Tuesday, January 9, 2018

Blogger Candidate Forum: Disconnect

http://www.citylab.com; December 21, 2017


Hello Everyone:

Blogger Candidate Forum is back from vacation and decided to make an early appearance to take a look at an issue that is absolutely sure to play out over the year, as mid-term elections loom in the horizon.  One of the greatest challenges facing the United States laid bare is the growing disconnect between Red (Republican) states and Blue (Democrat) cities.  This evident in some of legislation enacted by predominantly Republican state governments like cutting funding to universities, doing reprehensible things enacting a much reviled bathroom bill, or going back on women's and gay rights.  All of these backwards-minded legislation has the good citizens of a Blue Cities complaining: 

The folks in our state government and state legislature are against us or 

How can we prosper when our state leaders are cutting funding to universities, or doing intolerent things like reneging on women's and gay rights, and passing bathroom bills.

The frequent question put to Richard Florida, the author of the CityLab article "Anti-Urban States Aren't Just Hurting Their Cities," is 

How can we protect all the things we've done to improve our city in the face of backward policies and intiatives?

This is not just the quandary faced by Democratic mayor and civic officials, or community organizers and activists.  Mr. Florida reports "I'm hearing them from business leaders.  Several times in recent months, business leaders in big cities in red states told me how reactionary politicians in their state capitols were hurting their prospects for luring new investments..."  Just ask the good people of North Carolina how much the detested HB2-"The Public Facilities Privacy and Security Act" which mandated that people use the public toilet corresponding to their biological genders-cost cities new investments and revenues.

Urbanists, like Mr. Florida, love to wax prosaic over how much better it would be if cities had more power (citylab.com; Mar. 16, 2017; date accessed Jan. 9, 2018) and If Mayors Ruled The World (benjaminbarber.org; date accessed Jan. 9, 2018).  However, this kind of wishful thinking may not suffice.  Under the current administration, cities and metropolitans are fighting off "the distinctly anti-urban initiatives..." like the dystopian inner city narratives (citylab.com; Oct. 11, 2014; date accessed Jan. 9, 2018) or efforts to withhold funding from sanctuary cities (Ibid; May 25, 2017).

To make matters worse, an increasing number of cities and metropolitans are located in states which are directly undercutting their interests.  Mr. Florida writes, "While most or all state legislatures have been anti-urban [Ibid; Dec. 20, 2013], some states are far more anti-city than others."  These states are actively sabotaging their cities' ability to "...attract new talent, generate innovation, encourage new investment, and spur economic growth" by slashing funds to universities, transit, and affordable housing.  Even more alarming, state governments are enacting anti-tolerance bills like the "bathroom bill" (refinery29.com; Mar. 31, 2017; date accessed Jan. 9, 2018) or exerting preemptive measures to curtail local control on issues such as minimum wage, paid leave, and ride sharing platforms.  In short, what we have here is a failure between city and state interests to communicate.

Harvard political scientist Ryn Enos spoke with Mr. Florida (citylab.com; Dec. 12, 2017; date accessed Jan. 9, 2018),

One thing we see is this divide between big cities and the state governments that often control the resources that go to those big cities...If you're a big company like Amazon and you're thinking about where can pick a winner, it's not going to be in a red state that is unlikely to support this big city where they'd move.

The exact opposite is generally true: "...cities and metros benefit when they are located in states that work proactively to advance urban interests, and address their challenges."  In this group of places, city and state interests are more in sync and mutually beneficial a to each other "...from a more cooperative state-local federalism."

Richard Florida, together with his Martin Proposperity Institute Colleague Patrick Adler, developed a chart (which you can find at martinprosperity.org or at citylab.com) that divided cities and metropolitans into three basic categories: "Pro-Urban, Contested," and "Anti-Urban."  The cities and metropolitans were separated into two categories: "Global Cities and Tech Hubs" and "Other Large Metros."  The first category are the large boldfaced cities and knowledge hubs: Los Angeles, New York, San Francisco, Chicago, Atlanta, and Houston.  The second category are other large urban areas that are not quite as boldfaced: Vancouver, San Diego, Las Vegas, Baltimore, Phoenix, and Indianapolis.

States hostile to urban interests-e.g. Florida, Texas, Georgia, and Arizona-have a definite anti-urban stance.  Mr. Florida characterizes them as, "...typically controlled by a Republican governor and state legislature.  These states have cut back on investments in transit and affordable housing."  Essentially, they act contrary to the interests of their constituents. Case in point, in 2011, Governor Rick Scott (R-Florida) refused (politicalticker.blogs.cnn.com; Feb. 16, 2011; date accessed Jan. 9, 2018) funding from the Obama administration set aside to build high-speed rail.  In November 2017, Governor Eric Greitens (R-Missouri) voted against (usnews.com; Nov. 17, 2017; date accessed Jan. 9, 2018) voted not give out $140 million in low-income housing tax credits to help pay for affordable housing to low-income residents of his states.  There is more.

Other Red State governments have slashed monies to public universities, which act as crucial hubs for the knowledge-based economy.  For example, in 2015 Arizona Governor Doug Ducey eliminated (insidehighered.com; March 12, 2015; date accessed Jan. 9, 2018) state funding from two of the largest community college districts in his state.  Arizona State University wisely anticipated cuts like these and sought out private and local sector partnerships of deal with the loss of funds.  As Yours Truly said, acting contrary to their constituents own interests.

Slashing funds to affordable housing, universities and colleges is not the only things anti-urban states do, they have frequently tried to rollback LGBTQ rights (dallasnews.com; Dec. 4, 2017;  date accessed Jan. 9, 2018) and women's rights (upr.org; Aug. 25, 2016;  date accessed Jan. 9, 2018).  Increasingly, anti-urban states have been looking to curtail a city's ability to determine their paths on issues such as immigration and gun control.  Mr. Florida surmises, "Intiatives like these signal to many knowledge workers that these places are not open to diverse populations, and can chill the climate for business investment."  Returning to North Carolina's reviled HB2, it was estimated (washingtonpost.com; March 27, 2017; date accessed Jan. 9, 2018) that this discriminatory piece of legislation cost the at least $3.7 billion in cancelled events and business conventions.  Mr. Florida notes, "The majority of states, perhaps as many as 20 to 25 of them, seem to fall into this category."

All of these regressive measures make it far more difficult for their cities and metropolitans-Atlanta, Houston, Dallas, Austin, and Phoenix for example- to attract and retain talent or competitive for new investment.

Conversely, pro-urban states are those with policies in alignment with their cities and metropolitans.  Their chief character defining feature is a Democratic governor and state legislature, "but may at times be led by more liberal or moderate Republicans or have Republican-control over a state legislative body."  Examples include: California, Massachusetts, New York, and Washington.  Mr. Florida points out that his adopted home province of Ontario, Canada has been led by the center-left Liberal Party for the past 12 years.  These states act in the interests of their constituents by investing in transit, affordable housing, and higher education, to a name a few.  This is particularly important in light of th federal government's retreat from from funding these programs.  Further, pro-urban states foster a broad climate of tolerance and fairness.  Richard Florida's opinion, " At most, ten or so U.S. states fall into this category."

Blogger's home state of California is a great example.  Playing cheerleader for a moment, California maintains the very best public university system in the world.  Yours Truly should know, she got her Associate's degree from a public community college, her Bachelor's degree from a public state university, and was happy with the quality of education.  The Golden State has increased its investments in affordable housing and public transit.  Blogger takes issue with Mr. Florida's citation of the high-speed rail line between Los Angeles and San Francisco.  That project seems to have created a boondoggle.  California has also demonstrated a real commitment to inclusion.  In 2015, Democratic Governor Jerry Brown signed into law measures that give undocumented immigrants drivers licenses and access to state financial aid for post-secondary school education.  Under Gov. Brown, California has become an international leader (politico.com; Nov. 11, 2017; date accessed Jan. 9, 2018) on climate change, a positive indicator for talented people and the knowledge workforce.

Richard Florida makes a small case for Ontario, writing that the Canadian province "...has a distinctly pro-urban posture.  The province is investing in transit [news.ontario.ca; Oct. 23, 2017 date accessed Jan. 9, 2018], affordable housing, higher education, and healthcare, as well as upgrading service jobs, and experimenting with a basic income pilot program [ontario.ca; date accessed Jan. 9, 2018]."

Needless to say, cities and metropolitans in pro-urban states thrive from this convergence of interests.  Setting aside the the challenge of affordable housing and inequality for a moment, California's largest cities and metropolitans, specifically the San Francisco Bay Area, are rated among the world's most innovative far and away.  By comparison, Toronto has increased its competitiveness for top talent and tech companies, like Sidewalk Lab's recent decision to set up headquarters in the city.

Between the anti- and pro-urban states are the contested states.  They take a more neutral position that often swing back and forth between the two.  Their state governments are characterized as split between the two major parties.  Contested states include: Pennsylvania, Illinois, North Carolina, Minnesota, Nevada, Maryland, and Ohio.  Cities in these states-Chicago, Minneapolis-St. Paul, Baltimore, and Columbus-do not face the serious hardships of anti-urban states, but they do not benefit in the same way as cities and metropolitans in pro-urban states.

Look for these polarities to become yet another determinant in America's deepening spatial inequality.  Richard Florida writes, "Over time, the relatively small group of cities and metro in pro-urban states are likely to develop even deeper advantage in attracting talent and building the knowledge economy."  Pro-urban places, outside the U.S., particularly in Canada, could very well siphon off talent and appeal to tech companies.  The American economy will suffer and cities in anti-urban states will further regress, owing to their inability to remain competitive in attracting talent and high-businesses that power the knowledge-based economy.  This could fuel further anger and resentment toward the Blue States and cities-further driving the wedge in American society.