The Battle for Houston

This article first appeared at City Journal.

America’s most opportunity-rich city faces a long-term challenge from “smart-growth” advocates pushing for more regulation.

Over the last half-century, Houston has developed an alternative model of urbanism. As the New Urbanist punditry mounts an assault on both suburban growth and single-family homes, Houston has embraced a light regulatory approach that reflects market forces more than ideology. But last year’s Hurricane Harvey floods severely tested the Houston model. An unprecedented four feet of rain in four days —a year’s worth, the greatest rainfall event in recorded U.S. history—overflowed the banks of every channel in Harris County, flooded nearly 100,000 homes (7 percent of the housing stock), and created an estimated $81.5 billion in damage, the nation’s second-largest natural disaster after Hurricane Katrina. Coupled with a downturn in the energy industry, which saw the loss of some 86,000 jobs last year, Harvey’s aftermath suggested that the region’s growth period had come to an end, with stagnant job growth and domestic migration. Read more

Cities Are for Rich People Now and Wooing Amazon Only Makes It Worse

This article first appeared on Vice

Local officials across America are trying to attract the mega-corporation’s new headquarters. That is not going to help your rent.

If there are two facts of life in the modern American city, they are that rent will be too damn high, and that attracting investment from a mega corporation will seem to some local power players like the best way to stave off economic disaster. The rent part is an old, old story. Under-construction of affordable and publicly-funded housing units targeted at the working- and middle-classes is a trend that started around the 1970s. Combine that with spiraling income inequality, the erosion of tenants’ rights, and stagnant real wages, and it makes paying for a roof over your head almost impossible in many metropolises. At the same time, the decline of manufacturing and the federal government’s general unwillingness to invest in major job-creation programs (like infrastructure) means civic leaders have long been tripping over each other to woo companies who might act as job creators for the populace and, not incidentally, help those politicians keep their own jobs. Read more

Can Lebron James Make Los Angeles Great Again?

Excerpted from an article that first appeared at The Orange County Register.

With his decision to move to Los Angeles, LeBron James has given our metropolis another reason to feel good about itself. When it comes to sports, and celebrity, Los Angeles’ lead is only growing, as evidenced by the recent movement of two football teams to the area, the proposed construction of a new basketball facility for the Clippers and the winning of the 2028 Olympics games.

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Europe Has Lost Its Way in Culture and Economics

This article first appeared at The Orange County Register

In recent years, many of America’s leading lights have embraced Europe as the model for America. Books like “The European Dream” and “The United States of Europe: The New Super-power and the End of American Supremacy”, both published in 2005, as well the 2010 “The European Promise: Why the European Way is the Best Hope in an Insecure Age” reflected a broadly progressive view that Europe represented the essence of an enlightened future. Many Western journalists, horrified by Donald Trump, have designed Germany’s Chancellor Merkel or France Emmanuel Macron as “new leaders of the Western world.” Read more

Blue-collar Blues in the Southern California Job Market

This piece first appeared in The Orange County Register.

Every year over the past decade, in the Forbes’ annual “Best Places for Jobs” survey, we have been fortunate to assess Southern California’s job market and compare it to other large metropolitan areas. The results point to some strong points but also many long-term problems that regional leaders need to address.

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Finance Flies West, and South

This article first appeared at City Journal.

The recently announced departure of New York City-based Alliance Bernstein for Nashville, taking more than 1,000 jobs with it, suggests a potential loosening of New York’s iron grip on the financial-services industry. Yet the move reflects a longer evolution that has seen financial firms leave not only New York but also other traditional centers—what one historian calls the “Yankee Empire”—that for two centuries dominated banking, insurance, and investment capital. Read more

The Best Cities For Jobs 2018: Dallas And Austin Lead The Surging South

This article first appeared on Forbes.

Among America’s largest metropolitan areas, the economic leaders come in two flavors: Southern-fried and West Coast organic. The first group flourishes across a broad range of industries, fed by strong domestic in-migration and a friendly business climate. The other is driven largely by technology and high-end business services clustered around expensive but highly desirable urban areas.

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Where Talent Wants to Live

Excerpted from an article that first appeared at Chief Executive.

With unemployment down and wages rising, there’s growing concern that a lengthy and potentially crippling talent shortage will sweep the U.S. Addressing this could become a critical issue for businesses competing with Asian and European firms facing similar and, in many ways, more severe shortages.

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Giving Common Sense a Chance in California

Excerpted from an article that first appeared on City Journal.

In California, where Governor Jerry Brown celebrates “the coercive power of the state” and advocates “brainwashing” for the un-anointed, victories against Leviathan are rare. Yet last week brought just such a triumph, as a legislative committee rejected an attempt by San Francisco state senator Scott Wiener to take zoning power away from localities Read more

Suburbs Could End Up On The Cutting Edge of Urban Change

This article first appeared at The Orange County Register.

Over the past decade, the old urban model, long favored by most media and academia, became the harbinger of the new city. We were going back to the 19th century, with rising dense urban cores, greater densities and thriving transit systems.

That paradigm now lives on in myth and media, but not so much in reality. As the census data this year, and indeed since at least 2012, suggests, Americans continue to do what they have done for at least a half century – spread out, innovate and, in the process, re-create the urban form.

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