The word “value” dates to the Old French verb “valere” used since the 13th century. It meant to be well, to be strong, or to be of value. It’s interesting that even in its meaning of more than 700 years ago, “value” was a subjective concept. 

As federal and state budgets are compressed by entitlements and political reflex, cities have been engaged in a critical fact-finding mission. The question is simple: What value can fund investments on which communities rely? At Strong Towns, we are even more interested in the question of how value we “capture” can be done in ways that add to cities’ financial security and long-term viability and prosperity.

We’ve had great dialogue on the Strong Towns platform about transformation of the way we use our land, and how we are able to invest in our workforce, infrastructure, housing and quality of place in an environment of scarcity. You are a key part of that dialogue. One of the responses we’ve received at Curbside Chats and from readers is a great hunger for concrete steps toward resolution – steps to make cities financially strong and more resilient. We are preparing to begin focusing much more exclusively on solutions.

The issue of value remains central. Legislators, city council members, county commissioners and advocates are each mining ideas for where value can be identified to fund public purposes. The Center for Transportation produced a study considering the feasibility and equity of key value capture tools. The Urban Land Institute’s Minnesota chapter has also explored how to concentrate value to maximize infrastructure, through theirConnecting Transportation and Land Use Systems initiative. Each of these efforts provides, in a climate of continued anxiety about economic conditions and public revenues, examples of forward thinking for how to fund shared assets in our cities. But again, solutions only become solutions when they are implemented.

In 1971, legislation that became known as the Minnesota Miracle was adopted, providing much more consistent access to quality education and replacing many local levies (sales, hotel/motel, wheelage and other taxes) with a state-based model that included Local Government Aid (LGA). Today, with LGA on the chopping block annually, we believe there exists an opportunity to provide more varied taxing authority to citizens elected to city councils and county commissions. They know in the greatest detail the constraints and potential of their communities and local economies. In other words, they know how to tie value to their future. At Strong Towns, we look forward to partner with local leaders and their communities in this work.

Photo: Courtesy of emmc/Flickr 


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