Sunday, September 11, 2005

Pasadena Star-News takes a wack at Kotkin and Houston

The editor of the Pasadena Star-News is not very happy with Joel Kotkin's pro-Houston op-ed regarding New Orleans:

Because, get this, his proposed model for the future rebuilding of New Orleans?


For pity's sake, isn't one Houston enough? Let Houston be Houston, beloved headquarters town of the New Rich of the New South: unplanned, unzoned, anarchic in its economics. Houston is great at creating, you know, Enrons, and Enrons create jobs and wealth for absolutely months at a time.

People need to give the Enron thing a rest. New York is full of companies getting indicted by AG Spitzer, but somehow New York can do no wrong and Houston is the capital of evil businessmen. Setting aside his obvious dislike of Houston and fear of a freeform, dynamic, entrepreneurial, open city, I think he misreads Joel. Joel is not saying New Orleans should become Houston, just that, given where NOLA is on the economic spectrum these days, it could afford to be more like Houston - to move somewhat in our direction: less corruption, more business-friendly, more pro-growth, more entrepreneurial, more efficient government. Nobody is arguing that New Orleans should bulldoze the French Quarter or give up tourism or lose its unique identity.

Amusingly, later in the editorial he promotes the Richard Florida's Creative Class stuff, which happens to rank Houston at #7 ahead of Pasadena-neighbor LA at #12 and way ahead of New Orleans at #42.

Another excerpt critiquing Joel after he calls for New Orleans to move its economy beyond tourism:
Tell it to Paris. And then he ties New Orleans' centuries-old culture to its fabled corruption, a link I find harder to get worked up about than my tying Houston's ethics to Enron's.

Well, the main difference is that Enron didn't kill anybody, and New Orleans' corruption and lack of serious disaster planning did.

He's the second person I've read advocating Paris as the model for the new New Orleans. While there are certainly things that can be learned from Paris, what they neglect to take into account is that Paris is the seat of government for a nation of 60+ million, and that a very centralized government forces a lot of economic development and business to be there (not to mention pouring money into local infrastructure). New Orleans has no such advantage, and is not even the capital of Louisiana - job-creating businesses can, will, and have moved elsewhere. NOLA will get a temporary boost from federal and insurance reconstruction money, but that money will dry-up longer term, and at that point they will have to economically stand on their own two legs. As I've said before, NOLA will have to choose between the low-income Orlando/Vegas route and the high-income "African American Austin" route.


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