Economic and political characteristics of cities

  Seattle Los Angeles New York
City population (2019 ACS) 753,655 3,979,537 8,336,817
City population change (2010–2019) 0.234 4.8% 0.019
Median household income (2019 ACS) $102,486 $67,418 $69,407
Median household income change (2010–2019) 0.702 0.433 0.424
Foreign-born share of population and workforce Population: 17.6% (2018)
Workforce: 17.9% (2015)
Population: 36% (2020)
Workforce: 44% (2020)
Population: 37% (2020)
Workforce: 45% (2020)
Size of city economy (Bureau of Economic Analysis, 2019) 10th largest metro economy in US ($424.8 billion GDP) 2nd largest metro economy in US ($1.09 trillion GDP) Largest metro economy in US ($1.86 trillion GDP)
Change in GDP (2010–2019) 0.77 0.49 0.45
Economic trajectory of city (brief) Regional hub of the Pacific Northwest,  international trade port with Asia; significant downturns in manufacturing employment in the 60s/70s, severe economic recession in the 80s/90s,  bursting of the tech bubble in the early 00s; now important hub of the knowledge economy in US Formerly leading agricultural producer; now international hub for entertainment and tourism; America’s trade gateway to  Pacific Rim through the Port of Los Angeles; an emerging center for the tech and advanced manufacturing sectors Economic crisis in 1970s; now largest metropolitan economy in the US; a global center of finance, tourism, and entertainment; and home to largest port on the East Coast
Major industries Technology; startups; manufacturing; trade; restaurants; health care; life sciences and global health; clean technology; creative economy Tourism and hospitality; entertainment; manufacturing; technology; international trade; wholesale trade and logistics; professional and business services Finance; entertainment and tourism; professional and business services; technology; retail trade; food service; health care; education; apparel manufacturing
Major companies headquartered in city Amazon; Starbucks; Nordstrom; Expedia Group; Alaska Air Group; Expeditors Intl. of Washington; Weyerhaeuser CBRE Group; AECOM; Reliance Steel & Aluminum JPMorgan Chase; Verizon; Citigroup; Metlife; Goldman Sachs; Morgan Stanley; Pfizer; etc.
Type of city (Brookings/JPMorgan Chase) Knowledge capital–highly productive innovation center with a talented workforce and elite research institutions Global giants–Extremely large metro areas that “serve as key nodes in global capital and talent flows”
Current campaign finance rules (summary) -No person–including individuals and most organizations–may contribute more than $550 to any candidate; lower limit of $300 + $100 in democracy vouchers (DV) for city council/attorney candidates participating in DV program
-Total primary/general election fundraising limit of $150,000 (city council district), $300,000 (city council at-large/city attorney), and $800,000 (mayor) for candidates participating  in DV program
-Few restrictions on independent expenditures 
-No person–including individuals and most organizations–may contribute more than $1,500 to mayor/city attorney/controller or $800 to city council candidates
-For those participating in matching funds (MF) program, qualified contributions matched by the City at 6:1 rate (up to $114 for city council and $214 for citywide candidates matched per contributor); Total primary/general election expenditure limit of $1 million for city council, $2.3 million for city controller, $2.7 million for city attorney, and $6 million for mayoral candidates; Maximum personal funds of $148,100 for citywide, $37,000 for city council candidates
-Few restrictions on independent expenditures
For candidates participating in matching funds (MF) program, no individual may contribute more than $2,000 to mayor/public advocate/comptroller or $1,000 to city council candidates (higher limits for those not participating in MF program)
-Lower contribution limits for individuals that have business dealings with the city
-All candidates prohibited from accepting contributions from corporations/LLCs/partnerships
-MF program matches each dollar from NYC residents at 8:1 rate (up to $175 for borough president/city council candidates and $250 for mayor/public advocate/comptroller candidates matched per contributor)
-Total primary/general election spending limits of $380,000 for city council; $3.3 million for borough president; $9.1 million for public advocate/comptroller; and $14.6 million for mayoral candidates
-No limits on independent spending
Dates of revision to campaign finance rules (select) -Laws regulating campaign finance since as far back as 1971
-2015: Seattle voters pass citizen-led initiative known as the “Honest Elections Seattle Initiative” that, among other things: Reduces the individual contribution limit of $500 (with opportunities for later adjustments); limits contributions from city contractors and paid city lobbyists; and creates a democracy voucher program giving each participating Seattle voter $100 in vouchers to contribute to political campaigns each election year
-Limits on campaign contributions in Los Angeles have been in place for almost four decades, and have been substantially strengthened over time
-1990: Ethics Commission established/voluntary public matching funds program created
-2012: Campaign Finance Ordinance ammendments limit per-person contributions to $700 for city council and $1,300 for citywide candidates, indexed to the regional CPI for subsequent election years
-Individual campaign contributions have been limited since 1988, and are monitored by the New York city Campaign Finance Board (CFB)
-1998: Contribution limits are reduced, ban placed on corporate contributions, matcing fund rate increased
-2012: CFB mandates that all independent expenditures are disclosed with the city (expanded in 2014)
2018: Individual campaign contribution limits dropped to $1,000-$2,000 depending on race, matching rate increased from 6:1 to 8:1
Amount of independent expenditures  2013: $556,385
2017: $1.3 million
2019: $4.4 million
(Includes mayor, city attorney, city council, ballot issue and independent expenditure campaigns)
2013: $14.4 million
2017: $2.5 million
(Includes mayor, city attorney, city controller, and city council elections)
2013: $16 million
2017: $1.5 million
(Includes mayor, public advocate, comptroller, borough president, and city council elections)
Comparison of independent expenditures from labor vs. business  Labor had an edge in independent expenditures in 2013 but business had an edge in both 2017 and 2019 Labor clearly contributed more through independent spending than business in 2013, less clear for 2017 Evenly split between labor and business
City revenues All have per capita revenue above the median for US cities over time, which has more or less doubled over the forty-year period between 1977–2017. Revenue per capita for New York appears to be considerably higher than Seattle or Los Angeles every year with the exception of 2009.
Form of government Mayor/city council
Mayoral power Strong executive; proposes budget, signs legislation, appoints department directors, oversees day-to-day operations Formally a strong mayor-council system, but mayor is relatively weak, has much less authority than most big city mayors; mayor’s office officially tasked with oversight of enforcement but some city council involvement Strong; highly centralized structure similar to that of the federal government; mayor exerts strong control over enforcement
City council power Strong; adopts city budget, approves mayoral appointees, levies taxes, makes and amends ordinances; 9 members (7 by district, 2 at large since 2015) Strong, particularly council speaker; city council orders elections, levies taxes, authorizes public improvements, approves contracts, and adopts traffic regulations; 15 members from 15 council districts Much larger than in other two cities with 51 council members; career bureaucrats who staff the city council exert control over the legislative process
Other important government institutions Strong culture of stakeholder participation through advisory councils; tradition of establishing tripartite committees on controversial issues, where representatives are expected to work through their differences and put forward a unified proposal to the mayor and city council City Attorney has provided very legally conservative advice to the enforcement office regarding Legally conservative and strongly involved City Attorneys; LA City Administrative Officer (during this period, Miguel Santana, widely respected and viewed as a highly effective and non-political technocrat, supported economic arguments for MW and supported their proposal around administration and enforcement)implementation Recent NYC government reforms mean labor standards cases in need of an administrative hearing are sent to the Office of Administrative Trials and Hearings (OATH), which has proved a roadblock for effective enforcement because of legally conservative rulings
Other key facts Most of key
players on all sides are socially liberal, support the City’s antipoverty,
environmental, LGBTQ and other non-profits
Importance of compromise, working to accommodate “reasonable requests” in political culture  
View the underlying data on epi.org.