Tuesday, July 18, 2017

Spurring Inclusive Growth


Hello Everyone:

A good lovely Tuesday afternoon to you all.  Blogger is in rare good mood after scoring an interview at school library.  If all goes well, yours truly will be a working blogger; able to save up for some new technology and have real insurance.  Yay.  With that good news, yours truly has plenty of energy to log away on inclusive growth.

Thanks to the ongoing gridlock in Congress and a president who seems to care little about doing his job, cities and states have stepped in to fill the policy void.  Cities, in particular, have been particular focused on filling the federal budget, climate change void and  consider how mayors are in the best position to support innovation growth.  Greg Fischer, Bruce Katz, and Julie Wagner report on the 85th annual meeting of the United States Conference of Mayors, held at the end of June in their CityLab article "How Mayors Can Drive Inclusive Growth."  Innovation growth, according to the writers "...will be part of a broader agenda of re-enforcing local power in the face of uneven, if not uncertain, support from the federal government."  A word about the writers: Mr. Fischer is the Mayor of Louisville, Kentucky and Chair of the USCM Council on Metro Economics and the New American City.  Mr. Katz is a the Centennial Scholar at the Brookings Institute.  Ms. Wagner is the co-director of the Bass Initiative on Innovation and Placemaking at the Brookings Institute.

Over the past year, the Brookings Institue and USCM; the Project for Public Spaces have collaborated to create a new model of growth emerging in cities and the unique part that mayors can play in supporting it.  At the June USCM gathering, the assembled body released a handbook-available at http://www.brookings.edu-that presents solid strategies for mayors to facilitate the growth of innovation districts.  What is are innovation districts?  Innovation districts are, "small geographic areas within cities where research universities, medical institutions, companies cluster and connect with start-ups, accelerators, and incubators.  They reflect profound market and demographic dynamics that are revaluing proximity, density, walkability, and accessibity-...the natural strengths of cities."

Innovation districts present great potential for innovative growth, as ideas incubated in universities, for public consumption, by students, faculty, entrepreneurs, and mature companies.  Innovation districts are typically located near low-income communities, they can "also spur inclusive growth by intentionally including residents in employment opportunities and using increased tax revenues to provide needed services and enhance the affordability of housing."

Until recently, most of the innovation districts evolved via a collaborative process between research institutions, companies, and intermediaries.  However, mayors from Boston to Barcelona demonstrated that mayors can play a major role in furthering in these burgeoning hubs of innovation.

The writers report, "One such role is mayor as convener.  Mayors can use their soft power to pull together leaders of local institutions to find a set of common interests compelling enough to take a collective approach to innovative growth."  The broad urban point-of-view affords the mayors a look at the big picture and allow them to create important connections between people, places, and concepts.  "It is this perspective that enables disparate local actors to see what's possible and collaborate to compete."

Another role for the mayors is that of champion.  "A mayor is often viewed as being at his or her best when declaring a vision for future prosperity that is grounded in evidence and conveyed with conviction and purpose."  A small group of American and European mayors have shared a vision for nurturing innovation during their inaugural or state of the city speeches.  In several cases, the mayors have linked their vision of innovative growth to a particular location-i.e. district-for future activity and investment.  for example, former St. Louis Mayor Francis Slay bestowed authority to a local non-profit to accelerate the transformation for blighted neighborhood into a flourishing innovation districts.  (http://www.usmayors.org). "Mayor Slay opted to embolden this local to not only develop the master plan but to also serve as master developer with the authority to issue tax abatements and exercise eminent domain."

Finally, we have the role of the "mayor as catalyst."  Municipal governments have sizable regulatory and fiscal powers that can spur innovation districts.  The majority of American innovation districts lack the civic and physical real estate to facilitate "...the exchange of ideas and the continuous invention and deployment of products and technologies."  Mayor can collaborate with public, private, and civic leaders to alter local zoning ordinances to increase activities and ease public space regulations to create a greater range of programs and activities that facilitate innovation networks.  For example, the ride-hailing Uber is testing autonomous vehicle technology in the city of Pittsburgh.  Although the relationship between the company and the city has had its tense moments (http://www.citylab.com; Jan. 31, 2017) nevertheless, "Mayor Bill Peduto successfully removed regulatory obstacles-enabling Pittsburgh to not only invent next generation technology but to be the first to deploy it." (Ibid; June 6, 2017)

Bottom line, cities are facing challenging fiscal, political, economic times, however, mayors can play a variety roles in moving ahead the potential of their cities to incubate good jobs, generate new economic opportunities for all citizens, and generate very needed fiscal revenues.  The writers report, "The good news is that a growing number of mayors in the United States are stepping up and leading in way that can be adapted and adopted by others."  The mayors are in a unique position regarding domestic policy because they are the ones that can advance innovation and inclusive growth simultaneously while bridges economic inequalities.   

Monday, July 17, 2017

Follow The VC Investment


Hello Everyone:

Welcome to a new week of Blogger on the iPad.  This wireless thing is really nice.  Blogger's new found genuine appreciation or technology is nice segue way into today's subject on "Where's the Real 'Next Silicon Valley?'" by Richard Florida, for CityLab.  Silicon Valley will always be the motherland of the high tech industry.  Mr. Florida writes, "High-tech talent is a key driver of the wealth and competitive men's of cities.  But it's highly concentrated in places across the United States and the world, following a winner-take-all pattern and reinforcing the geographic inequality that underpins our broader economic and political divides."

Think about that quote for minute.  Some cities, like Venice Beach in Los Angeles, attract a large share of high tech workers.  These workers are highly skilled and highly educated and when combined with other components, can position a city to the "next Silicon Valley."  This is the main takeaway of a new index generated by the real estate firm Cushman Wakefield. The chart can be viewed at http://www.cushmanwakefield.com.  The chart identifies the top 25 American high tech metropolitan s in 2016.  Mr. Florida observes, "The report covers some familiar ground-but it also contains some surprises.

Leading the list, no surprise here, San Jose, California, the capital of Silicon Valley knows the way to high-tech.  San Jose is followed, another no brainer, San Francisco.  Unexpectedly, established high tech hubs like New York City (15 on the list), Los Angeles (number 18); Austin, Texas (number 7); Seattle, Washington (6 on the list) are not part of the top five.  Interestingly, Baltimore, Maryland (number 12) beat New York City.  Portland, Oregon beat L.A.; the Washington D.C. region beat the Boston/Cambridge region by a hair.  The top 25 list includes emerging tech centers: Madison, Indianapolis, Columbus, Kansas City, Minneapolis, Philadelphia, and so on.  Aspiring tech hubs: Pittsburgh, Detroit, Miami, Provo, and Ann Arbor are missing.

This begs the question: "What's going on here?"  There is no correct answer, and "the study and listing are based on a very thorough dive into the data and indicators."  However, the results can be reduces to what elements are included in the study.  The report leans heavily toward talent, something that Mr. Florida considers valuable-"it is one of my 3Ts of economic development-" however this skewing possibly reveals "most highly educated and knowledge based metro areas, rather than which ones are actual commercial centers high-tech industry."

The first talent indicator is the number of adults with a bachelor's degree.  Richard Florida notes, "It's a solid indicator of educational attainment or human capital, but does it really capture leading tech hubs?"

Another chart that can be viewed on the Cushman Wakefield website (http://www.cushmanwakefield.com) graphs the percentage of bachelor's degree holders in each of the study cities.  Here, San Francisco leads the list, followed by the nation's capital, Denver/Boulder, Releigh-Durham, San Jose, Boston, Oakland, Austin, Madison, and Seattle.  Larger metropolitan with a more multi-cultural cross section of people: New York and Los Angeles, for example, are further down the list.

The next factor the Cushman Wakefield study looked at is the share of knowledge workers (eg. tech workers).  Mr. Florida likes to use this measure as well, "as it includes workers in management; computer and math; architecture and engineering; life, physical, and social sciences; health and education."  In short, it is Mr. Florida's creative class, minus the fine and performing artists.  The usual suspects make the list, albeit in a different order.  This time San Jose, lands in the number one position, followed by Boston, San Francisco, D.C., Madison, Seattle, and Raleigh-Durham.  Here, the rankings tilt heavily toward knowledge bus and college towns; away from bigger, more socio-economically diverse regions.

The third talent indicator is the number of tech workers.  This seems like a given for ranking the high-tech hubs.  "Still, it's basically a subset of knowledge workers listed above, focusing on workers in computing, software, telecom, data processing, pharmacy, and medical devices among other tech fields."  Once again, the San Jose leads the way followed by San Francisco, Raleigh-Durham, Boston, D.C., and Seattle.  New York City and Los Angeles, are further down the list.

The study incorporates a gauge of growth in entrepreneurship, based on a study by the Kauffman Foundation (http://www.kauffman.org), which "includes metrics for the startup growth rate, the scale of startups, and high-growth company density."  This time Washington D.C. leads the way followed by Austion, Silicon Valley (San Jose and the surrounding area), Boston, San Diego, and San Francisco.  New York  is at the bottom of the list.

The last indicator, according to Mr. Florida's opinion, "is the single best one for distinguishing real centers of high-tech industry: venture capital investment in high-tech startups."  This means a direct monetary measure of high tech centers: "It reflects the places actual venture capitalist are betting on high-tech businesses."  Once again, you can see the chart on Cushman Wakefield's website (http://www.cushmanwakefield.com).

The data for this chart and the attending information was gleaned from Pitchbook data (http://www.pitchbook.com), produced for the National Venture Capital Association, the main organization for VC funds and lead source for following the industry.

San Francisco leads the way with a massive $16.9 billion in VC investment, nearly double the number two leading metropolitan.  Richard Florida adds, "But this chart understates the real extent of Greater San Francisco's dominance in high-tech startups.  Combined, San Francisco and San Mateo have nearly 40 percent of the national total, with $28.5 billion in venture-capital back startups in 2016."

New York City ranks second on this metric with $9.1 billion in VC investment, outpacing San Jose with $6.7 billion, Boston is number four with $6 billion, followed by Los Angeles with $3.5 billion.

Six other metropolitans were magnets for over a billion dollars in VC investment in 2016.  This included "San Diego and Seattle with roughly $1.5 billion each; Chicago with $1.25 billion; and Greater Washington D.C., with $1.1 billion."  Austin's VC investment totaled just shy of $977 million.  Greater Miami is not included in the chart, but it did attract more than 1.2 billion in VC investment in 2016.  Mr. Florida observes, "It's also worth noting that together Salt Lake City and Provo, about an hour's drive from one another, also attracted more than a billion dollars in venture capital investment in 2016."

Doing a deeper dive into the information reveal the dynamics of the chart's longer tail of smaller startup ecosystems:

* Phoenix ($269 million), ...not on the chart...attracted more venture capital investment than Baltimore ($254 million)

* Houston ($245 million), St.Louis ($244 million), and Pittsburgh ($228 million), non of which are on the chart, fit above Raleigh-Durham ($218 million)

* New Haven ($200 million) had more than Madison ($143 million)

* A whole slew of metros-including Detroit ($128 million), Las Vegas ($122 million), Cleveland ($97 million), San Antonio ($78 million) Orlando ($69 million), Louisville ($68 million), and Ann Arbor ($62 million) had more than Columbus, Ohio ($62 million)

What can we conclude from this study?  We can tell how smart a metropolitan is based on the number of knowledge workers, the levels of education, and other elements.  However, the real money (slight pun intended) is on the actual dollar investment in venture capital-backed startups that point to where America's real high tech places are.

Wednesday, July 12, 2017

Blogger Candidate Forum: Emails, The 2017 Edition

Hello Everyone:

It is time for the weekly edition of Blogger Candidate Forum.  Once again, current events take precedent over issues.  Over the past 24-hours, revelations that President Donald Trump's eldest son, Donald Trump, Jr., White House advisor Jared Kushner, and former campaign manager Paul Manafort had contact with Russian agents regarding highly sensitive incriminating information on the then-presumed Democratic nominee Secretary Hillary Clinton.  These revelations fly in the face of repeated denials by the Trump campaign, later the White House that there was no contact, no alleged collusion.  Move along, nothing to see; a nothing burger; just another fake news story.  Right, whatever you say.  Even the Russian state media is treating this story, so dominenating in the American media, as a sideshow, a fable intended to undermine American-Russian relations.  It was only a year ago, the then-presumed Republican nominee was carrying on about her emails; going as far as to suggest that Russian hackers break into Madame Secretary's server to find the missing 30,000 emails.  This year, Mr. Trump fil's emails (http://www.nytimes.com) between him and British born former tabloid reporter and publicist Rob Goldstone, regarding setting up a meeting with a Kremlin-connected lawyer Natalya Veselnitskaya.  How do we begin to make sense of it all and what, if any, will be the consequences for those involved.  Let us start with basic information.

In June 2016, a month or so before the respective parties's nominating conventions, Mr. Trump the younger and Mr. Goldstone exchanged emails regarding setting up a meeting with Ms. Veselnitskaya.  Mr. Goldstone told Mr. Trump the younger that he was writing on behalf of Russian pop star Emin Agalarov.  One of the emails from Mr. Goldstone promised POTUS's namesake a handover of information that demonstrated the Kremlin's support for POTUS.  A gleeful Trump the younger salivated over what he considered opposition research that would be the smoking gun in Madame Secretary's relationship with Russia.  The meeting between Messers. Manafort, Kushner, Trump, Jr. Mr. Goldstone, and Ms. Veselnitskaya took place at Trump Tower.  Both Trump the younger and Ms. Veselnitskaya deny there was an exchange of incriminating information on Madame Secretary.  This brings up a lot of questions.

First and foremost, did POTUS know about the meeting?  This is the big question because if POTUS did know about the meeting, then it would suggest that the Trump campaign was willing to work with Russia to use alleged damaging information on Madame Secretary.  An impeachable offense?  That depends on what Special Counsel Robert Mueller concludes.  The next question is what did Mr.  Kushner know?  POTUS's son-in-law was tasked with running POTUS's digital strategy, thus may have had an acquaintance with the pro-Trump Russian trolls, cruising the social media sites, planting stories intended to damage the Democrats and Madame Secretary.  This would imply coordination with campaign.  Was this simply a matter of oppositional research, as Trump the younger maintains?  Oppositional research is common in political campaigns. Candidates will do research on each other to gain some sort of edge. Oppositional research from foreign agents is not typical and may be illegal.  In 2000, then-Democratic nominee Vice President Al Gore was offered oppositional research on then-Republican nominee Governor George W. Bush but refused and contacted the Federal Bureau of Investigation.

What exactly happened at that meeting in Trump Tower?  We may never what exactly went on in the meeting, however Trump the younger vehemently stated that Ms. Veselinitskaya had nothing of real value to offer.  However, Trump the younger's intent going into the meeting is likely pique the interest of congressional investigators and Director Mueller.  Ms. Veselnitskaya has denied any Kremlin connection but email reveal that she did have some connection.  She told CNN reporter Matthew Chance that it was a private meeting, not related to the fact that he was the son of a candidate.  (http://www.cnn).

With the voluntary release of his emails, Donald Trump, Jr. has laid to waste the months of denials by the White House.  Now the leaks, innuendo, and whispers have become louder.  Physical evidence of what some are calling the "smoking gun": inside information plain as day, was a major shock.  The release of the email chain is too late.  The time to release emails was a year ago when, the story was first being reported.  Trump the younger, supported by POTUS, claims he released the emails now, in the interest of transparency.  A pretty lame attempt at transparency.  In an interview, yesterday, with Fox News's Sean Hannity explained that he was on a proverbial fishing trip.  He wanted to find out what the alleged incriminating information was about.  He sheepishly admitted that if he had to do it all over again, he would have done it differently.  Yes, like call the FBI.

If we take a charitable view, the emails seem to conclude that Trump the younger's decision to take the meeting demonstrates a staggering naïveté, revealing the Trump campaign's political inexperience.  Taking the opposite approach, this is a legal and political nightmare of epic proportions.  Trump the younger's changing story has not helped at all.  First there were the denials, then it was about frozen adoptions, then it was about oppositional research.  For her part, Ms. Veselnitskaya said that Russian individuals were supporting the DNC and Madame Secretary, but her claims seemed ambiguous and nonsensical.  (Ibid)

What comes next?  What comes next will be played out over several months, possibly affecting the 2018 mid-term elections.  Senate Minority Charles Schumer (D-NY) believes that the emails demonstrates intent.  The White House continues to deny collusion.  The Congressional Republicans are hesitant to break with President Trump.  Why should they?  They like the idea of a unified government and the thought of getting a conservative agenda passed.  However, the Russia story is making life very difficult for Republicans up for re-election next year.  One thing is for sure: no one named Trump or Kushner will be escorted by federal marshals, in handcuffs, to jail.  Someone else will take the fall.  Whatever the outcome, this will damage the office of the presidency and take years, if not decades to repair.  

Tuesday, July 11, 2017

"It's Chinatown"


Hello Everyone:

Today we go from national to local matters. Recently yours truly came across a fascinating article in the Los Angeles Times and just had to share it.  The story, writing by Frank Shyong and titles "Chinatown's swap meets once opened a door to the American dream.  Now, their future is uncertain," looks at how a once important economic hub for Chinese immigrants is giving way to the sleeker shinier malls as second- and third generation Chinese-Americans move out to the suburban cities of the San Gabriel Valley.  The swap meets once offered small storefronts and cheap rent, giving newly arrived immigrants a way to own a business, save up money for their children's future, and master the English language. You can almost substitute Chinese for any immigrant community and the story would be the same.  It is always a sad to see a path to upward mobility fall to gentrification but unfortunately, the case of the L.A. Chinatown swap meet is just once of the many instances of a way of life fading away. 

We start with the tale of Jimmy Ho, a clothing merchant. By 3:00 p.m. on the afternoon Mr. Shyong visited him, Mr. Ho only made of a few sales. As he warmed his mid-day meal, Mr. Ho told the reporter, 

Minutes, hours, days can pass without making a sale...You just can't make a living in Chinatown anymore.

Frank Shyong writes, "When they were established nearly 30 years ago, Chinatown's swap meets were important economic lifeboats for immigrants finding their way in America...But as tourism to the neighborhood declined and online retailers and Chinese commercial center in the San Gavriel Valley siphoned away customers, the swap meets froze in time."  Today, you are more likely to find two-decade old toys and novelty items.  The stall owners report that business is slow and not likely to pick up. However, the winds of change are blowing through the swap meets. 

Recently, portions of the meet were sold, taken over by a creative office space and proposed mixed-use residential complex tailored to Downtown Los Angeles millennials. No doubt, the posh wine bars, coffee houses, and restaurants looming in the horizon, "accelerating a neighborhood transformation that brought hipsters flocking to Far East Plaza and upscale units at the newly opened Blossom Plaza apartment complex."

Many of the swap meet owners do not envision themselves as part of the neighbohood's burgeoning gentrification process.  "If the meets were sold, Ho said, he would simply retire."  Mr. Ho added

We have enough to eat, to have a house, to live, make car payments, that's enough...We don't have ambition for more.

Jimmy Ho's food is ready, takes it over to his wife's shop, unconcerned about thieves of missed customers.

The Chinatown swap meets are made up of four casually connected retail centers: the Shop, Dynasty Center, Saigon Plaza, and Chinatown Plaza.  These four place create "an intricate commercial warren, along one of the most densely developed block in Chinatown."

Frank Shyong returned to the meet to observe it in full swing.  He reports, "Around noon or on the weekends, the swap meets are alive with the sound of stall owners bargaining their way to the American dream a few dollars at a time."  The meet has a reputation among certain immigrants and working-class families as the place to score a bargain and socialize in their mother language.  Take the example of Lizette Dejesus.

Ms. Dejesus, of West Covina, loves coming to the meet, even though there no more Filipino shops.  She told Mr. Shyong, "the meets make her feel as if she's back home in Manila shopping in the open-air divisor is Market."  On the day our writer spoke with her, Ms. Dejesus was enjoying a frosty glass of sugarcane juice as she browsed the markets with her children, one of whom was holding a brand new toy.  Lizette Dejesus told Mr. Shyong,

It's way cheaper than you can find anywhere else...And it kind of reminds you of home.ˆ

Yours truly understands the sentiment.

For immigrants from Southeast Asia, the meet is an attempt to recreate the sounds, as well as the sights of Viet Nam and Cambodia.  Amid the mounds of unsold merchandise, a cacophony of Vietnamese pop music, Cambodian political talk shows, and Chinese-language news programs blare from radios and televisions, "the soundtrack of the swap meets' many diasporas."  The stall owners, are refugees from the Vietnam War, the killing fields of Cambodia, or the Communist takeover of China.

Frank Shyong describes the swap meet, "Dynasty Center, created when a developer renovated and combined two single-room-occupancy apartment buildings, contains mostly Chinese and Vietmanese people, while Saigon Plaza is a mix of Cambodian and Vietnamese.  Chinatown Plaza contains more than 20 businesses owned by member of a single extended Cambodian family family, and behind Saigon Plaza, the Shop, a two-story shopping complex has a mix of Chinese, Vietnamese and Cambodians."

He correctly observes that these are some of the smallest business that are being trampled by online retailers.  The stall owner typically buy their mass-produced merchandise for nex-to-nothing prices from overseas manufacturers or in DTLA, then sell them at a small markup.  The one advantage the stall owners have over a retail behemoth, like Amazon, is that they over a few products not available on the e-commerce's website.  Once, there were over 300 vendors at the swap meets, accounting for an approximate 70 percent of entrepreneurs in Chinatown.  Today, that number has dwindled to half of that-"though they still represent a majority of Chinatown's business owners."  

The facilities, like the business model, has aged.  For example, the Shop's water damaged tiles have been replaced with mismatched colors.  In Saigon Plaza, canvases are randomly draped over the metal girders to create a roof covering, obscuring the building's original architecture.  Dynasty Center is roofed in blue tarp, casting an eerie glow along the storefront lined corridor with their shuttered doors, eagerly awaiting new tenants.

Some of the merchants fault the Internet. Others lay blame on declining tourism in Chinatown.  At some point, they blame each other.  Mr. Shyong observes, "Nearly all the shops sell clothing, toys, cellphone cases, luggage or Chinatown souvenir, and the stall owners sometimes fight over customers, causing such a ruckus that management has to intervene"

The majority of the merchants struggle to fully grasp and be part of the forcing reconfiguring Chinatown.  They keep up on news reports about the re-emergence of the area as popular foodie stop, a revival that has yet to affect their part of the neighborhood.  One their daily commute, merchants pass monolithic residential developments that rent for about $2,000-$3,000 a month. They scratch their heads in amazement at how anyone can afford the rent.  

Zhou Xie, a qipao (a tight fitting traditional Chinese dress) vendor told the reporter,

We don't have English, so we don't have those dreams.  

The ornate dresses usually sell for as low as $15, "the price of a chicken sandwich and a lemonade down the street at Howlin' Ray's in Far East Plaza, where business owners seem to have no problem with foot traffic."

In nearby Saigon Plaza, Harry Ng sell five t-shirts for $10, about half of the price of one t-shirt in a clothing boutique next to Roy Choi's food establishment, that also has no problem with foot traffic.

Many of vendors say they lack the finances to renovate their businesses to attract the more upscale people renting the new apartment and too learn enough English to communicate with the newcomers. Some continue, retirement is on the horizon.

Mr. Ng, and his Vietnamese compatriots, are refugees who have accepted struggle as part and parcel of American life.  Mr. Ng resignedly said,

This is what America is...Some get Rick, some stay poor.

At her bed linen store in the Shop on the weekday Mr. Shyong visited, merchant Cynthia Lu watched the corridor for potential customers from Gold Line train screeching to a full stop at the stop across the street.

Frank Shyong reports, "A few years ago, when the swap meet behind Saigon Plaza was sold and renovated into office space, the gate that connected her shopping complex to Saigon Plaza was closed."  The walkway was deemed illegal because the gate opened onto a city street, however it and other informal walkways between the plazas have persisted for over a decade.

Ms. Lu lamented,

Customers don't know to find us anymore.  They don't want to come this far.  Sometimes I don't see a customer all day...

Alpine Center, another connected swap meet was purchased a few years ago by developer Izek Shomof, the owner of several DTLA properties.  Mr. Shomof plans to construct "...a seven-story, 122unit mixed use apartment complex geared at luring downtown millennials.  A wine bar is proposed for the property across the street from the Shop, one of three Chinatown wine bars proposed for Spring Street alone."

Cynthia Lu added,

We don't have money, so we don't have power to control everything...They have money, so whatever they want to do, we can't do anything about it...

Frank Shyong spoke to Dynasty Center building manager Song Jackson who said, "Still, though stall owners say they struggle, they wouldn't rent the spaces if it weren't profitable...Ms. Jackson said that she's observed a Mercedes-Benzes in the staff parking lot, however lately the staff car park has been populated with late model Japanese cars.  Even some of the business owners believe the swap meets are outdated.

Chinatown Plaza jewelry store owner Long Ta told Mr. Shyong,

People around here don't want change...And the problem is that they just want to die and give it to their children who might not even want it.

Mr. Ta and his family came the United States as Cambodian refugees.  His first job was washing dishes at a Chinses restaurant in Michigan at the young of thirteen.  He had to stop working in restaurants after he fell asleep at the wheel and nearly died in an accident, due to working so many long shifts.  mr. Ta resigned himself,

Monday, July 10, 2017

New York City, An Arts Capital? Think Again


Hello Everyone:

Welcome to the first full week of historicpca.blogspot.com via iPad.  Quite honestly, yours truly is rather enjoying using the trusty iPad: greater mobility and way easier to tote around.  That said, shall we talk about where the real American arts capitals are?

Traditionally, the great East Coast cities of New York, Boston, and Philadelphia have been the epicenters of American arts and culture.  Gradually the centers of American arts and culture moved west, toward Los Angeles.  Arts and culture are the key components of a flourishing urban economy. You do not have take to Blogger's word for it, this is Richard Florida's conclusion from his own research, reported in a CityLab article "Where Are Art's Real Arts Capital?"  He writes, "...arts and cultura; employment is one of three key drivers of urban economies-alongside science/ technology and business/management occupations."  Two recent studies, the first by the U.S. Bureau of Economic Analysis, provide fresh data and perspective on just how much of a contribution arts and culture make to state and local economies.

The U.S. Bureau of Economic Analysis reports:

Arts and cultural economic activity accounted for 4.2 percent of the nation's gross domestic product, or $729.6 billion, in 2014.  Arts and culture, including supporting industries, accounted for 4.8 million wage and salary jobs across the nation.  (blog.bea.gov; date accessed July 10, 2017)

The analysis tracked the geographic distribution of arts and cultural job across metropolitans.

Richard Florida adds, "The data is based on arts and culture employment measured by BEA's Arts and Cultural Production Satellite Account...The account produces statistics for 'cire' arts and cultural activities such writers, artists, designers...mangers, agents, ...museums, galleries, historical sites, and nature parks."  Also included in the study were the supporting industries: broadcasters, grant makers, and musical instrument repair people.

In 2014, the latest numbers available, the arts and culture occupations employed about 1 million Americans.  "That's less than 1 percent of all workers.  Performing arts and design services accounted for about three-quarters of employment in core arts and cultural production industries."  In essence, the key driver of the arts and cultural economy is "...the creation of new work from related industries that makes the arts such a such a key way to generate economic growth."  For example painting: painters are the core arts workers, however they generate work for the frame makers, studio space landlords, gallery workers, and supply manufacturers, all working in arts-related industries.  It does add up.

If you go to the article link http://www.citylab.com/life/2017/06/where-are-americas-real-arts-capitals/530304??utm_source=nl__link3_62217, you can check out a map, " Arts and Culture Employment Location Quotient, 2014," produced by the BEA.  The BEA uses location quotients to indicate the concentrate levels of state arts and culture employment relative to the national average.  Mr. Florida reports, "An LQ of 1 means a state is equal the national average, while an LQ of 1.5 means it its 50 percent higher, of 2 means it is double and so on.  Dark blue on the map indicates with higher LQs."

Washington D.C. ranks first with an LQ of 2.5.  This is comparable to metropolitans in other states.  The historic bastion of arts and culture-New York-is second (1.47)-owing to its great concentration of arts and culture.  The big surprise is the states, with two exceptions, rounding out the top ten are out west.  Surprise, the number three state is Wyoming (1.3), this followed by Washington (1.28), tied for fourth are California and Utah (1.7 each), the tiny state of Rhode Island and Colorado both have an LQ of 1.13.  Another surprise is Alaska with an LQ of 1.11, another historic arts and cultural center Massachusetts and Oregon are tied with 1.08.  Mr. Florida notes, "Notes the large span of dark blue signaling states with arts and cultural employment LQs of 1.09 to 2.51 out West. Part of the outsized role of arts and culture jobs in the West has to do with government programs within American Indian tribal councils."  The sprawling Wyoming parklands also enhance its ranking over Utah and Colorado.

The next map,charting the increase of arts and cultural employment by state, also produced by the BEA. (http://www.citylab.com/life/2017/06/where-are-americas-real-arts-capitals/530304??utm_source=nl__link3_62217). Twenty-four out of the fifty states experienced an increase in arts and cultural employment.    Like the LQ map, there are a few surprises. Pay attention to the red areas: these demonstrate it her Roth rates in the Western states and parts of the South.  "Washington led all states with 5.7 percent growth, followed by Arizona (4.4percent), Utah (4.0 percent), Nevada (3.9 percent), and Florida (3.3 percent).  Texas, California, Idaho, Georgia Florida, Maryland also saw relatively high rates of growth."

The second analysis that provides a fresh data and perspective on the contribution of arts and culture to the American economy is a a report issue by the National Center for Arts Research gauging an Arts Vibrancy Index (mcs.smu.edu; date accessed July 10, 2017).  The analysis calculated the number of non-profit arts and cultural organization, how much revenue they generated, and government support per capita in a metropolitan and micropolitan areas (and divisions) in 2015.

The analysis also followed the diversity in 11 arts and cultural profession: arts education, museums, community, dance, music, opera,...

Again, if you follow the link (http://www.citylab.com/life/2017/06/where-are-americas-real-arts-capitals/530304??utm_source=nl__link3_62217) you can check out an interactive county heat map of the Arts Vibrancy Index, which assigns a score of 0 to 100 to those component parts-"reflecting from red to green what percentile a county is for its level of artistic engagement."  Let us break it down by large metropolitans, medium-sized metropolitans, and micropolitan areas.

Large Metropolitans: No argument over the cultural allure of New York City and Los Angeles, the bicoastal homes for the nation's literary, media, and entertainment industries.  The big surprise here is Washington D.C.  The home of bipartisan bickering is the number one large metropolitan for arts and cultural economies.  This followed by New York, San Francisco, Nashville, Minneapolis-St. Paul (really), Boston, finally Los Angeles.  D.C. suburbs Silver Spring and Rockville, Newark, New Jersey (yes); and Seattle round out the top ten.  Philadelphia, Cambridge, Portland, Denver, Chicago, Pittsburgh, Austin, New Orleans, Rochester, and Richmond occupy the number ten through twenty spots.  

Medium-sized metropolitans: Pittsfield, Massachusetts, in Berkshire County, hold the number one spot for medium-sized metropolitans between 100,000 and 1 million people.  Pittsfield is followed by Santa Fe, New Mexico; Missoula, Montana (something that should put a smile on David Lynch's face). Senator Bernie Sanders that his hometown of Burlington, Vermont also made the top ten arts and cultural economic contributor for medium-sized metropolitans.  Bremerton-Silverdale, Washington; Ithaca, New York; Asheville, North Carolina; Barnstable Town, Massachusetts; and Des Moines, Iowa (yes) fill out the top ten.

Micropolitan as: Richard Florida observes, "The list of smaller areas is dominated by high-amenity places in the mountain West or East Coast."  Breckinridge, Colorado is the number one micropolitan areas.  Breckingridge is followed by Summit Park Utah; Bennington, Vermont, and  Bozeman, Montana.  The micropolitan are also home to artist and creative colonies.  These colonies are located in in diverse places like: Hudson, New York along the Hudson River; Greenfield Town, Massachusetts; Oneonta, New York; Juneau, Alaska; Jackson, Wyoming; and Vineyard Have, Massachusetts all made the top ten.  

Both studies present concrete evidence regarding the impact of the arts to local economies and to the attractiveness of and quality of communal life.  The studies both place Washington D.C., a place that seems more like a gray monolith for bickering politicians and know-it-all policy wonks than a place for a flourishing arts and cultural scene, heads both of their rankings.

Richard Florida admits, "D.C. admittedly is a bit of an outlier, with its dense abundance of government-funded national museums."  However, D.C. offers many others cultural amenities accentuates how people who come to work for one industry often generate demand for related arts and culture-"with or without actual; artist flocking to a particular scene."  Call it agglomeration.  The takeaway for civic leaders in other metropolitans and micropolitan so: "You don't have to be New York or Los Angeles to benefit from the arts.  Smaller states and towns can also foster and benefit from being hubs artistic X and creative activity."

Wednesday, July 5, 2017

Blogger Candidate Forum: The Politics Of Architecture

Hello Everyone:

Yours truly has returned to the blogosphere after enduring a week-and-half of major technical difficulties and a trip the emergency room with Blogger Mum (all's well that ended well).  The short story is until Blogger can replace the hard drive on the trusty laptop, yours truly is confined to the equally trusty iPad.  Nevertheless she persisted.  Persist she will with this week's edition of Blogger Candidate Forum.

This week we take a look at the role of architecture in politics. Buildings are records of the time they are (were) put up.  They convey a strong message about how a particular nation defines itself.  For example, when the United States was still a new born nation, the Founding Fathers deliberately chose Neo-Classicism for official buildings.  Not because it was fashionable in the late-18th century, it spoke of the  Graeco-Roman values of virtue, morality, and good governance.  The qualities that the Founding Fathers wished to associate with the fledging nation.  The association with Graeco-Roman traditions was also intended to give the United States a sense of history.  Modern architecture is different-it grew out of the Industrial Revolution, meant to create new forms with new material and technologies.  Now, we have the Alt-Right angry over Modern Architecture.  All Blogger can say is join the crowd.  Amanda Kolson Hurely's CityLab article "Why is the Alt-Right So Angry about Architecture?" looks at why the Alt-Right has added architecture to its growing list of enemies of "white European culture."

Ms. Kolson Hurely writes, "On June 30, far-right website Infowars posted a 15-minute-long video titled 'Why modern architecture SUCKS.'"  This foray into design criticism by the website known for the infamous Pizzagate conspiracy and host Alex Jones's insistance that the tragic Sandy Hook massacre was a hoax-is a follow up to another video, by the National Rifle Association's "clenched fist" ad-described by critics as chilling and an open call to violence.

The NRA has never been known for its aesthetic judgement but the inference in this advertisement is "...almost subliminal, whereas InfoWars launches a full-bore attack.  Both bear the same message about modern architecture: It is the province of the liberal urban elite,and that stands for oppression."

Lest you think that the latest fusillade by Infowars is the work of the desk pounding, red-in-the-face Mr. Jones.  Au contraire, this video salvo is the work of British alt-right Paul Joseph Watson.  Ms. Kolson Hurely describes it as a "...miss-mash of critiques borrowed from highbrow architectural traditionalists with other opinions that seem idiosyncratic to Watson."  He most definitely did his homework, "...albeit through the keyhole perspective of 'globalist' cultural tyranny.'"

The foundation of Mr. Watson's basic argument is a familiar to anyone who has sat through polemics against Modenism.  "High rises and concrete are dehumanizing.  Modernism is the style of totalitarians, etc.".  This is a misreading of architectural history; "Modernism had democratic ideals and aspired to improve living and working conditions for all classes in society."  To support his argument, Mr. Watson intersperses quotes and video clips of critics Theodore Dalrymple and Roger Scruton, and Prince Charles, who summarily dismissed one Modernist scheme as a monstrous carbuncle.  Even former Smiths lead singer Morrissey added his (singing) voice to the anti-modernist chorus in a clip, mourning the demise of his childhood neighborhood to the strains of "How Soon Is Now?"

Infowars being Infowars, Mr. Watson turns the rhetorical volume to full blast.  He describes the founders of Modernism as:

...the social justice warriors of their time...aesthetic terrorists.

He calls Michael Graves's Denver Public Library as an atrocity.  Boston City Hall is a callous abomination.  The Whitney Museum in New York City as abortion of a building.  Ouch

Paul Joseph Watson takes particular aim at Pritizker prize winning, Italian architect Renzo Piano's Museum because it appears twice on screen as Mr. Watson accuse architects of gratifying their oversized egos.  Well, yes, that much is true.  The word for it is "starchitect."  However, Ms. Kolson Hurely writes, "...but the smiling bespectacled Piano makes a curious target, given the understated minimalism of his buildings."

Renzo Piano is also the architect of record of the Shard, one of the most peculiar buildings in central London, and the one that stokes Mr. Watson's ire.  He ping pongs between condemning Brutalists blocks to the glass and steel skyscrapers of today, which he refers to a "Postmodernist."  He uses the term to describe any building in the video he dislikes from the 1980s onward.  Amanda Kolson Hurley add, "In fact, Postmodernism was a defined styles that sought, ironically, to revive historic motifs."

Mr. Watson seems to have heavily waded into the writing of James Howard Kunstler, the author of the anti-urbanist book The Geography of Nowhere and TED talks generously excerpted by Mr. Watson.  Mr. Kunstler was an early influence on the retro New Urbanism, whose virtues and new-traditional architecture Mr. Watson rhapsodizes.  He also rightly complains about zoning restriction and advocates mixed-used development, without realizing that this is "...eminently compatible with large, contemporary-style buildings, and harder to find (and fund) in areas of low-rise houses, where he insists everyone wants to live."

Conversely, the NRA advert takes a different visual approach.  The video is narrated by the organization's spokesperson Dana Loesch, who reads a series of charges against the anonymous "they":

They use their media to assassinate real news.  They use their schools to teach children that their president is another Hitler.  They use their movie stars and singers and comedy shows and award shows to repeat their narrative over and over again.

Set to this ominous narrative are quick images of the Walt Disney Concert Halls, the New York Times Building, and the outdoor sculpture "Cloud Gate" (i.e. The Bean) in Chicago's Millennium Park by Anish Kapoor.

the viewer is never told who the anonymous puppet masters of the world "they" are but the scenes make it very clear who "they" are.  "They" are the liberal elites of Los Angeles, New York, and Chicago.

Amanda Kolson Hurley speculates, "Perhaps the NRA's depiction of Disney Hall and Cloud Gate was just an handy b-roll choice, and perhaps Watson's animus against modern design is a personal quirk.  But it seems more likely that elements of the right are deliberately making architecture a front in the Trump-era culture wars.  Why?"

Nothing new here.  Modernism has long been the target of conversatives, usually confined to print journalism or the occasional television spot.  However, we live in the digital age, where a video posted to YouTube can bounce around the solar system in a matter of milliseconds.  Further, it opens the field of design criticism up to amateurs, making it "...possible to skip the textural description and short-cut straight to the offending building itself."

Architecture lends itself nicely to video.  Nothing screams "urban elite" like a Frank Gehry building in one of the most liberal metropoli in the United States.  This stands in opposition to the traditional Main Street or historic church-"a bizarre-looking redoubt where 'they' partake of secular high culture, far from Real America (or Britain's Brexit heartland)."

This is a far too simplistic characterization, and just as unfair, like "Infowars's blaming of Brutalism for the Grenfell fire in London is flat-out wrong."  However, if you repeat an idea enough times, it will stick.  Conservatives have repeatedly attacked Mr. Gehry's plan for the (President) Eisenhower Memorial in Washington D.C. as inhuman, vandalism, and a monument to Gehry's ego; these arguments have resonated among some Republican members of Congress and have helped stall its construction.

Regardless of what Mr. Watson thinks, the public does not hate Modernism.  Think about all the 20th-century design that are regular features on opinion polls of the nation's favorites.  The sad truth is the reason for its rediscovery by conservatives is Modernism's small bandwidth makes it a convenient punching bag.

The profession of architecture is not a exactly a booming profession.  In the United States, "Architects number about 110,000...or about 150,000 if you count junior architects working towards their licenses."  That is a fraction compared to the number of lawyers and doctors.  The profession also skews urban blue-state with designers concentrated in New York, Boston, Los Angeles, and Chicago. This fits quite nicely with urban-rural divide narrative.

Amanda Kolson Hurley concludes, "American architects often lament how marginal their profession has become to national culture, compared to countries that invest substantially in public design."  The professional may now be ready for the limelight but in the political arena-not exactly what advocates ever imagined.   

Wednesday, June 21, 2017

Blogger Candidate Forum: Are "Big Liberal Cities" Too Small?


Special Election 2017 results, thus far
Hello Everyone:

Time for the weekly installment of Blogger Candidate Forum.  Before we get started on today's subject: liberal cities, Blogger needs to comment on a couple of things.  First, in the wake of the horrific Grenfell Tower Fire, a petition was posted on http://www.change.org, banning the use of foam insulation.  Please go to this link and add your name to it.  Second, yesterday there was a special election to fill the Sixth Georgia Congressional district.

 Republican Karen Handel bested political newcomer Democrat Jon Ossoff in the race to fill the seat vacated by now Secretary of Health and Human Services Tom Price by a slender 3.8 percent.  This follows closely similar defeats in Montana and Kansas, where Republicans held on to hotly contest districts.  While the Red Team celebrated, the Blue Team  was left crying in their beer (literally and metaphorically).  What went wrong?  In Blogger's own humble estimation, the Blue Team made these elections a referendum on President Donald Trump, the absolutely wrong approach.  The right approach was "the economy stupid."  Voters wanted to hear why a Democrat-controlled Congress would be better for the economy, healthcare, immigration, national security, et cetera than a Republican-led Congress.  Quit making everything about POTUS and start focusing on the real issues that voters want to hear about.  Give voters a real reason(s) to pick you, not another round of POTUS and Republicans are Satan's emissaries on earth.  Alright, Blogger is done in the Speaker's Corner, now on to why big liberal cities are not big enough.

New York City skyline
Photograph by Lucas Jackson/Reuters
One of the things that truly make America great is its big cities.  They are the mechanisms that drive the economy, spur innovation and creativity.  They are also the places that lean heavily toward more liberal politics.  This is why, according to Richard Florida in his CityLab article "The 'Big Liberal City' Isn't Big Enough," says that New York Times columnist "Ross Douthat's suggestion that we break up America's 'big, booming, liberal cities...' has set off a firestorm among urbanists."  In his March 25, 2017 opinion piece, Mr. Douthat writes,

We should treat liberal cities the way liberals treat corporate monopolies-not as growth-enhancing assets, but as trusts that concentrate wealth and and power and conspires against the public good.  And instead of of trying to make them a little more egalitarian with looser going rule and more affordable housing, we should make like Teddy Roosevelt and try to break them up.  (http://www.nytimes.com: March 25, 2017, date accessed June 21, 2017)

Portland, Oregon skyline
Photograph by Randy L. Rasmussen/The Oregonian/2013
oregon live.com 
  Ross Douthat's argument is centered around Will Wilkinson's must-read Washington Post editorial on how cities really make America great.  Mr. Wilkinson's posits his column as a "thought experiment, calling it the latest 'installment' in his series of 'implausible, perhaps even ridiculous proposals.'" (http://www.washingtonpost.com; March 17, 2017date accessed June 21, 2017)

Those of the urbanist persuasion were all too happy to mock these implausible, perhaps ridiculous proposals. City Observatory's Joe Cortright put it best,

What this misses is that cities actually create value through increasing returns, what economists call agglomeration economies.  People in cities are more productive, more innovative, and have higher skills because they live in cities.  Absent cities, the innovation and productivity upon which these industries depend for their success, they simply wouldn't exist.  (http://www.cityobservatory.org; March 28, 2017; date accessed June 21, 2017)

Philadelphia, Pennsylvania
Economist Edward Glaeser told the Washington Post:

...Cities enable workers to search over a wider range of firms, and to hop from one firm to another in case of a crisis.  they enable service providers to reach their customers, and customers to access a dizzying range of service providers.  Perhaps most importantly they enable the spread of ideas and new information.  (http://www.washingtonpost.com; March 8, 2017; date accessed June 21, 2017)

Richard Florida notes, "Relatively speaking, however, America's cities and metro areas are not that big a fraction of the U.S. economy, compared to cities in other parts of the world."

"Metro Share of National GDP"
Taylor Blake/Martin Prosperity Institute

The map of the left was generated by Mr. Florida's colleague, Taylor Blake, at the Martin Prosperity Institute.  Mr. Blake used data from the Brookings Institution's Global Metro Monitor, which presents the share of national output (GDP) based on a sample of large metropolitans around the world.

In the United States, New York City "generates 8.3 percent of GDP, Los Angeles accounts for 5.2 percent, Chicago generates 3.2 percent, Houston covers 2.8 percent, Dallas and D.C. each produce 2.5 percent, and San Francisco and Boston kick in 2.1 percent each."

By comparison, Toronto accounts for almost a fifth-"18.5 percent of Canada's GDP, Mexico City generates 22.5 percent of Mexico's economic output.  Tokyo, London, and Paris churn out 30 percent in Japan, England, and France respectively; in Sweden, Stockholm accounts for 36 percent of GDP.  Tel Aviv is responsible for 48 percent of Israel's economic output and Seoul generates more than half of South Korea's GDP."

If anything, it really does not square with President Trump's doom and gloom perception of American cities.  Quite the contrary, Mr. Florida believes that U.s. cities should be bigger in order to optimize productivity benefits that result from clustering and agglomeration, "while balancing the costs of congestion or the other economic externalities from running a city."

Democrat Jon Ossoff and Republican Karen Handel
All of these statistics and anecdotes help bolster the case for why cities are great, they mean very little in the suburbs, medium- to small-cities which have not experienced the same type of productivity benefits as the liberal big cities.  These are the very places where the Trump campaign found attentive audiences who wanted to hear someone speak directly to them about the very issues that affected their daily lives: healthcare, crime, the economy, taxes, et cetera.  Thought experiments, like the one Ross Douthat conducts, can be fun but the Trump doctrine is "dangerously anti-city."  In reality, "If we are to overcome economic stagnation, generate new innovations, improve productivity, and create new and better jobs, the United States needs even bigger cities-and they need to be both more affordable and more inclusive."  One more thing, if the Democrats want any hope of re-capturing Congress in next year's mid-term election, they will have to formulate a platform that refutes President Trumps anti-city doctrine and not on President Donald Trump.