garden Grove to working-class Lakewood, our region created a vast geography of opportunity for prospective homeowners.

Today, with house prices again skyrocketing, Southern California is morphing into something that more resembles a geography of inequality. Now, even the middle class is forced into either being “house poor” or completely shut out of homeownership, or may simply be obliged to leave the area. Even more troubling is that the working class and the poor suffer from the kind of crowded, overpriced housing conditions sadly reminiscent of those experienced during the Depression and the Second World War. Read more

California’s Blue-on-Blue Battle

Appearing in:

Orange County Register

Perhaps nothing more illustrates the evolving inner class conflict within the progressive political movement than the recent embrace of California as a role model for the rest of the country. The Golden State, maintains John Judis of the New Republic, should provide the game plan for the Obama administration as it seeks a path back to relevance.

As an old-style, and increasingly marginal, Democrat, my response is “say what?” After all, even by the standards of the tepid national recovery, California, for all the celebration, still lags. The state has consistently suffered among the highest unemployment rates in the country – now ranking around sixth at 8.5 percent – and now, according to the U.S. Census, the highest rate of poverty in the country.

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Southern California Economy Not Keeping Up

Appearing in:

Orange County Register

One of Orange County’s top executives asked me over lunch recently why Southern California has not seen anything like the kind of tech boom now sweeping large parts of the San Francisco Bay Area. In many ways, it is just one indication of how this region – once seen as the cutting edge of American urbanism – has lost ground not only to its historic northern rival, but also to some venerable East Coast cities, as well as the boom towns of Texas and the recovering metropolitan areas of the Southeast.

This divergence became particularly clear to me as I put together the most recent Forbes Best Places for Jobs with Pepperdine University economist Mike Shires. Our rankings focus heavily on momentum Read more