From the Ask Strong Towns folder, this one from Spencer G. of Madison.
In computer science, there is the idea of a "code smell". In essence, a code smell is a piece of code that correctly executes a given task (i.e. it's not a bug) but its construction indicates deeper flaws in the logic and design of a program.
I was sitting in a meeting the other day and wondered how that principle can apply to urban planning. A few code smells come to mind: - Bike/ped overpasses - The Safe Routes to School program.
I'm curious to know: What are some planning code smells that you can think of?
Wikipedia provides this on Code Smells:
In computer programming, code smell is any symptom in the source code of a program that possibly indicates a deeper problem. According to Fowler, "a code smell is a surface indication that usually corresponds to a deeper problem in the system". Another way to look at smells is with respect to principles and quality: "smells are certain structures in the code that indicate violation of fundamental design principles and negatively impact design quality". Code smells are usually not bugs—they are not technically incorrect and do not currently prevent the program from functioning. Instead, they indicate weaknesses in design that may be slowing down development or increasing the risk of bugs or failures in the future.
I want to open this one up for everyone to add their thoughts, but the one that IMMEDIATELY came to my mind is a debt issuance for maintenance. I see this continuously. Cities convince themselves that they have a cash flow problem when what they really have is an insolvency problem. Believing they are simply short of money (not realizing they are insolvent), they take on debt to do basic maintenance, stuff that regular cash flow should be covering. This is extra pernicious because current taxpayers don't feel the squeeze -- they are enjoying a higher level of service without paying for it -- while future taxpayers will experience the consequence of bad policy: what we now call "austerity" to somehow suggest it is a choice.
This is the story of Ferguson, MO, which spends on interest on their debt 32x what they spend on sidewalk maintenance.
When I see a city manager, city engineer or other key staff recommending a huge debt issuance when they don't include a statement of cash flow with that recommendation, well.... it's a Code Smell that signals to me that something isn't right here. I watched my city go through this dance last year (and then become outraged at me when I sent an article to the newspaper.) And note: becoming outraged at a basic critique is another Code Smell.
What are your Code Smells and why?