Glenn “Instapundit” Reynolds wasn’t writing about the Twin Cities’ Met Council in his USA Today piece, “Why Politicians Love Cities”.   But in another sense, he was precisely writing about the Met Council.

Reynolds cites urban theorist and “New Urbanism” critic Joel Kotkin’s new book (we’ve met Kotkin on this blog before) in getting to three reasons why politicians – like the Met Council – loooove big cities;  snobbery, graft and politics.

I’ll commend Reynolds’ article to you for the first two.  As to the politics?

Cities tend to repel – and, ultimately, exclude – people who intend to raise children; it’s become something of a phenomenon.   What it’s not, it would seem, is accidental:

Politicians like to pursue policies that encourage their political enemies to leave, while encouraging those who remain to vote for them. (This is known as “the Curley effect” after James Michael Curley, a former mayor of Boston.)  People who have children, or plan to, tend to be more conservative, or at least more bourgeois, than those who do not. By encouraging high density and mass transit, urban politicians (who are almost always on the left) encourage people who might oppose them to “vote with their feet” and move to the suburbs.

This isn’t necessarily good for the cities they rule. Curley’s approach, which involved “wasteful redistribution to his poor Irish constituents and incendiary rhetoric to encourage richer citizens to emigrate from Boston,” as David Henderson wrote on theEconLog, shaped the electorate to his benefit. Result: “Boston as a consequence stagnated, but Curley kept winning elections.”

But that’s OK. Politicians don’t care about you. They care about power, in urban planning and in everything else.

Pushing people who tend more conservative out of the city/ies is just plain good politics for the DFL that the Met Council exists to serve.

19 thoughts on “Stacked

  1. By mandating “affordable housing” in the suburbs, legislators are incrementally moving urban blight outward and conquering neighborhoods they used to think were beyond their reach.

  2. One might argue that the crime rates big cities often allow to fester serve the same purpose, as well as the arguable promotion of single parent families. Engaged husbands and fathers are far less likely to put up with the shenanigans of poo-bahs than others.

    And really, I remember transit working OK for me when I was in their model–single, living on the periphery of my town, and going towards the center to work. Married with kids? Not so much, especially when I consider that most cars carry five people and are arguably cheaper and more efficient to operate than a bus, which only gets 25 passenger-miles per gallon of diesel.

  3. If urban density is a plot by DFL leaning city planers, why are the zoning rules on almost ever major city extremely anti-density? For example, it is illegal to build a residence more than 2 1/2 stories in about 80% of Minneapolis.

    Proponents of urban density are, at the municipal level, champions of the free market and opponents of government regulation. The “massive new building projects and soaring residences made up of hundreds of tiny stacked units” that Reynold’s complains about, only get built because willing consumers pay for them. Reynold’s may not want to live in one, but many more people do, and thus it takes the full weight of government legal authority in Mpls and other cites to stop them from being built.

  4. Rick, government funded transit is free market? Limiting housing height is free market? Government funding of redevelopment (like the building next to the train station in St. Paul) is free market?

    Interesting definition of free market you’ve got there. I personally agree with limiting the height of apartment buildings simply because getting around without a car is extremely difficult for most people, and the developers want to build the building and let the city provide the parking, but I would at the same time agree that it’s not free market, but a government regulation.

  5. The Met Council is now talking about increasing the “equity” in the public park system, no doubt with the Heavy Hand rather than the Invisible Hand. I just happened to cruise over to the Met Council’s website to look at just who is on the Council.

    As a progressive might say, “It’s awfully white in here.”

  6. BB:

    Transit like roads is a public service and people can debate how much and what kind they want. It is foolish to invest public dollars in transit while legally prohibiting the denser housing that would make the transit more accessible and more valuable. Height restrictions are by definition not free market, they are a pure legal prohibition. ‘Redevelopment’ is too broad a term to categorize, I would just note that the largest government housing subsidy is the mortgage interest deduction which is disproportionately valuable to large owner occupied housing. Personally, I don’t see much value in housing subsidies in areas where local government so radically restricts the supply of housing by restrictions on density.

    Sadly municipal land use seems like a case where too many conservatives let their cultural prejudices get in the way of their (in this case correct) political principles.

  7. Rick: Don’t resist what your eyes actually reveal. Truth doesn’t require spin. Urban planners have rules – and one of their chief rules is there’s more money in the suburbs – get it! It’s neither black or white, it’s green. They also understand that “undesireables” tend to flock together in crowded settings. They try to mitigate dense populations of “undesireables” by creating laws which force suburbs to accept their fair share of them – or else!

  8. There is not necessarily more money in the suburbs. In Paris, ‘suburban’ is code for poor the same way ‘inner-city’ is here. All things being equal, central city locations tend to have higher land values and thus attract richer residents.

    I would agree that in the U.S. local anti-density zoning rules drive up the cost of inner city housing which is why you can buy a lot more house in Maple Grove than Highland for the same $s. This does force low income residents to move to the suburbs to find housing they can afford. I would say this is driven far less by ‘planers’ than by local NIMBYs who use local zoning laws to block developers and buyers from building denser options.

  9. Rick, writing as a former landlord, I’ve got to note that both interest and principal (depreciation schedules) are deductible for properties that are rented out. It’s only fair that those of us who own ought to get something, and it comes from all interest being a legitimate deduction.

    And density isn’t that great, really. Look up the population of Manhattan–1.6 million or about 113 people per acre–and figure out what it would take to give them each 1000 square feet or more. The answer is about three stories.

  10. BB: But as a landlord you pay taxes on your rental income. Owner-occupiers do not.

    Not sure what the point is of your Manhattan #s. Do you mean to say that any city could achieve Manhattan level density with a 3 story height limit? If that is the case, I would start by asking if the 1000 square feet per person allows for roads, parking, sidewalks, commercial bldgs, and any of the numerous non-housing land needed in a city.

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  12. Rick, you could try doing the math yourself. Or do you have that Barbie that got Mattel in so much trouble? :^)

    You’re also missing the point about the income tax. When it was first enacted, the government actually used sound accounting methods (wow) and reckoned that interest paid was part of the cost of living. Since we used to have (wow again) the principle that a man ought not be taxed on what he needed to live, that was deductible.

    Now if you’re arguing that the income tax itself is unjust, welcome to the club, but otherwise please come alongside and help re-assert basic principles of just taxation.

  13. Transit like roads is a public service and people can debate how much and what kind they want.

    Tell that to Dave “Bucky” Thune.

    Leftists are all about the public good, until they have some skin in the game.

  14. Let’s approach the concept of the high occupancy building–say ten stories high or more–in light of what we know about building. Those deep pilings, parking structures, huge support columns, elevators and such cost money–the new WTC costs about 5x more/square foot than does ordinary commercial construction.

    We generally don’t find them in small towns, but in big cities, specifically built by government, or located near major transportation arteries built by….the government.

    So let’s let go of the notion that these huge buildings are part of free markets. They are rather a rational response to the government’s “need” to have the center of attention at the center of the city, or at other favored locations. Sometimes a bit of pride on the part of the owners, too, but really it’s mostly because the government has favored one location over another with the subways.

  15. Just a note long after the discussion:

    For example, it is illegal to build a residence more than 2 1/2 stories in about 80% of Minneapolis.

    For a SINGLE FAMILY DWELLING. Since family dwellings are not urban density, no matter how small they are. 3-4 story apartment buildings and all the high rise apartments are urban density.

    And if urban density is so popular, explain to me the ratio of families with children in Mpls and St Paul proper, vs the rest of the burbs. It’s probably 1:8 or 1:10.

  16. Bill, libturds cherry picking words out of context. Why are you surprised? Besides, for RinkyDinkDFL, a person who does not know what +/- is, I suspect a concept of density is beyond comprehension.

  17. BB: Taller buildings are built in bigger cities because land is more valuable in a big city. When the cost of land is higher, it makes more sense to stack more people on the lot. Aside from a few old housing projects, almost all are built by private builders for private buyers. Government financing plays about the same role it plays in single family housing.

    Bill C: “And if urban density is so popular, explain to me the ratio of families with children in Mpls and St Paul proper, vs the rest of the burbs. It’s probably 1:8 or 1:10.”

    Because the City of Minneapolis makes it illegal to build taller denser housing in most of the city. They wouldn’t need they zoning laws if nobody wanted to build taller housing.

    Let me ask why do you think the City of Minneapolis should be able to stop a private person from building a 10 story apartment building on their own land and selling or renting the units to private buyers?

  18. Rick, you’re missing the big point, which is why is the land there so valuable? It is because that land is near the transit hub. For example, all of Chicago’s tallest buildings are within a mile of the loop. In New York City, they’re around the subway hubs in upper and lower Manhattan.

    In places where transit hasn’t disrupted normal traffic patterns as much, or where transit isn’t centered around the city center, you don’t see as many skyscrapers–see most of Europe. So again, skyscrapers and immense buildings are a creation, essentially, of government.

  19. BB: Chicago’s tallest building are concentrated near the Loop in part because it is illegal to build them in much of the rest of the city.
    Paris does not have tall buildings, not because of transit but because they were illegal.

    Second, both mass transit built in the urban core and roads built to the suburbs are built and maintained by government. In fact, the freeways to downtown that make the Twin Ciity suburbs viable, were not only paid for by government, they were built on private land government forcibly took from city residents.

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