Bloomberg Endorses "City of Aspiration" Report Recommendations in New Middle Class Plan

Earlier this year, the Center for an Urban Future published an extensive report about the mounting challenges New York City faces in both retaining its middle class and elevating more low income residents into the ranks of the middle class. One of our key recommendations from that report, titled Reviving the City of Aspiration, was that "city and state officials must embrace community colleges as engines of mobility and dedicate the resources necessary to strengthen these institutions and ensure that a greater number of middle class, poor and working poor New Yorkers can attend these schools and complete their degrees."

City officials are now running with our suggestion. Today, Mayor Bloomberg announced a "Gateway to the Middle Class" plan that focuses on boosting community colleges. The mayor's proposal aims to "move more New Yorkers into the middle class by increasing the number of city residents that graduate from community colleges and training them for higher wage jobs in growing industries." The plan will invest an additional $50 million over the next four years to improve the system's quality, accessibility, affordability, and accountability.

The new attention and resources for community colleges is an important step in the right direction for the city. Our report found that community colleges in New York are overshadowed by virtually every other facet of the education system and have not received the financial support needed to effectively educate students that come from a wide variety of backgrounds and often require academic remediation. Click here to read the section of our report about community colleges, titled "A Platform For Mobility."

Report: Florida Losing Population

This should be filed with other improbable stories under the subject “beach running out of sand.” The St. Petersburg Times reports that Florida has lost population for the first time since 1946. University of Florida demographers are due to release a report that the state lost 50,000 residents in the year ended April of 2009. This is in stark contrast with the state’s addition of more than 300,000 residents in every year of the decade through 2006

The article cites housing price increases as driving out families with children and the resulting housing contraction with driving out construction workers. Florida’s housing bubble related price increases were perhaps the highest in the nation, following California.

There had already been ominous signs, with the United States Bureau of the Census reporting net outward domestic migration in 2008. As late as 2005, there had been a net gain in domestic migration of 267,000.

Mapping Industry Employment Trends by State

Mark Hovind at has released another fascinating set of maps and data on industry employment trends by state over the past few months. Here's a taste:

The maps below show the employment trends by state and industry sector for the 12 months ending June 2009 (July will be available August 21). Green is growing faster than the workforce. Grey is growing slower. Red is declining. Black is declining more than 8%. White is not available.

Head over to for the full analysis.

Toward Carbon Free Petroleum Cars

On-board sequestration could make zero carbon dioxide emission petroleum cars possible, according to research conducted by Dr. Andrei Federov and David Damm at the Woodruff School of Mechanical Engineering at Georgia Tech. According to Science Daily:

…the Georgia Tech team outlines an economically feasible strategy for processing fossil or synthetic, carbon-containing liquid fuels that allows for the capture and recycling of carbon at the point of emission. In the long term, this strategy would enable the development of a sustainable transportation system with no carbon emission.

Ultimately, the approach would involve carbon capture within petroleum vehicles. The petroleum would be processed into hydrogen, for propulsion and carbon dioxide. The carbon dioxide would be converted, on board, to liquid fuel and removed at gasoline stations. The liquid fuel would then be sent to power plants, where it would be used to produce electricity. As the necessary infrastructure is being developed, the captured carbon dioxide would be removed at gasoline stations and “sequestered in geologic formations, under the ocean or in solid carbonite form.”

This breakthrough demonstrates that it is not necessary to target the automobile or the automotive lifestyle that pervades modern living to achieve sufficient reductions in greenhouse gases. This is particularly important, given the imperative for maintaining economic growth and employment growth, which is closely linked to high levels of personal mobility.

The research was financed by the United States federal government and the Georgia Tech “Creating Energy Options” program.

Brother Rabbit’s Bonuses

New York State Attorney General Andrew Cuomo delivered a report to Congress on the bonuses paid to the employees of nine recipients of the TARP bailout money. He called it “The ‘Heads I Win, Tails You Lose’ Bank Bonus Culture.” (July 30) AG Cuomo concluded that even “in these challenging economic times, compensation for bank employees has become unmoored from the banks’ financial performance.” The report is only about banks, of course, since all the investment banks and brokerage firms changed their status to “bank” to become eligible for TARP bailout money last fall.

Some of the banks that took the TARP money, like JP Morgan (NYSE: JM), Morgan Stanley (NYSE: MS) and American Express (NYSE: AXP), did what they could to return it as quickly as possible, including buying back the warrants. It will be very hard, indeed, for the financial institutions to change the public perception now that we have seen their willingness to take any risk, to make money at any cost – only to take a handout from the public coffers when things go badly so they can continue to “make money” for themselves. The banks are entities but they are run by people who have jobs and get bonuses and perks. Former-Treasury Secretary Hank Paulson’s plan to plunder the US Treasury on behalf of his former Goldman Sachs (NYSE: GS) mates on Wall Street set these banks up as the target of public scorn.

Late Friday, July 31, the House of Representatives approved a bill that would allow regulators to limit executive compensation at financial institutions with assets greater than $1 billion if they find that the programs would “induce excessive risk-taking” behavior among bank executives. This comes a full eight months after Bank of America (NYSE: BAC) was first subpoenaed by AG Cuomo about executive bonuses. It is a far cry from anything that would create a sense of justice out of a system where two TARP recipients, Citigroup (NYSE: C) and Merrill Lynch, operated in a way that lost $54 billion in 2008, took $55 billion in TARP bailout money, and then paid $9 billion in employee bonuses.

Despite the hue and cry of the public, these bonuses have continued. In my view they will continue into the future. Although we may think that sticking labels on the banks behavior, or asking Congress to legislate some discipline, will make a difference, it is unlikely to change anything. After the early 2009 bonuses were revealed, the banks claimed that the bonuses were required by contracts and could not be broken without violating the rule of law. They got away with this claim even as contracts with the United Auto Workers were being revised. It’s like a modern version of a folk story by Joel Chandler Harris. “Bred and born in a briar patch, Brother Fox, bred and born in a briar patch!” And with that Brother Banker skipped out just as lively as a cricket in the embers.

Thanks to David Friedman for bringing the FT article on the report to our attention.

Meet Me in St. Louis

There is a bend in the river – and that’s where they put the city of St. Louis.

St. Louis is fun – and here is a guide to finding your way around. Just remember the bend in the river.

Imagine a bow (as in bow and arrow) aimed to the east. The imaginary arrow slides right through the Gateway Arch overlooking the river. Just to the west, behind the levee, is the old downtown.

The St. Louis westernmost city limit parallels Skinker Blvd. That boundary mirrors the river just as the string mirrors the bow. The city is almond-shaped, with the river on the east and Skinker Blvd. to the west. These two arcs meet at the northern and southern points of town. This is a simplification: Skinker Blvd. goes by that name for only a short part of the arc, roughly where the arrow’s feathers would be. To the north it becomes Goodfellow Blvd., and to the south it turns into McCausland Ave., along with other names. But those are details – the main point is this: following Skinker (or its renamed equivalents) to the north will eventually get you to the river, and likewise, following it to the south will also lead you to the river.

And this is helpful: north-south streets in St. Louis form arcs parallel to Skinker that lead from river to river. Let’s call them arc streets. The inner-most such street is Parnell/Jefferson, followed by Grand Blvd. (that’s where St. Louis University is), Kingshighway Blvd., and then Skinker. To a first approximation, all of these streets parallel Skinker and intersect the river at points north and south of downtown.

Superimposed on this are streets that radiate from downtown. Two important ones are North Florissant Ave., and South Broadway. These directly parallel the river, and (this is important) will intersect all of the arc streets. Thus North Grand Blvd. intersects North Florissant at approximately right angles – try something like that in Chicago. But in St. Louis it makes perfect sense – Grand is an arc that will intersect the river, and Florissant is a radial that parallels the river. (S. Grand Ave. should also intersect S. Broadway, but doesn’t because the very southern part of the city doesn’t follow the rules. I’ve never been there, so I don’t know why.)

Starting with Florissant, the important radial streets are Natural Bridge, Martin Luther King, Page Blvd., Delmar, Olive/Lindell, Market/Forest Park, Chouteau, Gravois, and Broadway. These radiate fan-like from downtown, and all of them intersect the arc streets at approximately right angles. Of these, Lindell, Forest Park, and Chouteau are roughly east-west streets; the others head either northwest or southwest. (Quiz: which radial streets also intersect the river?)

St. Louis University is at Grand & Lindell. Washington University is at Skinker & Forest Parkway. The justly famous Forest Park stretches along Forest Parkway from Kingshighway to Skinker. The Arch is at the foot of Market St. The cultural heart of the city is along Lindell Blvd. near Vandeventer Ave. (which, if it went through, would be an arc street west of Grand).

Will you meet me in St. Louis? How about at a nice restaurant near the corner of Delmar and Skinker?

You do know where that is, don’t you?

Daniel Jelski is Dean of Science & Engineering State University of New York at New Paltz.


Projecting 30-45 Year Olds in the United States

We constantly hear the the harping about "brain drain" in our local editorial pages and economic developer's board rooms. Most of the time, the term is referring to college-age or immediately post college individuals. However this overlooks another slightly less mobile age group that might be more amenable to direct recruitment tactics: 30-45 year olds, or those that may be looking to resettle as their priorities shift more seriously to their career, their family, and more importantly a balance of the two.

Now comprised of the smaller Generation X group, we'll reach a low point in the United States for this age group in 2010:

As the larger group of the Millennial generation ages, we'll see another 8-10 million 30-45 year olds in the US in the next 15 years, and this group will grow by nearly 1/3 by 2050.

Census projects very rapid growth of this group between 2040 and 2050, but keep in mind that folks comprising this rapid growth after 2040 are just being born now, so this projection will be refined as birth numbers become concrete in the next few years.

Britain, the Big Blue State

This week in the UK saw the publication of a much-awaited report on social mobility. Member of Parliament Alan Milburn chaired the “Panel on Fair Access to the Professions,” which studied which segments of the British population are advancing upward into the professional class. The report has generated coverage and discussion in nearly every media outlet. So what did the report conclude? Essentially, it found that, in increasing measure, the more affluent a child’s family, the more likely he or she will get a professional job such as a lawyer, doctor, or teacher, while children in poorer families will not. It further concludes that the UK’s track record on social mobility is not good and, since professional jobs require higher educational attainment, education reform must be a top priority in the next British government.

In some ways, these conclusions were anti-climactic, because they repeated what observers of intergenerational mobility have already seen, namely that the UK has had flatter social mobility compared to other European countries (consider this Sutton Trust report). And it’s hardly news that the present economy places a premium on services and knowledge-based industries, which in turn makes education all the more important. The report, as a product of a Labour government, should be applauded for going so far as to recommend school vouchers as a way to improve educational attainment.

But the report’s logic regarding the “professions”—those valuable occupations that hold the key to upward mobility—has gone untested in the media’s coverage of the findings. The report claims that there are currently 11 million jobs in Britain that qualify as “professional” occupations. The largest single group within this elite cohort is listed as “local government,” which accounts for 2.25 million jobs. The next largest is NHS, the UK’s national health program, at 1.4 million. The third largest is teaching at 700,000, the majority of which are presumably government-funded salaries. Together, these three groups account for 40 percent of the total.

Are the other 60 percent of professional jobs supposed to generate the tax revenue that will pay for the other 40 percent? Probably not. Financial sector jobs, which create a sizable portion of British GDP, are not included in the list of “professions.” Therefore it seems that an unstated aspect of the report’s logic is that the UK needs to ensure that financial services continue to generate enough income that can be taxed at high rates to pay for “ the professions.” Or, perhaps to be fairer, new types of professional jobs (the report cites a rapid growth in “creative industries” such as music, fashion, and TV) will be created to pay the bill.

Either way, it is odd that a government report puts forward a strategy for increasing upward mobility that relies so heavily on government-funded jobs—especially considering that the government plans to tax top earners at 50 percent next year, a rate that would presumably affect a fair number of professional people. And all of this is on top of a general agreement that government spending needs to be reduced somehow in order for the UK’s economy to recover.

Does this problem sound familiar? Regular readers will surely have noted Joel Kotkin’s important July 22 article on the meltdown in blue states, a key ingredient of which is bloated public sector employment. These are the same states that have relied upon the self-defeating strategy of raising taxes to pay for it all. And these are the same states that have a disproportionate effect on the logic that Obama and Congress use to make economic decisions. Britain is, in some way, a big blue state. The U.S. is not yet a blue country. How and whether it increases the rolls of government-funded jobs as an overall percentage of the workforce will be a key indicator of how blue it becomes. This is clearly a live issue Obama’s healthcare, energy, and stimulus spending priorities.

Ryan Streeter is a senior fellow at the Legatum Institute.

This blog entry originally appeared at The American.

Elected Official Domestic Migration from San Francisco?

San Francisco, like every other core county in a metropolitan area of more than 1,000,000 (with the exception of New Orleans) continues to lose domestic migrants. Between 2000 and 2008, US Bureau of the Census data indicates that more than 10 percent of San Franciscans have left for other counties. But if one is a member of the San Francisco Board of Supervisors (board of county commissioners), it may be convenient for only part of the family to join the exodus.

According to the San Francisco Chronicle Supervisor Chris Daly moved the wife and kids to exurban Fairfield, claiming that the environment was better there for the kids, since they would live closer to their grandparents. Doubtless the environment will be better there for the kids in a lot of ways – more places to play, a safer environment and probably better schools.

What’s more, the Supervisor moved the family to a cul-de-sac, that urban form most despised by the most orthodox urbanites.

It is understandable that Supervisor Daly himself did not move, announcing that he continues to “eat, sleep and bathe” in his San Francisco home. Don’t be surprised, however, if when Supervisor Daly’s term expires, he should find the shower and bathtub more to his liking in the exurbs.

Rural-Urban Rift on Healthcare Reform

While much of the media coverage on the ongoing healthcare reform debate has focused on partisan division, a less mentioned point of conflict exists between rural and urban healthcare interests.

Rural healthcare providers have long received lower Medicare reimbursement rates than their urban counterparts. Such geographic disparities are set by complex formulas that take into account (among other things) prevailing wage rates and assume higher costs of care provision in urban areas. Rural providers have argued that while wage rates may be lower in their communities, they face challenges in providing care not seen in urban environments, and are less able to take advantage of economies of scale potentially available in higher volume urban settings.

Rural concern over reimbursement rates has now become a point of contention in the heated healhcare reform debate. At issue is a proposal to have the so-called 'public option' "pay health care providers at reimbursement rates used by Medicare". Rep. Earl Pomeroy (D-North Dakota), a member of the House Ways and Means Committee, voted against what he stated was "a very urban bill." Another Democrat, Ron Kind of Wisconsin's 3rd District, also voted against the reform bill in committee, arguing that the proposed reimbursement rates were unfair, and that he didn't "want to lock our providers into a system where they continue to be penalized".

Perhaps sensing a growing threat to their healthcare agenda, the Obama administration appears to be making conciliatory moves to placate rural Democrats. On Tuesday, House "Blue Dog" Democrats, representing the more conservative wing of the Democratic Caucus, met with President Obama to discuss their concerns. On the table were proposed changes to the legislation focused on "protecting rural areas and small businesses."

Upon leaving the White House, Rep. Mike Ross (D-Arkansas) expressed hope that the meeting had yielded progress towards creation of an "independent Medicare advisory council". Such a council would, reports the Wall Street Journal, be empowered to "to make binding recommendations on how Medicare pays doctors and hospitals." This would appear to be a concrete step towards addressing rural concerns over potential geographic disparities under the public option. However, it remains to be seen if the proposed changes will be acceptable with representatives from more urban districts.