"We're Overbuilt on the Public Side, and Underbuilt on the Private Side"


Strong Towns founder Chuck Marohn rolled through Kansas City recently on the ongoing Strong America Tour, and this was a particularly special stop for us because it dovetailed with an appearance by principal at Urban3, fiscal analysis wizard, and the Energizing Orange Citrus Mountain Dew Kickstart to Chuck’s Midnight Grape Mountain Dew Kickstart: the one, the only Joe Minicozzi. We already shared a podcast recorded on the scene by Chuck, Joe, and two of our favorite KC urban thinkers and doers, Kevin Klinkenberg of K2 Urban Design and Dennis Strait of Gould Evans.

But Chuck and Joe also found time while in town to appear on a live, joint radio interview on KCUR’s Up To Date. The audio can be found here on KCUR’s website.

Want to see Chuck Marohn and Joe Minicozzi record a podcast live together? Come join us in early December for our Southern California Regional Gathering. For an itinerary, list of speakers, and more information, visit here.

Contemplating Kansas City’s Fiscal Future

What’s the old adage about squeezing blood out of a turnip? If it’s not there, you can’t tax it. Whether you’re going to tax it with a user fee, or a land tax, or a property tax, you’ve got to create enough wealth.

Urban3 recently completed a fiscal analysis of Kansas City, MO, helping to identify which parts of the city offer the greatest potential for financially productive long-term growth. Rather than the misguided strategy of the past of building more infrastructure than the city can sustain and trusting it to yield positive returns, KC must shift to strategically targeted investment in established neighborhoods and sensible development patterns to create lasting value.

Up to Date host Steve Kraske interviewed Chuck and Joe about this vision for Kansas City, why the city’s prevailing model of growth has not produced resilient wealth, and—importantly—why just tweaking the tax structure won’t be enough to right the city’s course.

Discussed in This Interview Clip

1:15 Urban3 is about “Making better decisions about design of place through an understanding of data.” What data should cities be collecting?

2:55 Would a user fee system, in which people pay directly for the infrastructure they make use of, help us fund and maintain city services going forward?

3:25 The two of you will be unveiling a new fiscal assessment this evening. Will people be hearing something radically different than they’re used to hearing about Kansas City?

4:35 Can we resolve our fiscal problems by changing how we collect revenue?

5:30 What does this mean for the east side, a poorer part of our community? Should their infrastructure suffer because the neighborhood is less wealthy?

7:40 We’ve developed a lot but given out so many tax incentives in the process that the public hasn’t always seen much benefit. When are tax subsidies appropriate?

11:30 Isn’t part of the problem competition among cities? A race to the bottom in terms of offering lower tax rates to lure business?

14:25 Why is it that we always give incentive money to people outside of the area, rather than find ways to assist small local businesses?

16:10 Is anybody out there approaching economic growth the way Strong Towns and Urban3 recommend?

(Cover image: Built footprint of Kansas City metropolitan area. Via Urban3.)