When Local Control Backfires

[Originally printed in Governing Magazine]

 

Many political analysts believe that local government is the best government. The act of delegating responsibilities to states and localities is thought to increase accountability by putting governments closer to the people. But local governance can backfire, especially when parochial interests trump larger regional concerns. Nowhere is this more evident than in housing, where prices are skyrocketing in many U.S. cities…[read the rest at Governing Magazine]… Read more

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A Conversation With Oklahoma City Mayor Mick Cornett

[Originally published by Forbes]

 

Oklahoma City, OK–With Donald Trump’s election—along with Republican majorities in the House and Senate, and Republican governorships in 31 states–this would seem like a golden age for the GOP. And yet something about the party feels unsustainable. Their branding, now rooted more in nativism and white identity politics than in promoting liberalized markets, is unpopular in urban areas. According to an Atlantic Magazine report, this recent election, for all its supposed race and gender divides, was really about city versus country. 88 of America’s 100 largest counties (all of them over 600,000 people) voted for Hillary Clinton, marking a dramatic increase even since Al Gore’s presidential run.… Read more

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Oklahoma City’s MAPS Is A Model Public Works Program

[Originally published by Forbes]

 

Oklahoma City, OK–There have been numerous failures throughout the history of public works initiatives, with different major U.S. cities subject to bureaucracy, graft and poor design. And then there’s the program in Oklahoma City. Since 1993, the state capital has pursued multiple stages of its Metropolitan Area Projects (MAPS), funding structures that have been credited with reviving the city. And it has done this the right way, following accounting principles that seem lost on bigger cities. Recently I visited some projects and spoke with officials who were instrumental behind MAPS, to hear what other cities could learn…[read the rest at Forbes]… Read more

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Oakland’s Warehouse Tragedy Resulted From Too Little Housing Construction

[Originally published by Forbes]

 

In the time since a warehouse fire killed 36 people in Oakland, several lengthy media reports have provided valuable context. As the cover story of this past weekend’s Los Angeles Times noted, the reason that so many people in Oakland live in illegal warehouses, amid unsafe conditions, is because they can’t afford anything else in the nation’s 4th priciest rental market. What these articles didn’t report–or misrepresented–was how prices got so high. Since 2010, Oakland, like much of the Bay Area, hasn’t even remotely allowed housing construction to meet population growth, causing, as the numbers show, a blatant imbalance…[read the rest at Forbes]… Read more

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Los Angeles’ Pension Crisis Is Sinking The City

[Originally published by Forbes]

 

Los Angeles, CA–There are certain respects in which Los Angeles, for all its innate advantages, feels like an unsustainable city. It has the nation’s largest homeless population, the worst traffic, and numerous other service failures. Lack of money isn’t the problem, since the city has both high taxes and a wealthy population. It is instead because large sums go to employee pension benefits, sucking money from core services, and serving as a case study in how misappropriated resources can sink a city…[read the rest at Forbes]… Read more

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Could The Fair Housing Act Be Used To Abolish Restrictive Zoning?

[Originally published by Forbes]

 

In the debate on how to solve the urban housing affordability issue, there is a theoretical side and a political side. On the theoretical side, a growing bipartisan cluster of journalists, academics, business people, and even the president himself has concluded that zoning and other land use regulations increase housing costs, and must be reformed or abolished. But politically speaking, such deregulation is unlikely, since these regulations are enforced at local level, where they are preserved by homeowners who benefit from restricting the housing supply.… Read more

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Nativism: The Thread That Connects Progressive NIMBYs With Donald Trump

[Originally published by Forbes]

 

Who does this sound like? A group dealing with economic disruption decides that, rather than addressing its problems internally, it will blame outsiders. So the group adopts a nativist stance, looking to build walls, enforce regulations and impose taxes that discourage outside people and goods. The group also adopts a reactionary cultural conservatism, legitimizing stagnancy as a means to preserve “heritage” and “character.” Is this the mentality driving much of Donald Trump’s support base, and America’s turn towards “Trumpism”? Surely it’s a factor. But at the urban level, it describes a group that generally hates Trump, yet mirrors his thinking; that is, progressives who preach openness, yet keep new people out of their neighborhood through NIMBYism…[read the rest at Forbes]… Read more

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friendsgicing

‘Friendsgivings’ Are A Growing Urban American Tradition

[Originally published by Forbes]

 

West Hollywood, CA–What happens during Thanksgiving in a big American city filled with Millennials, transplants, events seekers, social butterflies, or some combo? There will be fertile ground for many “Friendsgivings.” The idea of a family inviting outside friends who don’t have anywhere else to eat on Thanksgiving is common nationwide; but recently it’s taken a twist, as unrelated young people throw Thanksgiving dinner parties among themselves. This past Thursday, I got to tour several of these parties in Los Angeles, experiencing a West Coast slice of the budding urban American tradition…[read the rest at Forbes]… Read more

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Globalism — Not Nativism — Is What Made America’s Cities Great

[Originally published by Forbes]

 

Glendale, CA–I could tell when first arriving in Glendale that this wasn’t a stereotypical American suburb. I’d reserved a place here for the Los Angeles portion of my cross-country trip, after hearing that it was a cheap and amenity-rich city close to central L.A. But what has immediately jumped out is the diversity of this 30-square-mile, 200,000-person city, with Hispanic, Middle Eastern, Oriental, European and Caucasus communities functioning side by side. All the same, it’s a thriving city that performs above-average economically and culturally.… Read more

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San Antonio: Growth And Success In The Mexican-American Capital

[Originally printed in the San Antonio Business Journal (paywall) and republished by the Center for Opportunity Urbanism]

 

[Ed’s note: this was part of a larger project by Joel Kotkin’s think tank, the Center for Opportunity Urbanism, to explain the growth of Texas’ cities. Scott’s essay is on pg. 40 of the pdf.]

 

San Antonio, TX — For decades, as many U.S. cities declined, and others became overly exclusive, cities in Texas evolved into places of opportunity. Due in large part to liberalized economic policies, the state’s “Big Four” metro areas — Houston, Dallas, Austin and San Antonio — consistently rank among the nation’s leaders in population growth and job growth, experiencing the rapid urbanization once common among America’s legacy cities.… Read more

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