My oldest of two daughters turned five this past Monday so this weekend marks the end of the nine day celebration. The world may now go about its normal business again. I jest, but it truly is wonderful to see her turn five and grow into such an interesting person. I "got serious" about Community Growth Institute following her birth (meaning I decided to make changing the world my full time profession at that time instead of going back to engineering or getting a gov't job like most of my graduate school classmates). Along with her younger sister, she's missed her dad more weekday evenings than is fair, but we've been fortunate enough to have spent all but a small handful of Fridays together these past five years. I'm going to be devastated when she starts school next year and I lose that special time each week.

So two more days of partying appropriately begin with this week's news.

  • This article in the Daily Yonder had some random and interesting jottings about why some towns thrive. If you want to lose all respect from me, answer that question with the word "ethanol", which they do here to a degree. There is some good stuff on happiness, including:

"Towns where people were less happy and less satisfied were closer to cities. They were places where residents commuted longer distances to work (most likely to that nearby city). Incomes were higher because people were earning city wages, but there was a sense that “people were just living in a place.” There was less community.

Besser said her research had found that community involvement was essential for people to think of their town as thriving. And community involvement rose as towns became more remote. “You may have less income if you’re more remote, but you will have more connections,” she said." 

  • An article in the Los Angeles Times explained why, even if we made the investment, American society is not built for transit. Planners don't often accept that and prefer to picture us all riding trains and walking. a realistic vision understands that change happens slowly over time.

Specifically, it won't be enough to just lay down lots of track and hope people will leap aboard trains and subways. You also have to discourage the use of cars -- which most Americans won't stand for -- and make our cities considerably less comfortable.

  • This week we discussed highway funding on this blog. The Appalachian Development Highway System is one of the most obvious example (to outsiders) of the problem with how we fund highways. This article talks about the financial sink hole it is and how the returns have not nearly justified the investment.

“We have built enough interstates to kill our inner-cities.” Langford said in the video interview with Blueprint America correspondent Rick Karr. “Yes, we can get from point A to point B but now what we are doing is cycling traffic around because of the grandiose idea that ‘we need more interstates.’ No, we don’t need more interstates—we need high-speed public transportation. But we’re always spending our money in the wrong places.”

  • While what is going on in Jefferson County, Alabama, is far from normal, I link to this article to demonstrate a) how bizarre things can get, and b) that governments can enter bankruptcy (most people are surprised when they find this out). Government insolvency is going to become a lot more common in the coming years.
  • I am not sure if the concept of a "muni" (municipally run liquor store and/or bar) is simply a Minnesota phenomenon or if there are other states that have adopted this approach. This article demonstrates that hard times create pain but also some opportunity where you may not have thought it would.
  • Edina is far from a small town and is one of the more exclusive areas in the state of Minnesota (and thus a place I would not be found living), so there might be more to this article than you get in 50 inches, but the concept of rich people financially bullying their way out of complying with local codes is troubling and all too common. Another thing that undermines zoning.
  • This week I was having a pre-game drink with a good friend and respected colleague and I asked him if the Baby Boom generation was capable of solving the problems we face as a country. His immediate response was, "no", and he went on to explain that the track record is long enough now to demonstrate that, as a group, they are not capable of systematic change. We are both Gen X'ers, so the tension with Boomers is natural, but this common belief makes me dread the implication of this news on the future of our small towns and rural areas.
  • I went to the CNU conference in Denver this past June and heard about this development. Stay tuned this week for what I hope will be an announcement of the first small town version of this type of approach that I am aware of.
  • After reading Mn/DOT's plan for highway construction, and understanding that they are doing a better job that nearly every other transportation department in the country, this approach is starting to look more viable (or at least more honest):

Tired Of Traffic? A New DOT Report Urges Drivers: 'Honk'

  • And finally, here is by far the most exciting development of the week.