News and Views: March 24, 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.

What we're reading this week:

(Photo: Jordan Clark)

(Photo: Jordan Clark)

FINANCE/ECONOMY

Analysis: Is this Texas state budget trick constitutional? (Texas Tribune)

The Texas Senate and House are taking two very different approaches to the next budget. The Senate wants to delay a transfer of $2.5 billion for transportation from the general fund to the highway transportation fund. The House wants to tap into the Rainy Day Fund.

Is it worth a penny more at the pump to support roads, bridges, transit? (Washington Post)

The gas tax hasn't been increased in 24 years. An Oregon Democrat introduced a bill in Congress this week that would add a penny per year to the federal gas tax, which could generate as much as $17 billion a year to go toward roads, bridges and transit systems.

But where and how to invest these limited funds? Read Chuck Marohn's thoughts in the following piece:

Failure to Act (Like Professionals) (Strong Towns)

The American Society of Civil Engineers (ASCE) continues to aggressively lobby for more infrastructure funding in their latest Infrastructure Report Card. We agree that we need more investment for infrastructure, but we need to take a much harder look at the types of projects we are designing so we can reduce the amount of infrastructure maintenance and not continue to make the needs even bigger. 

Senate passes property tax bill state leaders love, local officials oppose (Texas Tribune)

The controversial Senate Bill 2 has been passed in the Texas Senate, despite strong opposition from city and county leaders throughout the state. A similar bill has been filed in the House, but is not receiving much attention yet.

When it Comes to Tax Incentives, How Transparent is Your City? (Governing)

New accounting rules are requiring states and local agencies to disclose how much money they spend on economic development incentives, and how much they lose on such deals. A new report found that reporting procedures and results vary widely.

Remember: Public-Private Partnerships Aren't Free (CityLab)

Roads, bridges, and trains jump-started by investor dollars always come looking for public ones, eventually. 

(Photo: Shutterstock)

(Photo: Shutterstock)

ENVIRONMENT

A Plan That Tackles Climate Change and Racial Discrimination (Governing)

Portland is one of the nation's first cities to fully consider how environmental policies impact minority communities.

(Photo: Jim Young/Reuters)

(Photo: Jim Young/Reuters)

Social/Quality of Life

Suburban Sprawl Stole Your Kids' Sleep (CityLab)

The school day starts much earlier these days than it did for students a few generations back. What happened, exactly? A lot of things, including suburbanization, the energy crisis, and a big cultural shift around child safety norms. But the early start times for American schools have largely been imposed by transportation needs: Getting kids to school became a lot more complicated in the age of sprawl.

Growing Wisconsin City to State DOT: We Don’t Want Your Highway (Next City)

Wisconsin DOT has set aside millions to build a highway through the city of La Crosse, and LAXians are not having it. They're much more keen on adding to their already-expanding walking, biking, and public transportation options. The DOT isn't budging, though. Says Mayor Tim Kibat, "Look, we need to redo the travel demand forecasting, because it’s just not accurate anymore.”

This story is, unfortunately, representative of the dynamics at play between towns and state DOTs nationwide—the DOTs can be rigid and unreasonably wed to the notion that more roads are always the answer, everywhere. But many cities are rediscovering that their citizens enjoy having opportunities to experience their community on foot or bicycle (or simply don't have the means to do it any other way). 


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