This Friday finds me, along with Jim Kumon and Gracen Johnson, in Ponderay, Idaho. I just finished a radio show and am getting ready to dig into some plans and codes as part of an effort we have going on here. After spending a lot of time in big cities, it feels good to get back to my small town roots. Lots of struggles here, but lots of potential too. The job of a Strong Towns advocate is to see both with as clear a vision as one can have.
Enjoy the week’s news.
- This week we launched our new website. Thanks for all the great feedback. For those of you wondering, we are working to get the strongtowns.org domain directed correctly. Right now, you need to type the www before the address. Annoying, I know. We have been reassured all the settings are right and it is just something that needs to resolve across the interwebs. Let’s all have patience.
- One of the great things about the new site is the discussion forum. There’s already some lively conversation happening there. We’ve been using it to post some volunteer opportunities, including helping us transfer some of the old podcast to the new platform, coming up with a solution for aggregating RSS feeds and putting together show notes for the podcast. If you’ve ever wanted to volunteer, here’s a great way to start.
- One other important feature of the new site is a section we made for newcomers, information that will help them get up to speed quickly. We’re included some select blog posts there and some video. I posed a question in the discussion forum asking your opinion on whether or not we got the mix right. As readers of this blog, I’d love your feedback on what would help you share this message.
- Our friend Matthias Leyrer had a nice summary of the National Gathering including some thoughts on what we did Sunday morning to develop a Strong Towns Strength Test. More to come on that soon, but in the meantime:
- The Janey Capital Markets September newsletter leads with this, but I’m sure it’s nothing.
- To build on that Janey Capital Markets newsletter, there’s this: Washington politicians with close ties to the banking sector are pushing regulators to consider municipal debt equivalent to cash as a “safe” asset. Banks could then hold municipal debt – which is experiencing an “unprecedented multi-year run of credit deterioration” – as part of their capital requirements. Now, I’m sure that won’t include poorly-rated debt, yet I think we have to seriously question the soundness of most of it, even the highly rated stuff. Either way, I don’t get a warm and fuzzy feeling when the likes of Chuck Schumer are pressuring regulators to loosen bank capital requirements.
- And then Tim Carney points out how inapplicable the CPI (inflation calculation) is to real people in the real economy (as opposed to PhD’s in the theoretical economy).
- And maybe all of this contributes somewhat to the growing feeling that Americans have that the future is not going to be an improved version of the past.
- In fact, in Los Angeles more and more people are finding that becoming a streets vendor is a more stable and secure way to make a living than the current incarnation of the American Dream, or as I’ve taken to calling it, Modern Mercantilism.
- Take everything you’ve read so far and then watch this happy video of a small town finally making it with their build-it-and-they-will-come strategy. This is so frustrating. We actually believe that success is this easy: just build a road and you get a Chipolte. The traditional development pattern was idiot-proof while our current approach gives idiots millions of dollars to play with, every incentive to think big and no constructive feedback short of absolute failure.
- And for those of you that are waiting with baited-breath for your Tesla or for Elon Musk to save America, pull the curtain back and see that it’s more of the same, only bigger. I thank Richard Florida for being so bold as to question the wisdom of this deal. These are not investments. An investment has a real, measurable rate of return. They are political deals given the veneer of credibility by calling them investments.
- If you want transit, build a place. It doesn’t work the other way around. The huge, regional systems we’ve set up to fund transportation and pick projects are not coming anywhere near optimizing our investments.
- Thank you to Matt Hardin for the Tweet of the Week.
- I have been a supporter of installing flags to help people cross the street. In fact, we’ve done them in Brainerd (to the consternation of a few public officials). That being said, where these types of tiny investments have worked is where they have been used by individuals and groups to point out to public officials that people outside of a car actually use the intersection and – just maybe – we should take that into account. To see a city, or even a DOT, doing this from the top-down seems crazy to me. If you know you have a problem, Fort Lauderdale, get out there and fix it. Don’t just give someone a flag and hope they make it.
- A cyclist is arrested – ARRESTED – for biking in the right lane on a stroad and messing up the perfect plans of the traffic engineer. We can debate whether cycling there is smart (I wouldn’t do it) or a basic American right, but I am just happy that we are having this conversation. The comments here are fascinating as they capture the messy conversation we should be having everywhere in this country.
- Drive through visitation, for those of you too busy to grieve or console. I must admit, when I was younger I hated funerals and selfishly wished we just didn’t do them as a society. Now that I’m older and have been through some, I’ve come to appreciate the need for those left behind to gather, to see friends and loved ones supporting them and to get – however fleeting in this day and age – a sense of community to help them through a tough time. My friends, it’s the least we can do for each other.
- Cool TED video.
- And finally, this is the kind of thing I just find amazing – an entirely new creature people happened upon in the deep. I love the whole world – it’s such a brilliant place. Boom-de-yah-da.
You can now pre-order my next book – a Kindle ebook titled A World Class Transportation System – which will be released on October 7. However, if you are a member of Strong Towns, we will send it to you for free (details to follow). In short, it is a great time to become a member. You must join by October 1 to get that deal, so don’t delay. And for those of you wondering what is going on with the backlog of stuff I’ve written, there is an update now on my personal site.