News and Views: March 17, 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:

FINANCE/ECONOMY

Dallas Mayor Mike Rawlings was among a group of Texas mayors at a Feb. 17, 2017, news conference discussing their unified agenda in working with the 85th Texas Legislature. (Photo: Bob Daemmrich, Texas Tribune)

Dallas Mayor Mike Rawlings was among a group of Texas mayors at a Feb. 17, 2017, news conference discussing their unified agenda in working with the 85th Texas Legislature. (Photo: Bob Daemmrich, Texas Tribune)

Mayors say Texas, U.S. politics increasingly undermine city needs (Texas Tribune)

A major source of division among cities and state officials is differing opinions on what local control means — and to whom it provides the power to govern.

ENVIRONMENT

Photo: Jim Lo Scalzo, EPA

Photo: Jim Lo Scalzo, EPA

EPA cuts would have 'unimaginable' impact, public health expert says (Phys.org)

President Donald Trump's proposed budget unveiled Thursday signals a major change to government's approach to environmental health. His recommended 30 percent cut to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency would mean the loss of 3,200 positions and dozens of programs. The budget is unlikely to be adopted as-is, but massive proposed cuts have generated lots of discussion surrounding the role the EPA has played in improving living conditions in past decades. 

Follow that up with this assessment of what it would mean to cut the EPA's environmental justice program. (The environmental justice office is tasked with bridging the yawning disparity in pollution experienced by black, Hispanic and low-income communities and wealthier white neighborhoods. It provides grants to communities to mop up toxins and rehabilitate abandoned industrial facilities that are invariably found in poorer areas.)

Balancing New Development and Water Resources (News Deeply)

Population growth in the Bay Area is spurring the need for new housing developments, but in water-stressed California this means that regional planners have to be more strategic. Texas cities: take note!

Exploring the Park Edge from a Worm’s Eye View (The Nature of Cities)

Great observations about how the edges between parks and developed properties and right of ways function and how we might improve them. In the science of natural resource management and planning, we often think about land from a “bird’s-eye” view: parcels on a map that delineate parks, residential properties, and the city streets—for example. Understanding these sites from a “worm’s-eye” view presents a different, more grounded experience of space and place. 

SOCIAL/QUALITY OF LIFE

The Bishop Arts District in Dallas is a great local example of a pedestrian-first place. (Photo: Jordan Clark)

The Bishop Arts District in Dallas is a great local example of a pedestrian-first place. (Photo: Jordan Clark)

Two Words Would Make Our Cities More Livable: Pedestrians First (Fast Company)

"Every single trip begins with walking," says Gil Penalosa, founder of the livable cities advocacy group 8 80 Cities. That's why any plan to make cities better start with the single step we all take when we leave home. Penalosa outlines four "pillars" for making our cities more livable: walkability, bikeability, public spaces, and public transportation. More on these pillars and creating livable cities here.

How One Suburb Made School Buses Obsolete (CityLab)

A Cleveland suburb doesn't need school buses for its 5,800 students, because its ten schools are all within walking or biking distance of the children they serve. The key is density, and locating schools in the town's core. It's the way we used to plan schools, before we started putting them out on the periphery, and we would be wise to return to doing things this way. The school district saves about a million dollars a year by not running buses, and students get more exercise. 

RESOURCES

The UNH Stormwater Center 2016 Report provides insightful commentary and informative case studies related to successful watershed management strategies.

A couple good podcasts highlighting two communities in the Strong Towns #StrongestTown contest. In the first, Mayor Jon Costas of Valparaiso, IN, discusses his town's collaborative nature, its thriving downtown and the impact of its local university. In the second interview, Rick Brown and Russ Soyring of Traverse City, MI, explain why their town's natural beauty, walkable neighborhoods and creative housing solutions make it a strong community.

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