Strong Towns Members are Changing the Conversation

The Strong Towns approach is a radically new way of thinking about the way we build our world. In the last ten years, we’ve influenced the way countless people think about the costs and benefits of growth and new infrastructure, and we’ve introduced brand new terms like “Growth Ponzi Scheme” and “stroad” into the lexicon of grassroots advocates and urban policy makers alike.

But we don’t do this by lobbying members of Congress (though we do write about federal policy). We don’t write design guides, or white papers, or academic case studies. We don’t work as a consultant for public agencies.

Rather, we believe that the change we want to see is going to require a broad cultural shift: a different set of understandings about what makes a place prosperous and resilient. We believe true resilience can only be built locally. And so we believe that any cultural paradigm shift we achieve is going to have to come from the ground up, in every community across North America. Its’s going to have to be informed in each place by local realities, and endorsed with the credibility of local voices.

This is why we’re so proud of our members, who are taking the Strong Towns message to their own communities and fighting their own particular battles.

Are you a local advocate for responsible budgeting, safe streets, affordable housing, environmental protection, mom-and-pop entrepreneurs?

Are you a local elected official, or have you considered running on a platform that advocates for Strong Towns principles?

Do you want more of the information and resources that will help you change the conversation in your city?

Then become a member of Strong Towns today, so that we can help you and people like you be a more effective change agent.

Here’s just one story of a member who is working to change the conversation in her own town. Marlene Druker is a Strong Towns member in Gig Harbor, Washington. She wrote to us with the following update on a grassroots campaign she organized in Gig Harbor this year:

“My city in general, and I in particular, just lost an election.”

Editor’s note: Hold on, stop the presses. We’re pleased to report that as of a more recent count, Druker’s “no” campaign was in the lead by 51 votes. Anyway, we’ll let Druker tell you about her efforts in her own words:

“I live in Gig Harbor,  south of Seattle, across the famous bridge from Tacoma, in the booming Puget Sound region. The narrative in our town is that we need more roads because so many people have moved here. The council and mayor established a Transportation Benefit District (TBD) , as allowed by state law, and put a measure on the ballot for a 0.2% sales tax increase to fund transportation projects. The resolution that formed the TBD stipulated that money raised could be used for projects "for motorized vehicles only." I volunteered to write the “Against” statement for the voters' pamphlet and lead the campaign against the proposition. After debating our major at a public forum put on by the Chamber of Commerce, I submitted this to our local paper (and it was published):

As long as people have cars and our area is desirable, there will be traffic. There will never be enough money to "fix" traffic because improvements for cars encourage more people to drive and new problems develop. So how much money and asphalt should be spent on this unsustainable growth pattern?

If Proposition no. 1. passes, a few ribbons will be cut on new roundabouts and turn lanes. Improvements will be insignificant, but politicians will not admit that building to keep up with motor vehicle demand is futile, they will instead say...."it's working, we just need more money. "

The council and mayor are promising the impossible - enough roads to allow everyone to drive everywhere, at any time, without delay. Not only that, but someone else - tourists and people who live outside of city limits - will pay for it. If that seems too good to be true, it's because it is.

Gig Harbor has a vibrant downtown, wonderful parks and trails, friendly and caring neighbors. Let's focus on making our town a better place for people, not on being able to move cars more quickly through our town. Please vote no.

“This was my very first political campaign. I had zero funding and used Facebook, talking to people and giving away Halloween candy with messages to campaign. It was a real learning experience - I'd like to write an article to help make sense of it and I would like it to be published so I can get some feedback from others in small towns facing similar issues.”

As we already told Druker personally, we’re looking forward to publishing that article in the future. We want to help you, our members, tell your stories and learn from each other: what works, what doesn’t, what good ideas from somewhere else might be applicable in your town, or what good ideas you have that someone else might want to take and run with and scale up.

This is how broad-based change happens. This is how we build a nation of strong towns.

Here are a couple more testimonials from members who are working hard to change the conversation in their own places. Support the Strong Towns movement so we can keep publishing these stories and connecting you with inspiration from other citizens who care.