Owen Courreges: Hollywood South, and now Bay Area East?

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Owen Courreges

New Orleans received a shout-out last week in the Wall Street Journal from an unlikely source: Joel Kotkin, professor of Urban Studies at Chapman University and one of the nation’s leading demographers. According to Mr. Kotkin, we are doing some things right that put his own state of California to shame.

Mr. Kotkin observed that in the past two decades, nearly 4 million more people have left California than have migrated from other states. Kotkin largely blames government for this state of affairs, particularly development restrictions that artificially limit housing supply.

Unless you are wealthy, Mr. Kotkin notes, “your chances of being able to buy a house or raise a family in the Bay Area or in most of coastal California is pretty weak.”  Moving inland is an option, albeit not a great one – the amenities differ little from states with cheaper housing and a lower cost of living.

Overall, Kotkin accuses California of perpetrating a “progressive war on the middle class.” Put bluntly, the state is run “for the very rich, the very poor, and the public employees.”

So who does Kotkin say is doing better?  New Orleans.

“New Orleans is supposedly going to pass New York as the second largest film center,” says Kotkin. “They have great incentives, and New Orleans is the best bargain for urban living in the United States. It’s got great food, great music, and it’s inexpensive.”

I revel in this. A premier demographer calls New Orleans the land of opportunity, one that California has much to learn from. Fifty years ago, who would have thought this were possible?

This, dear readers, is the best argument for why we must eschew new development restrictions, new taxes, and especially new bureaucracies. This is why we must promote a low cost of living. We shouldn’t try to become another San Francisco because it doesn’t play to our strengths and it isn’t who we are.

It isn’t just in New Orleans, either. Kotkin identifies the Gulf Coast as being one of four major “growth corridors” in the U.S. We have the unique opportunity now to coordinate with East Texas and the Florida panhandle to forge a region that will generate economic growth for years to come. Already many California tech firms like Facebook end Apple are setting up shop in Austin, and the tech industry is nascent here in New Orleans. Opportunities abound.

When it comes to economic growth end government competence, New Orleanians are not an optimistic bunch. We usually leave optimism to those sunny Californians and their Hollywood and their weather that doesn’t make your shirt stick to your skin.

But now we’ve turned a corner. The future isn’t in California, but in places like New Orleans where you can live cheaply and live well. People will readily tolerate a hot, humid climate if it means lower taxes, cheap goods and no big brother.

I’ll even do you the benefit of breaking this down further. Have you heard this new stuff about a downtown hospitality district? Oppose it. We don’t need new layers of bureaucracy with their own authority and their own shortcomings; we need clean, straightforward government from stem to stern. The same goes for new taxes and higher fees. Ask why a lean, responsible government needs them.

Most of all, ask yourself whether a government action burdens the middle class. The wealthy can afford new taxes and regulations, and the poor either aren’t targeted or are the intended beneficiaries. Government actions tend to bypass those who have too much to feel the pain or too little. Those who really suffer are those who are comfortable but still working on a budget. They can’t afford stupidity and they’re mobile.

New Orleans is on the right trajectory. Let’s make sure it stays that way.

Owen Courrèges, a New Orleans attorney and resident of the Garden District, offers his opinions for UptownMessenger.com on Mondays. He has previously written for the Reason Public Policy Foundation.

9 thoughts on “Owen Courreges: Hollywood South, and now Bay Area East?

  1. Good points, however be prepared for progressives to target your comments as ignorant or shameful for it’s message to the poor communities. The tenants of fiscal responsibility are once again proving to be true as these mega government/tax markets are experiencing losses in census due to unsustainable actions by its governments.

    • Uptowner,

      I don’t understand how so many people can’t see that the bill is coming due, and we can’t fix it with taxes alone or even primarily with taxes. We’re giving benefits to larger and larger numbers of people that live longer and still want to retire at 65. It’s not sustainable. Hard cuts will have to be made and third rails will have to be touched.

  2. Your best article yet, Mr. Courreges. I 100% agree with you about this Hospitality District being a waste of money. Isn’t this why we have a City Government??

    • Skip,

      The reply is that city government is bad at basic services and maintenance, so we need this additional district with independent authority to keep the touristy areas in good shape. The problem there is that it removes the incentive for the hospitality industry (a powerful force in New Orleans) to push reforms of civil government. As I said, we need good clean government – efforts to bypass the government only distract from what needs to be done.

  3. You’re right on about the hospitality district. Having all these unaccountable fiefdoms with the power to raise their own money gives rise to more Public Belt Railroad-type scams.

    • Bloggingemail1,

      I hadn’t thought of that, but you’re absolutely right. The more feifdoms we have the less checks there are and the greater potential for mischief.

  4. Funny article given all the NIMBYS on this blog and uptown.

    PS California is doing extremely well financially. The world’s 8th largest economy if it was a country? Check. More than double the millionaires of the next state? Check. More people than any other state by far? Check.

    I do agree about playing to New Orleans strengths and not adding unnecessary layers of administration. However, you won’t get anywhere starving the beast.

    • HStreetLandlord,

      California is a financial basket case and on a downward trajectory economically and in terms of relative population. It has far to fall but it is clearly falling. Nobody disputes that California is a huge state, but the land of opportunity? Not today.

      And pointing out the number of millionaires in California has nothing to do with my point of Kotkin’s (in fact, it bolsters it). Please read my column again if you don’t understand why. I think it’s pretty clear.

      Finally, not increasing our tax burden is not “starving the beast,” it’s just forcing government to live within a limited budget and not be wasteful.

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