Friday News Digest

This is a week of celebration here at the Marohn household as, by her own proclamation, my youngest daughter was magically transformed into a "big girl". (I'll interpret Stella lingo: that means she turned three). While we still have the big "Panda Party" to come this weekend, the major damage has been done. I disassembled the crib (tear), we now have her sleeping in a "big girl bed" and for some reason she now feels liberated to argue about everything. I'm sure hyper-independence in a child is a sign of good parenting.

Enjoy this week's news.

  • This week I was asked to participate in a forum on Baldwin Township put on by Minnesota Public Radio. It dealt with issues of growth, development, annexation, incorporation, road maintenance, rural life.....all things that we are passionate about here at Strong Towns. MPR is looking in depth at this exurban township in a series they are calling Ground Level. There are a couple of online articles that may interest the audience, including one on the cost of unplanned growth and another on how the recession is changing the township. Way to go, MPR. Well done. 
  • In Minnesota, with our current budget shortfall and a larger one yet looming for the next biennium, aid to local governments has been  an "easy" cut for the state legislature. This is making for some interesting, but necessary, discussions as the costs of our development pattern trickle down to the lowest levels of government. At least one town is still looking at this as "trimming fat". It never ceases to amaze me how we will cut parks and police yet the enormous costs of our inefficient development pattern is the last cut we consider. Let's see....wider roads so we can get save 40 seconds on our commute or things that make our community enjoyable to live in?

[City Administrator] Clark said the city would need to increase its levy by 34 percent to recoup funds lost this year if the proposed unallotment sees fruition. The unallotment is significant, he said, because offsetting the amount lost would, in theory, mean eliminating the entire parks department or one-third of the police department’s officers.

  • The LGA cuts have also revealed some interesting conflict of values as those advocating limited government face the reality of what that means. In my hometown they debated, and ultimately failed to approve, a resolution rejecting the cuts. I don't make this point to belittle the values but to point out that we have had our cake and eaten it too for a long time now. We face a future, at all levels of government, where we will not be trimming fat but making difficult discussions over our values. We need that conversation.

Council member Mary Koep offered a substitute to the resolution that would eliminate the paragraph urging the Legislature to reject Pawlenty's budget cuts for 2010.

Instead, Koep offered an amendment that Brainerd would urge Pawlenty, the Legislature, the city and groups that lobby on behalf of the city to work together for new ideas to meet the state's budget crisis.

"It seems to me a much more positive approach than being so negative and gimme, gimme, gimme," Koep said. 

  • The world will get really interesting here in Minnesota if local governments are actually given more freedom over the revenue side of their budgets. Right now, they are not allowed to tax outside of some very proscribed and limited mechanisms. As this article suggests, there are all kinds of creative ways in which local governments will likely seek to raise revenue. As for can tax my digital download when you pry it from my cold, dead hard drive.

A coalition of Minnesota mayors reeling from more proposed cuts in state aid to municipal coffers Friday proposed a way to indirectly prop up their budgets: Tax tattoos, facials, manicures, body piercings and digital downloads.

  • I spent an extended time in Italy several years ago and, bringing my American ways, found it remarkable how much they spent on food and clothes and how small their apartments and cars were. As I grew to appreciate their values, I came to see a lot about the Italian lifestyle that was endearing. Certainly any culture where you can sleep past 8 AM, take a nap in the afternoon and then stay up late having a large dinner of amazing food with family and friends had redeeming qualities. That, and the gelato. Oh my...gelato. In that context, this article on designing cities for quality of life resonates as something we need to seriously ponder as our culture evolves and ages.

“If we in the Third World measure our success or failure as a society in terms of income, we would have to classify ourselves as losers until the end of time,” declares Peñalosa. “So with our limited resources, we have to invent other ways to measure success. This might mean that all kids have access to sports facilities, libraries, parks, schools, nurseries.”

  • Lastly, the tragedy in Haiti has brought some creative genius to bear on the reconstruction. One of those genius minds belongs to Andres Duany. In this video he shares some of the complexities of this challenging undertaking.

Rebuilding Haiti from Marvin Joseph on Vimeo.


You can continue this Strong Towns conversation by posting a comment or by joining us on Facebook. You can also follow Strong Towns on Twitter. We appreciate all of the feedback and support.