15 February 2006
Smaller hole, bigger donut?
This Michael Bates "side note" carries more weight than you'd think:
I was at a political event a few weeks ago and met Tom Kimball, the head of economic development for Owasso. He told me that right now, about half the population of the metro area lives within the City of Tulsa, and half without. He said that it's natural for the center city to become an even smaller proportion of the metro area, and pointed to St. Louis as an example. I thought, but didn't say, that Tulsa tripled its land area in 1966 precisely to avoid getting hemmed in by its suburbs. I forget the exact number he quoted me, but I believe he suggested that Tulsa shouldn't complain about ending up at around a quarter to a third of the metro area population.
The city of St. Louis has much less than a quarter to a third of the St. Louis Metro population: St. Louis County alone, which has been separate from the city of St. Louis for 125 years or so, has three times the population of the city. What the Census Bureau considers the St. Louis Metropolitan Statistical Area includes 2.75 million people; just over one million live in St. Louis County, and about 340,000 live in St. Louis City. This gives the city about an eighth of the metro area. More to the point, the city of St. Louis literally cannot expand: it's completely surrounded. Any population growth has to come within the original 61 square miles.
There's no particular rule of thumb for the proportion of the metro area population which lives in the central city: nearly two-thirds of the 1.6 million people in the San Antonio metro live in the city of San Antonio. (The figure in Oklahoma City is just under one-half.) Ultimately, what matters is the growth of the city relative to the growth of the suburbs. And this is a major issue in Tulsa, because the city isn't growing: the population of the city of Tulsa fell by 10,000 between 2000 and 2004. Not even St. Louis is shrinking that fast. For critics of Tulsa city government, who have suggested that the power structure is enriching Tulsa suburbs at the expense of city taxpayers, this could well constitute a call to arms.Posted at 8:13 AM to Soonerland