The Strong Towns Podcast
Majora Carter: Reclaiming Your Community

Majora Carter: Reclaiming Your Community

June 20, 2022

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

Nolan Gray: Exposing the Arbitrariness of Zoning Codes

Nolan Gray: Exposing the Arbitrariness of Zoning Codes

June 13, 2022

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

End the Parking Mandates and Subsidies That Are Hurting Our Cities

End the Parking Mandates and Subsidies That Are Hurting Our Cities

June 10, 2022

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.

Legalizing Incremental Change—Everywhere—To Meet America’s Housing Needs

Legalizing Incremental Change—Everywhere—To Meet America’s Housing Needs

June 9, 2022

A house is many things. It is shelter, a place to live. It is an investment, a store of wealth. It can be a repository of memories and it can be a dream for the future. “The American Dream,” as a home is sometimes called, is part of our national identity, a narrative many Americans like to tell themselves about what it means to lead a good life.

Yet can a house really be all of these things? Moreover, should a house be all these things? 

This member week, we are sharing insights into our new strategic plan, including our five priority campaigns. The goal of the Incremental Housing campaign is to have the next increment of development intensity allowed, by right, in every neighborhood in America. You can support this campaign by becoming a member of Strong Towns.

Your City’s Accounting Is Unnecessarily Obscure. It’s Time To Pull Back the Veil.

Your City’s Accounting Is Unnecessarily Obscure. It’s Time To Pull Back the Veil.

June 8, 2022

Who do we prepare local budgets for, the citizens of a community or distant Wall Street bond investors? Is it more important that an elected council member know what is going on with a city’s finances, or should our local accounting practices be more responsive to the needs of analysts at ratings agencies?

We all expect cities to put together budgets and maintain financial reports so citizens can understand what is going on and community leaders can make good decisions. That is what we expect, but that’s not how local government accounting actually works.

This member week, we are sharing insights into our new strategic plan, including our five priority campaigns. The goal of the Transparent Local Accounting campaign is to reveal the financial implications of the Suburban Experiment by increasing the transparency of local accounting practices. You can support this campaign by becoming a member of Strong Towns.

America *Must* End Highway Expansions, Before It’s Too Late

America *Must* End Highway Expansions, Before It’s Too Late

June 7, 2022

When we build a highway, we know we have to maintain it. The same applies to a bridge. Every highway or bridge that has ever been built comes with a predictable and easily calculable schedule for maintenance. This isn’t difficult math.

So, why do we struggle to maintain our roads and bridges? Why do we continue to suffer with enormous backlogs of basic infrastructure maintenance? Why do we have round after round of tax increases, referendums, and debt expansions to pay for perpetually underfunded transportation systems? Did nobody see this coming?

This member week, we are sharing insights into our new strategic plan, including our five priority campaigns. The goal of the End Highway Expansion campaign is to curtail the primary mechanism of local wealth destruction and municipal insolvency—that being the continued expansion of America’s highways and auto-related transportation systems. You can support this campaign by becoming a member of Strong Towns.

Safe and Productive Streets

Safe and Productive Streets

June 6, 2022

A street is not merely a place for cars. In fact, the primary purpose of a street has nothing to do with motor vehicles at all. A street is, and always has been, a platform for growing community wealth and capacity, the framework for building prosperous human habitat.

This member week, we are sharing insights into our new strategic plan, including our five priority campaigns. The goal of the Safe and Productive Streets campaign is to shift the priority of local streets from automobile throughput to human safety and wealth creation. You can support this campaign by becoming a member of Strong Towns.

Mike McGinn: Making America More Walkable

Mike McGinn: Making America More Walkable

May 23, 2022

America Walks is a nationally recognized non-profit organization that aims to create a more walkable America by giving people resources to effectively advocate for change. Join Strong Towns President Chuck Marohn in a conversation with Mike McGinn—executive director at America Walks and once mayor of Seattle—where they talk about the things that make America less walkable and what we can do about it. 

“We're both struggling with that highway building coalition in our work,” says Chuck. “I think the thing about America Walks today is that I see you’re approaching it from a fresh [and] energized perspective around people walking, and really starting there with getting your feet on the ground, metaphorically and physically in real life.” 

In this episode of The Strong Towns Podcast, Chuck and McGinn discuss topics such as the federal government passing the largest infrastructure spending bill in the nation's history, why it’s so important for walking that we address highways and how they really affect our communities, and core characteristics of strong cities.

Additional Show Notes

This Vancouver-Based Artist Is Writing Music…About Building Strong Towns!

This Vancouver-Based Artist Is Writing Music…About Building Strong Towns!

May 9, 2022

People have taken the Strong Towns approach in a lot of fascinating directions, but this might be one of the most fascinating yet: William Chernoff is a young, Vancouver-based musician who has written songs inspired by Strong Towns.

During the pandemic, Chernoff also started writing about music, building strong towns, and more. In this conversation, Marohn (a musician himself) and Chernoff discuss the creativity involved in writing and music, the way they’re inspired by others and build upon previous work, and the collaborative nature of art. Chernoff specifically talks about the importance of cultivating financially successful local music scenes, using tools like economic gardening to support mid-level or “Stage 2” music groups—tools Strong Towns also recommends for building up local businesses generally.

You don’t want to miss this unique discussion between two people who love music and are passionate about building strong towns! 

Additional Show Notes

Chuck Marohn Answers Your Questions

Chuck Marohn Answers Your Questions

May 2, 2022

It's time for another Q&A session! Today, Chuck Marohn will be responding to your questions on things like how to calculate the actual value of spaces like public parks, whether or not high visibility traffic cameras influence driver behavior, and choosing between unfavorable options in planning processes.

If you've got a burning query that you want us to answer, head on over to the Community Section of the Acton Lab, and post it there. Our goal is to address as many questions as we can, and especially the ones that we think are going to help a lot of people out. So, stay tuned for future Q&A sessions!

Additional Show Notes

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