The agenda for Tuesday's City Council Meeting is out and the developers for the Hidden Canyon warehouse project have pulled their item for consideration by the council. The schedule looks relatively light but they will be holding an Economic Development Workshop. I'm not sure exactly what they will be discussing but I wouldn't be surprised to hear about Mello-Roos and alternative financing. They also might talk about the general plan.
On this Sunday's Beaumont Hangout Agenda review, we will look at the city's general plan and discuss how we can improve it.
In our recent Beaumont Hangout, John and I discussed the economic forecasting and consulting provided, for a fee, by Dr. John Husing to The City of Beaumont. Dr. Husing is also hired by most of the local governments in the Inland Empire and has an impressive resume. We talked about a report he produced for WRCOG (Western Riverside Council of Government) and a similar one for SANBAG (San Bernardino Association of Governments). Dr. Husing has a PH.D. in Economics and his advice is a driving force in the development of the City Council’s policy to use amendments to the City’s general plan to change land use zoning in order to prioritize the development of multi-million dollar warehouses and distribution centers over services to support the 30,000 newer residents of Beaumont.
I learned a lot about what is driving Dr. Husing to recommend warehouse and distribution center development to his clients by ignoring the tables and charts and reading his own words.
On his personal LinkedIn page, I found the following:
John Husing, Ph.D. is a regional economist trained at Claremont Graduate University who has studied California’s economy for 49 years. Of late, the focus of his work has been on the clash between regulatory policy in California that is shutting off the growth of jobs in fields like construction, manufacturing and logistics needed by marginally educated workers to access the middle class. He sees this as contributing to the dramatic increase in the number and share of the state’s people living in poverty with all of the public health and social implications that this entails. There is a social justice component to this difficulty in that the problem is falling disproportionately on the state’s Hispanic population.
Now read his conclusion in the WRCOG report:
Unless today’s leaders of the Inland Empire are willing to have a permanent and growing underclass with the public health and social justice issues that this creates, they must undertake a concerted effort to address the socio-economic issues emerging in the region. This will not be easy given the current overwhelming emphasis on environmental regulation, despite its lower importance in determining public health, and the fact that most discussion of employment growth revolves primarily around creating jobs for the well-educated.
I don’t have a Ph.D. but I do have a Bachelor’s in Economics from UCLA and an MBA from the University of Redlands. I’m not going to question Dr. Husing’s motive, but after looking at the charts and tables in his report, I see socio-economic issues in Beaumont that, in my opinion, aren’t going to be solved by distribution centers and increased truck traffic.
The SANBAG report shows Beaumont, one of the fastest growing cities in the state over the last 10 years with the 11th highest median income ($67,848) in the IE. However, Beaumont is ranked 33 out of 52 cities in the IE in per capita sales tax revenue and has the third highest percentage (67%) of home mortgages underwater and a median home price of $249,000, only Adelanto and Coachella have a higher percentage of mortgages underwater. If we continue to follow Dr. Husing’s direction, we will build more warehouses with relatively low paying jobs; bring more truck traffic into our neighborhoods; add air pollutants to what is already one of the poorest air quality regions in the country. It will become harder and harder to find families willing to pay higher home prices, weakening our housing market. With the current council’s vision in place, homebuyers are going to expect a discount to live near warehouses and have big rigs in their neighborhoods.
Dr. Husing stresses the importance of sales tax revenue, a healthy environment and a strong housing market. As I previously stated, I don’t have a Ph.D. but it doesn’t even take a BA in economics to realize his theory that we need to promote “growth of jobs in fields like construction, manufacturing and logistics needed by marginally educated workers to access the middle class” may make sense in other IE communities, but in Beaumont, it will not address the issues our families are facing. It will not increase sales tax revenue; improve the health of our environment; or improve our housing market.
We need a new direction. We need to promote the businesses and industries that will provide the services our sales taxes are paying for elsewhere. We need more healthcare facilities. We need more institutions of higher education not less educated citizens. We should focus on building a technology industry in Beaumont. A general plan that prioritizes these industries over the logistics industry will not only bring workers that will be able to purchase homes and improve our weak housing market. It will provide better opportunities for our kids. We should focus on building a community that not only attracts families here but also gives our families reasons to stay.
We need a new general plan.