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

Why The ‘Livable Cities’ Rankings Are Wrong

Appearing in:

Forbes

Few topics stir more controversy between urbanists and civic boosters than city rankings. What truly makes a city “great,” or even “livable”? The answers, and how these surveys determine them, are often subjective, narrow or even misguided. What makes a “great” city on one list can serve as a detriment on another.

Recent rankings of the “best” cities around the world by the Economist Intelligence Unit, Monocle magazine and the Mercer quality of life surveys settled on a remarkably similar list. For the most part, the top ranks are dominated by well-manicured older European cities such as Zurich, Geneva, Vienna, Copenhagen, Helsinki and Munich, as well as New World metropolises like Vancouver and Toronto; Auckland, New Zealand; and Perth and Melbourne in Australia.

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Salinas Dispatch: A Silver Lining in the Golden State

Appearing in:

Forbes

From a distance, a crisis often takes on ideological colorings. This is true in California, where the ongoing fiscal meltdown has devolved into a struggle between anti-tax conservatives and free-spending green leftist liberals.

Yet more nuances surface when you approach a crisis from the context of a specific place. Over the past two years my North Dakota-based consulting partner, Delore Zimmerman, and I have been working in Salinas, a farm community of 150,000, 10 miles inland from the Monterey coast and an hour’s drive south of San Jose.
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Tracking Business Services: Best And Worst Cities For High-Paying Jobs

Appearing in:

Forbes

Media coverage of America’s best jobs usually focuses on blue-collar sectors, like manufacturing, or elite ones, such as finance or technology. But if you’re seeking high-wage employment, your best bet lies in the massive “business and professional services” sector.

This unsung division of the economy is basically a mirror of any and all productive industry. It includes everything from human resources and administration to technical and scientific positions, as well as accounting, legal and architectural firms. Read more

Is Your City Safe From The Tech Bust?

Appearing in:

Forbes

A decade ago, the path to a successful future seemed sure. Secure a foothold in the emerging information economy, and your city or region was destined to boom.

That belief, as it turned out, was misguided.

In the decade between 1997 and 2007, the information sector–which includes jobs in fields from media, publishing and broadcasting to computer programming, data processing, telecommunications and Internet publishing–has barely created a single new net job, while some 16,000,000 were created in other fields.

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The Luxury City vs. the Middle Class

Appearing in:

The American

The sustainable city of the future will rest on the revival of traditional institutions that have faded in many of today’s cities.

Ellen Moncure and Joe Wong first met in school and then fell in love while living in the same dorm at the College of William and Mary. After graduation, they got married and, in 1999, moved to Washington, D.C., where they worked amid a large community of single and childless people.

Like many in their late 20s, the couple began to seek something other than exciting careers and late-night outings with friends. “D.C. was terrific,” Moncure recalled over lunch near her office in lower Manhattan. “It was an extension of college. But after a while, you want to get to a different ‘place.’” Read more