Wednesday, December 31, 2014

Nuggets of wisdom, interest, and of possible value

By Jim Vaughan, Senior Fellow

What better way to end 2014 than by scanning the clippings file and tagged emails in search of nuggets of wisdom, interest, and of possible value. Here are five random but thought provoking quotes you can use right away to make the case for making your city a great city: 
  1. On the importance of investing in arts, culture, transit and the like, my associate Alex Pearlstein shared this quote by Calgary Mayor Naheed Nenshi from a City Lab piece by Richard Florida—

    “When we make investments in arts and culture and sports and recreation, in vibrant public spaces, and even great public transit, those are hard-nosed economic development decisions.”

  2. On higher minimum wages, the states aren't waiting on Congress to act. Twenty-one states are set to raise minimum wages in 2015 benefiting more than 3.1 million workers. CBS News puts the increased earnings into perspective—

    “Those wage increases should translate into more than $838 million in new economic growth, according to EPI, as workers spend more money.”

    Meanwhile, Paul Krugman makes the case that we can pay fast-food workers higher wages. In a Business Insider interview he said—

    “When the minimum wage is as low as it is in the United States, there is hardly any cost in raising it. Almost all minimum wage workers in the United States are employed in non-tradable industries—production can’t move to China. We can raise these wages without losing a lot of jobs.”

  3. On pinpricks of change that enrich city life. When I was president of the Chamber in Chattanooga, a local IBM executive and future City Councilman, Dave Crockett, attended the 1992 Earth Summit in Rio where countries adopted a blueprint for sustainable development. He came back singing the praises of one of the leaders he met at the conference, Jaime Lerner, the mayor of Curitiba, Brazil.

    An October 22 article in Next City tells about Lerner’s book, Urban Acupuncture: Celebrating Pinpricks of Change That Enrich City Life and it’s packed with low-cost, low-impact solutions to problems not unlike those he advanced in Curitiba in the 1970s and ‘80s.

    I've made it a practice of saving mentions of Lerner over the years and here is the latest clip from my Jaime Lerner file—

    “We make the mistake of saying that something is not worth it if there is no proof to it. In fact, our obsession with measurable results has killed many a good idea. If only cities had fewer peddlers of complexity and more philosophers!”

  4. On does design matter? James Howard Kunstler’s The Geography of Nowhere is a critique of the post-World War II built environment in America that led to everyplace looking like no place in particular. So what would our cities and suburbs look like and how much better would they work if we built as if design matters?

    Darius Sollohub, director of the New Jersey School of Architecture at the New Jersey Institute of Technology, writes about the importance of good design in transportation in Intransition magazine—

    “Does design matter? Of course it does. When design succeeds, it can boost the economy and provide a distinct style recognizable to future generations. And when we design exceedingly well, we build classics that deflect the wrecking ball to become timeless.”

  5. On finding a place to park. Baylor University in Waco, Texas opened its new on-campus, riverfront football stadium in September to much acclaim. The only criticism of the 45,000-seat stadium was that only 2,500 on-site parking spaces were available. Fans could park on campus and downtown and walk or ride shuttles to the game.

    “I was wanting to show you pictures of massive traffic problems, but there were none,” said Police Chief Brent Stroman.” As expected, the inventory of parking in downtown and on campus was more than enough to accommodate the capacity crowd. The Baylor-Waco experience is just the latest example that parking is not the problem it’s made out to be. Project for Public Spaces says, “The hang-up on parking is an indicator that a community has no broader vision for itself.”

    The current obsession with parking is one of the biggest obstacles to achieving livable cities and towns, because it usually runs counter to what should be our paramount concern: creating places where people enjoy spending time. As long as the myth persists that economic prosperity depends on parking, local governments will continue to waste public money and distort the public planning process.” 
On behalf of everyone at Market Street, here’s to a prosperous 2015! We look forward to following your successes in the new year, and encourage you to follow us on Twitter for the latest thought-provoking community and economic development quotes, news, best practices, and innovations.