I got an email about City Journal's new winter issue, and a couple articles caught my eye. Both relate to my city-of-love, Los Angeles, so I figured I'd post them together.
The first is a piece by Heather Mac Donald, "The Illegal-Alien Crime Wave". I love her use of hyphens in the headline (if she wrote it herself; although she could have also hyphenated "Crime-Wave"; then again, you can over-use them; anyway...), and the article discusses a major problem in Southern California.
Some of the most violent criminals at large today are illegal aliens. Yet in cities where the crime these aliens commit is highest, the police cannot use the most obvious tool to apprehend them: their immigration status. In Los Angeles, for example, dozens of members of a ruthless Salvadoran prison gang have sneaked back into town after having been deported for such crimes as murder, assault with a deadly weapon, and drug trafficking. Police officers know who they are and know that their mere presence in the country is a felony. Yet should a cop arrest an illegal gangbanger for felonious reentry, it is he who will be treated as a criminal, for violating the LAPD’s rule against enforcing immigration law.
As Ms. Mac Donald notes, city prohibitions against local enforcement of federal immigration laws is the ultimate reflection of our nation's failed immigration controls. She has more details:
In Los Angeles, 95 percent of all outstanding warrants for homicide (which total 1,200 to 1,500) target illegal aliens. Up to two-thirds of all fugitive felony warrants (17,000) are for illegal aliens.
Ms. Mac Donald has a lot more, and I recommend reading the whole thing. There are two things she doesn't mention, however. First, how President Bush's recent policy proposal addresses the problems she discusses (if it does at all), and second how we can convince Mexico to extradite the hundreds of murderers who kill in the US and then flee across the border.
The next article is a bit lighter, "The Curse of the Creative Class" by Steven Malanga. He writes about cities implementing "hip" policies to lure younger, richer, more "creative" workers.
If you think these efforts represent some fringe of economic development, think again. All of these cities have been inspired by the theories of Richard Florida, a Carnegie Mellon professor whose notion that cities must become trendy, happening places in order to compete in the twenty-first-century economy is sweeping urban America. In his popular book The Rise of the Creative Class, which just appeared in paperback after going through multiple hardcover editions, Florida argues that cities that attract gays, bohemians, and ethnic minorities are the new economic powerhouses because they are also the places where creative workers—the kind who start and staff innovative, fast-growing companies—want to live. To lure this workforce, Florida argues, cities must dispense with stuffy old theories of economic development—like the notion that low taxes are what draw in companies and workers—and instead must spend heavily on cultural amenities and pursue progressive social legislation. ...
While much of The Creative Class is little more than Florida’s depiction of the Internet bubble’s go-go culture, the last third of the book offers urban policymakers a seemingly dazzling new economic-development agenda derived from these observations. To capitalize on the hot new economy, Florida tells policymakers, they must reach out to the creative class, whose interests are different from those of the buttoned-down families that cities traditionally try to attract through good schools and low taxes. The new creative class craves a vibrant nightlife, outdoor sports facilities, and neighborhoods vibrant with street performers, unique shops, and chic cafés. In Florida’s universe, the number of local bands on the pop charts becomes more important to the economy than tax codes. “It is hard to think of a major high-tech region that doesn’t have a distinct audio identity,” Florida writes, sounding more like a rock critic than an economics prof. Creative workers want to live and work in “authentic” neighborhoods of historic buildings, not areas that are “full of chain stores, chain restaurants and nightclubs,” he asserts. Accordingly, cities should stop approving expansive new condo developments on their outer boundaries and instead focus on retooling former warehouse and factory districts.
If this sounds like a bunch of nonsense, that's because it is. Mr. Malanga goes on to show (with actual numbers) that many of the cities Dr. Florida lauds as creative meccas are, in fact, not performing exceptionally well economically, and are actually doing worse than the cities he rates least creative.
... Yet since 1993, cities that score the best on Florida’s analysis have actually grown no faster than the overall U.S. jobs economy ... Led by big percentage gains in Las Vegas (the fastest-growing local economy in the nation) as well as in Oklahoma City and Memphis, Florida’s ten least creative cities turn out to be jobs powerhouses, adding more than 19 percent to their job totals since 1993 ... Florida’s ten most creative mid-sized cities are even less impressive economic engines. Since 1993, these cities, which include such underperformers as Albany, New York, and Dayton, Ohio, have increased their job totals by about 16 percent ... Jobs data going back 20 years, to 1983, show that Florida’s top ten cities as a group actually do worse, lagging behind the national economy by several percentage points, while his so-called least creative cities continue to look like jobs powerhouses, expanding 60 percent faster than his most creative cities during that same period.
And so forth. Read the whole thing before commenting on other factors, please. What is obvious to me is that the artsy, diverse, culturally vibrant atmosphere Florida advocates is an effect of wealth, not a cause.