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March 07, 2014

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Unlike most of the country, we don't have the preconditions for significant numbers of potholes: precipitation. In fact, our current road condition problem is that we have had so little rain that, when we did get some, the roads were really slick. Which is what happens when the first rain brings all those oil drippings to the surface.

Actually, things have at least stopped getting worse on the drought front. Not that it has broken or anything. But at least a week or two of normal winter weather lately means that it is (temporarily) no longer getting worse by the day.

Still, if we ever get tired of emoting over other things, California will probably be reprising our traditional "water wars" in the coming year. Great spectator sport! If, like most water, less amusing for those caught in the middle of it.

Dang! last line should be "If, like most wars,..." Guess I'm just water-obsessed.

The back way into the Acme supermarket near my house was a pothole obstacle course until a week or so ago, when they made what appear to be temporary repairs. One of the potholes was big enough to be made more conspicuous by throwing a shopping cart on end into it. Others only required a traffic cone or milk crate to be set in them. These objects were sometimes variously decorated with yellow caution tape - very festive. This was because the potholes became almost invisible when there was puddling, which was most of the time recently. And being on both sides of a sometimes-busy narrow two-way road made it that much more fun.

Then there's the streets of Camden going to and from work. More fun, even.

It's easy in this city to spot the borders between different districts by simply looking down. Oh, the potholes start at this point, so I am at the border between Reinickendorf and Spandau. Oh the markings of the bike track fade at this point, so I am leaving Charlottenburg (and going into Reinickendorf again).

Road conditions in Houston? Oy, don't get me started.

Actually, a fascinating phenomena--we are getting huge numbers of new people moving in. Our burbs are expanding like the Valdez oil spill. More importantly--and this is the big change--single family homes 'inside the Beltway', i.e. 10 miles or less from downtown, and "inside the loop", i.e. 4 miles or less from downtown, are now out of reach except for the very, very well to do.

The commute from the burbs is murder--sometimes literally. What we are seeing is more and more young families with children elect high rise or townhouse living to be in town. Houston Independent School District is uneven, to say the least, so private school tuition is through the roof (not our issue in a direct way, our children are adults, but still an issue for every citizen).

This may not seem like a big deal to folks in the NE, but it is huge for Houston. The wife and I and all of our friends have long since sold our stand alone, traditional homes, pocketed the money and moved either to high rises or townhomes.

This is a sea change for Houstonians. In the out years, I wonder if our burbs are sustainable, given the commute. Effective mass transit is decades away.

The footnote--which does not bode well for Houston--is that our roads and streets inside the Beltway were designed for single family home population density. Apartment, condo, high rise and town home construction is flooding the streets. Traffic everywhere is heavily congested, no matter where you live and regardless of time of day.

For Houston--which is the financial and energy nerve center of Texas--there is a real issue of sustainability. Whether our local and state leaders are up to the task is a very open question.

Oh, and we have a sh*tload of potholes. Many serve as water retention ponds and have their own ecosystems.

This may not seem like a big deal to folks in the NE

The beltway in Boston has expanded from about 10 miles out of town to about 25 miles out of town during my 30 years here. So, from route 128, to route 495, and now beyond that in the western burbs.

I grew up near NYC, last time I drove through that area the rush hour zone had expanded to the Tappan Zee Bridge, 25 miles north of Manhattan.

Welcome to your future. Make sure you figure out where your water is gonna come from, and where you're gonna put your trash.

I've noticed a reverse trend in Boston, though, since the real-estate slump and the beginning of the recession. Tech firms are moving back into Cambridge and Boston in a big way, probably because the rents went down a little, and so they can get at recent university graduates who don't necessarily have cars and don't want them.

The change came a little too late for me: I struggled for years to commute out to distant suburban office parks without driving every day, and finally gave in, decided I was stuck driving everywhere and moved to the I-495 belt, only to discover that the interesting job listings were moving back into the city core.

The public transit system needs serious work, too. Boston is in a better situation than someplace like Houston because it's actually got an extensive network. But the subways and buses have been underfunded and neglected for too long.

I've noticed a reverse trend in Boston, though, since the real-estate slump and the beginning of the recession.

That's a good point. Or, what I (think I) see happening in Boston is that the tech industry is congealing around a few spots, with much of the most interesting work - technically innovative - centered around Boston and Cambridge.

McK's comments reminded me of a conversation I had with a guy on RedState some years back. He was from OK, and was proud of the fact that the southwest was attracting so many people.

And the big cities in the southwest were going to be different, he said. They weren't going to give up their car culture, they weren't going to go nuts with regulation like those old northeastern cities, etc.

My comment to him was, basically, wait a few years, and we'll see what happens when you start getting very large populations with minimal infrastructure. Let me know how car culture and big city regulation looks to you then.

Houston's already a genuinely large city, and has been for a while, I'm somewhat surprised they aren't on top of this already. But, they've been seeing growth at something like twice the general rate of population growth nationwide, so it may have just gotten ahead of them.

People do what they want to do, and it appears that people want to move to Houston. The city will either have to build a wall around itself, or deal with it. What "deal with it" will look like will likely not resemble Manhattan, but it also ain't gonna look like the wide open frontier, either.

Same deal for all the other southwest and sunbelt places that everybody is flocking to. Rick Perry wants everybody up here to move to TX, it's only going to get worse.

Same deal for all the other southwest and sunbelt places that everybody is flocking to. Rick Perry wants everybody up here to move to TX, it's only going to get worse.

One thing we are seeing is major companies moving in and setting up in the burbs instead of downtown. We have HOV lanes, buses and the very faint impression of a train system that has 7 miles of track. We can't go underground because our water table is so high. Probably, eventually, we will elevate a train system. By then, if we haven't decentralized, it will be a nightmare. We plan on bailing, at least for the most part, in 6 years. I turn 60 next month, and plan to work another six years. Then, see ya.

McTX:

I know that in Atlanta there's a considerable racial element to the reluctance to extend mass transit enough to be truly useful. This is an effective block in part because Atlanta is a multi-county city, so it's easy (inevitable) that the counties struggle against each other over the issue.

Do racial factors also come into play in Houston? Does the fact that it's a one-county city help, or not make any effective difference?

Do racial factors also come into play in Houston? Does the fact that it's a one-county city help, or not make any effective difference?

I doubt it. First, Houston and Harris County are multiracial and folks get along pretty well. There are discrete areas that are predominantly African American or Hispanic; however, most of these are fairly close to downtown and are served by our bus system, which is fairly extensive.

The real obstacle is that Houston, like Dallas, has enormous suburbs running from south of Houston and sweeping roughly 220 degrees to northeast of Houston. These suburbs are partially in Harris County (Houston) but also extend significantly into Galveston, Waller, Ft. Bend, Brazoria and Montgomery Counties. We do not have any kind of regional transportation authority that can tax across county lines. Our legislature would need to enact something and a lot of folks would have their hand in the pot. Something similar probably needs to be done in Dallas as well.

The burbs are majority anglo, but there is a plurality across racial and ethnic lines such that 'all white' is simply not a factor. You may be aware that Houston's very popular mayor is a lesbian. I know folks have their views about Texas. In Houston, attitudes toward race, sexual orientation and whatnot match economic philosophy: laissez faire. I can't speak for Dallas other than to say I'd rather have my face removed than to live there. East Texas remains the land of the redneck and I have little in the way of kind words for that venue.

I know folks have their views about Texas. In Houston, attitudes toward race, sexual orientation and whatnot match economic philosophy: laissez faire.

FWIW, this is pretty much my impression. From afar, natch, but even so.

I know a number of folks who are from there or have spent a lot of time there, and the vibe seems to be do your thing.

I can't speak for Dallas other than to say I'd rather have my face removed than to live there.

LOL.

It may or may not comfort you to know that there's no shortage of rednecks up here in the chilly north, either.

"Same deal for all the other southwest and sunbelt places that everybody is flocking to. Rick Perry wants everybody up here to move to TX, it's only going to get worse."

Krugman referred to this article about the Texas economy a few days ago. On population movement, the article says the net influx was about 80,000 from 2010-2011. 440,000 entered and over 350,000 left.

Though obviously people up North are moving down South. My mother is in Nashville these days (moving there from Memphis, where I mostly grew up)--I get the impression a fair number of Northerners have moved down there. I could see retiring down South someday, if the local politics didn't drive me nuts. There's some Michele Bachmann type who is my mom's congresswoman--she's regularly disgusted by something this woman says almost every time I call.

I forgot to link the article. It's in the Washington Monthly.

The Texas miracle that isn't

Krugman referred to this article about the Texas economy a few days ago. On population movement, the article says the net influx was about 80,000 from 2010-2011. 440,000 entered and over 350,000 left.

If Krugman's abilities as a economist match the nifty quote above, that would explain a lot. Here's a link for those who like facts.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_U.S._states_by_population_growth_rate

As for the Washington Montly article, which is remarkably free of citations, you won't find a lot of articles in Texas dissing other states. We certainly have our issues, but our economy, particularly when you factor in our immigrant population features a relatively quite low cost of living and work. That's why so many people are coming here.

I suspect that the reason you find negative articles about Texas is this. Consider how you folks in Houston (or elsewhere in the state) regard the folks in Dallas. Then cube it.

People in other states are, in many cases, proud of their state. But they don't get loud and obnoxious about it to anywhere near the degree that Texans seem to.** So not only do Texans not dis other states, neither do the rest of us.

** Now it may be that it's just the loud-mouths in Dallas who are doing so. And the rest of Texas suffers for it. If so, all the rest of us can do is sympathize.

It pays to have a Governor who does the dissing for you.

Rick Perry -- the Traveling Ombudsman of Dissing

;)

McT--That wasn't a quote from Krugman. That was me summarizing one portion of the Washington Monthly article. I inadvertently left out one part--the migrants I was talking about were migrants from other parts of the US. You seem extremely eager to dismiss Krugman's views based on something he didn't say. Now if you want to dismiss my standing as an economist (which I'm not) based on my summary of what the Washington Monthly article said about net migration in and out of Texas (from other parts of the US), feel free.

Incidentally, your wikipedia link didn't conflict with the Washington Monthly article anyway, unless all that Texas population growth is supposed to be from migration from other parts of the US.

Incidentally, for those who want Census Bureau data, there's this--

link

Scroll on down and you'll find various estimates for migration into and out of Texas (and other states) from other parts of the US, and also from Texas to California and vice versa. The numbers look somewhat different from the Washington Monthly figures, but not drastically so. I'm guessing it's because my link is to an estimate of the 2010 flows, while presumably the Washington Monthly guy did more googling or digging than I did and perhaps found updated estimates.

Incidentally, I suppose this means Krugman's status as an economist, which was teetering on the brink based on my loose summary of one part of an article he cited, has been tentatively propped back up on its pedestal.

McTX:

I'm curious, what is the cultural or whatever difference between Houston & Dallas that you hate Dallas so much? From my distance, I tend to think of Texas as divided into "The People's Republic of Austin" and "Regular Texas" -- and I admit, a lot of my image of Regular Texas is from Dallas, the TV show.

In the last presidential election, the votes were split almost exactly 60/40 in both Dallas and Fort Worth. 60/40 Romney in Dallas. 60/40 Obama in Fort Worth.

I think that was Dallas and Tarrant counties, not just the cities.

I'm curious, what is the cultural or whatever difference between Houston & Dallas that you hate Dallas so much

*Hate* is a bit strong. Generally, Dallas folks--not Ft. Worth--tend to regard themselves highly, "Dallas lawyers" have a state-wide reputation for being difficult. I happened to be a family lunch yesterday with some cousins who live in Ft. Worth. One is with a CPA firm that has a Dallas and Housotn branch. He reported the cultures from Ft. Worth and Houston blend well, Dallas not at all. It is difficult to describe--snobbish, self-important, along those lines.

Texas is big and people are different around the state. East Texas is really an extension of rural Arkansas and Louisiana--with a few exceptions, not my cup of tea. South Texas, from Brownsville along the Rio Grande to El Paso and inland to San Antonio has a huge Hispanic influence. The polar opposite from East Texas and a pleasant place to work and live. I have a fair amount of cases in South Texas and enjoy getting down there. I have plenty of cases in Dallas and East Texas, but that is just work.

Central Texas and the Hill Country is like a rural extension of Houston, people go their own way, are friendly, more eclectic and varied than Houston. We will retire in Spicewood TX, about 25 miles northwest of Austin. The Spicewood meme is "just west of Weird". The Austin meme is "keep Austin weird". My largest client at the moment is the State's coastal windstorm insurer of last resort. I am in Austin at least one day a week. It's a great city. The people there are leftish, but great fun. They revel in their eccentricity.

...loud and obnoxious about it to anywhere near the degree that Texans seem to.

To prove that his land is bigger than a Tennessee farm, the Texas rancher bragged, "My ranch is so big that I can get in my pickup and drive all day and all night, and still not leave it!" The Tennessee farmer responded, "I know what you mean. I have an old broken-down truck, too."

Forth Worth is where the West begins. Dallas is where the East peters out.

People in other states are, in many cases, proud of their state. But they don't get loud and obnoxious about it to anywhere near the degree that Texans seem to

I have to ask - do you know any New Yorkers? I mean way downstate folks, folks down by NYC. Upstate is a different vibe.

And I ask as a native son.

Forth Worth is where the West begins. Dallas is where the East peters out.

Pretty much, though I haven't run into any Easterners who remind me of Dallas.

Dallas is sort of the western edge of the American South. At the turn of the last century, Dallas was one the world's largest cotton centers. At the time, about 20% of the world's cotton was produced within 160 miles of Dallas.

I have to ask - do you know any New Yorkers? I mean way downstate folks, folks down by NYC.

Are you implying that NYC isn't "The City," standing alone in containing anything worthwhile - an island of civilization in the sea of rubes, wanna-bes, hicks and other lessers that is the rest of the world? (Not that I know any New Yorkers...)

Are you implying that NYC isn't "The City,"

It ain't really pizza if it doesn't have a flat crust, and isn't purchased by the slice from either a street vendor or a storefront joint.

It ain't really a pickle unless it's dill, garlic dill, half-sour, or new.

Real pretzels don't have mustard on them, and real hot dogs aren't "dragged through the garden", for cripes' sake.

It ain't really a bagel if it's in the freezer case. And by god, anything with a raisin in it is no bagel - that's a muffin, even if it has a hole in it.

Bridges and tunnels are for losers.

Russell, the New Yorkers I know are (most of them) on the loud side. And arguably obnoxious -- at least a few of them, and depending on one's standards. But they don't tend to be loud and obnoxious about New York. (Or even about New York City.) Whereas Texans . . . .

It ain't really a bagel if it's in the freezer case. And by god, anything with a raisin in it is no bagel..

True. Even for a Cantabrigian.

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