Chuck Answers Your Questions

As part of our membership drive, Chuck Marohn invited Strong Towns members to submit their questions—any question—and today, on a late-night, Mountain Dew-fueled podcast, he's answering them.

Listen to the Podcast:

Questions Answered in this Podcast:

"I get that financial strength (measured as the ratio of private investment to public investment) is "stronger" than density. But density appears (to me, and in many of the materials from Strong Towns) to be a major tool to increase the private/public ratio. If density (a) is not a cure-all, and (b) should be changed (increased?) slowly and experimentally, how should it work with other tools to increase the private/public ratio?" - Rollie Cole

"Can you provide a definition of incremental development (or natural increment, or incremental up-zoning, or incremental density) that could be understood by laypeople and development departments and politicians? I think this is a powerful concept, maybe on par with other Strong Towns core ideas, but I don’t yet have the language to fully understand or work with it." - Dan Allison

"I am a new member of Strong Towns and am wondering if the organization has ever tried to address the issue of emergency response and law enforcement. I know that might seem like a stretch, but it’s a real problem in Salem, Oregon, that our fire and police departments consume about 60% of the General Fund (property taxes), and every year they want more. Even though our crime rate and fires are way down from what they were a couple decades ago, the police and fire departments are bottomless pits for funding and our mostly conservative elected officials are happy to oblige them in relatively good times like we are now experiencing. Question for Chuck: Don’t many towns need to see reform of their emergency response systems (police and fire) to cut overhead and bring down costs in light of decreasing crime rates and many fewer fires?" - Jim Scheppke

"My question, in either a general or Austin-specific context (since Chuck was recently here), is: Why should cities in a housing affordability crisis not allow residential construction by-right, in the central part of the city?" - Chris Wojtewicz

"Chuck, could you talk about the financial impact that churches have on the tax base for downtowns? There are a number of churches downtown in my city, and I'm guessing it's because they got a good deal on the property years ago when no business owner wanted to be downtown. But now that our downtown is improving I've heard comments that churches should move out of the downtown to make way for business owners who would pay tax on the property thus increasing tax revenue for the downtown." - Ernie Reppe

"I live in a small New England city (Northampton, MA) that seems to already be working pretty well, mostly (not entirely of course), from a physical design perspective. How do we assess whether we are financially a Strong Town?" -Danielle McKahn

"What's the best way to go about getting stakeholders and city engineering to work together to create a "new" magnificent and economically vibrant sidewalk out of an old, tired road that is about to become the most important artery between a new outlet mall and our downtown? As is typical in an old downtown, the storefronts are not level, do not comply with ADA (grandfathered in until "improvements" are made), property owners actually own the sidewalk so the city (in the interest of efficiency?) will simply build a 'new' sidewalk using 4' from the street and leave the existing sidewalk (that belongs to multiple landowners who are frustrated, not working together in a uniformed fashion, and often hostile with municipal decisions) that is not functional, attractive or conducive to renewed success." -Carole Alexander

"3 short questions:

  1. What do you think is typically the "lowest hanging fruit" to make a town or city stronger?
  2.  Should I sell my municipal bonds? If so, where should I store my money?
  3. Can we have a sneak preview of the end of year book recommendations?"

- Kit Anderson