Friday Roundup: Midwest boom towns, carbon tax, automation, California divides, and congestion pricing

There are always a few items we’ve read during the week that deserve more attention but don’t make it into our regular posts. So we bundle them for the Friday roundup.

Here’s this week’s bundle:

New Geography: The Midwest is Booming–Just Not Where You Think

The Midwest is booming, but not where you might think. Kansas City, Minneapolis, Indianapolis, Columbus, Grand Rapids, and Des Moines are the fastest-growing cities in the Midwest—lapping bigger hubs like Detroit, Cleveland, Buffalo, Pittsburgh, St. Louis, and even Chicago that are still suffering from stagnant economies and slow or even negative population growth.

America’s high-priced “superstar” cities are not about to be supplanted soon by Midwestern comeback towns. But the demographic evidence provides ample proof of shifting momentum since 2010. New York City’s population growth, impressive earlier in this decade, now ranks among the lowest in the nation. Brooklyn, the reinvented hipster capital, last year suffered its first population decline since 2006.

The Lens: Carbon tax initiative raises numerous questions

The new initiative is backed by groups such as Carbon Washington, which had previously supported I-732…

The Association of Washington Business is the state’s de facto chamber of commerce and  has yet to announce its stance on the initiative. However, Director of Government Affairs Mary Catherine McAleer told Lens there are concerns about how the tax could cause a “pyramid effect” similar to the state’s business and occupation (B&O) tax in which a single product can be taxed multiple times as part of the processing and shipping before it is sold.

“You end up with a finished good that has a cost embedded which didn’t create any more product,” she said. “It’s a regressive tax in that way.”

Seattle Times op-ed: Seattle, give congestion pricing a test drive

Seattle would likely benefit from congestion pricing, which charges fees to drivers entering downtown areas at peak periods, especially if the city uses the revenues to fund public transportation. But before the city is asked to vote on any congestion-pricing plan, residents should be allowed to experience congestion pricing through a seven-month trial period…

Democracy only works if voters understand what they are voting for, and in today’s political climate it is hard to know whom to trust. Seattle should run a seven-month congestion-price trial before having a referendum so voters can trust their own experiences.

Spokane Spokesman-Review: School districts, teachers in Washington prepare for summer of salary talks

When the Legislature added almost $1 billion to the pot for school employee salaries, they made life easier in some respects for school districts, and harder in others.

They all but guaranteed long bargaining sessions this summer, whether a district’s contracts with its teachers and other employee unions is due to expire or not. The whole system for paying school staff changed.

Orange County Register (Kotkin): California not the model for America it thinks it is

Economically, our state retains unquestioned areas of remarkable strength, notably in Silicon Valley as well as parts of coastal Southern California. But often overlooked are vast areas of underdevelopment, poverty and searing inequality, particularly in the interior. Overall, after a strong recovery from the recession, California’s GDP growth is now about the national average, well below that of prime competitors like Texas, Washington state, Ohio and even New York.

Route Fifty: Automation Presents Workforce Challenges–And Opportunities

Advances in technology will present challenges to the country’s labor workforce—but could also spark great opportunities, a panel of experts said Thursday at the AFL-CIO’s headquarters in the nation’s capital.

“I’m not here to say there aren’t things to worry about,” Michael Chui, a partner at the McKinsey Global Institute, said during the “Future of Work” event. “I actually think the grand challenge of the next couple of decades is not mass unemployment, but mass redeployment.”