The Strong Towns Podcast
Hawaii’s Suburban Experiment

Hawaii’s Suburban Experiment

September 26, 2022

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

The Jackson Water Crisis Is Not a Fluke—Your City Could Be Next

The Jackson Water Crisis Is Not a Fluke—Your City Could Be Next

September 22, 2022

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

Not Just Bikes and Strong Towns Discuss Public Transit in North America

Not Just Bikes and Strong Towns Discuss Public Transit in North America

August 15, 2022

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

“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.

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