The Strong Towns Message in Dubuque

Over the last several years, we have seen the Strong Towns message of financial resilience and strong communities reach dozens of towns and cities across the country. 

Last week, the message was shared at a conference in Dubuque, Iowa called Growing Sustainable Communities, but not by a Strong Towns staff member. This presentation, entitled, "The Point of No Return: Examining the True Economic Costs of Sprawl," was actually led by a Strong Towns member, John Griffin. John, an architect at a Native American-owned firm with branches in Tulsa, OK and Dubuque, was simply passionate about the Strong Towns message and wanted to share it with conference attendees.

John first learned of Strong Towns after reading the Growth Ponzi Scheme article. He soon became a fan and advocate for the Strong Towns message and later, had the opportunity to hear a Curbside Chat in Tulsa. 

John has utilized Strong Towns principles in his work as an architect, and also as a resident of Tulsa, hoping to encourage local developers and planners to consider Strong Towns ideas.

When John had the chance to present at the sustainability conference in Dubuque, he felt it would be an ideal place to expand the discussion beyond just green building and technology (as is often the focus at sustainability events), to talk about broader issues of sustainable infrastructure, towns and municipal finance. In an interview after his presentation, John told me, "It was important to me to be able to frame that discussion through the Strong Towns lens."

John covered several Strong Towns topics including the suburban experiment and Growth Ponzi Scheme, mixed-use and walkable places, and the true cost of highway infrastructure. He offered relevant examples from nearby midwestern cities like Chicago and Tulsa. He also highlighted the Iowa DOT Director, Paul Trombino's, recent remarks about our transportation systems contracting, and the need to make a choice about which roads we will preserve and which we will let go of. As John said, "Having the local Iowa reference helped set the tone for a conversation about making those sorts of hard choices."

Strong Towns members, Jennifer and Michael Smith, were at the presentation and reported at least 40 participants in attendance at the session. They helped spread the message too, with some tweets during the event.

Dubuque was a fruitful location at which to be sharing the Strong Towns message. As John explained, "It's a city of about 60,000 people with a downtown built in the late 1800s and beautiful architecture that is very underutilized. It's the kind of place people from other parts of the country would be falling over themselves to help restore." The City of Dubuque hosted this conference themselves. "For many years now the Mayor and the city councelors have been pursuing serious sustainability goals," John said, "and the Strong Towns message absolutely should be a part of framing the city’s sustainability objectives." He enjoyed having the opportunity to spread this message and "plant some seeds of change."

Thank you to John Griffin for sharing the Strong Towns message in Dubuque!

We love it when we see our message shared all over the country by members and supporters. All of our work is licensed under Creative Commons, which means you are free to use it, whether you're speaking at a city council meeting or leading a classroom discussion. Look for more shareable resources on our website in the near future.