As an adult, I’m not one who gets into the entire Halloween experience. Some people love to dress up and go out; I’ve preferred to hand out treats and see everyone else. As a father of two girls, ages ten and seven, I’m right in that sweet spot, however, for getting out and doing some trick-or-treating. We have a Princess Leia (I’m proud of that one) and someone called Raven from the book series Ever After High (must admit – have no clue on this one) that I’ll be taking door to door tonight. The buzz is in the air, and it’s not the sugar (yet).

Enjoy the news. 

In December I’m going to be speaking in Warwick, Rhode Island, for an event you are going to want to get signed up for ASAP. As part of that trip, I’m excited to be making a stop in Springfield, MA, where our super member, long-time supporter and podcast guest Steven Shultis of Rational Urbanism lives. This past week, Steven wrote a commentary on my piece in American Conservative demonstrating, once again, that Strong Towns thinking naturally crosses a lot of the political and ideological boundaries we have allowed to be artificially constructed in this country.

Suburbia is a Ponzi scheme. I will grant that it is much easier for me to see it because I never liked it anyway. That Chuck Marohn, a guy who clearly preferred suburbia, (at least until he realized it was a Ponzi scheme) is the one who saw through the façade of prosperity in “them thar cul-de-sacs” is a credit to his ability to look at the evidence and follow it wherever it leads. In the end his genius reminds me of that of Charles Darwin. In retrospect their revelations are easy to understand and fairly self-evident. Both suggest that certain notions that people have entertained to prop up their world views are false. Both obligate people to reject ideas they would prefer to hold on to for other reasons. In both cases the revealers of truth felt great sympathy for the institutions their understanding would undermine.

I recently spoke in Tulsa, Oklahoma, and just this week received a Google alert that an article on the engagement had shown up in the local paper there. There is a serious paywall, unfortunately, which created a rather humorous caption for my (awkwardly-staged) photo. All of you people who would like to comment on this bit of photography, you have been duly warned.


George Matthew Linkert IV – George of Operation More George fame – is running for city council. A Q&A recently appeared in the local paper and it makes me want to move to Mound and vote for him even more. Not sure if he stands a chance in a city with an established guard and a largely outward illusion of prosperity, but I’m cheering for him. So are many others from the Strong Towns movement.

What do you consider the biggest issues facing the city?
I believe Mound needs to create neighborhoods and a downtown that is inviting to people, not fast cars. Right now, walkers and bicyclists are currently treated like second-class citizens with cars driving by at dangerous speeds. These are the people who are trying to get to work or get their kids to church or to Jubilee Foods for groceries. Places like Commerce Boulevard have just become stroads, street/roads hybrids, that actually encourage cars to go through Mound. When that happens, it becomes just as easy to drive the next town to conduct personal affairs, instead of Mound businesses and destinations. Neighborhoods along Tuxedo Boulevard and Grandview Boulevard suffer because the street they sit on discourages any social interaction. Front yards and neighborhood parks become unpleasant places for children to play in, and people nervously walk or bike on them only out of necessity.

Congratulations to two of our best friends – Kaid Benfield and the team at Placemakers – for joining forces. It was announced this week that Kaid will be leaving the NRDC where he has been for decades and joining the Placemakers team. Kaid is one of those people who reached down and helped me up when I was just getting started in the blogging world, highlighting my while offering encouragement and advice. I owe him a lot and wish him all the best in this new adventure.

PlaceMakers: You recently wrote in your Huffington Post blog that you were concerned about smart growth becoming dumb growth if planning and design practitioners can’t ratchet up their awareness of — and strategies for coping with — growing challenges. Among those challenges: The aging of the population, the growing wealth gap. What else?

Kaid Benfield: I think that the basic ingredients of smart growth — access on foot to nearby conveniences, expanded transportation choices, giving priority to urban infill before developing new green land — are quite well positioned to accept demographic trends. All indications are that consumer preferences are moving more away from sprawling subdivisions and more toward cities and walkable suburbs. Where we need to do better, though, is with respect to social inclusion — not just newer demographics but also older ones in inner-city neighborhoods — and with respect to the environment.

I was not heavily vested in the World Series this week, even though I am a huge baseball fan. I’m not one who begrudges a truly great team like the San Francisco Giants who win over and over (unless it is the Yankees – they I despise simply for existing). That being said, there was a small part of me that would have been happy for Kansas City – the place – if their team had managed to win Game 7. Oh well. Back to being the butt of many jokes, including this one from the Onion.

Empty Streets In Kansas City Not Necessarily Indicative Of Royals World Series Game Being On

Edward Erfurt, the Restless Urbanist, wrote a fantastic piece this week about the civil engineering profession, including a great analogy with an auto mechanic. Well worth the time to read.

Engineers are programmed like ants. Given the time, they will construct the greatest structures and systems the world has ever seen. Unlike ants, the engineers can lose sight of the the other important issues like funding, or where these structures are placed.

In Ohio, the state DOT is thinking about starting to have a conversation about considering options for moving beyond an automobile-exclusive paradigm. This is a huge step for them, I’m sure. Unfortunately they opted to have a public outreach meeting on statewide transit needs in the city where the ODOT engineers work; convenient for them, but inaccessible by transit. That’s not nearly as strange, however, as the announcement from the federal civil rights attorneys looking into the Michael Brown shooting in Ferguson moving their grand jury deliberations to Portland, Oregon.

The closest Metro bus stop to Lebanon is 8.3 miles away, near Kings Island in Mason. Let’s say we’re feeling ambitious and attempt to take the bus, then bicycle the remaining journey to Lebanon. It would take 48 minutes to cycle to the meeting in addition to the 1 hour, 11 minute ride on the bus. Cincinnati Metro, the region’s bus system, only offers select service to the northern suburbs. In order to arrive on time for the 10am meeting, a person dependent on transit would have to catch the 71x at 7:45am, arrive in Mason at 8:52am, then continue to the meeting on bicycle.

Getting back home is another story. The public involvement meeting adjourns at 12pm, but the bus route that services Mason is a job connection bus, meaning it only runs traditional hours when people are going to and from work. After another 48 minutes of cycling back to the bus stop, the inbound 71x picks up shortly after 3pm and returns to Cincinnati at 4:40pm.

In summary, if a citizen dependent on bus transportation wishes to give ODOT their input, they would spend 7 hours commuting to the two hour meeting, and need to able-bodied to ride a bicycle for eight miles.

PennDOT is the worst DOT in the country. I don’t know if they were directly involved in this next story or maybe even just an inspiration, but I don’t want to miss an opportunity to reiterate how, among a nation of dysfunctional departments of transportation, where the bar for doing well is set extremely low, they are the worst. THE WORST. So it is not surprising to me that, in a state where transportation policy is dominated by PennDOT, that something like this would happen. When we think of virtuous civil disobedience, this isn’t what we generally think of. That’s because we generally get around by car.

John A. Cherok II told the Observer-Reporter he will plead not guilty and was granted a continuance from his hearing scheduled Thursday so he can hire a lawyer. He was charged with criminal mischief and disorderly conduct after allegedly spray painting "Slow, 25 MPH,” onto the road in McDonald, Pa., where he runs a book store.

"I'm not admitting guilt for something that I did for my own protection and the protection of the citizens of this town."

And speaking of civil disobedience, there are many implications to the quarantine policies states are now instituting for medical professionals working on Ebola. Obviously, we ask a tremendous amount of these people during good times. During a crisis, we rely on them to put their lives at risk – serious, horrific risk – to care for people, provide basic human compassion, even to those that will certainly die regardless. It seems plausible to suggest that the more difficult we make their lives, the fewer people will step up to do this important work. I don’t have a strong opinion on what should be done with the difficult and complex nuances of this situation – anyone who does is not thinking real hard about it – but I do find the case of Kaci Hickox an interesting one.

A nurse who cared for Ebola patients in Sierra Leone defied Maine officials on Thursday morning, leaving her house for a short bicycle ride and setting up a legal fight over a 21-day quarantine ordered by the state.

The nurse, Kaci Hickox, left her house on the edge of Fort Kent just after 9 a.m., biking with her boyfriend, Ted Wilbur, down a quiet paved road, followed closely by two police cars and a caravan of reporters.

The couple rode less than a mile, then turned onto a graded gravel trail on a former railroad right of way flanked by pines.

Also off topic but interesting, this article on Crash-Only Thinking, how systems that have no off switch tend to operate over time. This is why much of our world – whether it is on economics, climate or human behavior – is so difficult, impossible really, to model or simulate. There is no start condition and no end state. There just is, then there isn’t.

If life and business, crash-only is not a choice but an operating condition, because both are bundles of entrenched habits without on/off switches. Not only are there no kill commands (or the equivalent of Task Manager in Windows to force misbehaving programs to shut down) to forcibly stop behaviors, there is no equivalent to pulling the plug, short of perhaps some sort of controlled brain damage.

Whatever faults Uber has, their marketing is brilliant.

Uber is running its kitten promotion Wednesday from noon to 4 p.m. in seven cities, including D.C. The six other cities — New York, Chicago, Austin, Phoenix, San Francisco and Seattle. But in New York, they say, kittens can be delivered only to offices.

Uber states on its blog, “Once the kittens arrive, you and your friends will get to enjoy 15 minutes of kitten cuteness!” And it gives a tip — “make sure to have an enclosed space purrrfect for playtime!”

In an epic move that only a really great elementary teacher could think of, a guy named Dale Irby took his annual school photo with the same outfit 40 years in a row.

Finally, this week we unfortunately say goodbye to Justin Burslie, my colleague and office mate here for the last six years in Brainerd, who has taken a position with a local city. Not only has Justin appeared on a number of podcasts and written many Friday News Digests, but he did a lot of travel with me in the early days of Strong Towns, logging many miles in California, Pennsylvania, North Dakota and Minnesota. I’ve come to rely on him to keep not only my professional life in order but to serve as a mental check keeping my mind in order. He’s always the first feedback I get on the blog each day and I’ve made countless edits based on his reactions. Strong Towns would not be what it is today without him. I know I’ll manage, but I’m not sure exactly how at this point. Monday starts a whole new world for both of us.

Thanks everyone. Be safe tonight. See you back her next week.