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Carmel's Billion-Dollar Bet

Carmel's Billion-Dollar Bet

This week on the Strong Towns Podcast, Chuck talks with Manhattan Institute Senior Fellow Aaron Renn about Carmel, Indiana, a city that has gone into nearly unparalleled amounts of debt in a bid to become Indianapolis’s premier suburb.

How to Get Funding (and an Engaged Crowd) for Your Big Ideas

How to Get Funding (and an Engaged Crowd) for Your Big Ideas

In this episode of our podcast It’s the Little Things, Jacob chats with Bill Huston, crowdfunding legend (like, top 19 crowdfunding consultants in the world according to Inc. Magazine kind of legend). For over 15 years, Bill has helped Strong Citizens get funding for their big ideas.

The Roots of the Opioid Epidemic: A Conversation with Sam Quinones

The Roots of the Opioid Epidemic: A Conversation with Sam Quinones

This week on the Strong Towns Podcast, Chuck talks with Sam Quinones, author of Dreamland: The True Tale of America’s Opiate Epidemic. What are the origins of the unprecedented rise in narcotic addictions and deaths, and what connections, if any, are there to the way we live and build our places?

Opportunity Zones, But for Whom?

Opportunity Zones, But for Whom?

In this week’s Upzoned podcast, Kea and Chuck discuss the new federal Opportunity Zones program. Is a big bucket of money what disinvested neighborhoods need? Or is using a federal program to develop a neighborhood like steering an ocean liner with a canoe paddle?

How Self-Proclaimed Urbanists Can Make Our Towns Stronger

How Self-Proclaimed Urbanists Can Make Our Towns Stronger

In this episode of our podcast It’s the Little Things, Jacob chats with Alissa Walker, urbanism editor at Curbed, about how you don’t have to be a professional urban designer to have an impact on the built environment. Documenting your own observations can capture the attention of your peers and inspire much-needed improvements to the livability of your city.

We Should Celebrate Our Failures Too

We Should Celebrate Our Failures Too

Do we need to fail in order to succeed? When our experiments go awry—in science or otherwise—should we be dismayed, or treat it as just as vital information as if our hypotheses had been confirmed? Check out the latest episode of our new podcast Upzoned to hear Kea Wilson and Chuck Marohn wax philosophical about failure.

Beyond the Buzzword: Innovation and How it Can Help Local Government Create Meaningful Change

Beyond the Buzzword: Innovation and How it Can Help Local Government Create Meaningful Change

In this episode of our new podcast It’s the Little Things, Jacob Moses chats with Nick Kittle, author of the recently released book Sustainovation: Building Sustainable Innovation in Government, One Wildly Creative Idea at a Time. Nick argues that—even in government—innovation is an attainable workplace culture that, when embraced, can create meaningful change in our cities, towns, and neighborhoods.

Peak Delusion of the Long Emergency

Peak Delusion of the Long Emergency

Last week, Strong Towns president Chuck Marohn spoke at the International Conference of City Managers in Baltimore. He described the reaction in the room as a mixture of “Yes, that describes my situation,” and “That might describe other places, but under my leadership, things here are under control.”

In other words: a very standard reaction from a group of professionals.

The Strong Towns message can be really difficult for professionals, people whose job it is to manage the day-to-day operations of cities and make recommendations to public officials. The Upton Sinclair quote comes to mind:

It is difficult to get a man to understand something when his salary depends upon his not understanding it.

This is human nature. One gentleman stood up during the ICMA Q&A and explained how his city directly charges road maintenance costs to impacted property owners, so they don’t have the problem Chuck described. Is that all roads? No, just new ones. Does that include collector and arterial roads? No, just local ones. Well, okay then…. Problem solved, I guess????

In this episode of the Strong Towns Podcast, Chuck describes a point of “peak delusion” where professionals all kind of see how the status-quo development approach isn’t working, and increasingly see that it isn’t viable over even the short term—yet persist in the faith that continuing on the current path will somehow resolve things. Their mantra: we just have to do more (of what hasn’t been working).

And it’s not hard for those who want to avoid difficult thoughts to find affirmation. Our friends at the Market Urbanism Report like to point out that municipal bankruptcies are quite rare (since the Great Depression, when we entered the Suburban Experiment) and all the data, agencies and trends suggest they will remain rare.

Yet, there are signs that change may be coming. Companies are buying back their own stocks at a record pace, yet senior executives are dumping their stock at even greater rates. Companies like McDonald’s, with seriously declining revenues, rising levels of debt and narrowing profit margins, are able to experience large share value increases, mostly due to buybacks.

Interest rates are rising, as are budget deficits (in a booming economy, no less) to the point where the United States will soon spend more on interest than on the military.

A company like Tesla, which loses billions of dollars annually while making only 80,000 cars per year, is now worth more than BMW, a leader in high-end automobile production that not only manufactured 2 million cars last year, but made 8.7 billion euros in profit doing so. BMW is full of smart people who continually do innovative things, yet somehow they are going to be out-innovated by a company led by a serial Tweeter building cars out of tents, yet still losing money. It’s kind of a crazy world.

Yet, this is what Jim Kunstler predicted in his book The Long Emergency: a period of gimmicks and swindles designed to give the illusion that everything is fine, that it will all keep functioning like normal–or better–as far into the future as any of us can imagine.

That’s a narrative Strong Towns advocates know to be false. That’s why we need to stay calm amid the craziness, keep working at making our places stronger, and be there when things go bad and we’re most needed.

Get more of this conversation on this week’s Strong Towns podcast.

(Cover photo by Chris Waits via Flickr.)

Does the Rust Belt Need More House Flippers?

Does the Rust Belt Need More House Flippers?

Are house flippers exactly what the Rust Belt needs to recover from decades of systemic disinvestment, or a dangerous speculative game that fragile places shouldn’t be playing? Check out the third episode of our new podcast Upzoned to hear Kea Wilson and Chuck Marohn hash out this topic.

Big Box Stores Think Their Tax Bills Should Be Lower. Are They Right?

Big Box Stores Think Their Tax Bills Should Be Lower. Are They Right?

Check out the second episode of our new podcast Upzoned! Kea Wilson and Chuck Marohn dig into an article on a troubling trend: big box retailers in Minnesota think they’re paying too much in property taxes, and they’re asking for a cut. But that’s a hard pill to swallow for small towns.

Want to Love Your Town? Act Like Someone Who Loves Their Town.

Want to Love Your Town? Act Like Someone Who Loves Their Town.

Want to better your community but don’t know where to start? Enter It’s the Little Things: a Strong Towns podcast that gives you the wisdom and encouragement you need to take the small yet powerful actions that can make your city or town stronger.

Introducing a New Podcast: "Upzoned"

Introducing a New Podcast: "Upzoned"

Check out the first episode of our new podcast Upzoned! Each Friday, join Kea Wilson, Chuck Marohn, and occasional surprise guests to talk in depth about just one big story from the week in the Strong Towns conversation, right when you want it: now.

Introducing a New Podcast: "It's The Little Things"

Introducing a New Podcast: "It's The Little Things"

Want to better your community but don’t know where to start? Enter It’s the Little Things: a Strong Towns podcast that gives you the wisdom and encouragement you need to take the small yet powerful actions that can make your city or town stronger.

Where To Next For CNU? A Conversation With Lynn Richards

Where To Next For CNU? A Conversation With Lynn Richards

In the latest episode of the Strong Towns podcast, Chuck talks with Lynn Richards, President and CEO of the Congress for the New Urbanism (CNU). The two discuss how CNU has evolved, and what its future might look like as an organization, event, and movement.

A Conversation With the Urban3 Team

A Conversation With the Urban3 Team

In the latest episode of the Strong Towns podcast, we share a conversation Chuck had at CNU 2018 with three of the geoanalytics wizards from Urban3. Hear the latest on their efforts to spread the message about where your city’s wealth is really coming from.