If you're just joining Strong Towns (or even if you've been following us for a while), there are some important articles you may have missed that we really think you should read. They include some of the foundational thinking that led to the Strong Towns movement, and they continue to speak to our goals today.

Take 10 minutes (or 30) to dive into some of these important stories. We guarantee you'll come away with new ideas for how to make your town stronger:

1. Confessions of a Recovering Engineer

Originally published November, 2010

After graduating from college with a civil engineering degree, I found myself working in my home town for a local engineering firm doing mostly municipal engineering (roads, sewer pipe, water pipe, stormwater). A fair percentage of my time was spent convincing people that, when it came to their road, I knew more than they did.

And of course I should know more. First, I had a technical degree from a top university. Second, I was in a path towards getting a state license (at the time I was an Engineer in Training, the four-year "apprenticeship" required to become a fully licensed Professional Engineer), which required me to pass a pretty tough test just to get started and another, more difficult, exam to conclude. Third, I was in a profession that is one of the oldest and most respected in human history, responsible for some of the greatest achievements of mankind. Fourth - and most important - I had books and books of standards to follow.

2. The Growth Ponzi Scheme

Originally published June, 2011

Most American cities find themselves caught in the Growth Ponzi Scheme. We experience a modest, short term illusion of wealth in exchange for enormous, long term liabilities. We deprive our communities of prosperity, overload our families with debt and become trapped in a spiral of decline. This cannot continue.

We often forget that the American pattern of suburban development is an experiment, one that has never been tried anywhere before. We assume it is the natural order because it is what we see all around us. But our own history — let alone a tour of other parts of the world — reveals a different reality. Across cultures, over thousands of years, people have traditionally built places scaled to the individual. It is only in the last two generations that we have scaled places to the automobile...  Read the rest of the article.

3. Can you be an Engineer and Speak out for Reform?

Originally published February, 2015

Last week I received a notice from the board of licensing that a complaint has been filed against my professional engineering license. The complaint indicated that I had engaged in “misconduct on the website/blog Strong Towns” for things I have written critical of the engineering profession. While this development is disappointing, it is far from surprising.

The complaint was filed by a former American Society of Civil Engineers fellow who is currently an outspoken member of the Move MN coalition, the organization advocating for more transportation funding here in my home state. The complaint was filed on the day I wrote No New Roads, a blog post that called out both organizations for their self-serving support of endless transportation spending. Again, an effort to take away my professional license for speaking out is appalling, but it isn’t surprising...   Read the rest of the article.

4. Gross Negligence (series)

Originally published June, 2015

At the end of last month there was a terrible incident where a car left the roadway, killed a child and injured another, while they were walking through a park... Sadly, the unique thing about this incident is not the death of a child -- children getting run down and killed by vehicles happens ALL THE TIME -- the unique thing is the reaction to this specific tragedy. New York Governor Andrew Cuomo ordered the speed on Highway 198, which runs right through Delaware Park bisecting a number of community amenities and neighborhoods, to be reduced to 30 mph. His directive included the following...    Read the rest of the series.

5. The Five Ways Engineers Deflect Criticism

Originally published October, 2015

Transportation engineers can be intimidating. They are hard to oppose. When a member of the general public shows up at local meeting to express concern over a project – for example, their quiet local street being widened as if it were a highway – they more often than not find themselves verbally outgunned by the project engineer.

There are a handful of ways engineers deflect criticism. Chief among them is to resort to quoting industry standards. Having a huge budget and all the clout that comes with it doesn’t hurt either. There are, however, a number of reliable threads that I’ve heard engineers use time and again...  Read the rest of the article.

(Top photo by Johnny Sanphillippo)