Welcome to the next match-up in the third annual Strongest Town Competition! In this round, 16 towns are facing off and 8 will advance to the next segment of the contest based on your votes.

We invite you to read the answers that representatives from these two towns provided to questions about economic resilience, citizen involvement, land use and more, then vote for the strongest. Can't decide? Read commentaries by Strong Towns members to help inform you choice here.

Voting closes at 12pm CT on Friday, March 9.


 Source: Ines Alveano-Aguerrebere

Source: Ines Alveano-Aguerrebere

Morelia, Michoacán, Mexico

Entry submitted by: Antonio Godoy, Inés Alveano, and Itsi Alveano

How are residents in your town involved in the life of the community? Share a few examples of times when residents came together to work on a project or make decisions about the future of the town.

We joined to stop a millionaire investment in 22 vehicular bridges and an urban highway (infrastructure devoted to private cars). We interviewed international mobility specialists, made videos and shared them via facebook. The most popular one was viewed 35 k times.

At Strong Towns we believe that financial solvency is a prerequisite for longterm prosperity. What steps has your community taken to ensure its financial security? Do local leaders adequately do the math on new investments proposed in your town to ensure that theyll be able to afford them now and afford their maintenance in the future?

Local leaders are starting to focus on pedestrians.

If we took a walking tour through your town what would we see? How does your community use its land to the fullest?

On the "ancient" neighborhoods, you would find that none of them was tear appart to build a highway. There is social tissue. Most of the central places (arond 6 km diameter) are walkable (not because of high quality sidewalks, but because the land is of mixed use). We still have markets (not many super-markets), and commercial streets. Sadly, you would also find lots of on-street free parking. On sundays, there is a "ciclovia recreativa" on downtown's main street. From 8am to 1pm it is closed to cars, and open for people walking, cycling, skating, etc.

At Strong Towns we believe transportation investments are a means to an end not an end in themselves. How is your city using transportation investments to make your community more successful?

They are investing in re-building better sidewalks and pedestrian-only streets. Public transit is not progressing yet.

Tell us about your community's local economy. Who are the key players big and small and how do they help your town to be financially strong? What local businesses are you most proud of?

There are two big families that "owne" the city. They are housing developers and shopping mal owners. Until now, they have financed sprawl... But now, they are not being able to sell their housing units because of the same sprawl. Our city is financially weak, and that is probably the most likely reason why we haven't had any more urban highways projected and built (jaja, luckily). We have had the "buy local" campaign. There are local hotels, restaurants, clothes/ thechnology stores, etc. International chain stores like starbucks haven't proliferated.

What is your favorite thing about your town?

That we managed to stop (maybe for a while) the building of car-centric-infrastructure. That we are still a walkable place, despite years of investment in car-centered-infrastructure. That we have a 40% public transit share, and only 30% of trips is by car.


Beutter-Park-5.jpg

Mishawaka, Indiana

Entry submitted by: Bryan Tanner, Dave Wood, Matt Mammolenti, Kate Voelker, Ken Prince, Christine Jamrose, Debbie Block, Ross Deal, Joe Canarecci, Mike Compton, Ron Banicki, and Mike Bellovich.

How are residents in your town involved in the life of the community? Share a few examples of times when residents came together to work on a project or make decisions about the future of the town.

Several of our city council representatives host monthly neighborhood meetings. These neighbors regularly provide candid and purposeful feedback on all happenings with the city. However, residents have been getting much more active when it comes to infrastructure projects and the elimination of street trees. An effort is underway with a local organization to replace many of the street trees the city removed, while also pushing the mayor's administration to avoid removal and automatically replace removed trees post construction.

At Strong Towns we believe that financial solvency is a prerequisite for longterm prosperity. What steps has your community taken to ensure its financial security? Do local leaders adequately do the math on new investments proposed in your town to ensure that theyll be able to afford them now and afford their maintenance in the future?

Over the past several years, the City of Mishawaka has strived to eliminate all general bond debt. As of December of 2016, the city had completely paid off all general bonds, lowering resident's property tax bills by an average of $50. While the city has taken on some general bond debt since then, only as a state law requirement to do so in order to utilize TIF monies for projects, it has taken the loans out against itself with the City of Mishawaka Bond Bank to satisfy these state requirements. The city has also implemented a pavement evaluation and maintenance program to reduce future construction costs and eliminate wasteful projects. The only new roads built by the city within the past few years are due to needs within utility infrastructure, but even that project coincided with a strategic investment in an existing golf course dually serving as a well field. An effort eight years ago combined the streets department with the parks department staff, since parks require maintenance predominantly through the summer, while the streets need more care through freeze and thaw in the winter. This also allowed for the merging of facilities maintenance and reducing costs for storing, repairing, and maintaining the city's fleet of vehicles across all departments. Lastly, there is currently work on an ordinance amendment to greatly reduce the parking requirements throughout the city. While the annual budget for the city was increased last year, this follows several years of reducing or maintaining the budget without increases and without eliminating any services, and is predicated by long-term capital investments for the community.

If we took a walking tour through your town what would we see? How does your community use its land to the fullest?

You will see a tremendous historic core to the city. Great effort and care has been given to the public spaces, walkways, and multi-modal transportation throughout downtown and the river which passes through it. Access points, parks, monuments, playgrounds, and easy accessibility to most of these amenities without the need for a vehicle. A large swath of downtown sits barren where a failed industrial development was imploded in 2001. However, patience and persistence has allowed for a return of private investment in this area which is walkable, mixed-use, and has the density to support the ongoing maintenance and services provided by the city.

At Strong Towns we believe transportation investments are a means to an end not an end in themselves. How is your city using transportation investments to make your community more successful?

While Mishawaka strives to build no new roads, it has been negotiating with the State of Indiana to take over the right of way for the major east-west roadway through town in order to improve the degrading transportation infrastructure.

Aside from our expansive riverwalk system connecting several neighborhoods and parks, most transportation investments are actually a byproduct of investment in our utilities infrastructure. Mishawaka has consistently made an investment in eliminating combined sewer overflows to the St. Joseph River for more than twenty years. This greatly precedes the consent decree made with the EPA in 2009 which requires a 100% elimination of combined sewer overflows within the next 5-6 years. We have a municipal utility for sewer, water, and electric, which has allowed the city to develop a comprehensive long-term control plan to eliminate these overflows and simultaneously improving water, electric, and transportation infrastructure. More than 98% of combined sewer overflows have been eliminated through this process so far, and many neighborhoods have also visibly benefited from this investment. While Mishawaka strives to build no new roads, it has been negotiating with the State of Indiana to take over the R/W for the major east-west roadway through town in order to improve the degrading transportation infrastructure in conjunction with the final steps in eliminating all combined sewer overflows. 

Tell us about your community's local economy. Who are the key players big and small and how do they help your town to be financially strong? What local businesses are you most proud of?

For more than 100 years, manufacturing and heavy industry dominated the local economy in Mishawaka. Approximately 40 years ago, a significant shift in retail development on the northern end of the city coincided with growth in the northeaster, unincorporated portions of the county. This led to massive growth in retail development and a dependency by the city for those tax dollars to fund infrastructure investment in a cyclical manner. Fortunately, city leaders identified the perils of this cycle more than fifteen years ago and began slowing infrastructure investment which fed this sprawl, and reinvesting these monies in the core of the city with established and historic neighborhoods. In short, our dependency on any one company or industry segment is dropping and becoming much more diversified. That said, AM General, Liberty Mutual, University Park Mall, and the numerous local business members of the Mishawaka Business Association are the largest impact makers in our community. I'm most proud of Lippert Components, Inc., a maker of recreation vehicle parts and components, which has recently expanded their operations in a previously vacated manufacturing plant on the city's south side, while also investing in their corporate headquarters in two office spaces on the city's north side. On a smaller scale, I'm really excited about a co-working space and coffee shop which recently occupied a vacant historic bank downtown as all individuals involved are sincerely committed to the homegrown expansion of business in our city's core.

What is your favorite thing about your town?

Our intricate and expansive parks system with multi-modal connectivity through an expansive riverwalk system is a massive draw of people downtown to visit, business to move their operations for work, and for people to live and play. It connects tens-of-thousands of people and their homes to an incredible number of both public and private amenities. It brings people together through community and cultural events, accidental interactions, exercise, leisure, and an appreciation of the outdoors.


Voting is now closed.