A few things to know this week: August 30, 2019
Happy Friday and happy holiday weekend! 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:
Much of our concern for development practices and regulations boils down to long term economic sustainability. We tend to take a scientific approach to the fiscal side with lots of 3D maps, graphs, and charts. However, we also stress the moral importance of our recommendations; they're just more difficult to illustrate with maps and charts. We want our to build cities in a manner so that the health and welfare of all people serves as a primary constraint. Sir Roger Scruton, a very interesting guy, has published tons of work on philosophy, aesthetics, economics, and public policy. I like this short piece because it focuses on the economic importance of a society practicing and defending good moral behavior. – Felix
Since the 1980s, Texas A&M University’s Texas Transportation Institute has put out various versions of its “Urban Mobility Report,” which purports to estimate the dollar cost of urban traffic congestion. The fine folks at City Observatory give it some attention this week as a way of letting you know that you do not need to pay attention to its claims. – Jordan
This slide show put together by The Guardian highlights a series of illustrations from the recently-published Field Guide to Urban Plazas (from the SWA Group), demonstrating the variety of ways that humans behave in public spaces. It’s a 21st-century update to the groundbreaking study of human behavior in urban places done by William Whyte in the 1980s. Better understanding the ways that people naturally use public spaces can help cities better design these places to be comfortable and useful. – Ryan
Most cities in India have grown at a faster rate than what the infrastructure has been able to support. This has led to accessibility issues such as health care, water, and other services. It has also generated huge traffic and migration issues through out the nation. This article talks about one city which has turned those issues around and started planning for the urban spread in a controlled state. Is this a delimited solution or does this only work for Ahmedabad? – Bhargava
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.
In Phoenix, voters defeated Proposition 105, which would have prevented light rail expansion. This story from CityLab (published before the vote) outlines some familiar elements in anti-transit efforts, such as Koch affiliates funding the measure, but it also includes a few nuances to the effort that are particularly interesting. Previous phases of light rail have largely missed working-class and minority neighborhoods, and while the new line would help reverse that trend, several business owners have expressed concerns that the transit line would take away two lanes of travel and remove parking for local businesses. The article also points out the potential shortfalls of funding transit improvements through local sales taxes. – Tim
One of the things we learn in local government is that the framing of a discussion is crucial — to the public, to decision makers, and to staff. There are hundreds of articles out there about scooters and bicycles; however, the resistance to these assertions and ideas is high. Why? We're framing it all wrong. William Fulton nails it in this piece, suggesting we present these topics in a different way. It's definitely an "aha!" piece for me, and so I really wanted to share it here. – AJ
I’ll let Alan Mallach, author of The Divided City, introduce this piece: “The old, oft-repeated story of the decline of America’s older cities from the 60s and 70s goes something like this: the whites left, and the cities and their neighborhoods fell apart. Like most conventional stories, it’s not entirely wrong, but it leaves out a big part. Yes, millions of white families left. And some neighborhoods fell apart. And many cities lost economic ground. But, at the same time, it opened up an opportunity for thousands of middle-class and working-class Black families, most of whom had been restricted to racially-segregated neighborhoods up to that point. Subsequently, large numbers moved into neighborhoods that white families were leaving and made them their own, buying homes and building strong communities.” – Jordan
Here’s a great piece written by our friend and (Community Cultivators Network member) Ryan Wozniak. In the transportation planning & design field, the prevailing dogma over the past many decades has been that faster is better. To be more specific, the faster we’re able to drive between one place and the next, the better. Ryan points out that we’ve gotten ourselves into some incredibly difficult situations by our singular focus on high speeds. We end up with “60-mile-per-hour” places that can never be places for humans as long as they also retain the physical prioritization of high-speed automobile travel. – Jordan
Did you miss our Q&A webcast on the 2019 Texas Legislative Session?
Last 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:
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 join.
Enter the group and download the digests!
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!