When growth isn't good

Written by Diana Nelson Jones on .



When planners and reformers start talking about land use policy, politicians and developers start getting nervous. But this conversation is crucial for reasons that ripple outward and affect our larger issues, from America’s economy and debt to climate change.

This conversation is being fueled by the people at Strong Towns, a non-profit based in Minnesota whose executive director and national planning consultant, Charles L. Marohn, Jr., will be visiting Pittsburgh for a public talk on Friday. He's on a tour that’s being called the Curbside Chat, but it’s really indoors, from noon to 1p at Bruno Works, 945 Liberty Ave., 5th floor. The event is free and open to the public, who are invited to bring their lunches.

The goal of the Curbside Chat is “to raise awareness of changes that are taking place in the broader economy and how they will impact the way cities, towns and neighborhoods prosper,” according to the non-profit’s website.

Please contact Joe Nickol at 412.434.7080 for more information.

The mission of Strong Towns is “to support a model for growth that allows America’s towns to become financially strong and resilient.”

The Strong Towns website describes the pattern of America’s MO over many years as “growth over resilience” and makes a somewhat profound connection — that “we have built ourselves into decline.”

It continues:

“Our desire for independence has made us dependent. On automobiles. On cheap energy. On transfer payments between governments. On debt.

“Our expectation of plenty, and our expectation to pay only a portion of the full cost of growth, has led to a scarcity of resources. Our approach to land use now constrains us, growing our financial commitments at an alarming rate. It threatens real American prosperity with long-term economic stagnation and decline.

“To truly do more with less, we need to understand how we have built ourselves into decline. How local investments have failed to generate prosperity. Why the standard approach is harming our towns and neighborhoods? And, most importantly, how we start a real recovery?

“The American approach to growth is causing economic stagnation and decline along with land use practices that force a dependency on public subsidies. The inefficiencies of the current approach have left American towns financially insolvent, unable to pay even the maintenance costs of their basic infrastructure. A new approach that accounts for the full cost of growth is needed to make our towns strong again.”

"The Curbside Chat program covers the causes and impacts of the current economic crisis, examines case studies on the finances of America’s development pattern, reviews “dead ideas” of the suburban era we need to shed and proposes strategies (we call them “rational responses”) for adjusting to the new realities we face."

Anyone interested in the future of their community is invited to attend the Curbside Chat. The event is open to the public.

cityLAB is hosting the presentation. Email This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. for more information on Bruno Works.

photo of Charles Marohn by Chris Welsch of Minnesota Public Radio

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