Monday, July 31, 2017

Blogger Candidate Forum: The Good People Of Utica Do Need To Worry About Their Houses

Hello Everyone:

Welcome to a new week and fresh outrage.  Before we get to the cause of #BloggerCandidateForum's blood vessel popping anger, yours truly has breaking news.  Never a dull moment in the Trump White House.  Try to keep up here: White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer (he of bad suits and foot-in-mouth disease) resigns in protest of President Donald Trump's appointment of Anthony "The Mooch" Scaramucci, the head of SkyBridge Capital, and is replaced by Deputy Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders.  Following the spectacular collapse of the Senate Republicans "Skinny" repeal of the Affordable Care Act (more on that in minute), White House Chief of Staff Reince Priebus privately submitted his resignation after being taken down by The Mooch.  He is replaced by the Secretary of Department of Homeland Security John Kelly, who in turn, fires The Mooch after a tenure capped off by a potty mouthed tirade during an interview with The New Yorker

Blogger would like to salute Anthony Scaramucci's selfless service, albeit brief, to his nation. Those eleven days were truly the most golden days this nation has experienced in a very long time.  Mr. Scaramucci leaves a legacy that will never be matched by anyone again.  No worries if you are confused, this ain't over yet.

Speaking of the spectacular collapse of the Senate Republicans's latest attempt to repeal and replace Obamacare, yours truly would like to salute the Wonder Women of the Senate: Senators Susan Collins (R-ME), Lisa Murkowski (R-AK), and Maizie Hirano (D-HI).  Senator Hirano is dealing with Stage IV Kidney Cancer yet flew from her home in Hawai'i to Washington D.C. to cast her no vote.  Honorable mention to Senator John McCain (R-AZ) for flying in from Arizona to cast his no vote, while recuperating from surgery to remove a brain tumor.  Major respect to Senators Collins and Murkowski for staying true to their values and voting no on this ridiculously lame attempt pushed through by Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY).  Senators Murkowski, Collins, and McCain are heroes for putting country over party politics.  #BloggerCandidateForum salutes your heroism and patriotism.  Now on to today's outrage.

The upstate New York city of Utica, like The Mooch (wife with newborn child leaving him and losing his job), was not having a good week.  On Wednesday, July 26, 2017 Foxconn,manufacturers of flat screens for Apple, announced at a White House event that it was building a new factory in Wisconsin.  Utica aggressively pursued the $7 billion bid.  In what has to be "let'em eat cake" statement  from Foxconn CEO Terry Gould told the good people of Utica they could just simply follow the jobs to Wisconsin.

Never at a loss for words, when he is not tweeting, POTUS told the Wall Street Journal,

You're going to need people to work in these massive plants...I'm going to start explaining to people, when you have an area that just isn't working like upper New York State, where people are getting very badly hurt, and then you'll have another area 500 miles away where you can't get people, I'm going to explain, you can leave.  It's OK.  Don't worry about your house.  (; July 27, 2017; date accessed July 31, 2017)

The sheer chutzpah of this statement was enough to make Blogger's blood pressure skyrocket.  Once Blogger calmed down sufficiently, yours truly found the wise words of Kriston Capps's CityLab article "Trump to the Rust Belt: Move Somewhere Else," a true balm for the white hot emotions.  The irony of this situation is despite Oneida County (where Utica is located) going Red in the General Election, POTUS still saw fit to stomp on this Rust Belt community not once but twice.

Mr. Capps reports, "Over at least the decade, Utica has embraced a vision of itself second-chance city (; May 16, 2016; date accessed July 31, 2017) one that opens its arms to refugees."  In 2005, the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees issued a 31-page promotional report on the city titled, The Town That Loves Refugees. ( This seems at odds with the fact that 59 percent of Oneida County voters cast their ballots for POTUS.  This has led to much introspection for Utica's immigrant and refugee population.

The sheer audacity of this president to tell the 62,000 citizens of Utica to (borrow a phrase from The Mooch) autofellate "...means that he's curbed the region's best strategy for growth-resettling refugees-an given them nothing in return."  How progressive Utica is, as the glowing UNHCR report claims, is open for question, as Kavith Rajagopalan elaborates in his Next City article (Ibid).  This seems pretty moot now.  "Utica must brace for worse than shade from Trump."

Losing Foxconn, will bring 13,000 job and $10 billion  in development to southeastern Wisconsin, is another blow to the region after an Australian semiconductor company abandoned plans to build a $2 billion in Utica late in 2016.  (; Dec. 16, 2016; date accessed July 31, 2017)

Kriston Capps concedes that there may be some kernel of truth to POTUS's comment about housing in Utica (Don't worry about your house).  Under the president's proposed budget for the Department of Housing and Urban Development, Oneida County would lose millions in housing subsidies.  Affordable Houising Online estimates that Oneida County could lose $7,288,112 in housing aid.  These cuts could affect up to 922 households per year.  ( date accessed July 31, 2017). It would eliminate Housing Choice Voucher (Section 8) funds that support over 350 families. The cuts would be accutely felt in Oneida County's three urban centers: Rome, Sherrill, and Utica.

Over a third of the county reside in rural areas, the very same places that brought President Donald Trump to the White House.  They, too, will not be spared.  Department of Agriulture Secretary Sonny Perdue announce in May that he was eliminating the position of Undersecretary of Rural Development (; May 12, 2017; date accessed July 31, 2017) as part of his reorganization of the department and cutting funding by 21 percent.

Ben Lilliston, analyst for the Institute for Agriculture and Trade Policy, told Daily Yonder:

We are seeing an unfortunate trend with the Trump budget and the USDA reorganization to disinvest in rural communities-even at a time when rural communities are facing economic challenges beyond those in the rest of the country. (Ibid)

Mr. Capps speculates, "Perhaps Trump meant to allude to the negative equity rate in Oneida County where 9.4 percent of homeowners are underwater on their mortgages, according to a first-quarter 2017 by Zillow.  (; July 18, 2017; date accessed July 31, 2017) Another possibility, POTUS may be overestimating the opportunity mobility of Uticans.  The advocacy coalition Opportunity Nation ( generated a nationwide "Opportunity Index" (; Oct. 21, 2013; date accessed July 31, 2017) to gauge economic mobility.  The Index gauges economic mobility based on a number of determinants: unemployment rate, education rates, rental affordability burden, and many more.  Oneida County received a C+. (Ibid)

President Donald Trump's callous comments are another example of just how out of touch with the realities of the American voter, including the counties that voted for him.  A typical working class family, whether in Utica or anywhere else, cannot just pack up and move to where the jobs are.  It is not so simple and yes, they do have to worry about their homes.  Are there places worse off than Utica?  Yes, there are, southeastern Wisconsin.  

According to The Washington Post, the deal made between Foxconn and the state of Wisconsin, to build a massive new factory, comes with $3 billion state tax breaks.  As long as the Taiwanese company continues to hire American workers, Wisconsin would provide incentives between $200 to $250 million a year for fifteen years.  This would cost the state approximately of $230,700 per employee, predicated on the factory actually generates 13,000 jobs.  (; July 27, 2017; date accessed July 31, 2017). President Trump does not understand that this is not a great opportunity of either the good people of Utica or Wisconsin.   

Wednesday, July 26, 2017

Blogger Candidate Forum: Go For The Easy Win

Hello Everyone:

Time for the weekly edition of Blogger Candidate Forum.  First, a word about President Donald Trump's latest edict banning transgendered people from serving, in any capacity, in the United States military.  His reason, burdensome medical costs.  Really?  Is that the best reason he could come up with?  The additional medical costs of what?  Members of Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender community have been serving, with distinction, in the U.S. Armed Forces long before POTUS stopped playing with his toy soldiers.  Also, please tell everyone how LGBTQ military personnel are a disruption to their unit?  Your truly never understood that argument.  Bottom line,  at the end of the day, if someone is fit to hold a rifle and can shoot straight, it does not matter what their sexual orientation is.  That said, on to today's subject.

The Senate Health Care Bill has been dealt another setback.  Despite winning a a procedural vote to begin debates, Senate Republicans lost another vote to wholesale repeal the Affordable Care Act (Obamacare) when Senators Mike Lee (R-Utah) and Jerry Moran  (R-KS)  joined forces, vowing to vote against the latest version their party's health care bill.  (; date accessed July 26, 2017). Honestly, the Red team has been in control of Congress for seven years and have had more than ample time to come up a better version.  The manic activity surrounding this issue have equally important issues: Tax reform and something that resembling a working budget have been placed on the back burner.   This leaves Senate Majority leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) slogging toward a vote that could ultimately repeal and replace Obamacare or open a round of debate.  Senator McConnell had to admit

The effort to "repeal and immediately replace " Obamacare " will not be successful. (; date accessed July 26, 2017)

Kriston Capps, in his CityLab article "Republicans Should Pivot to Infrastructure," suggests precisely what the title says, try focusing on an infrastructure spending bill.  Politically speaking, an infrastructure spending bill would be an easy win for the Republicans.  It would be something that members of Congress can take home to their states and districts as win.  Mr. Capps writes, "Passing a bill on infrastructure could deliver the kind of win that has been elusive for the 117th Congress so far."  In fact, a new report issued by the Economic Policy Institute states that an infrastructure bill would correct two long standing problems:

The first is a severe and chronic shortfall of spending by households, business, and government relative to the economy's productive potential...Second, problem is a rapid deceleration in the pace of productivity growth...  (; July 18, 2017 date accessed July 26, 2017)

According to Josh Bivens, director of research at the EPI, "Capital investments in infrastructure could sort out both of these problems."

The need for infrastructure spending is glaringly apparent, beyond the mind numbing wait for a Metro Rail train.  Mr. Capps report, "Public investment in infrastructure today is still well below 1980 levels." (see the chart at; July 18, 2017). The EPI report explains, "the cost of investment in water and transportation infrastructure is rising faster than overall prices, meaning that more spending is necessary simply to maintain existing quality."

That is the best reason for an immediate increase in infrastructure.  Mr. Bivens outlines the argument for infrastructure spending as "macrobooster: a way. To stave off the courage of secular stagnation." (; Nov. 16, 2013; date accessed July 26, 2017)  Secular stagnation is a freighted term that describes a plethora of chronic ailments, specifically slow or no growth "absent spectacular economic bubbles."

Josh Bivens writes,

Growing fear of 'secular stagnation'-a chronic shortfall of aggregate demand relative to the economy's productive capacity-seem justified by several data points... (

One of the grim indicators of contemporary secular stagnation is the snail-like growth of wages, even deep into the recovery from the Great Recession.  The EPI studied a number of financial policy  intervention that the federal government could use to jump-start wage growth.  Kriston Capps reports, "The report assigns a 'bang for the buck' multiplier for these interventions: temporary tax cuts, permanent tax cuts, and spending increases."  

While individual households can save the tax cut as and transfers they get, spending on infrastructure is an unparalleled type of stimulus because the money gets spent, full stop.  The report's conclusion is pretty clear:

Infrastructure investment is routinely estimated to be a much more efficient fiscal stimulus than almost any form of tax cut, and it is significantly more efficient than those tax whose benefits fall mostly on high-income households... (Ibid)

The big question is why should the Congressional Republicans find this or any argument for spending convincing?  "A key to productivity growth, according to Bivens, is capital deepening-meaning more and better tools for the workforce and the economy."  What kind of tools for the workforce and economy?  The tools includes utilities, highways, airports, and so forth."  Why not?  After all, President Trump loudly complained, during the campaign, that the United States has crumbling roads and bridges, third world-type airports, deteriorating utilities.  So rather than wasting time calling for pointless votes after pointless votes to repeal and replace Obamacare, why not vote on an infrastructure spending bill to fix those third world airports?  One other thing, private-sector productivity depends on on this kind of of investment.  "Infrastructure spending is an investment in the private sector."

The EPI report is also clear about how public investment in infrastructure would result in gains if it does not mean a direct increase in private-sector productivity.  Mr. Capps reports "Shorter commutes and cleaner air don't typically show up as measurable increases in wages, Bivens notes."  However there is a large return on the private-sector investment, which should attract the attention of Congress.  Josh Bivens writes,

The median and average estimates of a review of dozens of studies on infrastructure indicate that each $100 spent on infrastructure boosts private-sector output by $13 (median) and $17 (average) in the long run... (Ibid)

Therefore, after far too many rounds of Congressional Budget Office scores summing how many tens of millions of people face losing their healthcare, infrastructure spending would be a nice change of pace.  Memo to President Trump, Speaker of the House of Representatives Paul Ryan (R-Wis) and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, numbers do not lie, no matter how much you all try to come up with an acceptable way to repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act, millions of people will still lose their healthcare.  Instead of wasting your time debating whatever version of the bill, focus on fixing bridges and securing grids from cyber threats.  "Repairing roads and tunnels means doling out constituent services in the truest sense of the term, and hammering out those deals could remind Congress of the spirit of horse-trading that once motivated bipartisan compromise."

In the meantime, Speaker Ryan and the House Republicans have unveiled a 2018 budget plan that would set a course for ambitious tax reform legislation-however, in addition to a package of politically sensitive spending cuts that already threatens to upend tax reform before it begins.  (; July 18, 2017). These spending cuts could deeply affect Medicare and Social Security, setting the stage to repeal financial reform.  Mike DeBonis of the The Washington Post reports, "the House plan cuts federal non-defense discretionary spending by nearly a quarter, from $554 billion to $424 billion.

Be that as it may, an increase in infrastructure spending is not likely to happen this terms, even though POTUS has made said spending one of headline campaign promises.  To be fair, both POTUS and former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton vastly different proposals for large infrastructure spending plans.

Kriston Capps reports, "The Republican plans for balancing budget deficits depend on supply-side logic: great gains in economic growth to make up for the cuts in revenue. The House budgets for 2018 assumes a growth of 2.6 percent; the White House insists on a rosier 3 percent.  Neither figure gibes with the 1.9 percent figure used by the CBO."

This kind of growth may offset the type of tax cuts Republicans hold dear may not happened without the kind of spending the Red team disdains.  However, their constituents are not exactly averse to capital investments in their communities, even if it means a turnabout on spending.  Sounding an optimistic note, "A change might do the budget food in both the near and long term-and help Repbulicans going into 2018."

Monday, July 24, 2017

Blogger Candidate Forum: The New Divestment Movement

Hello Everyone:

Time for the weekly edition of Blogger Candidate Forum.  First, a big shout out to the Senate Democrats and Republicans who opposed the Senate Health Care bill and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell's (R-KY) futile attempt to call for a "repeal now, replace later" vote.  Seriously, did anyone think that a bill, crafted in secret, without any bipartisan input was going to pass?  Blogger did not think so.  Remember when the Affordable Care Act was making its way through Congress?  Remember all the debates, the way President Barack Obama traveled around the country promoting it, the way the administration was able to get the insurance companies on board?  Where was that this time?  Now, President Donald Trump announced that he was washing his hands of ACA, the Republicans were not responsible for it, and POTUS was simply going to let it fail through mismanagement and cutting subsidies.  He even "ordered" the Senate to stay in Washington D.C. to work on the bill.  Really?  Good luck with that one.  A final word to the Senate Minority Leader Charles Schumer (D-NY), House of Representatives Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-CA), and all the Congressional Democrats:  Enjoy your victory.  You won the battle but not the war.  The federal budget and tax reform are next.  Eyes on the prize.  On to today's subject: divesting from POTUS.

On June 8, 2017, prison investment company GEO group published a press release in Wall Street Journal:

The federal prison population is expected to grow next year by 4,171 to a total of 191,493 as the the Trump administration steps up prosecutions of illegal immigrants and drug offenders, reversing the trend toward a smaller prison population under former President Barack Obama...(; June 8, 2017; date accessed July 19, 2017)

This, according to Brentin Mock in his CityLab article "A New Divestment Movement Trump Gears Up," is an approximate two percent increase by 2018, reversing the decarceration patterns under President Obama.

GEO attributes the upswing in incarceration to a POTUS and Attorney General Jeff Sessions's proposed budget that will increase the number of federal prosecutions, pursuit of drug dealers and alleged immigrants (; May 12, 2017; date accessed July 19, 2017).  The company also recently won a $110 million contract with the United States Immigrants and Customs Enforcement to construct a new 1,000-bed detention facility in the state of Texas.  Since the election, GEO Group's share prices have doubled.  Canaccord Genuity financial analyst Michael Kodesch observed,

This is an opportunity for private prison, absolutely.

However, if the cities have their way, this may not be the case.  The same day the GEO Group released its announcement, the New York Daily News reported,

New York City's pension system has become the first in the nation to fully divest from private prisons, Controller Scott Stringer will announce Thursday.

The city has sold off about $48 million in stocks and bonds of three private prison companies, according to the controller's office, after a unanimous vote from the fund' trustees...(; June 8, 2017; date accessed July 19, 2017)

Mr. Mock writes, "This was the completion of a process that began in mid-May, when pension funds trustees approved this maneuver (; May 15, 2017; date accessed July 19, 2017) in response to several reports and I humane treatment of inmates and detained immigrants in private corrections facilities (; Jan. 28, 2016; date accessed July 19, 2017)." Since that announcement, New York City has "sold off nearly $48 million in stocks and bonds from several prison companies, including the GEO Group."

The divestment move was not simply a rebuke of the private prison industry-it also targeted the federal administration that is driving its resurgence.

Mr. Stringer said in press release, available on the New York State comptroller's website: 

With Donald Trump in the White House, we're seeing more and more industries try to profit from backwards policies at the expense of immigrants and communities of color... (; June 8, 2017; date accessed July 19, 2017)

As POTUS continues to fuel hateful rhetoric and increases deportations, the private prison companies are going to experience greater damage to their reputation-which means they will be considered a riskier investment.  Mr. Stringer continues, 

Morally, the industry wants to turn to back the clock on years of progress on criminal justice, and we can't sit idly by and watch that happen.  Divesting is simply the right thing to do-financially and morally.   (Ibid)

Other cities are following the same strategy.  The same week, Tucson, Arizona's city council voted to divest from companies involved in building the Border Wall (; June 7, 2017; date accessed July 19, 2017).  In March, Berkeley, California became the first city to completely divest from any company involved in The Wall ( March 17, 2017; date accessed July 19, 2017), , prior to that, Seattle, Washington chose to cut ties with Wells Fargo Bank, "citing the bank's financing of fossil fuel companies and the controversial Dakota Access Pipeline project (; Aug. 18,2017; date accessed July 19, 2017), which Trump approved just weeks into office ( ; Feb. 7, 2017; date accessed July 19, 2017)."

Seattle city council member Michael O'Brien recent said at press call assembled by the Make The Road New York ( and the Center for Popular Democracy (, organizations advocating or urban divestment strategies:

Cities across this country are recognizing that we can no longer simply work on policies and laws that reflect our values while we're simultaneously investing billions of dollars in businesses that are actively trying to undermine the very values we stand for.

Cities divesting from companies doing businesses with policies that do not reflect their values has its foundation in the 1980s, when anti-apartheid activists successfully convinced dozens of cities to joins universities and businesses in "pulling funds from companies tied to South Africa's apartheid government."  (; Jan. 27, 2013; date accessed July 19, 2017).  William MacAskill, writing in The New Yorker looked the affects of mass divestment of South Africa-affiliated companies, focused on a group of economists who concluded that this strategy had very little impact on the bottom line:

The economists Siew Hong Teoh, Ivo Welch, and C. Paul Wazzan studied how divestment movements affect he South African financial market and the share prices of U.S. companies with South African operations.  Divestments were expected, on average, to decrease share prices, but the study found that, in fact, political pressure turned out to have no discernible effect on shares' public market valuation.  According to the authors, a possible explanation of this finding is that "the boycott primarily  reallocated shares and operations from 'socially responsible' to more indifferent investors and countries."  (; Oct. 20, 2017; date accessed July 19, 2017)

What this translates into " cities and other institutions stopped buying shares in the companies in questions, those shares were just purchased by other investors who didn't care about all that social and racial justice stuff."

Although divestment may not have hurt the bottom line as much as activists hoped for, it did play a crucial role in attaching a stigma to those companies and sent a very clear signal to the American over meant.

The Ronald Reagan administration was livid, to the point of willing to withhold federal funds to cities, about their participation in the anti-apartheid  divestment movement during the eighties.  (; My 24, 2017; date accessed July 19, 2017). On June 27 the nonprofit Jobs to Move America ( released a report on how "the fight between Reagan and the cities over apartheid and how it mirrors current battles with the Trump administration City particularly tested the Reagan administration with mixed results.

Brentin Mock reports, "When New York City passed a law in 1984 that imposed sanctions any business with financial interests in South Africa, Reagan stepped in and threatened to yank U.S. Department of Transportation funds."  This forced the city to back off enforcing the ordinance.  Yet, when Baltimore passed a similar ordinance in 1986 (; Dec. 6, 2013; date accessed July 19, 2017), it survived numerous court challenges and eventually prevailed.  "Business leaders and Reagan officials in the National Security Council and State Department were unable to persuade the U.S. Justice Department to mount a proper attack of Baltimore's divestment ordinance.  According to the Jobs to Move America report, DOJ lawyers were unable or unwilling to find a legal reason why Baltimore couldn't enact such an ordinance."

President Donald Trump may find a more willing partner in Attorney General Jeff Sessions's  DOJ.  For the looks of things, AG Sessions has been quite willing to indulge his boss's every order, regardless of how dubious or incoherent they may be.  This is why a cities's position on divestment is important, particularly in a nation where  much of their political power has been hamstrung by gerrymandering.

Seattle council member Michael O'Brien once again in the press call:

While shifting billions of dollars in business investment might make a modest difference...we can amplify those changes through collective action, across cities so that citizens understand that there is a movement  taking place that they cant participate in.  That's when I believe we will get attention of those companies.  They will either have to respond and adapt to this new environment, or they will go out of business and new ones will replace them     

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 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.  ( "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 (; 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  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 ( 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 (, 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 (

The data for this chart and the attending information was gleaned from Pitchbook data (, 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 ( 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 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.  (; 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, 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. ( 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 (; 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 ( 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.