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The Strong Towns Podcast

The Strong Towns Podcast

We advocate for a model of development that allows our cities, towns and neighborhoods to grow financially strong and resilient.

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Tony Jordan and Chris Meyer: Pushing for People Over Parking

This week?s episode of the Strong Towns Podcast is all about parking reform, and here to talk with host Chuck Marohn on the matter are Tony Jordan and Chris Meyer. Jordan is the president of the Parking Reform Network, a bottom-up nonprofit that?s working to educate the public about the impact of parking policy on climate change, equity, housing, and traffic. Meyer is the legislative assistant to Senator Omar Fateh, who was crucial in introducing a bill?the first of its kind in the nation?to eliminate parking mandates statewide in Minnesota.

ADDITIONAL SHOW NOTES

Parking Reform Network (website).

Chris Meyer (Twitter/X).

Tony Jordan (LinkedIn).

Chuck Marohn (Twitter/X).

2024-02-26
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Eric Goldwyn: Why U.S. Transit Is So Expensive (and How To Fix It)

On this week?s episode, host Chuck Marohn talks with Eric Goldwyn, a leading urban scholar and program director at the Marron Institute of Urban Management, as well as a Clinical Assistant Professor in the Transportation and Land-Use program at the NYU Marron Institute. He is known for his pioneering research on urban issues, fostering collaboration to improve city living, and he?s here to talk with us today about the importance of transit for the future of cities, as well as the importance of local government (and the fact that local government is more than just an appendage of state and federal government).

ADDITIONAL SHOW NOTES

?Slow Boring x Transit Costs Project Event,? by Kate Crawford, Slow Boring (March 2023).

Transit Costs (website).

Eric Goldwyn (Twitter/X).

Chuck Marohn (Twitter/X).

2024-02-19
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Meet the Freeway Fighters Who Are Suing the Texas Department of Transportation

One of the most egregious highway expansion projects we?ve encountered is the I-35 project in Austin, Texas. A lot of good people have been fighting it for a long time, and on this week?s episode of the Strong Towns Podcast, host Chuck Marohn will be talking with two of them: Adam Greenfield and Bobby Levinski. They?re both part of the grassroots movement Rethink35, which is working with other local organizations to file a lawsuit against the Texas Department of Transportation over their plans to expand I-35.

ADDITIONAL SHOW NOTES

Learn more about Rethink35?s work on their website.

Chuck Marohn (Twitter/X).

2024-02-12
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Shima Hamidi: Narrow Lanes Save Lives

On this week?s episode, Chuck talks with Dr. Shima Hamidi of the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health, who, in November 2023, wrote about the study when it first came out, and we?re excited to now have Dr. Hamidi on the podcast to tell us about her work, in her own words.

ADDITIONAL SHOW NOTES

Read the study: ?A National Investigation on the Impacts of Lane Width on Traffic Safety.?

Check out the study?s homepage.

Shima Hamidi (Twitter/X).

Chuck Marohn (Twitter/X).

2024-02-05
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Minnesota Introduces First-in-the-Nation Bill To Eliminate Minimum Parking Mandates Statewide

On this week?s episode, Chuck Marohn talks about a trip he made to the Minnesota state capitol, where he was invited to take part in a press conference in which a bill was launched. Strong Towns is a bottom-up, member-based movement, and so getting involved in legislative action is not normally something that would be on Chuck?s docket. So, why make an exception this time? Simple: because this is a bill that states that no city in Minnesota shall mandate parking requirements.

ADDITIONAL SHOW NOTES

Watch the full press conference here.

Chuck Marohn (Twitter/X).

Cover image source: Wikimedia Commons/SimonP.

2024-01-29
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Where Is Sprawl Good? (Featuring Joe Minicozzi)

At Strong Towns, we try to avoid using the word ?sprawl? as a shorthand term in our content?and we?d even go so far as to say that sprawl isn?t the problem we?re trying to solve in our communities. All that said, are there any instances where sprawl is actually good? Hear Strong Towns President Chuck Marohn discuss this with Joe Minicozzi, principal of Urban3.

ADDITIONAL SHOW NOTES

?Sprawl Is Not the Problem,? by Chuck Marohn, Strong Towns (April 2016).

Urban3 (website).

Joe Minicozzi (Twitter/X).

Chuck Marohn (Twitter/X).

2023-11-27
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Reading Member Comments?Live From Buc-ee?s!

Alright, it?s not exactly ?live,? but while visiting Austin, Chuck Marohn couldn?t resist stopping by a Buc-ee?s to marvel at this Texas-sized gas station. It?s emblematic of the overbuilt, spread-out, auto-oriented infrastructure plaguing states like Texas and so many others?but even in Buc-ee?s massive parking lot, there is hope to be found, in the form of comments from Strong Towns members. These are the people who have taken the first step toward fighting a hundred years of bad city development. Will you join them by becoming a member today?

2023-11-17
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We?re Seeing a Groundswell of People Doing Amazing Things in Their Communities

On this special Member Week episode of the Strong Towns Podcast, Chuck Marohn reflects how, despite being sick, his spirits were bolstered this week by the efforts of advocates he?s observed doing amazing work in their cities and towns. We get to support these local heroes through programs like Local Conversations and the Community Action Lab?and your donations are what support us so that we can continue making these programs happen. So, will you help us in making all of this possible by becoming a Strong Towns member today?

2023-11-15
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We Must Become More Sensitive to the Stress Our Cities Are Under

Different people are sensitive to different things around them, and this Member Week, we?re asking you to challenge yourself to become a little more sensitive to the things that are happening in your community. What do you see when you look around you? Crumbling infrastructure? Poor urban design? Dangerously designed streets? Insurmountable municipal debt?

You can see what?s happening. Now it?s time to do something about it. Start by joining this movement of bottom-up action to change the trajectory of our cities and towns: become a Strong Towns member today.

2023-11-13
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Seth Kaplan: Repairing American Society, One Zip Code at a Time

On this episode of the Strong Towns Podcast, host Chuck Marohn talks with friend, author, and expert on fragile states, Seth Kaplan. His new book, Fragile Neighborhoods, offers a bold new vision for addressing social decline in America, one zip code at a time. It discusses the importance of revitalizing our local institutions and introduces the reader to some of the people and organizations who are doing just that?along with practical lessons for those who want to do similar work.

ADDITIONAL SHOW NOTES

Get your copy of Fragile Neighborhoods: Repairing American Society, One Zip Code at a Time.

Chuck Marohn (Twitter).

Seth Kaplan (website).

Learn more about the 2023 Local-Motive Tour.

2023-10-23
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Conor Semler: A New Decision-Making Framework for Street Design

On this episode of the Strong Towns Podcast, host Chuck Marohn chats with Conor Semler, an associate planner with Kittelson and Associates.

Semler was involved in the development of both the National Association of City Transportation Officials?s Urban Bikeway Design Guide and the Federal Highway Administration?s Separated Bike Lane Planning and Design Guide. He's also played a role in putting together a decision-making framework that changes the way engineers, planners, and other transportation professionals approach street design. Tune in to hear him talk about this innovative approach to transportation planning, and more!

ADDITIONAL SHOW NOTES

?Parking or Pedaling? New Tool Helps Communities Weigh Tradeoffs on Their Streets,? by Kittelson & Associates.

Chuck Marohn (Twitter).

Learn more about the 2023 Local-Motive Tour.

2023-10-02
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Strong Towns Is Jane Jacobs in Action

Strong Towns founder and president, Charles Marohn, was invited to the Lit with Charles podcast to discuss Jane Jacobs? seminal work, The Death and Life of Great American Cities, and the impact it has had on urban planning and the building of cities.

If you love Jane Jacobs or want to learn more about her views and how Strong Towns advocates are working to make them a reality, you will want to explore this conversation.

We have provided a full transcript to go along with the audio version, which we share here with the permission of the Lit with Charles podcast.

2023-09-25
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The Arguments for Speed Cameras?and Why They Don?t Hold Up

On this episode of the Strong Towns Podcast, host Chuck Marohn talks about his concerns with speed cameras. Plenty of people dislike speed cameras as surveillance devices and, conversely, many urbanists support the use of speed cameras as a tool to make streets safer.

Chuck?s line of thinking falls into neither of these camps, and so today, he shares some of the top arguments in favor of speed cameras, and discusses why they don't hold up?and why speed cameras should not be seen as part of the solution for improving our streets.

ADDITIONAL SHOW NOTES

Chuck Marohn (Twitter).

Learn more about the 2023 Local-Motive Tour.

Cover image source: Wikimedia Commons/Dmitry G.

2023-09-18
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Steve Mouzon: How Do We Rebuild Maui?

In light of the recent wildfires in Maui (and other parts of Hawaii), this week?s Strong Towns Podcast episode features a conversation with Steve Mouzon, author of The Original Green and member of the Strong Towns Advisory Board.

Mouzon?s work with recovery efforts after disasters in Haiti and Jamaica?as well as his observations of Hurricane Katrina in New Orleans?has offered him valuable insight on what it takes for a community to recover from large-scale destruction. He talks with podcast host Chuck Marohn about his experiences and the lessons we can take away about what types of responses do and don?t work?lessons that could be helpful in rebuilding Maui.

ADDITIONAL SHOW NOTES

Steve Mouzon (Twitter).

Original Green (website).

Chuck Marohn (Twitter).

Learn more about the 2023 Local-Motive Tour.

2023-09-11
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Walkable City Design Is Critical for Economic Health

After World War II, the U.S. embarked on an experiment in how we build cities. Instead of creating places scaled to people who walked, we built suburbs that focused on moving cars quickly and efficiently. Many cities in North America are looking to become walkable again, but it?s not easy. Time and time again, change makers are hit by bureaucracy and complicated logistics. 

Why is it so difficult to change? In ?Urban Intercurrence: The Struggle to Build Walkable Downtowns in Car-Dependent Suburbia,? author Tristan Cleveland goes in depth about why cities struggle to retrofit their car dependence, and what could actually be done to create change.

In this Strong Towns Podcast, host Chuck Marohn chats with Tristan Cleveland, PhD, who is a Strong Towns member and an urban planner at Happy Cities. 

ADDITIONAL SHOW NOTES

Tristan Cleveland (Twitter).

Read Tristan?s PhD thesis on how to redesign suburban communities to become healthy, walkable places.

Chuck Marohn (Twitter).

Learn more about the 2023 Local-Motive Tour.

2023-08-28
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Citizen Versus Developer? No! It?s Citizen As Developer.

Recently, an article came out of Medicine Hat, Alberta, reflecting on some development conversations happening within the city, inspired by Strong Towns presentations. When Chuck Marohn read the article, he felt core insights were missing or misunderstood within the piece.

On this episode of the Strong Towns Podcast, Chuck discusses the challenges faced by local journalists and the impact it has on the quality of reporting. He shares his personal experience with his wife, who is a reporter, and highlights the difficulties they encounter in producing articles with limited resources and tight deadlines.

Additionally, Chuck delves into the topic of citizen-led development and its potential to reshape cities in a more financially resilient manner. Throughout the podcast, he emphasizes the need for public engagement and the importance of creating neighborhoods that evolve and improve over time.

ADDITIONAL SHOW NOTES

Learn more about the Community Action Lab in Medicine Hat.

Chuck Marohn (Twitter).

2023-07-24
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Four Communities Are Becoming Examples of Change

Change is not always easy, and without examples, it can be difficult to reimagine how we do things. That?s just one of the reasons Strong Towns decided to launch the Community Action Lab: a carefully customized, two-year relationship between Strong Towns and selected cities seeking to make a change. Four cities are currently leading the way through this program in applying Strong Towns concepts and ideas from the bottom up.

This week on the Strong Towns Podcast, Chuck talks about the Community Action Lab, and some of the experiences, conversations, and insights he?s gained while working with these four communities. 

ADDITIONAL SHOW NOTES

Learn more about The Community Action Lab.

Chuck Marohn (Twitter).

2023-07-12
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From 500 to 5,000: What Strong Towns Members Are Doing to Make Their Places Better

Just a couple weeks ago, we got the opportunity to meet nearly 500 Strong Towns members for the first time at the Strong Towns National Gathering. It is evident that Strong Towns members are people who care deeply about their place: We heard so many compelling stories about people working to make their town stronger.

In this podcast, as part of our Member Week, we wanted to share Strong Towns President Chuck Marohn?s introductory speech from the Gathering. Tune in to hear him talk about some of the amazing things that Strong Towns members are doing in their communities. 

Our members are crucial to everything that happens at Strong Towns. Without you, we wouldn?t be here. If you haven?t already, take a moment to become a Strong Towns member today.

ADDITIONAL SHOW NOTES

Chuck Marohn (Twitter).

Cover image source: ZED images.

2023-06-12
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Dollar Stores Are Leeching the Economic Vitality of Communities Across the U.S.

A recent report from the Institute for Local Self-Reliance reveals some shocking facts: In 2021, half of the new stores opened in the U.S. were chain dollar stores. Moreover, Dollar Store and Dollar Tree (which are part of the Family Dollar system) together operate more than 34,000 stores. That?s more than McDonald?s, Starbucks, Target, and Walmart combined.

How did we get to this point, how does this transformation in retail affect local economies, and what can communities do to protect themselves from this "dollar store invasion?? Stacey Mitchell, co-executive director of the Institute for Local Self-Reliance and one of the authors of the aforementioned report, joins Chuck Marohn today on the Strong Towns Podcast for this conversation.

ADDITIONAL SHOW NOTES

Read The Dollar Store Invasion report from the Institute for Local Self-Reliance.

Institute for Local Self-Reliance (website).

Stacey Mitchell (Twitter).

Chuck Marohn (Twitter).

2023-06-05
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Ian Lockwood: Thoughts From an Engineer

How should engineers be thinking about building wealth in communities?

That?s just one of the questions Chuck Marohn asks of Ian Lockwood, a recognized national leader in sustainable transportation policy and urban design. Lockwood is currently a livable transportation engineer for Toole Design, an engineering firm which works to build safer and more walkable streets. On this Strong Towns Podcast, join Marohn and Lockwood as they talk about the work of Toole Design, complete streets, and more.

ADDITIONAL SHOW NOTES

Ian Lockwood (Twitter).

Chuck Marohn (Twitter).

2023-05-01
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What?s Going On With the Recent Bank Failures?

In March 2023, major banks collapsed, interest rates have been rising, and many people are greatly?and rightly?concerned about inflation. In this week?s episode of the Strong Towns Podcast, Chuck Marohn talks about the financial system, and provides insights on what?s currently happening in the banking industry.

ADDITIONAL SHOW NOTES

Chuck Marohn (Twitter).

2023-04-03
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Growth Through Destruction

In 1906, a powerful earthquake in San Francisco, California, damaged a good portion of the city, causing havoc and distress as 28,188 buildings were destroyed, and over 3,000 people were killed. Curiously, after this tragic disaster, things began to grow again, but this time the built environment came back stronger. Seth Zeren, a founding member of Strong Towns, wrote about this phenomenon last month, and this week on the Strong Towns Podcast, Chuck Marohn and Zeren chat about complexity, and if complex systems can grow stronger through destruction.

ADDITIONAL SHOW NOTES

?Do Things Need to Burn for New Things to Grow?? by Seth Zeren, Strong Towns (Feb, 2023).

Subscribe to Seth Zeren?s Substack, Build the Next Right Thing.

Chuck Marohn (Twitter).

2023-03-20
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On the Conservative Reaction to 15-Minute Cities

We believe everyone can build a Strong Town, but all too often, political differences divide communities, and instead of working together to build stronger neighborhoods from a bottom-up approach, we get caught up in contentious, top-down ideas and conversations. 

One such political divide has developed around the concept of the 15-minute city: a term used to describe traditional neighborhoods. While to urbanists it describes a walkable place, to critics, it?s a potential infringement on personal freedoms. In this episode of the Strong Towns Podcast, Chuck Marohn dives into the controversies surrounding the 15-minute city.

ADDITIONAL SHOW NOTES

Charles Marohn (Twitter).

2023-03-13
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The Property Tax System is Broken?Regrid Works on Tools to Help Fix It

The property tax system is broken all across the nation. In Detroit, residents face an issue of inconsistent assessments, where two homes that are similar in condition and sitting on similar-sized lots have widely different assessment scores. 

Recently, the team at Regrid, an industry-leading property data and location intelligence company, put together an Assessment Gauge map that may prove to be a useful tool for homeowners, assessors, or nonprofits in bringing a much-needed balance to overassessments.

Today on the Strong Towns Podcast, Chuck Marohn welcomes back Alex Alsup, vice president of research and development at Regrid, to talk about assessments and property tax in Detroit, how the Strong Towns approach worked for Alsup and his team, and an overview of the assessment process. 

Read more about the Assessment Gauge in the article ?Check Your Temperature- You Might Have an Assessment Fever.? To learn more about Regrid or get access to their parcel data, click here

ADDITIONAL SHOW NOTES

Regrid (website).

Charles Marohn (Twitter).

2023-02-20
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Jeff Speck on the 10th-Anniversary Edition of Walkable City

Today on the Strong Towns Podcast, Chuck Marohn welcomes back Jeff Speck, city planner and author, to talk about a brand-new version of his book, Walkable City: How Downtown Can Save America, One Step at a Time.

It?s the 10th anniversary for the book, and a lot has changed in the U.S. since the original was published. While the content from the first edition is still relevant today, this updated version holds over 100 pages of new information useful to those actively working to make their cities stronger. Listen to Chuck and Speck talk in depth about some of those book additions, including (but not limited to) COVID?s impact on cities, the reckless driver narrative, and a simple truth about street trees.

ADDITIONAL SHOW NOTES

Get the new edition of Walkable City: How Downtown Can Save America, One Step at a Time.

Jeff Speck (Twitter).

Charles Marohn (Twitter).

2023-02-13
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Lawsuit Update: Making a Stand for Engineers in the Minnesota State Court of Appeals

Anyone should be able to speak up and question whether current engineering practices truly benefit our communities. That?s especially true for licensed professionals who have a special duty to the public to be heard. And when they do speak up, their statements should not make them a target for licensing boards. 

Members of the Minnesota board of engineering licensure are supposed to uphold the integrity of their institution, but instead they have abused their power, overstepping their authority in order to slander a leading reformer?someone who was not even practicing engineering?by issuing a state order against Strong Towns founder and president, Charles Marohn. 

We?re fighting to have the board?s decision overturned. In this Strong Towns Podcast, listen to the latest update on the appeal for this case and the oral arguments made in front of the Minnesota Court of Appeals. 

For more information on this case, visit www.strongtowns.org/supportreform.

ADDITIONAL SHOW NOTES Learn more about our fight for engineering reform. Charles Marohn (Twitter).
2023-01-30
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Mike Hathorne: Where Does Decision-Making Need to Occur in Our Communities?

How far up the chain of command does a problem need to go before someone can make a decision on it? According to the concept of subsidiarity, it matters less what decision is made and more who makes the decision?in other words, a decision should be made at the lowest level that it can competently be made.

Mike Hathorne, principal of community planning and design at Commun1ty.one and Strong Towns member, works with cities to create decision-making processes that can impact how our places function. Today, he joins Chuck Marohn on the Strong Towns Podcast to discuss subsidiarity in a practical sense.

For further listening on this topic, check out the episode ?What Customer Service Should Mean for a City,? where Chuck talks about his personal experience with subsidiarity and how it forms in our places.

ADDITIONAL SHOW NOTES

?Subsidiarity,? by Mike Hathorne, Commun1ity.one (August 2018).

Commun1ty.one?s website.

Mike Hathorne (Twitter).

Charles Marohn (Twitter).

2023-01-09
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Ben Hunt: In Praise of Bitcoin

Today?s Strong Towns Podcast guest, Ben Hunt, wrote on Epsilon Theory that ?Bitcoin has been an authentic expression of identity, a positive identity of autonomy, entrepreneurialism, and resistance to the Nudging State and the Nudging Oligarchy.? 

Today, join Chuck Marohn as he invites Hunt onto the podcast to discuss his insights on Bitcoin, the story of investing, and how it connects to all of us.

ADDITIONAL SHOW NOTES

?In Praise of Bitcoin,? by Ben Hunt, Epsilon Theory (April 2021).

Read more Epsilon Theory here.

Ben Hunt (Twitter).

Charles Marohn (Twitter).

2023-01-02
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Thanks for a Great Year

It's been a great year for the Strong Towns Podcast; thanks for listening. We wanted to close out 2022 with one last message, and to wish you Happy Holidays and a Happy New Year!

2022-12-19
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Sam Quinones: True Tales of America and Hope in the Time of Fentanyl and Meth

This week on the Strong Towns Podcast, Chuck Marohn chats with Sam Quinones, author and journalist, about his most recent book: The Least of Us: True Tales of America and Hope in the Time of Fentanyl and Meth. Along with doing a deep dive on particular sections of the book, Quinones tells how we went from city hall reporter to writing books about addiction.

ADDITIONAL SHOW NOTES

Sam Quinones?s website.

Order your copy of The Least of Us: True Tales of America and Hope in the Time of Fentanyl and Meth.

Sam Quinones (Twitter).

Charles Marohn (Twitter).

2022-12-05
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Get Ready for #BlackFridayParking

Our annual Black Friday Parking event is coming up, so get your cameras ready!

Black Friday Parking is a nationwide event drawing attention to the harmful nature of minimum parking requirements. Parking minimums create a barrier for new local businesses and fill up our cities with empty parking spaces that don?t add value to our places. 

Every year on Black Friday, one of the biggest shopping days of the year, people all across North America snap photos of the (hardly full) parking lots in their communities to demonstrate how unnecessary these massive lots are. Participants upload those photos to social media with the hashtag #blackfridayparking. For more information, visit strongtowns.org/blackfridayparking.

2022-11-23
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The Impact of Systemic Racism on Jackson?s Water Crisis

A prominent question that keeps coming up since the beginning of the Jackson, Mississippi, water crisis is, ?How did we get to this point?? 

If you?ve been tuning in to the Strong Towns Podcast, you?ll know that Chuck has talked about the water crisis in Jackson a couple of times working to answer this question. He?s gone in depth about the financial fragility of our water systems, how they work, and why we even have them

After hearing Chuck?s analysis, some Strong Towns members felt there was not enough emphasis on the impact systemic racism has had on the situation. In this podcast, Chuck talks with Amanda Lanata, Strong Towns member and former Jackson resident, on the racial complexities in Jackson and how race is linked to the water crisis. 

ADDITIONAL SHOW NOTES

?The Jackson Water Crisis Is Not a Fluke. Your City Could Be Next,? hosted by Charles Marohn, Strong Towns Podcast (September 2022).

?Water System Crises and Solutions,? hosted by Charles Marohn, Strong Towns Podcast (November 2022).

Don?t forget to participate this Friday in Strong Towns? annual #BlackFridayParking event!

Charles Marohn (Twitter).

Cover image source: Unsplash.

2022-11-21
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A Behind-the-Scenes Look at the Most Comprehensive Resource Strong Towns Offers

The final installment of this week?s special Member Week Strong Towns Podcast features a discussion between Chuck Marohn and Strong Towns? new director of community action, Edward Erfurt. Longtime listeners may remember Edward as a guest from past episodes, but today he?s here as a full-fledged member of the Strong Towns staff.

We?re excited to share a behind-the-scenes look at the program Edward is overseeing: the Strong Towns Community Action Lab. This 24-month program is the most comprehensive resource Strong Towns offers, putting participating communities on a trajectory toward enduring prosperity.

We?re able to take on new initiatives like the Community Action Lab thanks to the support of our members. If you haven?t joined yet, please consider doing so today. Become a Strong Towns member and know that your contribution is going toward the strengthening of communities all across North America.

2022-11-18
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A Whole New Framework for Analyzing Car Crashes

Membership is 40% of Strong Towns? revenue?we couldn?t do this work without you. As the Strong Towns movement has grown, we?ve started to take on larger projects and have looked at ways that we can support those initiatives. Instrumental in orchestrating this has been Grace Whately, the Strong Towns development associate.

One of the larger projects that Grace and the rest of the team have been working on is the launch of the Crash Analysis Studio, which will create an alternative framework for analyzing car crashes. Today, Chuck and Grace go behind the scenes and chat about how this project came about, and the steps that went into making this idea a reality. 

The Crash Analysis Studio and the other projects we?re working on to help advocates push for safer streets and more financially resilient communities are only possible thanks to the support of our members. If you want to be a part of this movement that?s changing the development pattern of North America, then join in and become a Strong Towns member today.

2022-11-17
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This Is How the Strong Towns Movement Becomes ?Unignorable?

As a part of our special Member Week series, Chuck Marohn and Strong Towns Community Builder John Pattison talk about the Local Conversations program. They discuss how the first Local Conversations came to be, what?s changed, and how the Strong Towns organization is coming alongside these groups in new ways.

With so many Local Conversations spread out around North America, the Strong Towns movement will become unignorable. When that happens, it will be thanks to the support of our members. Strong Towns? efforts to help start and support Local Conversations is only possible because of our members, whose contributions are expanding the movement. Will you help us grow the movement today?

2022-11-16
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The Power of Talking Locally Over the Noise of National Politics

On today's special Member Week episode, Chuck talks with Strong Towns Communications Associate Lauren Fisher about Strong Towns? approach to communication. They chat about the big ideas we?re working toward and how to squish them down into little emails and tweets. And how difficult it is to do that amidst a big, loud, national political power struggle.

After listening, consider becoming a member of the Strong Towns movement at strongtowns.org/membership. And if you are already a member, know that you have chosen a path toward a strong future that might involve a poll booth, but offers power and hope beyond it.

2022-11-15
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The Strong Towns Strategy

Welcome to Member Week, where we?re celebrating our members and all that they do to support this movement.

This week, the Strong Towns podcast will be a little different. Tune in every day to listen as Chuck Marohn talks with Strong Towns staff about this movement and what our members are doing to make their places stronger.

In today?s episode, Chuck talks about the new Strong Towns strategic plan in action and what that will look like in 2023. Whereas we?as a small, fledgling organization?were once focused on just growing the movement, we?re now at a point where we can start mobilizing the movement. And that?s pretty exciting.

Still, we can?t do it without you. Our strategy relies on members. It takes a million local heroes to change the multitrillion-dollar development machine, and we need your support. 

Take a moment this Member Week to make a donation to Strong Towns: become a member.

2022-11-14
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Water System Crises and Solutions

In a September episode of the Strong Towns Podcast, Chuck talked about the water crisis in Jackson, Mississippi. He spoke on the technicalities of American water systems, what failed in Jackson, and how Jackson ended up in a crisis

Now, in this week?s episode, Chuck dives a little deeper into water systems and why we even have them (hint: it?s not just about safe drinking water). He takes listeners back to the 1800s and describes how historical events affected the standard for today?s water systems?shining a light on current aging water systems, like Jackson?s, and how we should be thinking about water systems going forward.

ADDITIONAL SHOW NOTES

?The Jackson Water Crisis Is Not a Fluke. Your City Could Be Next,? hosted by Charles Marohn, Strong Towns Podcast (September 2022.)

Charles Marohn (Twitter).

2022-11-07
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The Highway Boondoggles Report

We began building the Interstate Highway System in the 1950s, and we completed the majority of it by the end of the 1960s. The goal of creating this massive transportation system was to connect far away places? and it?s met that purpose. Yet, even though the job is done, we continue to build and invest in the interstate highway system, despite that highway investments are a waste of resources and damage the fiscal growth of our cities

In this Strong Towns Podcast, Strong Towns Founder and President Chuck Marohn chats with Tony Dutzik, associate director and senior policy analyst with Frontier Group, about their recent ?Highway Boondoggles? report

(And, in case you?re wondering, a highway boondoggle is a wasteful or pointless highway project that gives the appearance of having value but which drains scarce resources, making it harder to respond to current and future transportation needs.)

ADDITIONAL SHOW NOTES

?Highway Boondoggles,? Frontier Group (September 2022).

Learn more about wasteful highway expansion projects.

Charles Marohn (Twitter).

Cover image source: Flickr.

2022-10-24
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What Customer Service Should Mean for a City

Sometimes, our local governments can get caught up in an ineffective mindset while managing cities, where they take on the role of a customer service representative. While it comes from a place of wanting to be helpful, it?s not always the best approach our cities should be taking.

In this episode of the Strong Towns Podcast, host Chuck Marohn discusses subsidiarity versus the customer service mindset we tend to see in city halls. Subsidiarity holds that it matters less what decision is made and more who makes the decision?in other words, a decision should be made at the lowest level that it can competently be made. When a city is making decisions that should be made at the block level, it can create a bigger mess than intended. 

To dive into and explain this concept further, Chuck relates his personal experience within his neighborhood, one that has not always been picture perfect.

ADDITIONAL SHOW NOTES

Charles Marohn (Twitter).

Cover image source: Flickr.

 

2022-10-10
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Hawaii?s Suburban Experiment

This September, Strong Towns President Chuck Marohn was invited to speak at the Hawaii Congress of Planning Officials Conference on the Island of Kauai. 

While he was there, Chuck went on a walking tour and witnessed the results of the post-WWII rise of suburban development. While he loved his visit to the island and feels incredibly grateful to the wonderful hospitality of the people there, he couldn?t help but feel a sense of sorrow for how their community has been damaged by the Suburban Experiment

He notes how much worse, and more bizarrely, the suburban development pattern presents itself on a smaller island space compared to in the contiguous United States. He spoke with local engineers who relayed the difficulties of upkeeping the suburban-style infrastructure in a tropical climate. The situation in Hawaii further confirms that we should be building our communities from the bottom up, able to adapt to our own unique spaces versus building all at once. 

ADDITIONAL SHOW NOTES

Learn more about the Suburban Experiment, how and why it happened, and how to approach the challenges it presents using a Strong Towns framework. All this and more in our free Academy course, ?Strong Towns 101.?

Attend a Strong Towns event near you.

Charles Marohn (Twitter).

2022-09-26
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The Jackson Water Crisis Is Not a Fluke?Your City Could Be Next

What?s happened with Jackson?s water crisis is an absolute tragedy. In late August, a state of emergency was issued after there was no clean running water in the city. Residents who could get water reported that they?d turn on the tap and be met with a brown consistency, and the city instructed people to boil it before any sort of usage. 

For seven weeks Jackson?s residents had to bear the brunt of a failing water system, and unfortunately it was bound to happen. Like all American cities, Jackson rests on the wrong business model and its systems are stretched too thin. It was only a matter of time before it started to leak. 

In this episode, Chuck Marohn covers the technicalities of American water systems, what failed in Jackson, and how Jackson even got to this place. Chuck also addresses the two main narratives that have been the national media focus during this crisis: climate change and racial inequity.

ADDITIONAL SHOW NOTES

?Financial Fragility Is To Blame for Jackson?s Water Crisis,? Charles Marohn, Strong Towns (September 2022).

Charles Marohn (Twitter).

2022-09-22
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Not Just Bikes and Strong Towns Discuss Public Transit in North America

Jason Slaughter, producer of the YouTube channel Not Just Bikes, is a pretty cool and talented guy. He?s created multiple excellent videos on Strong Towns ideas, taking our written words and translating them through his own voice into visual representations. A lot of our dedicated members have discovered us through Not Just Bikes? compelling videos. 

In this episode, Chuck welcomes Jason back onto the Strong Towns Podcast, where they discuss one of his recent videos, ?America Always Gets This Wrong (when building transit).? 

U.S. and Canadian transit systems disrespect the people who use them. Most of the time, public transit is a hassle, it?s impractical, and it doesn?t make sense to use when transit routes take much longer than a car ride. The millions of dollars that are spent on our transit systems seem to go to waste when land use is not considered during the construction process. 

In this podcast, Jason and Chuck go more in depth about some of the absurdities of our modern transit system and the urban deserts they tend to drop riders off at?bringing to light some reasons why people don?t want to use public transit. They debunk the reasons some DOTs use for why we can?t have better transit, and what the process for building efficient public transportation systems should look like.

Bonus: Jason describes a time he and his kids used the transit system where he lives in Europe. 

ADDITIONAL SHOW NOTES

Not Just Bikes (YouTube).

Check out Not Just Bikes? livestreams on YouTube and Twitch!

Support Jason through his Patreon.

Jason (Twitter / Reddit).

Charles Marohn (Twitter).

2022-08-15
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?Bias Writ Large? in the Property Tax Assessment System

Fair property tax systems are crucial to developing a financially strong community, as property taxes represent a large source of public revenue for most local governments.

In today?s episode of the Strong Towns Podcast, Chuck Marohn talks with Joe Minicozzi from Urban3 about Buncombe County and the property tax inequities within Western North Carolina that are currently being investigated by the Just Accounting For Health (JAfH) consortium. 

A few months ago, Minicozzi presented some compelling disparities in the data on the assessment process to the Buncombe County Ad Hoc Reappraisal Committee?only for his presentation to be cut short by defensive audience members. In this podcast, Minicozzi shares that data he presented to the Ad Hoc Committee and talks about the historical practice of redlining, and how it has contributed to our current, broken property tax system. 

JAfH is a consortium partnered with Urban3, Strong Towns, the University of North Carolina-Asheville, and the Racial Justice Coalition. The team has been rigorously researching property tax inequities specifically in relation to Western North Carolina, as well as exploring implications of this system across the nation. Along with exposing the arbitrary data within the opaque property tax system, JAfH is answering the question, ?How do systemic biases in local property tax policies and practices influence health equity in Western North Carolina??

In this podcast, Minicozzi shows Marohn some slides from his original presentation to the Ad Hoc Committee. To view the slides, check out the accompanying video to this podcast on YouTube.

Additional Show Notes Learn more about Just Accounting for Health.

Sign up for emails to stay up to date on JAfH findings.

Joe Minicozzi (Twitter).

Charles Marohn (Twitter).

2022-08-08
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One of the Most Dangerous Assumptions We Have Made

Thanks to technology, cars and roads just keep getting safer, right? That?s the message we hear in the news and advertising on a regular basis. But if that were the case, traffic fatalities should be going down as technology progresses. And they?re not.

What?s more, according to these standard beliefs subscribed to by much of the public, when driving dramatically decreased during the early months of the pandemic in 2020, we should have seen a drop in traffic deaths, too. Instead, we saw an increase. Beth Osborne, director of Transportation for America, calls this ?one of the most dangerous assumptions we have made in the United States??that deaths as a result of car crashes are just ?the cost of doing business? and will naturally go up or down in correlation with the amount of traffic.

The truth is that the design of our streets is fundamentally dangerous and fewer cars on the road actually means people will drive more quickly, taking more risks, and leading to more crashes. This is because engineers have built American streets to highway standards, removing all potential obstacles and widening streets to the point of absurdity. Car crashes aren?t the result of mere human error or recklessness, they?re the result of design. 

That?s why Osborne?s on the Strong Towns Podcast this week, to talk about Transportation for America?s new Dangerous by Design report and to encourage you not to look away or shrug your shoulders about the ?cost of doing business? in America.

According to Transportation for America?s new report, 18 people a day were struck and killed in 2020. In any other context?terrorist attack, plane crash, mass shooting?these numbers would be horrific. We should take them seriously on our streets, too.

The good news is that, if design got us into this mess, design can get us out, too. In this conversation, Osborne and Marohn dig into the issues with street design in America and how we can move toward safer, more financially productive streets everywhere.

Additional Show Notes

?Beth Osborne: America's Roads are ?Dangerous by Design?,? a previous Strong Towns Podcast episode featuring Beth Osborne.

?Infrastructure Avalanche: How to Make the Best Use of Federal and State Funding,? a 2022 Local-Motive course featuring Beth Osborne.

?How Street Design Shapes the Epidemic of Preventable Pedestrian Fatalities,? by Steve Davis, Strong Towns (July 2022).

?New Report: America?s Epidemic of Traffic Deaths Is Getting Worse,? by Daniel Herriges, Strong Towns (July 2022).

Transportation for America website.

Dangerous by Design 2022 report.

Beth Osborne (Twitter).

Charles Marohn (Twitter).

2022-08-01
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The Drip, Drip, Drip of Traffic Deaths

Every hour, four people are killed in a car crash. Over a year, this totals up to about 40,000 people

?It?s an astounding number,? says Strong Towns President Chuck Marohn. 

In this episode of the Strong Towns Podcast, Chuck talks about his experience serving for nine years in the National Guard. He covers some sensitive topics, relaying what he?s learned from how people respond to military deaths, and what that can tell us about how we respond to traffic deaths.  

?I bring this up, because I want to talk a little bit about the way we respond to tragedy, the way we respond to hardship,? says Chuck. 

If 40,000 people suddenly died in a massive car crash, we?d notice. We?d all turn our heads and as a collective of officials and citizens, we would mourn and strive for change so as to prevent that sort of catastrophic event from happening again. The reality is, about 40,000 people die in car crashes every year in the United States. But we don?t respond with the same sense of urgency the way we would respond to a large, very noticeable, tragic accident. Chuck explains why this is, how our society functions, and how it needs to change to solve this ongoing tragedy of needless traffic deaths.

We can solve this problem. We can apply bottom-up processes to quickly make our streets safer for everyone. We can end the drip, drip, drip of traffic deaths. 

Additional Show Notes

?Here?s Why We Respond in Force to One Amtrak Crash While Ignoring Thousands of Daily Car Crashes,? by Charles Marohn, Strong Towns (July 2022).

Charles Marohn (Twitter).

2022-07-18
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An Update on Strong Towns? Lawsuit Against the Minnesota Board of Engineering Licensure

In today's episode, Chuck Marohn gives an update on where Strong Towns is at in its ongoing lawsuit against the Minnesota Board of Architecture, Engineering, Land Surveying, Landscape Architecture, Geoscience and Interior Design (AELSLAGID).

2022-07-11
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Majora Carter: Reclaiming Your Community

Success: however you define it, it?s what many of us strive for. Whether it?s success in one?s career, school, family life, or other dreams, no one wants to experience a perceived failure in life. 

In the minds of many throughout America, the indicator of success is the action of leaving your neighborhood?for good. A stigma exists in many places that, if you truly have talent and are to accomplish great things, you will not stay in your community. Instead, you?ll go off to find something better. 

Majora Carter, an urban revitalization strategist, real estate developer, MacArthur Fellow Peabody award winning broadcaster, and owner of the Boogie Down Grind Cafe in the Bronx, wrote a fascinating book called Reclaiming Your Community: You Don?t Have To Move Out of Your Neighborhood to Live in a Better One

?I felt so much connection to the story you were telling about your place, which seems very different than mine,? comments Strong Towns President Chuck Marohn during his interview with Carter on the Strong Towns Podcast. 

The Cinderella story of leaving your ?unfortunate place? for a castle on the hill is one many Americans can relate to. In this week's Strong Towns Podcast, Chuck talks with Carter about themes from her book, such as building wealth in your own community, and Carter?s own life experiences growing up in the Bronx.

Additional Show Notes

Purchase Majora Carter?s book, Reclaiming Your Community: You Don?t Have To Move Out of Your Neighborhood to Live in a Better One.

Majora Carter (website).

Connect with Majora Carter on Instagram or Twitter.

Charles Marohn (Twitter).

2022-06-20
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Nolan Gray: Exposing the Arbitrariness of Zoning Codes

Professional city planner and longtime Strong Towns contributor Nolan Gray comes to The Strong Towns Podcast today to talk about his new book, Arbitrary Lines: How Zoning Broke the American City and How to Fix It.

As you may have already gathered from the title, this is a book all about the flawed nature of zoning, and why reforming our zoning codes is such a key part of building stronger, more financially resilient cities and towns.

As Strong Towns Podcast host Chuck Marohn notes, if you don?t know anything about zoning, you?re going to get a lot out of this book. And if you?re an expert on zoning, you?re still going to get a lot out of this book. So if you?re looking for an accessible, yet informative exploration of what?s gone wrong with the way we plan cities, look no further.

Additional Show Notes

Order Arbitrary Lines: How Zoning Broke the American City and How to Fix It here.

Nolan Gray (Twitter).

Charles Marohn (Twitter).

2022-06-13
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End the Parking Mandates and Subsidies That Are Hurting Our Cities

Building community wealth is difficult. There?s a lot of hard work involved, there are tough calls, there is risk. In even the best of circumstances, there?s always a chance your investment (in dollars, time, and energy) won?t work out. But often it does. Ultimately, this is how cities grow, how wealth is accumulated, how communities prosper, and how the chance to pursue a good life is made available to more people.

What?s wild is how often cities get in their own way. Case in point: the parking mandates and subsidies that are probably hobbling your city?s strength and resilience right now. 

This member week, we are sharing insights into our new strategic plan, including our five priority campaigns. The goal of the End Parking Mandates and Subsidies campaign is to end the practices that cause productive land to be used for motor vehicle storage. You can support this campaign by becoming a member of Strong Towns.

2022-06-10
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