News and Views: May 12, 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:
Wow. There was a lot of great stuff written this week. We're happy to share a few of our favorites.
The Happy City and our $20 Trillion Opportunity (Mr. Money Mustache)
The inimitable Mr. Money Mustache begins his excellent post with the following: "One of the joys and frustrations of being an engineer who is also a hopeless dreamer, is that you can see the beauty of what the world could be, while also feeling the burden of every single thing that is in the way of achieving that beauty." As engineers and planners here at VERDUNITY, we feel the same way.
The basis for the post is the excellent book Happy City (which we love and have recommended on this blog before), and there are too many great nuggets to highlight here. We'll tease the rest of his piece with this gem: "If we have built this relatively wealthy society even with the boat anchor of horrible living design hanging around our necks, imagine how much wealthier we will become if we shed that useless burden for the next stage of our journey?"
How to Bring More Artists Into City Planning (NextCity)
We think there's plenty of room for bringing in different types of people and perspectives into the planning process. Some cities have found success by more closely working with artists as liaisons between City and public—and the nonprofit City as Living Laboratory offers examples of how this can work. We'd love to see more cities taking an outside-the-box approach to planning and project implementation.
From Pratt Street in Hartford, CT, a great example of a revenue-sharing program combined with some active placemaking that's helping a once-thriving street bring back life and gain investment momentum. Business Improvement District folks stressed that "pedestrian streets that are not activated are not traditionally successful." So they planned events to bring in people. How to pay for those events? Parking meter revenue. A key takeway from the program: "You can generate more revenue when people see there's a direct benefit."
The affordable housing crisis is much more serious than most people in the region (or the country) currently realize. Dallas has an abysmal shortage of low-income housing, which means that when tenants get evicted (as is happening en masse in West Dallas), they have no place to go. It's particularly troubling, then, that many residents in the region are quick to oppose the kind of lower price-point housing that is attainable for our less well-heeled neighbors. We need to face the reality that we've overbuilt large-lot single-family homes (which serve a particular population) and almost completely neglected to build 'missing middle' housing—the duplexes, fourplexes, small apartment complexes, etc, that give residents the option of quality homes they can afford.
President Trump has promised to present a $1 trillion spending proposal to Congress sometime soon, claiming to "completely fix America's infrastructure." What's going to be in it? Who knows... but Grist rounded up a collection of smart people—from Charles Marohn to Lynn Richards to Aaron Renn and more—who have a few thoughts on how the money should (and shouldn't) be spent. A sampling: let people out of their cars; no more ribbon cuttings; let the locals decide; build housing, not transportation; and fix it first. Here's hoping the folks in DC (or Mar a Lago?) listen to a few of these ideas.
A good overview of what's at stake and what parties are involved in lobbying for some of those $1 trillion infrastructure dollars.
Great example of a group that is simultaneously growing local jobs and making creative reuse of an existing building. Check out their website at GrowDeSoto.org. Pitch Day will be a fun event—highly recommend!
EntreLeadership podcast: Adam Braun on Why You Need to Value Competency Over Credentials
Podcast interview with Adam Braun, the founder of Pencils of Promise, a nonprofit that builds elementary schools in third-world nations, and MissionU.com, a new alternative to college that teaches students the hard and soft skills they need to thrive in any 21st century career without taking on debt. Adam discusses how companies can access a growing pool of new talent while also saving money, and outlines 8 hard skills and 6 soft skills that he believes every person entering today's workforce must have to be successful. Great advice for business leaders, professionals looking to improve or join the workforce soon, and parents.