Mobility Fee Moratorum an Epic Fail?

September 20, 2012 33 comments Open printer friendly version of this article Print Article

September's version of the "On Numbers Economic Index," which measures the economic health of 102 major metropolitan areas, doesn't have good things to say about Jacksonville when compared to other cities in Florida and across the nation. Such data tends to suggest that the mobility plan moratorium, intended to spur economic development locally, has epically failed.

The On Numbers Economic Index is calculated once a month, based on the latest official statistics for all U.S. metropolitan areas with estimated populations above 500,000. The index is designed to show the relative economic strength of those 102 major metros.  All raw data come from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics and the Federal Housing Finance Agency, and are the latest available figures as of the second Monday of the current month.

Metropolitan Areas Ranked by Economic Health

1. Oklahoma City

2. Austin

3. Omaha

4. Pittsburgh

5. Denver

6. Houston

7. Columbus

8. Tulsa

9. Boston

10. Little Rock, AR

11. San Antonio

12. Durham, NC.

13. Charleston, S.C.

14. Dallas-Fort Worth

15. Cincinnati

16. Portland, ME

17. San Jose

18. Louisville

19. Nashville

20. Honolulu

21. Des Moines, IA

22. Washington, DC

23. Scranton-Wilkes-Barre, PA

24. Albany, NY

25. Ogden, UT

26. Buffalo

27. Salt Lake City

28. Akron, OH

29. Indianapolis

30. Wichita, KS

31. Rochester, NY

32. Raleigh

33. Baton Rouge, LA

34. Toledo

35. New Orleans

36. Harrisburg, PA

37. El Paso

38. Lancaster, PA

39. Knoxville

40. Provo, UT

41. Seattle

42. Portland, OR

43. Boise, ID

44. San Francisco-Oakland

45. Richmond

46. Grand Rapids

47. Phoenix

48. Minneapolis-St. Paul

49. San Diego

50. Cleveland

51. Madison, WI

52. Chattanooga

53. McAllen-Edinburg, TX

54. Columbia, SC

55. St. Louis

56. Charlotte

57. New York City

58. Bakersfield, CA

59. Poughkeepsie, NY

60. Birmingham

61. Milwaukee

62. Syracuse

63. Baltimore

64. Bridgeport-Stamford, CT

65. Kansas City

66. Springfield, MA

67. Allentown-Bethlehem, PA

68. Philadelphia

69. Worcester, MA

70. Detroit

71. Fresno, CA

72. Sacramento

73. Tucson

74. Youngstown, OH

75. Greenville, SC

76. Jackson, MS

77. Modesto, CA

78. Hartford

79. New Haven, CT

80. Dayton, OH

81. Greensboro, NC

82. Albuquerque

83. Atlanta

84. Virginia Beach-Norfolk

85. Stockton, CA

86. Los Angeles

87. Memphis

88. Cape Coral-Fort Myers

89. Chicago

90. Miami-Fort Lauderdale

91. Orlando

92. Augusta, GA

93. Providence

94. Lakeland

95. Palm Bay-Melbourne

96. Oxnard-Thousand Oaks, CA

97. Sarasota-Bradenton

98. Las Vegas

99. Jacksonville

100. Tampa-St. Petersburg

101. Riverside-San Bernandino, CA

102. Colorado Springs

Florida Metropolitan Areas: 1-Year Private-Sector Job Growth

1. Tampa-St. Petersburg (+1.95%)

2. Orlando (+1.11%)

3. Lakeland (+1.10%)

4. Miami-Fort Lauderdale (+0.91%)

5. Palm Bay-Melbourne (+0.54%)

6. Sarasota-Bradenton (+0.62%)

7. Jacksonville (+0.47%)

8. Cape Coral-Fort Myers (+0.37%)

Source: On Numbers Economic Index

For one to claim that the mobility fee moratorium was a success, any improvement in Jacksonville's economy should be weighted with the economic conditions of cities across the state and country that may have not enacted similar policies to encourage economic development in their communities.  Anything less is a little more than hot air. Assuming Jacksonville saw a spike in growth compared to other communities over the course of the year, one could make an argument that the moratorium could have been a possible reason.  The fact that Jacksonville continues to lag behind 98 of 102 cities on the "On Numbers Economic Index" list and St. Johns County's growth continuing to pull away from Duval County's suggest otherwise.  

LA Fitness' new Atlantic Beach location.  LA Fitness' move into the region, opening multiple locations within and outside of the City of Jacksonville suggests their decision to come to the area had nothing to do with Jacksonville's mobility plan moratorium.

Since the mobility fee has no impact on market  feasibility and bank financing for private sector development, one could even make the case that the moratorium is a negative on economic growth because what it does is kill local job creation stimulated by public capital improvement projects, funded by the mobility fee.  After all, not everyone in Jacksonville works for the Toney Sleimans of the development world. Those 7-11s, Wendys and LA Fitness' are coming to Jacksonville and thousands of other cities regardless of if they have an impact fee or not. Their proformas rely on market and demographic numbers being ripe for their product not impact fee moratoriums that stick taxpayers with the full brunt of funding public infrastructure capacity improvements.

7-Eleven's move into North Florida has resulted in it opening just as many stores outside of the City of Jacksonville as in it.  In addition, many of Jacksonville's 7-Eleven locations are located in existing structures or redevelopment sites (higher mobility fees are typically associated with new or greenfield construction).  This suggests that 7-Eleven's Jacksonville expansion plans have nothing to do with the mobility fee moratorium as well.

In addition, from Oklahoma City to Charlotte, cities that tend to invest in themselves typically are places where that investment directly stimulates more prosperity and investment from the private sector.  We've indicated in the past that you can't cut yourself to prosperity. However, you can make your community's quality of life so horrible that you eventually run off residents and businesses in the process. At some point, Jacksonville's leaders have to realize this if they truly want our community to succeed and live up to its potential.

What would be considered blasphemy in Jacksonville, Oklahoma City is in the process of demolishing their downtown freeway and replacing it with a mile long urban park.  A streetcar line is also planned.  Mobility strategies and public investments like these have directly led to economic growth and job creation in their community.

Oklahoma has a radical solution for repairing the state's busiest highway.
Tear it down. Build a park.

The aging Crosstown Expressway — an elevated 4.5-mile stretch of Interstate 40 — will be demolished in 2012. An old-fashioned boulevard and a mile-long park will be constructed in its place.

Oklahoma City is doing what many cities dream about: saying goodbye to a highway.

More than a dozen cities have proposals to remove highways from downtowns. Cleveland wants to remove a freeway that blocks its waterfront. Syracuse, N.Y., wants to rid itself of an interstate that cuts the city in half.

"Highways don't belong in cities. Period," says John Norquist, who was mayor of Milwaukee when it closed a highway. "Europe didn't do it. America did. And our cities have paid the price."

Article by Ennis Davis