Public Pensions: Reform, Repair, Reboot

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Ill-informed chatter continues to dominate the airwaves when it comes to California public pensions. It’s a big, complex and critical issue for government at all levels in the Golden State. What makes debate so distorted is that public pensions actually differ from agency to agency — and advocates on the issue often talk past each other. Pension critics often point to outrageous abuses as if they were typical. On the other hand, pension defenders often cite current averages that understate long-term costs. All this fuels the typical partisan gridlock that Californians lament yet seem powerless to change in our state.

Credit Governor Jerry Brown for trying to overcome the polarization.  read more »

California in 2011: Suburbs Up, Exurbs Down?


I had the fortune recently to stumble on the California Department of Finance’s estimates of population change in California during the period July 1, 2010 – July 1- 2011. This is distinct from the Federal census, which tried to establish the number of people in all localities as of April 1, 2010. These California statistics are for a short period of only one year; they are not as reliable, of course, as a real census.    read more »

The Sun Belt's Migration Comeback


Along with the oft-pronounced, desperately wished for death of the suburbs, no demographic narrative thrills the mainstream news media more than the decline of the Sun Belt, the country’s southern rim extending from the Carolinas to California. Since the housing bubble collapse in 2007, commentators have heralded “the end of the Sun Belt boom.”  read more »

New Census Data Reaffirms Dominance of the South


The 2011 state population estimates released earlier today by the Census Bureau show that the South has retained its dominant position in both population and growth over the last year. Southern states accounted for more than one half of the nation's population growth between 2011 and 2000, despite having little more than one third of the population.  read more »

Rethinking College Towns


As a practitioner in both consulting and local government, I have observed that in local communities nothing seems to prompt productive action better than a local crisis or strongly felt threat like a factory closure. 

Unfortunately, we are often inclined to take action to close the barn door only after the horse has escaped.  read more »

California: Codes, Corruption And Consensus

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We Californians like collaboration. Before we do things here, we consult all of the “stakeholders.” We have hearings, studies, reviews, conferences, charrettes, neighborhood meetings, town halls, and who knows what else. Development in some California cities has become such a maze that some people make a fine living guiding developers through the process, helping them through the minefields and identifying the rings that need kissing.

Here’s an example. This is a (partial?) list of the groups who will have a say on any proposed project in my city, Ventura:  read more »

The Robotics Census


Immigration is a concern for countries around the world, not just the U.S. It’s that annoying tendency of humans to gravitate toward an area where they can survive as opposed to staying where they are barely surviving or worse.  Once there, of course, these workers are seen often as taking jobs, altering local cultures and in general upsetting lots of apple carts.    read more »

Iowa: Not Just the Elderly Waiting to Die


Stephen Bloom, a journalism professor at the University of Iowa, created quite a stir in Iowa this week with a piece in The Atlantic describing his unique observations on rural Iowa as evidence that it doesn’t deserve its decidedly powerful hand in the vote for the president. After the article appeared last Friday both his colleagues and the massive student body of the state he so harshly criticizes are returning the favor.  read more »

Heavy Metal Is Back: The Best Cities For Industrial Manufacturing


For a generation American manufacturing has been widely seen as a “declining sport.” Yet its demise has been largely overplayed.  Despite the many jobs this sector has lost in the past generation, manufacturing remains remarkably resilient, with a global market share similar to that of the 1970s.  read more »

Let’s Level the Inter-generational Playing Field


With President Obama’s speech in Osawatomie, Kansas decrying the growing economic inequality and lack of upward mobility in America, the issue has finally arrived at the center of this year’s campaign debates.  read more »