ColumnistsGolden Years

Our Urban Exodus Begins

Living in major U.S. cities is becoming too chaotic, dangerous, stressful and expensive

By Harold Miller

‘Within the last year, over a half million people (many retirees) have moved from New York to Florida, and major business headquarters are following suit.’

Among the most durable of our institutions are the great American cities — built quickly from almost nothing across a vast continent into social and economic success.

Together we have built massive urban centers such as New York City, Boston, Philadelphia, Washington D.C., Atlanta, Chicago, Los Angeles, San Francisco and Seattle, to name some of our major centers of business, trade, education and entrepreneurism.

However, the Brookings Institution recently reported that the migration into these large metropolitan areas is now reversing and the cities are leaking people, mostly because of the high cost of living, including real estate and taxes.

Within the last year, over a half million people (many retirees) have moved from New York to Florida, and major business headquarters are following suit.

Beyond the economic exodus, many people feel that it is time to separate themselves and their families from the social and political violence going on in these cities.

New York City, for example, in June endured weeks of protests, marches, cherry bombs exploding day and night, shops looted and burned, and raging war between protesters and the police that were trying to maintain law and order. Many people have been injured while the protesters chant, “defund the police.” Believe it or not, the New York City Council has agreed to cut the police budget by $1 billion.

New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo issued a plaintive request to the daily street protesters: “You don’t have to protest — you won, you won.” Then he added:” What reform do you want? What do you want?

Meanwhile, the crimes and shootings skyrocketed elsewhere.

In California, the stage for this mayhem was set a few years ago when California decided to empty its mental institutions and let the patients live in the outside world or go back to their families. More recently, California legalized marijuana. The combination of these irresponsible actions drove the homeless, intoxicated people to create “tent cities” on multiple blocks of downtown streets in San Diego, Los Angeles, San Francisco.

Seattle became another victim of the protests who also took over city streets in June. Some of the protesters broke into stores, stole merchandise and burned buildings. A six-block area of downtown was created and cordoned off by a self-styled group called Capitol Hill Organized Protest (CHOP). The group declared this area of Seattle belonged to it. When Mayor Jenny Durkan was asked how long this mutiny might last, she replied, “I don’t know. We could have a Summer of Love.” The mayor soon reversed her attitude when a group of Black Lives Matter protesters marched to her home (spray painting her house in the process) to press their demands, which included completely defunding the Seattle Police Department. Finally, their actions infuriated the mayor and she issued an executive order for the police to disassemble the self-styled CHOP area.

The decision to re-take the CHOP area was inevitable and should serve as a cautionary lesson to other big-city leaders to never agree to “absurd” demands, according to Eugene O’Donnell, a professor of law and police studies at Manhattan’s John Jay College of Criminal Justice. He said, “You can’t run a government based on how loud people are shouting.”

The quality of the response, by both political and institutional urban leadership, to the pressure from these events has been so uniformly unproductive, it underwrites the fact that it is no longer advantageous to live in big cities.

The cost vs. benefit just is not working anymore.

The unhappy result is that young families and well-off retirees (those who pay the taxes) will leave and the metropolitan areas will become increasingly divided as upscale young people will be further divided and inner-city neighborhoods will fall further behind.

Beyond that it is becoming damned dangerous to live in our metropolitan cities.