There are three main points that Strong Towns, through the Curbside Chat program, is trying to help public officials and those that are active in their communities understand. They are:
1. The current path cities are on is not financially stable.
The support systems that have grown and maintained our current development pattern are going away. This is true whether we at the local level want them to or whether or not it is the right thing to do. Continuing to build our places in financially unproductive ways over the long term will no longer work. Even with a dramatic change in course, cities and towns cannot meet many of their current obligations. Some difficult times lie ahead.
2. The future for most cities is not going to resemble the recent past.
We cannot take a snapshot of the past sixty years and simply project future growth and prosperity based on what we have experienced. We are more than two life cycles into the suburban development experiment, a pattern of living that has never been attempted anywhere else in the world at any point in human history. The conventional wisdom we have developed over the past sixty years is breaking down. Not only is the United States not going back to 2005 anytime soon, we are likely to find that the entire post-World War II development experience was based on a transient set of conditions that we cannot recreate. We need to prepare ourselves for great change.
3. The main determinant of future prosperity for cities will be the ability of local leaders to transform their communities.
In a changing America, prosperity need not be elusive, but it will not be defined by the suburban variables of growth in traffic volume, feet of pipe installed, number of new lots created and retail space available. These were not real markers of prosperity anyway, only false metrics we used to reinforce the value of our growth model. A true prosperity for our communities will ultimately be measured by ordinary people in ways that will defy statisticians, economists and engineers.
Sustained prosperity will emerge in communities where local leaders grasp the changes that are happening, engage their citizens on the implications of the transition and take proactive steps to strengthen their communities. Local leaders are waking up to the fact that they are on their own, that help is not coming from Washington D.C., the state capital, the transportation office or any of the traditional sources. This can be scary, but also liberating.
Americans have the resources, the capacity and the ability to rebuild our cities and towns in a way that is truly productive and financially viable. We will not have a strong America while our cities and towns are financially frayed. Addressing this is the greatest challenge for the current generation of community leaders.
We need to start building Strong Towns.
If you would like to support Strong Towns and the Curbside Chat program, you can make a tax-deductible donation from our web site.