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Friday
Apr182014

Arkansas

When we do a Curbside Chat, a workshop or some other type of event in a community, the reaction that I get is fairly consistent. People tell me that the information I shared was mind-blowing, completely relevant to their place and that, while they couldn’t put it into words, they have understood the core problems I outline for a long, long time.

Click through for article and attribution.There is also one other recurring bit of feedback I get constantly and it goes like this: I wish (insert name of a local public official) was here.

The only place I’m not getting that last bit is from my recent visit to Arkansas. I hadn’t been to Arkansas since I was really young and, unfortunately, my first election that I was eligible to vote was 1992. Having not voted for a Democrat then or since (and don’t assume I vote all Republican please), the following eight years filled with hillbilly jokes molded a fleeting impression I had of the state into some very low expectations.

I couldn’t have been more wrong. For a person who has visited lots of this country – and not just the touristy parts but the underbelly I get treated to professionally – I was really impressed with northwestern Arkansas and, in particular, Fayetteville. And not just impressed with what they are physically doing on the ground but even more blown away with the really thoughtful and active community dialog I was dropped into the middle of.

It is a hard thing to describe so I’m fortunate to have one great news article covering the event and another even better editorial that captured the essence of the conversation. Read the entire thing, but I’m going to give you some quotes.

It would have been easy to be offended or excited at his precisely targeted critiques, except that Marohn’s notes were specific to the Fort Smith area only because the Fort Smith area is just one of thousands – if not more – U.S. municipalities doing things the wrong way. 

The editorial went on to talk about some local issues and lament the direction the local conversation had gone on two big projects, both on the periphery of the community. I love how they brought the conversation back to what really matters:

Any broad discussion of urban sprawl deflects from the point Marohn was trying to make, which is that taxpayer support of private development and/or public infrastructure, whether across the street or outside a territorial jurisdiction, receive a rational review to determine the relationship between upfront benefits and future ancillary impacts on a municipal budget.

And finally, here’s the kind of logic I ran into in Arkansas, which left me really optimistic that they got it.

It’s math. It’s short-term and long-term budgetary math. It’s math that allows us to avoid emotion resulting in a decision that may be popular and easy on the front end, but costly and potentially cumbersome for future residents and leaders.

As I left town, there was a little bit of buzz around the people I had met that they really wanted to get me back for more conversation and to put some of these ideas into action. I’m really enthused about that possibility because, I’m happy to say, I really like Arkansas.

Thursday
Apr172014

The Lean Startup

There are so many principles in the Lean Startup that can and should be embraced by today's local governments. I'm really inspired by Eric Ries. If you are not familiar with Lean Startup, here's a short video introduction that was recently published by McKinsey & Company.

"We are stumbling our way to a whole new form of governance..."

- Eric Ries

Thursday
Apr172014

Podcast Show 171: Kristin Green of Verdunity

We are really proud to be associated with some amazing people who are working hard to advance the principles of Strong Towns in their chosen profession. This week on the podcast we have a conversation with Kristin Green, the dynamic and visionary leader of the Texas-based engineering firm, Verdunity. Kristin and her colleagues brought the Strong Towns Curbside Chat to the Dallas area earlier this year and, in partnership with them, we are planning a return trip this October. They are pioneers in their field and it is a real pleasure to be able to share this conversation with you.

Verdunity combines the concepts of “green” (verde) with community in an effort to restore the balance between urban and natural systems and create long term prosperity for the communities they work with. They are a sponsor of Strong Towns and we are grateful for their ongoing support and their pioneering approach.

Our mission is to support a model of growth that allows America’s cities, towns and neighborhoods become financially strong and resilient. If you are an organization doing compelling work consistent with the principles of Strong Towns and would be interested in supporting our efforts to build a stronger America, please contact our Executive Director, Jim Kumon, to discuss ways we can potentially work together.

Show 171: Kristin Green