Who Gets the Favors?

The Virginian-Pilot
Monday, July 19, 1999

New ways of looking how we grow and develop are rare. But I think I’ve found one. It’s the “favored quarter” theory.

Myron Orfield, a state representative from Minneapolis, talks about it in his book, Metropolitics, (Brookings 1998).

In every metropolitan area, Orfield says, there is usually one chunk of the region that is receiving the lion’s share of private investment. Here is where the expensive new homes are going, the new offices and the new shopping centers.

Orfield calls it “The Favored Quarter.”

Now here’s the kicker . Not only is this favored quarter getting most of the private investment, it’s also getting most of the public investment. Here is where is going the lion’s share of new roads, sewers, schools and libraries.

Making Elections Matter

During the six presidential races in my adult lifetime, I’ve lived in three states – Virginia, Massachusetts and New York – that collectively have 31 million people and 58 electoral votes.

But despite all this political muscle, I can’t recall ever seeing a campaign ad by Reagan, a local appearance by Carter or a policy spin by Dukakis. No, each presidential race has been like a distant battle, watched with interest but not something I was a part of.

Why is this the case, given the populous, wealthy states I have lived in? Because our nation has something called the Electoral College, an antiquated system designed in the 18th century for reasons immaterial to our goals now. During the last election, we heard the machinery of this system grind and spark for more than a month, before it crankily spat out a “winner.”