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September 20, 2007

The Amazing Disappearing Act

There's a well-written editorial that came my way today from Warren Smith of the Charlotte World. In it he discusses how city-planners have encouraged the good folk of Charlotte, North Carolina to look to Portland, Oregon as a model for city-planning. Despite Portland's ability to draw what some label as the creative class, something is notably missing in this urban wonderland. That is the children. Warren quotes Timothy Egan from a recent piece in the New York Times, saying:

"'Crime is down. New homes and businesses are sprouting everywhere. But in what may be Portland's trendiest and fastest-growing neighborhood, the number of school-age children grew by only three between the census counts in 1990 and 2000, according to demographers at Portland State University,' he wrote.

"Egan then comes to a conclusion that Charlotte should heed:  'Portland is one of the nation's top draws for the kind of educated, self-starting urbanites that midsize cities are competing to attract. But as these cities are remodeled to match the tastes of people living well in neighborhoods that were nearly abandoned a generation ago, they are struggling to hold on to enough children to keep schools running and parks alive with young voices.'

"One of the main reasons for this childless Utopia is the price of housing.   According to Egan, San Francisco, with its Silicon Valley chic, is the very poster child of the New Economy to which Charlotte aspires.  But it has a median house price of about $700,000 - and the lowest percentage of people under 18 of any large city in the nation, 14.5 percent.  That compares to 25.7 percent nationwide, according to the 2000 census."

Read the full article here. Maybe Charlotte's mayor and our own should act with the foresight of this Russian mayor.

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Hmmm - just outside of Portland, where my family and I live, they can't build schools fast enough. Now, part of that (or maybe much of it) is due to immigration. But it makes me wonder if the Pearl District would even be possible without all the PDX families - with children - who live just outside of town.

On the other hand, the point is well taken: it may be very short-sighted to redesign a city to appeal to a group who will probably leave as soon as they have children.

Mark Larson

Thanks for that piece, Catherine. It saddens me that many couples these days look at having children more as an expense than a joy. Sure having kids is tough, it takes a lot of your time, it costs money, etc. But those are all sacrifices we make as parents. I'm not a parent but I plan on it one day as I believe the sacrifices are well worth the reward of children.

After all, didn't Christ Himself sacrifice all for His children? Something to think about.

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