Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Portsmouth, Ohio, and Westlake, Texas

[Portsmouth] politicians, like Jesse James, have been holding up tax payers,
especially homeowners, for a long time.

A Comparison of Portsmouth, Ohio, and Westlake, Texas

This is a tale of two cities, Portsmouth, Ohio, and Westlake, Texas. In most respects the two seem to have  nothing in common, but as I will show in a later posting, there is an important but somewhat puzzling link between Westlake and Portsmouth.
Among the things Portsmouth and Westlake don’t have in common is age. Incorporated in 1815, Portsmouth is almost two hundred years old. When Westlake was incorporated in the late 1950s, Portsmouth was already a hundred and sixty years old. Another thing they don’t have in common is population. The population of Portsmouth, though it has been shrinking for about a half century, is just over 20,000, which is twenty times larger than Westlake’s 1,000. But don’t judge a city’s vitality by the number of residents. Many Portsmouthers are old (like me), unemployed, and unemployable. A  number of them are on welfare. Westlake by contrast is known for the number of its residents who are millionaires.  In 2011, Forbes Magazine concluded that Westlake, with a median annual household income of $250,000, was the richest community in America. The estimated per capita income in Westlake is $125,000. The median household in 2009 was about $251,000.

Portsmouth, on the other hand, is one of the poorest cities in Ohio. The estimated per capita income in Portsmouth in 2009 was $17,089. In the last five years the median price of houses sold in Portsmouth, where the real estate market, like the local economy, has been sluggish for about a half century,  was about $60,000. In Westlake the median price of houses is just over $1,000,000. The unemployment rate in Portsmouth is currently at about 12%. The unemployment rate in Westlake is 6.3. (Before the Great Recession  hit in 2009, unemployment in Westlake was only 4.3.) In 2009,  33% of Portsmouth’s population lived below the poverty level. You would have trouble finding anyone in Westlake below the poverty level.

    The top employers in Westlake are financial services, with Fidelity Investments, the international financial conglomerate (headquartered in Boston) being the number one, and CoreLogic (aka First American) the number two employer. Westlake has no industry to speak of and is proud of it, boasting of its rural character, “an oasis with rolling hills, grazing longhorns, and soaring red-tailed hawks,” an oasis interspersed with “vibrant corporate campuses,” according to its official website. Westlake’s motto is “A premier knowledge-based community.” In keeping with that motto, corporations have campuses. There is the TD Auto (formerly Chrysler Financial Services) Campus; Fidelity Investment Campus; Solana Corporate Campus. The First American and CoreLogic “campus” is located on Campus Circle. This is academia with an acquisitive twist, because it’s all about money. Most employees in Westlake work with their heads rather than their hands, and their heads are good with figures.

Comparative Crime Rate Indexes for Westlake and Portsmouth

If there were a category for illegal drug use, and Oxycontin in particular,
 Portsmouth would be off the charts.

A comparative study of the 2010 crime rates of Westlake and Portsmouth are startling. You are eight times more likely to be the victim of a crime in Portsmouth than in Westlake, and you are sixteen more times likely to have your home or automobile broken into; five times more likely to be raped; and nine times more likely to be murdered in Portsmouth than Westlake. The burglary rate in Portsmouth as long time residents know is much higher than statistics indicate, because many burglaries go unreported, some victims feeling it’s a waste of time, because the police force—at least under chief Charles Horner—hardly seemed interested. If there were a category for illegal drug use, and Oxycontin in particular, Portsmouth would be off the charts.There was a mix-up in online national news when it  was reported that a suspicious character with a weapon arrived at a movie theater in Westlake a half hour early and sat in the back where he was suspected of positioning himself as if at a shooting gallery. It was assumed it was Westlake, Texas, perhaps because Glenn Beck had put the town in the news, but it turned out the town in question was Westlake, Ohio, just outside of Cleveland.

      As if Portsmouth’s crime statistics were not bad enough, an algorithm used by USA.com measures another kind of crime: hate crime. According to USA.com, hate crime in Portsmouth is twenty-two times the national average.

Crime Doesnt Pay in Westlake

Statistics indicate the crime rate in Westlake, Texas, is negligible. The chief law breakers in Westlake appear to be drivers. Westlake collects more traffic fines per capita than any other town in Texas. Portsmouth might help resolve some of its financial problems if, like Westlake, it cracked down on not just drug but also vehicular traffickers, of which it has plenty, including several on the city council. The streets of Portsmouth are more like the Wild West than the streets of Laredo. Concerned not about drivers but Occupy Wall Street radicals, Fox talk show host Glenn Beck sold his mansion in New Canaan, in the country club section of Connecticut, and moved his family to Westlake, where for $20,000 a month he rented a $4 million dollar mansion in a remote, gated, golf course development. He plans eventually to build a gated mansion of his own. If avoiding crime is his highest priority, he couldn’t have done better than Westlake or worse than Portsmouth, where the politicians, like Jesse James, have been holding up tax payers, especially homeowners, for a long time. By contrast,  Westlake’s local sales tax is only 1% and it was not until 2010 that it introduced its first property tax.

If crime doesn’t pay in Westlake, servicing Portsmouth’s mortgages does, as I will show in a future posting.