In response to a recent visit to Shreveport, LA, Liz Swaine, the director of the Downtown Shreveport Development Authority, wrote a column in the Shreveport Times and we want to share a meaningful excerpt from it today:

“Infrastructure” is now a word bandied about by even the most casual of news watchers. We have all heard how old it is, how much it costs and how often it is now breaking, not just locally, but across the nation. Enter Charles Marohn. Marohn, creator of a movement called Strong Towns, is a land use planner and civil engineer by trade who quit his job after years of frustration with the “way things had always been done.” Convinced that status quo thinking is leading not to the strengthening of our towns but to just the opposite, Marohn shares his gospel of building stronger cities and financial resiliency through talks, books and social media.

For years, Mo-Town expanded and built and ran roads and bridges and water lines. When population shifts happened, the city became less and less able to pay for upkeep and what Marohn calls the “Growth Ponzi Scheme” came to the same conclusion that Ponzi schemes always will.

In Shreveport recently at the invitation of a new group called Re-Form Shreveport, much of Marohn’s conversations focused on good decision making, financial return and what he calls the “illusion” of growth. Marohn says an example of this would be when a city spends millions to extend infrastructure to a new development far from the city center. Closer investigation, he says, would reveal that the near term cash advantages will never pay for the long term financial liability of this now-public expansion of roads, drains, sewer and water lines. [...]

The most shocking of his stories, though, has to do with Detroit, the once grand and wealthy Motor City that has been spiraling through a near-apocalyptic downturn. [...] For years, Mo-Town expanded and built and ran roads and bridges and water lines. When population shifts happened, the city became less and less able to pay for upkeep and what Marohn calls the “Growth Ponzi Scheme” came to the same conclusion that Ponzi schemes always will.

But is it inevitable? Marohn says it doesn’t need to be, but it’s going to require effort. Change is hard and people will have to demand it and not everyone will be happy. It’s not a light conversation or an easy one, but it’s a conversation we must be having- for the good of our cities. 

We're glad to hear that the Strong Towns message made an impact in Shreveport. Our trip there included walking and busing tours, community conversations and larger scale presentations. See more photos from the events here.

(Top photo from Re-Form Shreveport facebook page)