Good-Bye, Gentry

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The proposed investiture of Caroline Kennedy as the replacement senator for Hillary Clinton has inspired a surprising degree of opposition – at least from other claimants to the throne, such as the Cuomos, and from those obstreperous parvenues, the Clintons.

Perhaps less obvious may be a wider disdain expressed by even liberal New Yorkers who feel Kennedy's elevation may be one celebrity rising too many. Although the big New York editorial boards are expected to line up, like so many obedient lap dogs, grassroots dissent seethes.  read more »

Will the Bubble Burst Aspen?

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Aspen is a great town. Its uniqueness extends beyond its spectacular geography to its amenities, people and community spirit. It’s a world-class, year-round Rocky Mountain resort offering great food, music, skiing, shopping – great everything – right in the middle of a real, functioning, small American community.

It’s no surprise people like it, want to keep it going. And not just the good, smart people who live in Aspen full-time and those who own second homes there (including some of the wealthiest people on Earth), but the thousands of good, smart people who visit every year to address big issues at the Aspen Institute and numerous other forums. These include elites of American arts, sciences, politics and economics with amazing amounts of brainpower and money at their disposal.

But geographic realities plus inexorable economic, demographic, and social trends are conspiring against the best of intentions. The future of Aspen – playground to the smart, rich and famous – may soon become untenable.  read more »

Postindustrial Strength Brain Drain Policy

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In the discussions of the stimulus and infrastructure problem, little attention has yet been paid to addressing brain drain. Yet for many regions – particularly in the old industrial heartland – no issue could be more critical.

Perhaps the most important investment in regional human capital occurs at local schools. Enterprise looks to the secondary and post-secondary institutions within the area for labor. In this regard, it makes sense to fund better learning with local and state taxes as long as that talent remains within that geography.  read more »

Go North Young Man

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With his foreign policy team now in place, President-elect Barack Obama certainly will be urged to make his first forays into high profile places like Pakistan, Israel and Palestine, as well as to greet his devoted fan base in Europe.

But before heading off on the diplomatic grand tour, he might do well to turn his attention first to the country with which we have the closest political, economic and environmental ties: Canada. Although not as momentous or sexy a locale as Paris or Jerusalem, Ottawa could well hold the key to developing a bold new strategy for America in an increasingly incoherent and multi-polar world.  read more »

Hyde Park, St. Louis: Are We Almost There Yet?

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Among potential titles for this article about the Hyde Park neighborhood of St. Louis, I played with The Archaeology of Stasis. My husband suggested It’s Not Happening Here. But neither seemed right. Both were too depressing to describe a place where people are working hard for change. I wanted a title that suggested a lot of hard work, but hope nonetheless.  read more »

How To Save The Industrial Heartland

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You would think an economic development official in Michigan these days would be contemplating either early retirement or seppuku. Yet the feisty Ron Kitchens, who runs Southwest Michigan First out of Kalamazoo, sounds almost giddy with the future prospects for his region.

How can that be? Where most of America sees a dysfunctional state tied down by a dismal industry, Kitchens points to the growth of jobs in his region in a host of fields, from business services to engineering and medical manufacturing. Indeed, as most Michigan communities have lost jobs this decade, the Kalamazoo region, with roughly 300,000 residents, has posted modest but consistent gains.  read more »

Bailing out California, Again

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If many of the nation’s governors have their way, the next agenda item for the spendthrift federal government could be a bailout of state budgets. According to a report issued on December 10 by the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, 37 states face mid-year 2009 budget deficits, totaling $31.7 billion. As would be expected from its size, California leads the pack at $8.4 billion.  read more »

Bailing out on the Dreamland…And Returning Home

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My father, who was from eastern Kentucky, headed with millions of other Appalachian people for the “promised land” after the great depression. The promised land in that day consisted of cities such as Dayton, Detroit, Gary, and Cincinnati, out of which rose great factories that employed thousands on giant “campuses.” They thrived through the vigor of this transplanted workforce – uneducated like my father but full of gumption, tenacity and work ethic.  read more »

Financial Crisis: Who will Bailout the State and Local Governments?

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The continual Illinois corruption scandals have created not only ignominy to the Land of Lincoln, but have now placed a negative ranking from Standard and Poor on its credit. If Illinois vies with other states for the title of most corrupt, it has plenty of company when it comes to financial disaster.

Although building for years, the impending collapse of state and municipal finance has been hastened by the growing financial crisis.  read more »

Rust Belt Realities: Pittsburgh Needs New Leaders, New Ideas and New Citizens

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The current recession provides a new opportunity for Pittsburgh's elite to feel good about itself. With other boom economies from Phoenix to Miami on the skids – and other old Rust Belt cities like Detroit, Cleveland and Buffalo even more down on their luck – the slow-growth achievements of the Pittsburgh region may seem rather impressive.

Yet at the same time, the downturn also poses longer-term challenges for which the local leadership is likely to have no answers.  read more »