Monday, May 20, 2013

WSJ shows Houston some love, urban planning flaws, #1 mfg boomtown, and more

Mayor Parker and Houston got a great write-up in the Wall Street Journal Saturday.  The whole thing is truly a must-read (alternate link), but here's my favorite excerpt:
Like Texas as a whole, Houston sells itself as "business friendly," and Ms. Parker ticks off the attractions—ease of permitting, unobtrusive regulations and low taxes. She also supports Houston's limited restrictions on land use, which some here call its real secret sauce. Without zoning, Houston can adjust to shifting market demands—whether for townhouse complexes or retail outfits—faster than most any other city. It looks unwieldy to anyone of the urban-planning persuasion, but it also keeps prices down.
Yours truly also got a quote in the story.  The journalist did an excellent job summarizing an hour+ interview of me with one pithy quote:
Tory Gattis, who writes the Houston Strategies blog, says: "I'd argue we may be the most libertarian city in America. Live and let live; strong property rights; not much corruption; small business culture."
The same WSJ issue also had an inspiring profile of the Houston-based Laura and John Arnold Foundation and their new approach to philanthropy focused on solving really big, long-term problems (vs. standard gifts to charities).  I think they are going to do great things in Houston over the coming years (not to mention nationally and globally).

Moving on to some other misc items this week:
"The urban plans of the future have to combine the capacity first to encourage a city’s entire population, not just college students – an error commonly made in today’s over emphasized reliance on “creatives” – to take up the possibility of innovating and making new companies that meet unforeseen demands in world markets beyond the city.  Scale production, not small shop keeping or running art galleries, is the only path to growth and urban futures that hold the potential to restore communities which means reducing poverty.  But, of course, this, like the capitalism that holds this promise, appears just too messy for planners who, in the end, see the growth of government and its control over all aspects of the built environment as the pathway to the cities of tomorrow, which in their documents look troublingly nostalgic for the towns that once were."
"So far from these lists we know that Houston is really good at moving scams, nurturing business of all sizes, changing business norms, having a healthy housing market, raising rent, creating jobs (lots of manufacturing jobs actually), growing real fast, being mobile-shopping savvy, and generally being “cool” or whatever passes for cool at Forbes magazine. The business mag put us at the top of their cool kids list, and poor ol’ Austin came in at 19 on the Top 20 list. Fort Worth, San Antonio, and Dallas made it on the list at 13, 11, and fourth respectively."
Finally, to end with a little humor, these NSFW Houston T-shirts are very cool, but I am not sure I could wear one in public...

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