I'm really looking forward to this free talk by Strong Towns founder Chuck Marohn. Put it on your Must Attend list for October 5.
I'm pleased that Salem Community Vision is supporting this event (I'm a member of the SCV steering committee). It took us about zero seconds to decide to do this. Chuck Marohn is an energetic, creative, thoughtful advocate for the sorts of positive changes that need to happen in Salem.
Salem Weekly has a good story about the Strong Towns talk in its current issue. Check out "Reimagining Salem as a Strong Town." This is how the piece starts out:
When they were first conceived of, streets like Lancaster Boulevard [actually, Drive] in Northeast Salem were projected to be a source of commerce and community wealth for all. Subdivisions in south Salem were designed to provide housing that would bring ongoing good to the city as healthy places to live and thrive.
But because of the way they were designed, says Chuck Marohn, founder and President of Strong Towns, a non-profit organization working to support a better model of development, Salem’s decisions about downtown, its roads and neighborhoods, actually created long term debt for citizens and for the community as a whole.
Well, also long term ugliness.
Lancaster Drive is a street that I do my best to avoid. It's a great example of urban planning gone wrong, a Stroad through and through. Here's a Strong Towns video about Stroads, a horrendous combination of a street and a road that combines the worst qualities of each.
Salem has a lot of them. South Commercial is another example.
They are dead zones for pedestrians, cyclists, and anyone else not driving a car. Living as I do in south Salem, I drive along South Commercial almost every day. It isn't quite as ugly as Lancaster Drive, but that's about the only good thing that can be said about it.
Since City of Salem planners, managers, and elected officials have gotten Salem into its current Weak Town state, we can't rely on them to get us into Strong Town mode. I liked the end of the Salem Weekly story by Helen Caswell.
Marohn believes that solutions can be found right in a community like Salem. He says local leaders who can lead the way don’t have to have degrees in civil engineering to address these issues.
“And, they’re not necessarily the mayor or city council, either. Often they are people who care about their block, who volunteer in the community, who are invested in their church or school. These are the people who know what needs do be done and will actually do something about it.”
The cities Marohn sees as being most successful in creating long-term wealth, jobs and healthy communities are those who recognize how critical it is that decisions arent simply left in the hands of planners accustomed to the status quo. “People like city leaders and department heads of local governments,” in contrast, “often have a hard time really understanding what things need to change.”