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Monday
Jan162012

Why decline is not normal

We have come to see the stagnation and decline of our blocks and neighborhoods as a normal part of the development process. It is not. The normal course of human development is for successful cities to mature incrementally over time. When that occurs, they become financially resilient. To build Strong Towns, a community's emphasis needs to shift from creating growth quickly and easily to building value in a broad and incremental way.

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In May of 2000, I took my first trip out of the country. Having grown up in a small town in Central Minnesota, I had seen quite a bit of the United States (excluding major cities, which my parents avoided) but had no idea what a country like Italy was going to be like. In fact, in my naivete, I probably assumed it would look at lot like the United States with a few more churches and some Roman ruins here and there. The truth is, while I had pondered a different culture, it had not occurred to me that the very place would be so different.

As we flew into Milan, someone said we could see the city outside the window. Milan is one of the major cities of Europe -- a cosmopolitan capital -- but when I looked out my window, I didn't see it. Where were the skyscrapers? Where were the highways? The stadium? None of the landmarks I had grown accustomed to seeing in major U.S. cities were visible. Everything just seemed so short.

I'll spare you the story of my awakening, from engineer to planner to Strong Towns advocate, but simply note that this flight into Milan was a major turning point in that story. It took me years of reflection and many trips to the neighborhoods of Milan, Rome, Paris, Amsterdam, Dublin and London, not to mention dozens of small towns throughout Italy, France, England and Ireland, to piece it all together. What I was seeing for the first time in Milan was a city that had progressed through centuries of development. I was looking at a place that had matured.

Last week I polarized our pleasant conversation here by writing the following:

Tax Increment Financing (TIF) is the devil's tool of decline. There are two things necessary to make it "work" (and by "work" I mean as a way to corrupt your community's soul). First, the city must reconfigure as much of the community as possible in an auto centric manner so as to make it very advantageous to develop on bare ground on the edge of town. Then -- and these work together -- the city needs to continue policies that devalue neighborhoods to the point where decent commercial or residential activity is no longer viable.

And later in the same piece I wrote:

As a final note, readers should know that to grant TIF an application must pass a "but for" test. "But for" the TIF subsidy, this redevelopment wouldn't happen. When you get beyond the immediate transaction and understand the full picture of what is going on, you realize that this is a little like an alcoholic hitting the bottle and saying, "but for...." TIF is the co-dependent enabler of the suburban experiment.

Why don't we have a Milan here in the United States? Easier still, why don't we have a Stresa (Italy, population 5,000) or an Avignon (France, population 95,000), two cities of immense beauty, character and, I am quite certain, financially able to maintain their basic infrastructure? Years ago, I would have believed it was because our cities were younger and had not had the time these great towns of Europe had. Then I came across this picture of my hometown of Brainerd and realized what had happened.

Everything you see in that picture from 1894 is now gone. In its place are a bunch of parking lots, abandoned buildings and very low rent, marginal establishments. As James Howard Kunstler wrote me once in an email, my hometown -- like so many other American cities -- simply committed suicide.

It was self-inflicted damage, but injury was not the intention. The goal was growth. At Strong Towns we've discussed fairly thoroughly the illusion of wealth our development pattern creates and the workings of the Growth Ponzi Scheme. Today I want to describe what a normal, healthy pattern of development looks like. We'll focus on commercial districts and look at residential neighborhoods later in the week.

Start with the earliest settlement. In the case of my hometown of Brainerd, this photo was taken in 1870. For those with local knowledge, this is Front Street. The sign on the clearest building reads, "Billiard Hall." This is a place in its infancy.

Brainerd, MN. Front Street. 1870In terms of a country making many little bets, a lot of cities at this stage did not mature beyond infancy. That wasn't a problem as there was little wealth wagered at this point (it would be another century before we reached the beginning of the too-big-to-fail approach). Brainerd was one of the cities that did mature further, however. This is how this same street looked a mere 24 years later.

Brainerd, MN. Front Street. 1894

There are two critical things to note about the changes. First, "maturing" meant horizontal expansion, but it also meant vertical expansion and enhancement. Growth meant that the core of this city increased in value, which prompted both a simultaneous investment in improving the core as well as lesser investments in adjacent properties.

It should be noted that, while the architecture has a distinctive frontier look and feel to it, the layout and intensity of development is very similar to that of the small towns I mentioned above, Stresa and Avignon. In Stresa you will find distinctive Italian architecture and Avignon is the city of the papacy and also has its own distinct character. That being said, someone could be dropped on Brainerd's Front Street in 1894 or in Stresa/Avignon today and get meal, have a drink, find a room, buy some supplies, get a haircut, hire a lawyer, etc... In short, what you see here in 1894 is a perfectly viable place.

At this point then, the maturing process is simply a matter of enhancing the value of the existing properties. In the case of Brainerd, what that meant was that many of the wooden buildings were replaced with buildings made of rock, brick and concrete. Again, the maturing process added to existing investments, simultaneously adding value to existing developed sites as well as new growth on the periphery.

Brainerd, MN. 6th Street. Believed to be taken in the 1930's.It is important to understand that the maturing didn't simply take place automatically. There were so many things being done to build value in this community. Open spaces that had been reserved near town were now developed as parks. Neighborhoods around these parks were also filling in with residences of all styles and neighborhood businesses. Schools were being built along with other civic infrastructure imbedded in the surrounding neighborhoods. A new county courthouse was constructed in a prominent location using a distinctive architectural style. Incrementally and across a broad spectrum, things were maturing.

It is here that I need to depart from photos of Brainerd for quite obvious reasons. America began its suburban experiment and the maturing process ended. It was no longer the community's objective to incrementally add to the store of value within the community but instead to grow quickly and easily, leveraging the automobile, government transfer payments/incentives and abundant private sector capital to invest in the periphery of town. The traditional parts of Brainerd -- like most American cities large, medium and small -- reflects our change in approach.

Had we continued on the same path, it is hard to say what a city like Brainerd would look like today, but it would be much closer to Stresa and Avigonon than it currently is (and a place like Minneapolis/St. Paul, closer to Milan in its layout). That is what literally thousands of years of human history tells us is the "normal" pattern for cities; an incremental maturing process where prior investments are built on, expanded and enhanced over time. And to understand what a Strong Towns approach means, it is important to realize that an incremental maturing process over a broad community (a) increases the value of the community without (b) significantly increasing the cost of infrastructure or of neighborhood facilities like parks, schools and fire stations.

In the suburban experiment  we've gone the other way with our public balance sheet. Our historic tax base has not matured but has stagnated or declined. We've made up for that with new growth through horizontal expansion, but the increase in value with that approach has been accompanied by huge increases in long-term public expenses. It is not financially sustainable.

It was my original plan to discuss how we reverse this trend, but last week's interlude (and subsequent discussion) on Tax Increment Financing (TIF) got in the way. I'm going to get to "solutions" soon, but first let me try to build the bridge from what we've been talking about so far this year (a comparison of the traditional commercial block and the auto-oriented commercial block) to where we need to go to fix this.

We have to stop looking at the stagnation and decline of our blocks and neighborhoods as a normal part of the development process. It is not. Yes, there are certainly parts of Milan, Stresa and Avignon -- as well as historic Brainerd -- that experience periods of stagnation and decline, but these are isolated areas and the decline is not persistent. The normal course of human development is for successful cities to continue to mature incrementally over time. When that occurs, they become financially resilient and are able to withstand periods of macro-stagnation without falling apart.

Now here's the mental bridge: To build Strong Towns, a community's emphasis needs to shift from creating growth quickly and easily to building value in a broad and incremental way. 

That's my core problem with TIF, and I acknowledge that it's more intellectual than it is substantive. TIF is a short cut. Yes it builds value, but as a short cut, it doesn't do it in a broad, incremental and ultimately sustainable way. It doesn't require us to think through and come to grips with the reasons for the decline that makes the tax increment transaction possible. It allows us to continue the suburban experiment believing -- or at least not disbelieving -- that the failure of properties, and subsequent "rescue" through a tax subsidy, is a natural course of action. Failure is prerequisite for a successful TIF project. Today it may be a necessary evil, but it is an evil nonetheless.

Now I will grant that this is an intellectual argument I'm having with the choir. We're all going to be singing from the same page when we're talking about using TIF to revitalize an historic downtown or cleaning up a contaminated site. But for the sake of what is coming next, I really need people to understand what I wrote last Wednesday.

Use TIF if you must, but we should be shaking our heads in shame when we have to, not congratulating ourselves on our resourcefulness and innovation.

 

Additional Reading

 

There is a great conversation about implementing a Strong Towns approach going on over at the Strong Towns Network. You are invited to join in.

Friday
Jan132012

Friday News Digest

We actually got our first real snap of cold weather this winter in Minnesota as the wind shifted and started coming in from the north. Weeks ago I had stopped enforcing the "hat and gloves" rule with my kids as they trampled out the door in the morning, adopting instead the more laissez faire "hood and pockets" parenting approach. Still no snow, however, and so with the weather shift we're now stuck in the worst of all situations: cold with no snow. The reciprocal -- snow with no cold -- is my personal winter favorite, but I've come to accept snow with cold as a fair compromise. I'm sure when I head to Texas next month it will snow a foot like the last time I was there in February. Oh well, if nothing else my Samoyeds are now two happy dogs and the forecast says back into the 30's this weekend. What a strange winter.

Enjoy the week's news.

  • The most rewarding thing that can happen for me is to have someone read our work and then apply it to their own local situation. Enter Tim Evans at Future New Jersey who took the work on the difference between roads and streets and applied it to his local Route 1. And by "applied", he not only analyzed the route and diagnosed the siuation, but he offered a solid recommendation on how to fix the problem and create value in the corridor. I want to publicly thank Tim Evans for a fantastic job. This is great work. New Jersey needs to listen to him.

This distinction is an important aspect of the discussion about whether and how to institute a bus rapid transit (BRT) system along the Route 1 corridor in Mercer and southern Middlesex counties.  The municipalities that straddle Route 1 in central New Jersey have essentially been treating it as their Main Street, lining it with the land uses that formerly defined the traditional downtown: the innumerable strip malls offer local shopping and a multitude of low-rise office complexes act as employment centers.  The fact that none of these destinations connect to each other via a pedestrian-friendly local street network has resulted in exactly the mismatch that Marohn laments: Residents use Route 1 for local trips, and the resulting traffic interferes with the trucks and other regional through traffic that is trying to use Route 1 as the shortest route from the New Jersey Turnpike in New Brunswick to I-95 or the Pennsylvania Turnpike.

  • We've been scheduling a lot of Curbside Chats, particularly corresponding with trips I'm making to Florida, Texas and California in the coming months. If you're interested in seeing where we've been or where we are scheduled to go, we've put together this map. I'm also thinking of adding places that have made inquiries, so if you are interested in holding a Curbside Chat in your community, make sure and let us know. We can connect you with others near you and make it happen.


View Curbside Chats in a larger map

  • Our blog of the week: A Rebalanced Life. On the home page they quote Confucius. "Life is really simple, but we insist on making it complicated." And in addition to discussing how to reset one's life in a minimalist framework, the site links to Strong Towns in their blogroll. Thanks so much for the link -- we're really honored that you'd find value for your life in our message.
  • Thanks also to Tim McKuin at the blog MoveArkansas for saying we hit the nail on the head this past Wednesday with our piece Adding Insult to Injury. This is another great example of taking our work and applying it to a local project. Very nicely done, Tim.

First of all, replacing big wide roads and traffic lights with smaller roads and traffic circles to keep traffic moving often doesn't reduce capacity much, if at all. Secondly, our car-centric policies of the last half century have led to people making more trips by car than they used to. (surprise!) If we make University and Asher more people-centric and promote dense, safe, walkable development there, then a lot of people will choose to live there instead of out in the boonies. They'll be able to take care of more of their daily needs very close-by instead of having to drive back and forth all over creation. They'll still be able to drive anywhere they want, but they won't need to drive as much as they do now.

  • Nathaniel Hood was our first ever donor and, starting with that distinction, I have had the good fortune to get to know him a little. For a while I lobbied to try and find him a job (he recently moved back to Minnesota from working out of the country -- bad timing is the only reason he did not immediately get a job) but now I'm scrambling to try and make a place for him here before he gets locked up somewhere else. Nate intuitively gets what we're talking about at Strong Towns, sees the world in this same way and, to top it all off, is a great writer. Here's another example of that last trait as he talks about the financial craziness of Cape Coral, FL.

I was reading through alocal Cape Coral blog, and ran into a promotional flyer that appears to sum up the community and their aspirations [speaking of which, Cape Coral even makes this suburban-disaster slide show look tolerable]. It is a flyer for a “Family Fun Walk” to celebrate the “Grand Opening” of a road! I can’t imagine anything less fun than walking with children next to a 6+ lane road. I wonder how many people turned up to the event? I did find this chunk of information though: “The total cost for the right-of-way acquisition, design and construction of both the roadway and bridges came to $42 million.” [Source].

  • Just to go deeper into Nate's piece, that last source he refers to is an article on the "fun walk". While calling a 6-lane highway a "boulevard" is a bizarre use of the English language, ponder as you read this how pathetically little value is being created for such an incredible sum of money. This STROAD is being built at a stunning $3,500 per foot. Someone please tell me it's a typo. The Champ Elysees would not cost $3,500 per foot, and look at the platform for creating value that is. Utterly amazing how crazy we are!

As part of the city of Cape Coral’s Five-Year Roadway Improvement Program, Del Prado Boulevard was widened from four to six lanes, resurfaced and realigned at the S.R. 78/Pine Island intersection. Motorists and pedestrians along this 2.3-mile stretch of Del Prado Boulevard also now benefit from two wider bridges, three new off-site bridges, street lighting, new traffic signals, curb, storm drainage, landscaping and 10-foot-wide multi-use paths. The total cost for the right-of-way acquisition, design and construction of both the roadway and bridges came to $42 million.

Increasing borrowing signals a drop in unemployment (USURTOT) is giving households the courage to take advantage of holiday discounts, buy cars and finance higher education. At the same time, dependence on credit means the job market has yet to improve enough to provide the incomes needed to sustain consumer purchases, which account for about 70 percent of the economy.

“Consumers are feeling more confident and making more big- ticket purchases,” said Richard DeKaser, deputy chief economist at Parthenon Group Inc. in Boston, who projected credit would climb by $11.6 billion, the highest estimate in the Bloomberg survey. “The debt pay downs of previous years are now allowing consumers to borrow a bit more freely.”

  • In Minnesota we have a system of local government aid that funds large portions of the budget of many cities (and has little or no funding for others). LGA, as it is known, has been reduced and has faced elimination many times during our budget shortfalls. We prepared a report on the subject back in 2010 and I was part of an online debate on it as well. Understanding that LGA was created to simplify our tax system and provide a stable funding source, this recent article should remind us that the road to Hades is paved with good intentions (and that top down systems are, as Tom Friedman is fond of saying, orderly and dumb).

Two legislative staff members had just presented a long, complex explanation of how Local Government Aid is distributed to cities across Minnesota. The Dec. 7 meeting was just the second ever for a study group created three years ago to improve the LGA system that many city officials would decry as unfair — if they understood it well enough to be certain.

After the lengthy presentation, Roseau Mayor Jeff Pelowski sat back in his chair with a new appreciation for his staff members.

"I felt uncomfortable asking my staff why we lost [LGA funds] when they replied, 'I don't know,' " Pelowski said. "Now I know they weren't pulling my leg."

  • Any article that will quote Lewis Mumford is worth reading, so thank you to my many friends that forwarded me this piece in the NY Times about parking lots. It is worth a read, especially for this quote:

As the critic Lewis Mumford wrote half a century ago, “The right to have access to every building in the city by private motorcar in an age when everyone possesses such a vehicle is the right to destroy the city.” Yet we continue to produce parking lots, in cities as well as in suburbs, in the same way we consume all those billions of plastic bottles of water and disposable diapers.

  • Hey Fresno residents fed up with this type of insanity. The trick is not to argue that it will make the pedestrian experience "less pleasant" -- engineers don't have a metric for pedestrians or their pleasantness -- or that it is ugly (have you ever gone to an art museum with an engineer?) but that it costs a lot while at the same time diminishes the tax base. How you going to have prosperity -- or budget for more STRAODS -- when you are spending your money on projects that decrease your property values? Use the math, Luke. Search your feelings. You know it to be true.
  • I love how the school travel planning news took my photo from the No Car Left Behind article and used it in their newsletter (page 11). Our stuff here is all for public use under a Creative Commons license. Please use it whenever you can to make this county one full of Strong Towns.
  • This controversy is about more than Eisenhower. It is about how we think of our places. Washington D.C. was built with a monumental design. I don't have a problem if some crazy city wants to embrace Frank Gehry's designs (as the U of MN did -- I have particular distaste for this building as my dorm room overlooked its early morning, very noisy construction), but does it have to be our only city with this type of grand design? It is akin to a cell phone going off in the middle of a New York Philharmonic performance, which is just plain irritating.

The present Eisenhower Memorial design, by postmodernist Frank Gehry, has virtually nothing to do with the Dwight David Eisenhower of history. Plans call for Ike to be memorialized in sculpture as a barefoot farmboy on the Great Plains: not the great wartime leader; not the soldier-diplomat; not the chief executive of the United States who presided over eight years of peace and prosperity. The Gehry conceit seems both obvious and entirely in tune with the postmodern deconstruction of history: There are no great men; there are no great virtues; there is no great striving; nor is there great accomplishment or great service to others. No one, visiting the Eisenhower Memorial as designed by Frank Gehry, would have the slightest reason to grasp the truth of the man himself

  • I really want to respect this man, but why every time we talk about how we can't afford our highway system, we only talk about ways to find new revenue? Will anyone ever state the obvious: We have too many miles of unproductive highway to maintain. Is that somehow an attack on our American machismo?

New sources of revenue are being considered because the gasoline tax is expected to provide a declining share of transportation funding as vehicles become more efficient in their use of fossil fuels or switch to alternatives like electricity.

Dayton said the task force study was inspired by his travels around the state and "experiencing the deterioration of Minnesota's highway system."

He noted that forecasts have shown state transportation funding falling behind by as much as $50 billion over the next 20 years.

"Minnesota has chosen by default and without really much public debate a path of declining transportation investments and therefore declining ... quality," Dayton said.

  • And finally, if there had been a YouTube back when I was a civil engineering undergrad (Class of 1995), I'm sure we would have shared this video with a mixture of laughter and confusion. The next time your city engineer starts talking about Level of Service or Average Daily Traffic (the engineer will most likely say LOS and ADT, just to be confusing), show them this video.

 

If you find this material interesting and would like to know more about how to apply this thinking to your community, join us at the Strong Towns Network, a social enterprise for those working to implement a Strong Towns approach.

Wednesday
Jan112012

Adding insult to injury

It is difficult to imagine the story of the traditional commercial block versus the redeveloped, auto-centric commercial block getting any more insulting to our senses. Today I will stretch your imagination.

A timeline of decline.

Decades ago, the Department of Transportation, in the name of growth, builds a highway through a traditional neighborhood. The highway maintains its character -- high speeds, wide lanes, channeled traffic -- despite going through a developed urban neighborhood.

The city embraces the highway and the promise of prosperity it holds. Over the years and at tremendous expense, the city's traffic engineering department converts the local streets to auto-centric corridors, widening lanes, removing on-street parking and eliminating sidewalks.

The city's planning department promotes a "modern" land use code, complete with use-based zoning that reinforces a hierarchy of streets (local/collector/arterial), the need for off-street parking and makes much of the traditional development pattern non-conforming.

The state reinforces the horizontal growth pattern with subsidies for new infrastructure on the periphery and a property tax system that rewards dis-investment and decline with lower rates of taxation.

The federal government adds subsidies for single-family homes, energy and transportation to the mix, further reinforcing the horizontal nature of local growth.

In response, the city's traditional neighborhoods stagnate and decline. The growth that is a natural byproduct of successful is now directed to the periphery. This only reinforces the dependency on the automobile as, perversely, residents of once-walkable neighborhoods with a variety of commercial options are now forced to drive to the periphery.

Further dis-investment. It makes no sense to live in a traditional neighborhood, or own a business in one, if you must drive everywhere anyway. There is no spatial advantage. When a person of modest means can get a larger home, a larger lot and have the same conveniences -- if not more -- outside of town while paying lower taxes, it is rational that they will do so. Why stay? Further decline.

As the transformation from traditional to auto-centric continues, parking becomes more valuable for those establishments that remain. Commercial businesses that in another era would have been expanded or rebuilt at a grander scale as the community grew are now more valuable being demolished for parking. The same thing is happening to the homes throughout these neighborhoods. They are being taken down in favor of garages and "buffering". Neighborhoods originally designed to define space are now becoming space.

These changes are devastating to the tax base. Where the public has made the greatest investments in infrastructure (and has the greatest obligations for maintenance) the neighborhoods stagnate. But nobody has the job of worrying about the tax base throughout the existing neighborhoods. The traffic engineer worries about moving cars. The public works director runs the utilities and is primarily concerned with new connections. The planner administers the zoning code and is particularly zealous about parking ratios.

This all devolves into a farcical feedback loop. More people driving means that more transportation improvements are needed. There is a greater need to channel cars, to control the flow, to improve the capacity of the transportation system. The more the public realm is given over to cars, the more people must drive. The more people that drive, the more cars on the road. Etc. Etc. Etc. Nobody realizes that we're not actually adding cars. We're all just making more trips.

To keep things moving, more automobile capacity is needed. As a society, we've come to believe now that somehow more space dedicated to cars means more growth, even though one can essentially go anywhere at high speeds and reach any location in minutes at any time of day parking just outside the destination. The only way to create more capacity is literally to tear down more of the city.

We'll get it all, eventually. Or die trying.

As the decay accelerates, in a move reminiscent of James Taggert in the book Atlas Shrugged, the local officials look at the owners of the remaining buildings with disgust. They brand them "slum lords", somehow believing that it is they that are causing the decline. (Note that this is a reverse of the way they believe that Walmart is creating the growth -- both are simply reacting to what is given them.) The city goes so far as to create an ordinance limiting the number of rental properties, as if there is some alternative, viable use that the market will magically bring to bear.

So what do we do when we find ourselves in this desperate situation, surrounded by stagnation and decline, a budget stretched to the max and completely at the mercy of aid from outside the community

Do we examine the commercial blocks of our traditional neighborhoods -- the last remnants of the hard work and ingenuity of our ancestors -- and notice that they have actually retained their value -- actually have value greater than their planned replacement -- despite our efforts to destroy them?

Do we examine these same blocks and see that they provide a myriad of opportunities for the many hard-working, entrepreneurial residents of the city?

Do we get professional assistance from people expert in creating value in our community to give us coherent advice on how to start leveraging our remaining resources?

Unfortunately, no.

What we do is turn to our economic development official and ask them to salvage the situation. And we give them a blunt instrument to do it.

Tax. Increment. Financing.

Tax Increment Financing (TIF) is the devil's tool of decline. There are two things necessary to make it "work" (and by "work" I mean as a way to corrupt your community's soul). First, the city must reconfigure as much of the community as possible in an auto centric manner so as to make it very advantageous to develop on bare ground on the edge of town. Then -- and these work together -- the city needs to continue policies that devalue neighborhoods to the point where decent commercial or residential activity is no longer viable.

Once these two conditions exist, TIF can be awarded. Simply demonstrate that it would be cheaper (for the developer at the moment -- not for the taxpayer over multiple life cycles) to build outside of town than to redevelop the blighted property in town and -- bam -- a tax subsidy can be awarded for the difference, if not substantially more, as an enticement to redevelop the blighted property.

Bring in the planner and the engineer to ensure that the new property conforms to the auto-centric design and you have successful redevelopment. Overlook the fact that it took decades of painful decline, millions of dollars of public malinvestment and that the final product creates less value than what would otherwise be there. This is something the politicians can crow about, the public can see improve in short order and the economic development team can put in their annual report.

As we call it in America: progress.

In the case of Brainerd and the two blocks -- one traditional and one auto-centric -- that we have been comparing and contrasting these past two weeks, you can probably guess by now that Taco John's received Tax Increment Financing for their new building. 

So not only is the block with the national chain restaurant valued less than the traditional block of local businesses, it is receiving a tax subsidy for the next 26 years. In the year 2033 the city of Brainerd will begin collecting taxes above and beyond what it collected in 2007 from this property.

All that for drive through tacos.

As a final note, readers should know that to grant TIF an application must pass a "but for" test. "But for" the TIF subsidy, this redevelopment wouldn't happen. When you get beyond the immediate transaction and understand the full picture of what is going on, you realize that this is a little like an alcoholic hitting the bottle and saying, "but for...." TIF is the co-dependent enabler of the suburban experiment.

And our lifestyle clearly makes us the drunk.

I want more than anything for us to sober up and start building value again in our places. We can do it if we want. We have the resources and the capacity. Let's work to make our places into Strong Towns.

 

If you find this material interesting and would like to know more about how to apply this thinking to your community, join us at the Strong Towns Network, a social enterprise for those working to implement a Strong Towns approach.