Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Kotkin on CA vs TX and Hou, BRT, HSR, dining, bikes, and more

Before I get to a collection of smaller misc items for your holiday reading pleasure, a blatant self-promotion unrelated to the normal content of this blog: yours truly was notified last night that I had won the first ever M-prize for management innovation by the Management Innovation eXchange community lead by the Wall Street Journal's #1 ranked management guru, Gary Hamel.  I won in the category of "Reinventing Leadership" with my proposed 'hack' "The Bossless Organization: from Bosses to Mentor Investors", which competed against hundreds of other submissions over the course of this year.  The winners will get recognition in a variety of venues--from the McKinsey Quarterly to the Wall Street Journal to the 2011 World Innovation Forum  (WIF).   If the concept is something of interest to you, drop me a line, especially if you might consider trying it inside your own organization.  And you can find out more at my work blog here.  End of grandstanding.  Thanks for your indulgence.

On to our items this week:
"The author’s advice to Houston - “Keep being who you are, and don’t try to be Boston, Chicago, or any other city.” This, Kotkin says, has brought us where we are, and will earn us the well-deserved recognition as an undisputed City of Opportunity."
"Houstonians should keep a close eye on Austin’s BRT.  The nationwide push for conservative government spending may reduce or end Houston’s light rail expansion.  If that should come to pass, a stellar BRT will be one of the few remaining ways to prevent gridlock as Houston’s population grows over the next three decades."
"Americans want many kinds of cities. They want Midtown Manhattan (a nice place to visit). They want Houston (whose seeming chaos actually provides some of the most affordable decent housing for middle-class Americans). They want quaint towns and edge cities. When it comes to city life in America, there is no one size that fits all."
Finally, a dump of recent interesting items from the Houston Digital Ambassadorship email newsletter:
May you and yours have a happy Thanksgiving holiday!

Labels: , , , , , , ,

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

HISD as an education "lighthouse for the world"

I was lucky enough to attend a GHP education luncheon (summary story) last week featuring Dr. Terry Grier, head of HISD, and Dr. Roland Fryer, a Harvard economist who focuses much of his research on closing the black/brown-white gap in education.  They had some exciting things to say about educational progress in Houston.

Dr. Fryer's personal story was very inspiring by itself, rising from a poor childhood in Dallas to the youngest African American to ever earn tenure at Harvard.  He is passionate about equalizing the racial gap in K-12 education, which data shows is completely life changing for those that are able to close the gap.

First, he identified what does not work in improving education for the worst off:
  • More money
  • Masters degrees for teachers
  • Smaller classes
Then he identified the five "explaining variables"/critical factors from successful charter schools after deep data analysis:
  1. More time on task for students (longer school days and years)
  2. Obsession with good principals and teachers (including firing bad ones)
  3. Using data to drive instruction with rapid feedback loops to help kids with problem areas (his example assessed every 3 weeks)
  4. Intense tutoring (1-on-1 and 1-on-2)
  5. High expectations and a "no excuses" culture
Since he and his team have identified these success factors, they've been shopping them to every public school district in the nation, including many of the highest profile reformers in places like NYC and DC.  But all of them have declined, declaring it "too hard".  All except one: HISD, which has integrated the five success factors into their high profile Apollo 20 program.

Dr. Grier spoke about HISD and the Apollo 20 program.  Some of his key points:
  • HISD wants to cooperate and partner with charters like KIPP and YES as well as private schools
  • He wants HISD to be the best school district in the nation - period, no qualifiers (not the best "urban school district")
  • He supports parental choice in education
  • HISD takes the largest placement of Teach for America teachers in the nation
  • Charters and private schools are only helping 7% of kids in HISD - a real and broad impact requires reforming public schools
  • The Apollo 20 program in its first year will be helping more kids than YES and KIPP combined
Dr. Fryer is working in close partnership with Dr. Grier and HISD, and they both hope that the Apollo 20 program will help make Houston a public education "lighthouse to the world" - to show that it is possible to translate successful charter school practices to public schools and get results.  They deserve your support (and I'm especially talking to you, teachers and parents).  Good luck and Godspeed.


Monday, November 08, 2010

Joel Kotkin speaking Wed on Houston's past and future

For its 10th anniversary, the Center for Houston's future has snagged one of the highest profile thinkers, writers, and speakers in the country on the topic of cities: Joel Kotkin. I worked with Joel on the Opportunity Urbanism study a few years back, and he really knows how to get past all of the hype and fads around cities to get to what's really going on, including what's working and what's not. If you haven't heard him speak, you should, and your next chance is this Wednesday evening at The Grove on Discovery Green.

There are two purposes to this post:
  1. If you're interested in attending, there are a (very) few seats left, so register ASAP. You can find more info here and register here.
  2. To spark some civic conversations around Joel's ideas, Houston, and the Center for Houston's Future, starting in the comments here. There are links below to some of his writing to get you started.
Here's some of the official material for the event:

At the Nov. 10 dinner, we’ve asked Joel to ponder on Houston’s last 10 years, how it’s shaped up, and considering that, what the next 10 years might be like.

Food for Thought: Dinner & Conversation with Joel Kotkin

Wed 11.10.10 - Dinner with Author Joel Kotkin

The Center for Houston’s Future is throwing a birthday party on November 10th – a dinner party with some food for thought,and we hope you can join the celebration!

When: 11.10.10 06:00 PM

Where: The Grove Restaurant (1611 Lamar, Houston, 77010)

We’re on the cusp of rolling out our most ambitious effort yet: our Scenarios 2040 Project - a game-changer for the Center and for the greater Houston region. To celebrate that – and our 10th birthday – we’ve invited author and urbanist Joel Kotkin to help us have a lively and thoughtful conversation about Houston’s last ten years and the decades to come.

Joel’s ties to the Center date back to our beginning, and his latest book is The Next Hundred Million: America in 2050, so we think he’s uniquely qualified to reflect on Houston’s progress in the last decade and what’s ahead for the region. We’ve also enlisted the help of our Scenario 2040 Chair, and retired Shell CEO, John Hofmeister, to interview Joel and ask him your questions.

The festive dinner will be at The Grove, overlooking downtown’s Discovery Green, and, in order to keep it conversation-sized, we’ve limited it to 110 seats. There’ll be choices of sitting at the head table with Joel, at the three “front row” tables, or at the half-dozen tables that will complete the discussion group.

Joel is a renowned author and internationally-recognized authority on global, economic, political and social trends. His most recent book, The Next Hundred Million: America in 2050 creates an optimistic forecast of the U.S. at midcentury, and he's known to be a champion of Houston as a model city for the future. Read his recent article featured on Forbes here.

Here are links to some of his recent articles:

Joel Kotkin’s website: http://www.joelkotkin.com/content/00230-houston-model-city

New America Foundation: short bio and links to other Kotkin articles http://newamerica.net/user/87

Link to pdf of the Opportunity Urbanism report http://www.houston.org/pdf/kotkin/KotkinReportwithlinks.pdf

Houston, Model City. Forbes. http://www.forbes.com/forbes/2010/0607/opinions-houston-immigration-job-growth-on-my-mind.html

America in 2050: Urban, Suburban, or Both? Fastcompany. http://www.fastcompany.com/1668425/america-in-2050-urban-or-suburban-both-neither

National Center for Policy Analysis http://www.ncpa.org/sub/dpd/index.php?Article_ID=19373

TX Property Rights Blog http://txpropertyrights.blogspot.com/2010/06/houston-model-citybut-not-for-long.html

(An older 2008 article by Kotkin ) Lone Star Rising. The American. http://www.american.com/archive/2008/march-april-magazine-contents/lone-star-rising

Forbes Magazine declares Houston a Model City; can our nonprofits take credit? The Examiner.com http://www.examiner.com/nonprofit-business-in-houston/forbes-magazine-declares-houston-a-model-city-can-our-nonprofits-take-credit

Kotkin Spoke: Too Bad Houston Didn’t Listen Lone Star Times http://lonestartimes.squawkboxnoise.com/?p=1696

Low Wages and the Metropolitan Middle Class The Huffington Post. http://www.huffingtonpost.com/john-petro/low-wages-and-the-metropo_b_689400.html

Labels: ,

Monday, November 01, 2010

Houston catching Brooklyn, our outsized GMP, Metrorail, rankings, and more

Some more smaller items this week:
  • A new index estimates new house cost impact of land regulation.  As you might expect, Houston comes out very well - actually #1 - with the lowest cost impact of any of the cities listed.
  • Wendell Cox at New Geography details Portland's Runaway Debt Train, an anti-model for Metro.  Let's hope they're not making the same mistakes.  Scratch that - is somebody actively watching to make sure they're not?
  • To those who always dismiss bus rapid transit as an affordable quality alternative to light rail, go to the 2:30 point in the NYC video here to see a very successful example from the king city of rail, NYC.  The Bronx BX12 crosstown with some traffic light prioritization and off-board fare collection increased speeds by 20% and ridership by 30%.  Even more impressive, *98%* of *New Yorkers* are very satisfied with the service.  Come on.  If surly New Yorkers can be happy with it, why don't we think we can create a successful signature bus/BRT network as an alternative to rail bankruptcy at Metro?
  • I've done my fair share of Metro criticism (see above), so it's only right to give kudos when they're due, and these actions are all good steps in the right direction towards fiscal prudence by the agency.
  • According to this list based on 2008 data, Houston has the fourth-largest Gross Metropolitan Product in the nation at $403 billion behind NYC, LA, and Chicago.  I'm surprised we beat DFW (more people) and DC, Boston, SF (more higher-earning college-degreed people, although they split SV from SF), and really smoke similar-population areas like Atlanta, Philly, and S.Florida.  Hat tip to an anonymous commenterAlon also has a comment/analysis over there on metro GDP vs. income and living standards - and Houston still comes out pretty well.
  • An odd blog post at the NY Times pointing out that if Brooklyn were its own city (which it used to be until being incorporated into NYC), it would be the 4th largest in the country until Houston passes it up sometime in the next couple of decades. "Don’t Look Back, Brooklyn; Houston Is Gaining on You" Hat tip to Anthony.
Finally, a few items to pass along from the Steve's Houston Digital Ambassadorship email newsletter:

Labels: , , , , , , , , ,