The Strong Towns Podcast
“Bias Writ Large” in the Property Tax Assessment System

“Bias Writ Large” in the Property Tax Assessment System

August 8, 2022

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

One of the Most Dangerous Assumptions We Have Made

One of the Most Dangerous Assumptions We Have Made

August 1, 2022

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

The Drip, Drip, Drip of Traffic Deaths

The Drip, Drip, Drip of Traffic Deaths

July 18, 2022

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

An Update on Strong Towns’ Lawsuit Against the Minnesota Board of Engineering Licensure

An Update on Strong Towns’ Lawsuit Against the Minnesota Board of Engineering Licensure

July 11, 2022

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).

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.

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