News and Views: April 7, 2017

Solutions to the challenges our communities are facing today and in the future will depend on bringing perspectives together and thinking differently about how we approach development and infrastructure in our neighborhoods. We hope this weekly snapshot of what our VERDUNITY crew was discussing this week will help inspire more communication and sharing of ideas.

On the blog:

Kevin recaps an exciting long weekend at the Strong Towns Summit in Tulsa, and shares a few of his main takeaways. 

Elsewhere on the website:

Have you checked out our series on local watersheds yet?

Here's the page for White Rock Lake.

And here's the page for Sycamore Creek.

Annnndd here's the page for Rowlett Creek.

What we're reading this week:

(Photo: Johnny Sanphillippo)

(Photo: Johnny Sanphillippo)

Finance & INFRASTRUCTURE

Deficit in Dallas: How One of the Fastest-Growing U.S. Cities Ended Up With Billions in Debt (Governing)

Dallas is a painful local example of why "fast-growing" is not at all the same thing as financially sound. And it's not the only city in Texas that is on a collision course with insolvency. "The state of Texas needs to really think through what kind of structure they have that enables municipalities to avoid accountability,” says government finance expert Frank Shafroth.

Here's how much of America is occupied by big box stores (Strong Towns)

If you group it together in one block, it's roughly 1/3 of the size of the state of Delaware and visible from space. 

The End of Local Laws? War on Cities Intensifies in Texas (Governing)

Discussions continue in the Texas Legislature about a number of issues related to local control.

President Donald Trump shakes hands with Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Administrator Scott Pruitt, before signing the Waters of the United States executive order, which directs the EPA to withdraw the rule that expands the number of waterways that are federally protected under the Clean Water Act. (Photo: Andrew Harnik/AP)

President Donald Trump shakes hands with Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Administrator Scott Pruitt, before signing the Waters of the United States executive order, which directs the EPA to withdraw the rule that expands the number of waterways that are federally protected under the Clean Water Act. (Photo: Andrew Harnik/AP)

Environmental

The financial benefits of the EPA data Trump doesn't want you to know about (The Guardian)

Making EPA data easily accessible to the private sector plays a significant role in many billion-dollar industries, from renewable energy to auto manufacturing. The current administration has already eliminated or buried some information on EPA websites and moved to muzzle agency employees. But the EPA is not just an instrument of enforcement. It employs thousands of scientists who generate valuable information about air and water pollution, chemical toxicity and hazardous waste cleanup—information that many businesses (who don't have the resources to gather the needed data themselves) rely on to develop new services/products, and create jobs. 

Land of the Free (Parking)

Land of the Free (Parking)

Social/Quality of Life

Even Healthy-Looking Suburbs Are Dying From Drugs (CityLab)

Americans are dying too young from addiction—even in communities that otherwise appear healthy.

Dad on a mission to make 84th and Leighton safe for schoolchildren (Lincoln Journal Star)

It shouldn't have to take a motivated private citizen with time on his hands to make our communities safe enough for our children to walk to school. (Side note: streets designed like highways are going to generate fast traffic, whether they're designated "school zones" during the day or not.)

How not to create traffic jams, pollution and urban sprawl (The Economist)

A LOT of our real estate is dedicated to storing vehicles when they're not moving—which is about 95% of the time. People like free parking when they're in their cars, but we often fail to realize that "free" parking comes at a significant cost. One solution to the problems created by free parking is to... not let people park for free.

Resources

Everybody and their dog is talking about the hit podcast S-Town, and it's probably been the most-discussed topic in the VERDUNITY office this week. It's a stunning work of journalism, told with tact. More than just entertainment, it develops into (to borrow from Spencer Kornhaber, writing in The Atlantic) "a monument to one man’s life, a meditation on the tangled relationship between individuals and the settings around them, and a sensitive portrait of oft-stereotyped places like Woodstock." We're all for more works of journalism that expand our understanding of, and empathy for, those around us.