Dynamic U.S. Mayors: No Texas Leaders Made the Cut

You could say that either Politico didn’t look at the Lone Star State closely enough, or that we don’t have any mayors qualified enough to fit their bill.  And what exactly is that bill? Mayors who overcome the multitudes of negative dynamics facing our cities today. Who are these people, miracle workers? After you read the article, tell us what you think. I’m a little surprised they could not find ONE great mayor in Texas. But there definitely is a correlation between strong real estate markets and strong local leadership.

(And if that doesn’t make Dallas residents get off their butts to vote, I don’t know what will.)

All of these dynamic mayors are interesting people from diverse backgrounds — couple of Rhodes scholars in there — who are making their cities better places to live and buy homes. A few have higher political aspirations — as many have said our Dallas mayor Mike Rawlings did before President Trump messed up his plans. The thing is, all cities have problems and the mayor’s job is a tough one — balancing opposing voices, battling crime, violence, drugs and homelessness; attracting or creating affordable housing; spurring economic development and managing growth. Plus new battles have emerged since the presidential election, with immigration reform at the top. I think this quote from the profile of L.A. Mayor Eric Garcetti, who apparently has presidential aspirations, is almost a theme:

“My main job, and my overwhelming job, starts with my family, my street, my neighborhood and my city,” Garcetti told Politico’s Off Message podcast in May. “But I’m playing too much defense in my backyard to not get involved in the national discussion.”

That statement brings me to my argument of how Dallas hasn’t really done that very well over the last several years. Dallas has been a great regional player; in fact, more of our millennials are living in the suburbs and bedroom communities. But we have been neglectful in taking care of our own backyards: infrastructure, security, transportation and economic growth. It would be interesting to study further what these dynamic mayors have done to solve the aforementioned urban issues, and see if there are any applications for us.

These were the cities where Politico plucked great mayors: Los Angeles, Reno, San Diego, Louisville, Boston, Denver, Charlotte, Detroit, Miami, Salt Lake City, and Pittsburgh. Up and comers are to be found in New Orleans, Compton, Fort Bend, Ind., Cedar Rapids, Ia, Dayton, and Atlanta. I’ve been to most of these cities (except Louisville and Pittsburgh, haven’t been to Pittsburg since the late ’70s) and they are hoppin’. Love Salt Lake City (Snowbird!). Denver is to-die-for great. Miami is so vibrant you need almost need a nightly sleep aid. As for Reno, the city is amazing: I’d move there in a heartbeat. Their real estate market is going great guns, and they are a thirty minute drive to Lake Tahoe. Plus Nevada has no state income tax; it’s Texas without the “bathroom BS”.

Now let’s take a look at each city with (according to Politico) a fantastic mayor and check out the real estate health.

First of all, let’s go to Realtor.com and take the millennial pulse. Having a hefty millennial population is a positive stroke for a city. Millennials will settle, root, work, have families, buy homes and spend money for years to come. Boomers and the Greatest Generation will be winding down, earning and spending less, using more social services, so we want young blood.

Older millennials (25 to 34 years old) now represent the largest age demographic of prospective home buyers, according to monthly surveys conducted by Realtor.com. Since October (2016), older millennials represented 24 per cent of would-be home-buyers. The second largest home buying age group (23%) was the 34 to 44 year olds.

Realtor.com compiled views to home listings across the country to get a closer look at geographical preferences by age groups: “In this deeper dive, we look at the older millennial share of views compared to other age groups in order to better understand which markets are most popular with this influential demographic. We also looked to determine if older millennials tend to share interest in similar markets with other generational groups or whether their preferences are markedly different.”

Looking at this, we see overlap in only three cities Politico highlighted: Salt Lake City, Miami, and Los Angeles. 

What is a healthy share of millennials? The nationwide average is about 13% of the population, but what you are seeing above is cities where more than 13% of the population are millennials. In Salt Lake City, 16% of the population is comprised of millennials. Even the mayor of SLC went there to be a ski bum and stayed. Orlando, home of Disney, has more than 14% millennial population. And millennials still flock to San Francisco, Los Angeles and San Jose even though housing takes a huge bite out of their monthly income — 64.1% in LA, 56.2% in San Francisco, IF you can even find a place. Of all the cities on that hot millennial chart, Buffalo has the most affordable home prices.

By the way, Dallas has a healthy dose of millennials: 15% of the population in the region.  But they are not concentrated in the city, not at all:

In 2016, there were 1 million people aged 25-34 living in the Dallas region, accounting for 15 percent of the total population. Of those, fewer than a quarter live in the city of Dallas and about an eighth in the city of Fort Worth. Which means that roughly five-eighths of the age set — well more than half of the population — live in the sprawling suburbs and exurbs.

The Politico editors were probably looking for a larger millennial concentration in the city limits. Maybe they heard about our homeless problem, or our Dallas Police & Fire Pension issues. Maybe they heard the city is on the verge of bankruptcy?

Finally, the real estate market: just how good are these guys and gals when it comes to creating a robust real estate market? Pretty darn good, see below for 2017 Q 1.

Atlanta, Boston, Charlotte, Denver, Detroit, Miami, San Francisco and San Diego are all killing it as far as hot markets with upwardly mobile pricing, even double digits in the case of Seattle. And there we are, sixth on the list, home values up 8.6% from a year ago.

One Comment

  • Many of the cities ranked highly are gifted by location–seaside, mountains, major rivers and other natural geographical attractions. Los Angeles, Reno, San Diego, Boston, Denver, Miami, Detroit (?) and Salt Lake City all have the advantage(s) of proximity to an ocean, mountains and/or large waterways. Dallas sits in the middle of nothing insofar as ‘natural’ beauty. Even Houston is close to the Gulf. In addition, our form of city government severely limits actual power to the mayor. Given these circumstances, Mike Rawlings has done a fantastic job given the purview of his office. He is highly respected by his peers, his public speaking skills are outstanding, he represents the city around the country and across the globe with grace, distinction and diplomacy. Kudos to Mr. Rawlings for maximizing the tools given him to lead this city onward and upward.