Dear Peter: “10 Tasks for Cities Responding to the Pandemic.”


The mayor’s most recent video reminded me of that Downfall flick.

Meanwhile, Chuck has more good advice that doesn’t stand a chance in New Gahania.

10 Tasks for Cities Responding to the Pandemic, by Charles Marohn (Strong Towns)

… Last week we published Nine Things Local Government Needs to Do Right Now in Response to the Pandemic, a guide for the first sixty days. Following that initial phase, local leaders must continue the mental shift they started by recognizing that:

  1. Recovery will not mean restoration. 
  2. You must work towards community self-sufficiency, fully knowing you won’t get all the way there. 
  3. There is a tradeoff between growth and stability. 

Can you imagine anyone — ANYONE — amid the Team Gahan cadres capable of thinking along these lines?

Preparing for Recovery

With the community stabilized, it’s now time to shift to preparing for a recovery. Here is a list of ten things to work on once you’re ready:

  1. Waive Home Occupation Restrictions. 
  2. Legalize Neighborhood Essential Services.
  3. Kickstart Entrepreneurs. 
  4. Legalize Housing Adaptations. 
  5. Make Quick and Lean Investments in Walking and Biking. 
  6. End Parking Requirements. 
  7. Start Growing Food. 
  8. Thicken Civic Infrastructure. 
  9. Begin Reorienting Bureaucracies. 
  10. Change How You Measure Success.

Here’s the portion we’re most in danger of botching, because Gahan’s first instinct will be to ask HWC to “study” how we might use this assistance, thus revving up the same old pay-to-play bull feces.

State and Federal “Assistance”

It is likely that local governments will be offered some form of recovery assistance from the state and/or federal governments. In advance of these funds being offered, be proactive in having a discussion about how to respond …

 … Infrastructure spending is popular for state and federal officials because it creates immediate jobs and the potential for long-term growth. For local governments, new infrastructure has some of those same benefits, but also the additional long-term liability of now having to service and maintain that infrastructure. Over time, these hasty transactions rarely work out well for local communities, most of which are already burdened by years of deferred maintenance.

If you are asked or have a chance to influence deliberations, tell your state and federal officials that cities would benefit more from cash assistance than aid channeled through a narrow infrastructure funnel. Local government officials are more influential than they may think, so know that your recommendation could be impactful.

If the only form of assistance provided to local government ends up being an infrastructure appropriation, take steps to focus those funds. You want to select projects with the most upside benefit and the least additional long-term commitment. When considering projects:

  • Prioritize maintenance over new capacity. 
  • Prioritize below-ground infrastructure over above-ground. 
  • Prioritize neighborhoods that are more than 75 years old. 

When making infrastructure investments, the more you can let a neighborhood assessment of urgent needs guide your priorities, the more effective your efforts will be. Ground yourself in your people and places. The less time you spend chasing the shiny object or projecting theoretical new growth opportunities, the more likely your investments will help the community prosper.