The Limits Of Politics

Appearing in:

Forbes.com

Reversing the general course of history, economics or demography is never easy, despite even the most dogged efforts of the best-connected political operatives working today.

Since the 2006 elections–and even more so after 2008–blue-state politicians have enjoyed a monopoly of power unprecedented in recent history. Hardcore blue staters control virtually every major Congressional committee, as well as the House Speakership and the White House. Yet they still have proved incapable of reversing the demographic and economic decline in the nation’s most “progressive” cities and states.

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Why New York City Needs a New Economic Strategy

Appearing in:

Newsweek

When Michael Bloomberg stood on the steps of City Hall last week to be sworn in for a third term as New York City’s mayor, he spoke in upbeat terms about the challenges ahead. The situation, however, is far more difficult than he portrays it. American financial power has shifted from New York to Washington, while global clout moves toward Singapore, Hong Kong, and Shanghai. Even if the local economy rebounds, the traditional media industries that employ many of Bloomberg’s influential constituents likely will continue to decline. New Yorkers have long had an outsize view of their city; historically, its mayors have touted mottos that encouraged that view, from Rudy Giuliani’s “capital of the world” to Mike Bloomberg’s “luxury city.” But as Bloomberg begins his new term, New York needs to reexamine its core economic strategy. Read more

The World’s Smartest Cities

Appearing in:

Forbes.com

In today’s parlance a “smart” city often refers to a place with a “green” sustainable agenda. Yet this narrow definition of intelligence ignores many other factors–notably upward mobility and economic progress–that have characterized successful cities in the past.

The green-only litmus test dictates cities should emulate either places with less-than-dynamic economies, like Portland, Ore., or Honolulu, or one of the rather homogeneous and staid Scandinavian capitals. In contrast, I have determined my “smartest” cities not only by looking at infrastructure and livability, but also economic fundamentals.

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It’s A Mall World After All

Appearing in:

Forbes.com

If Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh wants a taste of home during his visit to Washington this week, he might consider a trip to McLean, Va., home to the region’s largest indoor mall, Tysons Corner Center. After all, there are few groups more mall-crazy than India’s expanding affluent class.

Back here in the U.S., urban boosters and planners like to predict that malls are “vanishing.” But while consumer-deflated America may suffer from mall fatigue and a hangover from overbuilding, much of the developing world has experienced no such malaise. In 2000, for example, India was virtually mall-less. Today it has several hundred, with scores of new ones on the drawing boards.

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Blue State Exodus

Appearing in:

Forbes.com

For the past decade a large coterie of pundits, prognosticators and their media camp followers have insisted that growth in America would be concentrated in places hip and cool, largely the bluish regions of the country.

Since the onset of the recession, which has hit many once-thriving Sun Belt hot spots, this chorus has grown bolder. The Wall Street Journal, for example, recently identified the “Next Youth-Magnet Cities” as drawn from the old “hip and cool” collection of yore: Seattle, Portland, Washington, New York and Austin, Texas.

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Hard Times In The High Desert

Appearing in:

Forbes.com

The High Desert region north and east of Los Angeles sits 3,000 feet above sea level. A rough, often starkly beautiful region of scrubby trees, wide vistas and brooding brown mountains, the region seems like a perfect setting for an old Western shoot ’em up.

Today, it’s the stage for a different kind of battle, one that involves a struggle over preserving the American dream. For years, the towns of the High Desert–places like Victorville, Adelanto, Hesperia, Barstow and Apple Valley–have lured thousands of working- and middle-class Californians looking for affordable homes.

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Smart Growth Must Not Ignore Drivers

Appearing in:

Politico

For the time being, battles over health care and energy seem likely to occupy the attention of both the Obama administration and its critics. Yet although now barely on the radar, there may be another, equally critical conflict developing over how Americans live and travel.

Right now this potential flash point has been relegated to the back burner, as Congress is likely to put any major transportation spending initiative on hold for at least a year, and perhaps longer. This also may be a symptom of mounting concerns over the deficit. Financing major changes in transportation, for example, would probably require higher federal fuel taxes, which would not fly amid a weak economy. Read more

World Capitals Of The Future

Appearing in:

Forbes

For most of those which were great once are small today; And those that used to be small were great in my own time. Knowing, therefore, that human prosperity never abides long in the same place, I shall pay attention to both alike

–Herodotus, Fifth Century B.C.

If the great Greek chronicler and “father of history” Herodotus were alive today, he would have whiplash. In less than a lifetime, we have seen the rapid rise of a host of dynamic new global cities – and the relative decline of many others. With a majority of the world’s population now living in cities, what these places do with their new wealth ultimately will shape this first truly urban century.

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Rome Vs. Gotham

Appearing in:

Forbes

Urban politicians have widely embraced the current concentration of power in Washington, but they may soon regret the trend they now so actively champion. The great protean tradition of American urbanism–with scores of competing economic centers–is giving way to a new Romanism, in which all power and decisions devolve down to the imperial core.

This is big stuff, perhaps even more important than the health care debate. The consequence could be a loss of local control, weakening the ability of cities to respond to new challenges in the coming decades.

The Obama administration’s aggressive federal regulatory agenda, combined with the recession, has accelerated this process. As urban economies around the country lose jobs and revenues, the D.C. area is not merely experiencing “green shoots” but blossoming like lilies of the field.

To be sure, the capital region has been growing fat on the rest of America for decades, but its staggering success amid the recession is remarkable. Take unemployment: Although the district itself has relatively high rates, unemployment in Virginia and Maryland–where most government-related workers live–has remained around 7% while the nation’s rate approaches 10%.

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California Disease: Oregon at Risk of Economic Malady

Appearing in:

The Oregonian

California has been exporting people to Oregon for many years, even amid the recession in both states.

Indeed, the 2005 American Community Survey report shows that California-to-Oregon migration was 56,379 in 2005, the sixth-largest interstate flow in the United States. The 2000 census showed a five-year flow of 138,836 people, the eighth-largest over that time period. Until two years ago, Oregon was managing to absorb this population with mixed results, but generally as part of an expanding and diversifying economy. But that pattern has ended, at least for now.

So now what will Oregon do with a suddenly excess population? California, at least, can say its emigres over time will reduce unemployment and reduce out-of-whack property prices. The immediate net benefits for Oregon are harder to discern. Read more