We came up with the following document after the Strong Towns National Gathering in 2014. It's a simple tool to figure out whether you live in a Strong Town — a collaboration between our members from across the country. We continue to reference it often and we hope you'll find it a valuable resource.
If you appreciate resources like this and want to see more, become a member of Strong Towns today.
People frequently ask if there is a way to measure a successful Strong Town. Systems like LEED-ND have value, but the technical analysis required is time consuming and beyond the reach of many non-professionals. The Government Accounting Standards Board (GASB) sets guidelines for municipalities, but they don’t generally result in information that is usable for non-technical people.
We understand that cities are complex, adaptable systems that defy easy or precise measurement, so we asked ourselves: Are there simple observations we use to signal that a city is either a strong town or on its way to becoming one? If you went to a place and had a little bit of time, could you scratch the surface and get a sense of how strong and resilient it was?
The Strong Towns Strength Test
Here are ten simple questions we call the Strong Towns Strength Test. A Strong Town should be able to answer “yes” to each of these questions. (Click on the underlined questions to read a step-by-step guide for answering that question.)
Before building or accepting new infrastructure, does the local government clearly identify how future generations will afford to maintain it?
Does the city government spend no more than 10% of its locally-generated revenue on debt service?
My hometown of Brainerd scores a 1 or a 2, but only because the biggest employer (the school district) can’t leave town and there are a couple of neighborhoods where multiple generations could technically live within walking distance of each other. We're getting closer on local food, and many the rest are doable with some modest change in thinking.
How does your town stack up?
(Top photo by Strong Towns member and contributor, Andrew Price)