News and Views - January 27, 2017

Our team's purpose here at VERDUNITY is to preserve and enhance quality of life for current and future generations. More specifically, we help community leaders identify and prioritize development strategies that engage residents, reduce infrastructure costs, enhance quality of life, and minimize environmental impacts.

It's important for the general public to understand more about how communities work and how infrastructure is planned, funded and maintained. We believe that the more people know, the more engaged they will get in their local communities, and that's a great thing. Additionally, engineers, planners, developers, finance directors, city managers, elected officials and others involved with city planning, development and budgeting need to be exposed to other perspectives, and look for more integrated, innovative approaches that consider the holistic, long-term impacts of projects beyond those typically seen in one's silo.

We think one way we can help expand and connect these different perspectives is to pull together a sampling of the week's news and articles on a variety of topics related to improving our communities. So enough babbling. We hope you enjoy this inaugural "News and Views" post, as well as those that will follow on subsequent Friday afternoons.

News Headlines

FINANCE/ECONOMY

'We're blessed': Dallas an island of economic strength amid Texas slowdown (Dallas Morning News)

Regional retailers, developers, economists and others gathered in Dallas this week for the International Council of Shopping Center's (ICSC) annual Texas Retail Forecast Conference. This article is a good summary of some of the challenges Texas communities will face as more than 30 million new residents arrive in Texas by 2050 and businesses continue to shift from big boxes to smaller stores and mixed-use developments. 

Texas comptroller pooh-poohs notion that he’ll soon sweeten his revenue estimate (Dallas Morning News)

The Texas Legislative session has kicked off in Austin and budget battles are in full force. State Comptroller Glenn Hegar is cautioning lawmakers that the general fund "surplus" balance has shrunk from $7.3 billion to $1.5 and that this cycle's available budget will be nearly 3 percent lower than the previous one.

Water Valley, Mississippi: Reinventing a Small Town Main Street (Fair Companies)

Great story on a small town that is reinventing itself through locally-led small scale, incremental development and revitalization of its Main Street. This is how financially strong, vibrant communities are built and sustained.

ENVIRONMENT

U.S Supreme Court's 'Waters of the U.S.' gift to the Trump Administration (The Hill)

Overview of where things stand with the controversial Waters of the U.S. Rule of 2015 and how the new administration will address it.

It Took an 18-Year-Old DISD Student to Get Dallas to Care about Poor Old Bachman Lake (Dallas Morning News)

Many students, especially those in high school and college, are expressing interest in preserving and improving the environment. Engaging with students and partnering with local universities and schools is one of the ways we are pushing to improve water quality in north Texas.

What's Going on with the EPA?

In this post, Verdooner Mikel Wilkins talks about the impacts the current #EPAFreeze is having on professionals' ability to get access to research, data and tools that we use to inform local decision makers and guide design efforts.

SOCIAL

How Our Housing Choices Make Adult Friendships More Difficult (Vox)

Maintaining close friendships in adulthood can feel like a lot of effort. In an article for Vox, David Roberts suggests that our low-density development patterns seem almost to have been designed to thwart them. Forming close friendships requires a few key ingredients: repeated and unplanned interaction, proximity, and a setting that encourages people to let their guard down. Our car-centric lifestyles—and the spread-out development that requires them—are not conducive to community or spontaneous interactions. The upshot? We need to be creating more real places—walkable areas with plenty of shared public spaces, where people can get around safely and effectively without a car. 

Can we Bring Back Riskier Playgrounds? (CityLab)

Until the 1980s, playgrounds were places of adventure and art, where children were able to explore, learn, play and yes, occasionally have an accident. Today, safety concerns have transformed playgrounds into less imaginative spaces.


Resources

Book: ReWork by Jason Fried and David Heinemeier Hansson

This is a quick and easy read for organization leaders looking to reduce bureaucracy and overhead and empower employees. We read this at the end of every year to remind us to stay nimble.

Book: Deep Work by Cal Newport

This book discusses the concept of deep work - the ability to focus without distraction on a cognitively demanding task - and how most people today have lost the ability to focus.


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