Real Unclear Policy – The non-think tank

Adam Millsap, a research fellow at George Mason University¬†in Virginia, has seen the efforts to revitalize rust belt cities and thinks Americans deserve to be told the truth. That “truth” is the basis for this screed on the Real Clear Policy website.

“Finally, we need to stop encouraging people to stay in declining areas based on stories of false hope. For certain individuals, it may make sense to remain in a depressed area, for either economic or personal reasons, but they should do so without being told that we can save their city. Moving toward opportunity is a better solution for most Americans than waiting for opportunity to come to them.

Never mind the transformation taking place in Detroit. Forget about the strong results that are starting to emerge out of Cleveland, where the city has surged into a leading position among cities competing for college-educated Millennials. Who cares that Pittsburgh and Boston have already proven that turnarounds are possible?

He and other George Mason researchers also aren’t impressed by the rust belt’s cost advantage, because they contend that SF and NY have “laws” that “artificially inflate” the cost of real estate. You know, zoning, building standards, and crazy things like that. That’s why those cities are so expensive, not because of demand.

You can’t make this up. And apologies to any George Mason people reading this, as I have friends myself from GMU, and would never blaspheme an entire school (let alone a good one). I am not trying to undermine the entire research arm of George Mason, let alone the public policy school, but just pointing out the trail of how they got to this point. Policy formulation precedes policy implementation.

“Yet residents are told that their cities, from Buffalo, N.Y., to Birmingham, Ala., can regain their former glory if they can just attract the right company or win that next government grant.”

I guess it’s that simple. Just waiting on that government grant to come through!

I’m not an abrasive, argumentative, or cantankerous guy; but I have to call out dangerous research such as this. He is right that individually, it is better to put yourself in proximity to opportunity. You can do that by moving across the street in every single one of these cities. My personal experience is that this region is bursting with opportunity, and that the secret is out – not unlike SF and NY, pursuing opportunity has gotten increasingly competitive here.

By all means, scare people away from the Rust Belt – makes life easier for me. However, when you attempt to inform federal investment priorities, and lead with an attack on our grant-winning efforts to compete against the federal investment flowing into the Sun Belt, that’s when Real Clear Policy crosses a line. You aren’t just looking out for the individuals mired in rust belt poverty, who you want to move down to become mired instead in Sun Belt poverty. This is a regional attack on another region.

I have always thought better to produce research on good unfunded grant proposals than bad grant winners; the emphasize needs to be on growing the pot for community development projects nation-wide, rather than shrinking the pot for all of us.


Cleveland ranks #8 for brain gain

Then there’s this, a new report from the Cleveland State University Maxine Goodman Levin College of Urban Affairs’ Center for Population Dynamics. According to the report, Cleveland now ranks 8th nationally, in terms of attracting Millennials with college degrees. Roughly tied with Miami and Seattle.

In case anyone doubted that this whole sustainability-planning-preservation-urban design-whatnot thing works. It’s working for Cleveland. In fact, it’s working wonders for a formerly “dead city.”