A few things to know this week: August 23, 2019
Happy Friday! Every week, we round up some of the things we read, listened to, or watched that really caught our attention. Here are just a few things we think you should know this week:
This week's things to know:
As the CEO of our company, part of my job is to think about how our clients' (cities) needs will change in the future and make sure our team and services evolve to stay helpful and impactful. I made a list in a personal brainstorming session I did two months ago that included municipal resource and infrastructure funding gaps, climate change/flooding/water quality (green infrastructure), affordable housing, need for local jobs and workforce development, boots-on-ground citizen engagement and tactical/low-cost neighborhood improvement. We're attacking all of these, but focused through the fiscal resource lens because we believe the fiscal challenges facing cities and their residents will be most critical and influences how the other issues are addressed. This piece from Anthony Flint at the Lincoln Institute of Land Policy not only validates my list, but adds a couple more that cities and those of us working with them need to be thinking about. – Kevin
2. California Is Headed Toward a Titanic Battle Over Raising Property Taxes
Jordan and I talked about property tax caps in a recent podcast. This is a follow-up article about California's Prop 13 and the proposal on the table to remove property tax cap protections from commercial properties. Texas folks should keep an eye on this. – Kevin
This episode of "It's The Little Things" is one of my favorites so far. Featuring City Makery in Laredo, Texas, it explores the idea of partnering citizens and organizations to make ideas consistent with the community's comprehensive plan come to fruition. It's an inspiring reminder of the power community builders can have. Give it a listen. – AJ
4. How One City Saved $5 Million by Routing School Buses with an Algorithm
The Boston Public School District was struggling to figure out the best way to bus 25,000 students to schools in multiple zip codes and with different start times. They held a contest where researchers and other organizations could experiment with anonymized data sets to determine the best solution to create efficient routes and optimal start times for each school. The winning algorithm from a team from MIT Operations Research Center improved efficiency of the routes in just 30 minutes. This is an excellent example of how local governments can benefit by reaching out to other groups in the community for help. – Kevin
Do you enjoy these weekly roundups? (Why wouldn’t you?) You can get them sent straight to your email inbox every Friday, if you’re into that.
Cities across the country are struggling to find money to maintain and replace street infrastructure while traffic congestion continues to get worse. Our fiscal analysis work is showing how a shift to more compact, walkable development patterns can help cities close the funding gap and reduce pressure to extend and widen roadways, but that's not always enough. A recent study from National League of Cities suggests that cities of all sizes could benefit from following New York's lead and implementing congestion pricing for local roads. – Kevin
6. ‘Missing middle’ neighborhood opens
This one's been really popular among the groups we follow, but I wanted to make sure it gets seen by as many people as possible. Every city everywhere should be building this type of development. We're working with our friend and small developer Derek Avery of COIR Holdings on a couple of these in Dallas right now that I really hope we can get built. One particular thing I like about the article is how it explains what the developer did to manage the market and his costs, because two of the most common objections I hear from developers are that they can't predict the market and that they can't make money doing this style of development. I call bullshit on both. (Shameless marketing plug: if you're a developer who wants to build this type of development, call us. We specifically want to work with people like you!) – Kevin
7. Four Emerging Concepts that Could Transform Cities
The idea of complete streets or mixed development patterns are not necessarily new ideas in the realm of urban design and city planning, but realizing the simplicity and what good the integration of such design features have can re-center one’s focus on what is important with new development or in-fill projects coming. As a big-city dweller, it is nice to be reminded of the scale of the metroplex in which we live. But more often than not, it is the street lined with shops, restaurants, and living spaces that make me feel at home, and this article does a good job of reminding us of all the great things that can come from intentional design. – Ryan
8. Why so many suburbs look the same
This short video by Vox walks us through the connection between federal financing and the almighty cul-de-sac that dominates our subdivisions … even in 2019. – AJ
Did you miss our Q&A webcast on the 2019 Texas Legislative Session?
Earlier this week, AJ Fawver and municipal attorney Mick McKamie discussed a number of newly adopted Texas laws, how they are impacting cities, and what some cities are doing to address things like the property tax cap, annexation limitations, building materials and more. If you missed it, you can watch the replay of the video to learn why McKamie calls the 86th Legislative Session the most impactful session for Texas cities in four decades.
While we’re on the subject of webcasts…
Click here to watch our discussion with developer Monte Anderson (cofounder of Incremental Development Alliance) about how cities can encourage incremental development.
Texas legislative digests now available!
To our Texas friends: Want to dive deeper into the new legislation passed down this year—and what it'll mean for your city? We've got you covered. We put together a legislative digest package featuring nine of the most important new laws, explained in plain English.
If you’re interested, here’s how you can get your copy (it’s a little involved, but hang with us):
Join the Community Cultivators Network if you haven't already. (It’s open exclusively to folks working for a local government or agency, and it’s totally free to join.)
Look for "86th Texas Legislative Session" under "Groups," and ask to join.
You'll be routed to a payment screen. It’s a one-time payment for access to the group and the digests.
Enter the group and download the digests!
Price: $20 total
Questions or issues? Email AJ Fawver: firstname.lastname@example.org.
Hey, friends in local government:
Have thoughts on any of the links above? Think we missed something essential? We’re discussing these topics and more over on our brand-new online community, exclusively for local government employees.* Sign up for the Community Cultivators Network and join the discussion!
* The network is currently only for those wonderful folks out there who work in local government. If you’re not currently working for a city, town, or county, we still love you (and are sure many of you would add value to the community), but we want to keep our commitment to making this a community focused specifically on our friends working in local government. Thanks for understanding!