My friends at Strong Towns have released its Curbside Chat Companion Booklet. The companion is an in-depth, yet succinct, summary of the Strong Towns premise. East Grand Forks was fortunate enough to host a Curbside Chat last fall. The companion booklet offers a great summary if you have never been to a curbside chat.
The primary premise the Strong Towns organization is that our traditional model for providing public infrastructure is unsustainable. Historically, we have relied upon state and federal transfer payments, increasing debt – both public and private, and ever-expanding suburban growth to fund our way of life in terms of public infrastructure. As we enter the “third life cycle” of public infrastructure, state and federal funds are no longer available. Public and private debt loads are at their limits as demonstrated by real estate and bank crises that we have witnessed in the last few years. And, finally, we now realize that “growth,” expressed in terms of ever-expanding city and street size and new development actually leads to increased debt and maintenance obligations rather than increased revenue in many circumstances. Charles Marohn, Executive Director, refers to this latter as the Growth Ponzi Scheme. The term is appropriate. Since the post-World War II era began, our entire infrastructure system has been built around the concept of using tomorrow’s growth to fund today’s infrastructure maintenance. Our answer to fiscal woes is to increase development, so that more tax revenue flows into our coffers. Yet, we wonder why we struggle to maintain our critical infrastructure while most developments return on 10 to 20 cents for every dollar invested.
Chuck was kind enough to offer me (and many others) a pre-release offering of the Curbside Chat Companion. But, it is now available to everyone. Download the companion if you have not done so already. If you are so inclined, schedule a Curbside Chat with Strong Towns. For interested parties, I guarantee that one will learn as much as in a semester of urban planning by investing just a few hours in a Strong Towns education on the blog, with the companion, or at a Curbside Chat.
But, one does not have to take my word for it. Strong Towns continues to receive rave reviews in planning circles. And, the companion in particular is receiving much-deserved publicity.