Its not often we get to read a classic Kotkin vilification side by side with a rebuttal. And in this case the opposing op-ed cites Kotin in rebuttal of Kotkin (links below). Too much fun!
So many posts about Kotkin or Portland for that matter inspire tedious, reductionist, tit-for-tat arguments here and elsewhere. For the moment let's set aside Kotkin's use of straw man arguments and shaky demographic assertions (E.g. Did you know that Latino's are choosing Metros in the Southwest over Portland because the City of Roses is overrun with that darned Creative Class?)
Let's focus instead in the one useful question he asks: "Can a city survive -- and thrive -- primarily as a marketer of an urban experience?" I think his effort to answer that question misses the mark. The City of Portland (which by way of full disclosure I lived in until last year) functions as a part of a region. Can we instead ask whether or not a region can survive---and thrive---without a marketer of an urban experience at its core?
The irony in all of this is that we've seen generations of white flight and middle class exodus from central cities, with market oriented development being offered as the answer. Kotkin vilifies Portland, a central city that has found a highly marketable niche in the regional and national economy, for being too successful.
A very wise man once said to me that the places that would succeed in the 21st century would be the ones that were super dense or super sprawled. The ones who tried to have it both ways would fail. Here though is where I start getting squeamish as it raises the question of whether cities are for people to grow and prosper, or simply for generating tax dollars for places which presumably “trickle down” to people in terms of services. That's appears to be the dynamic we created in the postwar US by telling people to “vote with their feet” and “comparison shop” local governments.
Should we just accept that some central cities will play this role of capturing the creative class for their respective regional economies which then grows up and moves to the suburbs just like much of the middle class in a Detroit or Baltimore? Or is the loss of school age populations in “creative-class dependent” central cities something that will rebound if and when the housing market finally slows down?
I’m glad I’m in Appalachia now where I can ponder such “big-city doings” with some measure of detachment.
• Portland: lost in its own reflection
Few cities in North America are as widely feted as Portland. For many, Portland represents the epitome of "smart" urbanism, a paragon that puts other, less-brainy places to shame.
• Which Joel Kotkin to believe: the scoffer or the booster?
Joel Kotkin is a gifted writer, glib and provocative. In the rush to have something to say that's new and interesting, he doesn't let facts, or even his own previous views, get in his way.