As participants in the Strong Towns dialogue often note, a sustainable present and future is about intersections of all kinds. We continue to foster an exchange about making streets work better for people, both here at the Strong Towns blog, and at the Strong Towns Network.
And then there are intersections among issues. I’ve written here in the past about the intersection between citizen skills and the production of public goods. More recently, I posted on the convergence of younger and older Americans’ market preferences for housing that affords life without auto dependency and with connections to places of work and leisure. In recent weeks, I’ve learned more about how cities in the Minneapolis St. Paul region are connecting city design and public health in the context of a changing climate.
Earlier this week, Richard Florida posted a provoking piece over at Atlantic Cities titled “The Uneven Geography of U.S. Economic Growth,” presenting economic growth data for metro areas 2000-10, and focusing on the recession period of 2008-10. His conclusion is straight forward, arguing that “It makes sense to focus the future economy less around housing, roads, and physical capital, and more toward the accumulation of human capital and knowledge assets.” More specifically:
It's time to recognize that the U.S. economy is not only made up of industries which grow and decline at different rates, but hundreds of metro regions that do so as well. There is a great deal national economic policy makers can gain from studying the factors that underpin the metros with more consistent and resilient growth…[TIME magazine's Rana] Foroohar points out that after the 2012 election we are likely to see a shift to a new kind of economic policy where cities in effect "become the petri dishes in which we do different growth experiments."
You and I recognize this cycle argument. More productive land use and higher-ROI urban design gives us resources to pay down debt, and invest in assets that will be productive in the future: The resource of our people and skills. This spans from early education to elementary, secondary, and needs to include a range of pathways to reach technical or professional expertise.
Cities are great petri dishes, and have been in the past – check out this early Strong Towns report written by Ben Oleson on Minnesota’s long-gone model of local control taxation. Towns, cities and metro areas, just like states, can function as innovation labs useful for evaluating approaches to taxation, land use, energy generation and distribution, or shared services.
The innovations and the local conditions are important. The real power, however, is in the intersections. How are we able to share ideas and solutions (that’s right, skeptics – I used the word solutions) across networks of citizens and community leaders? We will grow more reliant on these networks as fiscal and environmental stress grows, and we are moved to faster implementation of new land use patterns.