Strong Towns and “Five Low Cost Ideas to Make Your City Wealthier.”

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Before arriving at the promised low cost ideas, allow me to reiterate a valuable resource.

I’ve joined Strong Towns, and encourage you to check it out.

As indicated elsewhere recently, one thing we surely can do during these tumultuous times is use our support dollars wisely, whether for the cause of principled journalism (The Nation, The Guardian, CounterPunch), public television and radio, and organizations doing the nitty gritty of what’s going to be needed more than ever, like Planned Parenthood, Freedom from Religion Foundation and the ACLU.

Needless to say, the Strong Towns mission and that of local governance as usual, as we experience it on most days in Nawbany, are somewhat at odds; there are a few precious points of convergence, but not many, and this needs to change.

NA Confidential supports principled advocacy where and as we can, and Strong Towns fits the bill. A final thought: If you’re of conservative inclination and believe Strong Towns is some sort of left-wing conspiracy, check it out — but prepare to be very surprised at what you find.

THE MISSION OF STRONG TOWNS IS TO SUPPORT A MODEL OF DEVELOPMENT THAT ALLOWS AMERICA’S CITIES, TOWNS AND NEIGHBORHOODS TO BECOME FINANCIALLY STRONG AND RESILIENT.

I’ve edited the five ideas, so be sure to dance through and read the explanations in their entirety. For amusement, try imagining Team Gahan embracing any of them — and be prepared to laugh out loud, because if Marohn is guilty of omitting any one relevant point, it’s the explanation of how low cost ideas like these still maintain required lines of beak wetting to the imperial campaign finance machine.

FIVE LOW COST IDEAS TO MAKE YOUR CITY WEALTHIER, by Charles Marohn (Strong Towns)

Yesterday we shared five ways in which federal infrastructure spending is making cities poorer. That piece included this observation:

What we have not figured out — and what we won’t figure out with another flood of federal infrastructure spending — is how to translate maintenance into growth. How do we go out and fill potholes and fix leaking pipes and have that result in additional wealth in our neighborhoods? This is a daunting challenge that requires us to rethink — from bottom to top — how we develop our places. We need to modernize our zoning codes, building standards, housing incentives, insurance programs, etc. There are a lot of people trying to do this, but they get cast aside every time the federal gravy train rolls into town.

Here are some of the low cost initiatives that every city across the country should prioritize.

1. THE BETTER BLOCK
The Better Block uses small, low cost interventions to prototype larger scale projects.

2. INCREMENTAL DEVELOPMENT ALLIANCE
Developers R. John Anderson and Monte Anderson (no relation) have made careers out of building small, incremental projects in existing neighborhoods. Now they are doggedly training the next generation of small scale developers, giving them the tricks and insights to thrive in a development world not built for them.

3. OSWEGO RENAISSANCE ASSOCIATION
With very small amounts of capital, the Association has provided matching grants and resources to blocks of individuals wanting to invest in improving the look of their street.

4. ECONOMIC GARDENING
What do you do when you realize your city is never going to be able to subsidize enough businesses to create the jobs you need? There was no way to fill this hole with traditional economic development techniques. They were forced to innovate. The result: economic gardening, an approach that focuses on growing jobs in existing businesses rather than paying a business to relocate to the community. It’s gardening, not hunting.

5. SMALL CHANGE
Small Change is allowing the regular investor to use their resources to invest in small scale projects, improvements that often don’t neatly fit standard financing models. It’s a little like crowdfunding, but for real estate, and there is an expectation of a return on investment.

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