Collaboration’s Failing so it’s Back to Hypocrisy

It’s a sad day when you have to start rooting for liars and hypocrites.

That thought occurred to me when I read the news of Congress’s likely axing of the budget for the Sustainable Communities Initiative. That’s the two-year-old program that attempted to pull together goals of three federal agencies — the Department of Housing and Urban Development, the Department of Transportation, and the Environmental Protection Agency — to encourage out-of-the-silos thinking by local and regional planners. Grants under the program required getting lots of folks who don’t normally talk to one another collaborating to integrate policies and programs covering infrastructure, environmental protection, economic development, public health, housing, transportation and transit, and land use.

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‘Show Me the Money!’ New bumper sticker for the New Normal?

There hasn’t been a New Urbanist Council gathering for a while. Which is why a lot of pent-up anxiety — and hope — found release in Council sessions in Montgomery, Alabama, October 14-16.

These regionally organized Councils are intended to grapple with topics that should be on the table for annual Congress for the New Urbanism meetings but require give-and-take from a smaller group to better focus issues. So some 50 or so folks came to Montgomery to critique recent ideas and projects and to wrestle with propositions to position New Urbanism for the New Normal.

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After the Flood: Hard choices for communities and citizens

Virginia Republican Eric Cantor, majority leader in the U.S. House of Representatives, caught a lot of grief for suggesting there should be budget cuts elsewhere to offset the extra federal dollars that FEMA needed to do its job as tornadoes, floods and winds assaulted the eastern U.S. But at least he was being consistent as a deficit hawk and fearless — if naive — in the face of some ugly truths.

The ugliest of them: We want a bunch of stuff we’re not willing to pay for. And because democracy allows us to vote our delusions, we don’t plan to stop wanting or to start paying anytime soon.

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Six Years Later: Katrina Cottages take hold

August 11 will be a landmark day in the South Mississippi communities still recovering from the 2005 mega-storm, Hurricane Katrina. And it’s about time.

On that day next week, 18 days shy of the sixth anniversary of the storm, the development team behind the Cottages at Oak Park in Ocean Springs, Mississippi, will host a ribbon cutting for 29 rental units that represent the latest evolution of an idea born in the Mississippi Renewal Forum following the storm.

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So Much to Do: Sadly, so much time

Time is not on our side. And that earth-shattering insight works in two directions.

The most obvious is the situation most of us face each day, with ever-expanding to-do lists colliding with obstinate time frames. Same old days, with the same old number of hours in them.

But here’s the deal with a to-do list: What makes it useful is the degree to which it ranks tasks. And the way you decide what rises to the top of the list is to have a pretty good idea what will happen, in what sort of time frame, as a result of you choosing one thing over another. The problem is, your confidence about what will result from choices depends on how quickly the consequences of the choices unfold.

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Well, Bless Their Hearts: Now can we move on?

Next week, the 19th annual gathering of New Urbanism cultists takes place in Madison, Wisconsin. I’m one of them, and I’m sorry not to be making the Congress this year. This has the feel of one of those turning-point moments.

First, the good part. A lot more folks have bought into the New Urbanist perspective for building and enriching community through thoughtful design. Federal and state policy-makers, even the slow-to-change Department of Transportation types, now talk about integrating land use and transportation. And requests for proposals from regional planning agencies routinely reference principles embodied in the Charter for the New Urbanism, even if the authors of those RFPs are clueless as to where they got the ideas. So there’s reason to celebrate.

Still, as the evidence mounts that we’ve got piles of work to do, we’re too easily distracted by food fights that sap energy and waste time.

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Get Real or Get Rich: Lessons for an era of limited trust

It’s a great time to be really rich or really smart.

It’s never hurt, of course, to be able to tap into big bucks or big brains. It’s just that penalties for having access to neither are rising dramatically.

What got me to thinking in this direction was an exhaustive investigative report in last Sunday’s Washington Post. The headline: “Million-Dollar Wasteland: An ongoing investigation of how HUD has failed affordable housing.” In the Front Page days of journalism, this would fall under the category of “exposé.”

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