Saturday, November 14, 2009

A Madison Strain of Crazy

I'm always a bit surprised (but shouldn't be) when I read an article like this about how extreme conservatives believe that folks interested in smart growth and livable communities are trying to push their lifestyle on everyone else. They raise the specter of the iron curtain and soviet apartment blocks that were designed and built in the same era as Pruitt Igoe and other poorly thought out urban renewal projects that followed the ideas of Le Corbusier in the United States and around the world. I would hope those mistakes would not be repeated, and all urbanists know better.

But everyone who reads here knows the histories and the market distortions of sprawl which has absolutely dominated the market over the last 60 years. If anything, its they who are forcing everyone to live their lifestyle, a sick distortion of the actual desires of at least some Americans such as myself who want to live in an urban walkable environment. By not providing a choice in living, or transportation, the opponents of livable communities are telling us that the actual market doesn't matter and that they know what is best even though they would like us to believe that their way is the choice of the people, even those who don't have a choice.

We know that not all in their circle believe this way and ultimately building cities shouldn't be a partisan issue. The road towards transit and walkability is a sustainable one from a fiscal and environmental standpoint. I think many times we overlook the power of fiscal arguments for the movement at our own peril. The research on sprawl is not good, and people are starting to get it, a bit late, but at least they are starting to see how value is created by cities and urbanism is a fiscally responsible choice.

For those who still believe we're forcing a move towards urbanism, if they continue down the same path, spending money in ways we can't afford to continue, they might find that they have less choice in the future rather than a real choice now.


Carol Ott said...

As a conservative, city dweller, and transit rider who works for a Smart Growth advocacy group, I had to laugh when I read your blog post. Not because it was poorly written or inaccurate -- but because this is a conundrum I face every day. How to get both sides of the fence on board with smart growth, which (when you look at its most basic elements) is just better planning, creating healthier communities.

Thanks for the post -- and thanks for continuing a very important discussion.

J.D. Hammond said...

I read an article recently that tried to argue that smart growth is only happening because American cities are becoming more like Asian cities to adapt to the taste of Asian immigrants.

So, nevermind energy markets or the social costs of sitting in traffic - it's the Yellow Peril that's making us densify!

I don't understand people sometimes.

Unknown said...

It is very sad that these fools are only capable of projection. Nothing more. No new original ideas. Arguing in favor of the status quo, regardless of how broken it may be, and projecting their shortcomings on others who have a vision and a plan for a better tomorrow.