Thursday, January 24, 2013

RICHARD GREENE: Things you may not know about Arlington and Texas

All of the following 15 well known cities have something in common. Do you know what it is? New Orleans, Tampa, Anaheim, Honolulu, St. Louis, Pittsburgh, Cincinnati, Newark, Buffalo, Orlando, Norfolk, Lubbock, Reno, Scottsdale, Birmingham.

The answer is at the end of today’s column but don’t look before you think it over and then see if you are right.

We live in a really remarkable city in a really remarkable state. Most of us just routinely accept our good fortune and go about our business. That includes being the beneficiaries of the things that make us different and often better than what is available in lots of other places.

Texas continues to lead the nation in population growth. We are the second largest – only California is bigger – and the fastest growing. Now with more than 26 million people, some 600,000 were added in the last year.

That’s more people than live in the entire state of Wyoming – just in the number added to Texas in the past year.
Richard Greene
There are 15 states with fewer people than the number who live in Texas’ largest city.

There are 33 states with fewer people than the number who live in the Dallas-Arlington-Fort Worth region.

Our region, with a population now exceeding 6.6 million, is the fourth largest urban area in the country and the fastest growing of them all.

Only the urban areas of New York, Los Angeles, and Chicago are larger and we are gaining on them all.

And, the growth is not expected to slow down. The Texas Office of the State Demographer projects that Texas could increase to 50 million by 2040.

More than half that growth will be a continuation of people moving here from all over the country. In-migration reflects economic opportunity and quality of life that simply cannot be found in lots of other places.

We are also a young state. More than a fourth of our population is under the age of 18 and only ten percent of us are older than 65.

We are a family oriented state. Texas ranks third among all states for the percent of households that consist of married couple families with children. That is also the same position we hold among all states of households that are multigenerational – those with children who enjoy living with parents and grandparents.

Growth among Hispanics is also a significant part of what is happening. The State Demographer says it will only take about another ten years for that segment of our population to become the largest among all ethnicities.

That could also foretell a change in Texas’ political makeup. Today ours is among the reddest of the all the country’s red states.

Right now it takes the national news networks about five minutes to declare Republicans as winners across the entire state on any election night.

Republicans control every statewide elected office and hold significant majorities in both houses of the state legislature. Our Republican governor is the longest serving in Texas history and currently the longest serving governor of any state.

Of the 36 members of the U. S. House of Representatives from Texas, 24 are Republicans. Both senators are Republicans.

The last time Texas voters cast a majority of their ballots for a Democrat presidential candidate was 36 years ago.

Our strong conservative leanings are profoundly reflected in the current debate over guns. Our attorney general, who is a likely candidate for governor someday soon, placed an ad in New York papers last week following that state’s adoption of new gun control laws.

It read – “Keep your guns. Come to Texas. You’ll be able to keep more of what you earn (because Texas has no income tax) and use the extra money to buy more ammo.”

As for Arlington’s part in the great state, we continue to be ranked by the U. S. Census bureau at or near the position of the 50th largest in the country.

That means there are 22 states without as many people as the number who live here. There are 40 state capitals smaller than Arlington.

Which brings us to the answer to the question posed in the opening paragraph above. All of those immediately recognizable cities are smaller than Arlington. They are ranked in order from New Orleans with a population of 360,740 to Birmingham with 212,413.

My guess is that if you asked audiences in any of these cities if they know about Arlington, only sports fans would say they are aware of us – assuming the national sportscasters quit misidentifying Rangers and Cowboys games as being played in Dallas.

It is our ever-lasting benefit to be centered between two big Texas cities but to our ever-lasting frustration that being so denies us an identity.

I once said that Arlington is nobody’s damn suburb. It’s truer all the time.

Richard Greene is a former Arlington mayor, served as an appointee of Pres. George W. Bush as Regional Administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency, and currently is an adjunct professor in UT Arlington’s Graduate School of Urban and Public Affairs.

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