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The coming blue-city exodus

The coming blue-city exodus
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While the election isn’t until November 3, it looks like lots of people and businesses are, in a sense, “voting” early — with their feet.

In pre-pandemic January, I wrote here about the blue-state exodus in which thousands of blue-state residents, fed up with high taxes, heavy regulations and “woker-than-thou” policies, are fleeing the sinking blue ships and moving to red states. Now it appears we are seeing a blue-city exodus as well.

Begin with the fact that virtually every large city in the country is run by liberals. World Population Review lists the 20 most liberal U.S. cities, with San Francisco leading the way, followed by Washington, DC, Seattle, Oakland, Boston, Minneapolis, Detroit and New York City. Chicago comes in at 11 and Portland at 12. 

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According to the Review, liberal cities tend to place “greater value on social justice, ensuring access to healthcare, regulating economic activity, and social equality.” And, of course, higher taxes.

Noticeably absent among liberal-city priorities is peace, safety, order and respect for private property.

Most of the country’s largest cities are besought with problems, from rising crime rates, budget challenges, poor public schools — and now riots that include looting, arson, property damage and increasingly shootings. 

The result is that businesses, especially those located in or near the riot zones, are looking to move.

Greg Goodman, co-president of Portland’s Downtown Development Group, recently sent Portland Mayor Ted Wheeler a letter — or should I say a warning?

“A larger number of businesses are moving out of or locating outside of the Central City. These companies include, Daimler Chrysler (subleasing 100k SF), AirB&B, Banana Republic, Microsoft (80k SF, plus permanently closing their retail store), Saucebox, etc.. Google, who leased 90k SF in the Macy's building has stopped construction of their improvements.”

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Goodman goes on to tell the mayor and the city council:

“You are doing an excellent of enabling people who don't know or care about George Floyd to ransack our city at the expense of the people you are trying to help. Think how many jobs have been lost by people of color in our city, not through protest, but from vandalism.”

“Enabling” may be an understatement. Mayor Wheeler, like so many woke Democrats, has been out encouraging and participating in the riots — though he apparently has begun to walk back his support now that protesters are showing up at his home

Or consider Peter Rex, who is moving his $1.5 billion tech-driven investment organization, Rex Teams, from Seattle to Texas. He recently wrote in the Wall Street Journal, “Both cities [San Francisco and Seattle] with governments dominated by cryptosocialists, are notorious for enacting policies that raise the price of housing, drive out jobs and punish innovative companies in ways that hurt workers.”  

In Texas, job creators are lauded, not looted.

It’s not a new trend, just a growing one. Two years ago the San Francisco Business Times reported, “The list of companies expanding elsewhere, or actually moving their Bay Area headquarters out of state, reads like a growing casualty count as the region’s business and civic leaders grapple with these quality-of-life issues.”

Those “quality-of-life issues” have only gotten worse — much worse. 

Housing markets are also reflecting the growing blue-city dissatisfaction. Zillow CEO Richard Barton recently told CNBC that online shopping traffic for homes for sale is up 50 percent year over year. “What we’re seeing is a lot of dissatisfaction with where people are living right now.” Most of the searches are for single-family homes, outside of the downtown areas.

Rex Real Estate, a website that allows people to buy and sell homes, told the Wall Street Journal in June, “buyer interest in small metro areas is outpacing large metro areas by 52%. It has also seen a 173% increase in New York buyers considering homes in Orlando compared to this time in 2019.”

In addition, the Big Apple’s apartment vacancy rate hit a 14-year high, and increased by 50 percent in San Francisco. 

Edward J. Pinto and Tobias Peter of the American Enterprise Institute report, “When broken out by density, across the nation, the least dense ZIP codes grew at almost twice the rate of the densest ones,” including New York, Los Angeles, San Francisco, Seattle, and Washington, D.C. 

Some of these moves will just be from the liberal big city to the suburbs, which tend to be more moderate or conservative.

But other people will take the opportunity to flee not just a blue city but a blue state, and head to a red state where their safety and property will be protected — and most elected officials denounce violence and riots rather than excuse them.

Merrill Matthews is a resident scholar with the Institute for Policy Innovation in Dallas, Texas. Follow him on Twitter @MerrillMatthews.