Math, Maps, and Money: How Fiscal Analysis Can Change the Conversation


Today we are featuring a guest podcast episode from our friends at VERDUNITY, a planning and engineering firm in the Dallas-Fort Worth area that applies Strong Towns principles in its work. This was originally published on their Go Cultivate! website, an interactive learning space that aims to help community leaders grow financially resilient, resource-conscious, and people-friendly cities.

Not so incidentally, some of the brilliant folks from Verdunity will be at #StrongTownsNTX, our upcoming regional gathering in Plano. Kevin Shepherd, a founding principal of Verdunity, is one of our featured presenters. #StrongTownsNTX is just a few days away—it’s all going down on October 4th and 5th, and if you care about a North Texas community, you’re not going to want to miss out. It’s going to be an incredible opportunity to talk with experts like Kevin as well as fellow advocates about how to make your place financially stronger. And if you know someone who’d love to attend, send ‘em our way. Tickets are still available now.


VERDUNITY’s Felix Landry joins the show to discuss the importance of understanding the fiscal consequences of our development patterns, as well as the ways that cities can use map-based fiscal analysis to make more holistic land use decisions.

3:29 – Beginning of interview

5:00 – How Felix stumbled into looking at the economics of cities

7:00 – Pro formas—why don’t city planning departments have them? (And more questions Felix had during his time in a his city’s planning department)

12:00 – Confusion on how to go about applying fiscal analysis in planning work

17:53 – Insolvency issues and how fiscal analysis can be a common language for analyzing cities holistically

20:20 – How your city isn’t like a hamburger joint

22:30 – What exactly do we mean by fiscal analysis?

25:25 – The backwards way most cities decide what gets built

26:50 – What would fiscal analysis actually look like for cities?

31:56 – How fiscal analysis maps can show us otherwise unseen trends

33:25 – Which development types are loss leaders for cities, and what it means if those areas make up too much of a city

37:32 – The gym analogy: treadmills vs. swimming pools

39:42 – Other analogies Felix likes to use for understanding development types and fiscal consequences: personal heath and grocery stores

50:05 – What happens when citizens insist on both an unproductive development pattern and a lower tax rate?

53:50 – Differences between modern-day suburbs and pre-war suburbs

1:17:00 – How cities can apply fiscal analysis to decision making? We discuss applications to zoning ordinances, comprehensive plans, economic development, and more.

1:20:20 – What Felix is reading these days

1:22:19 – Wrap-up with Kevin and Jordan

(This episode features music from Custodian of Records)

This episode is available on iTunes here, and on Simplecast here.