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clmarohn446 karma

I used to try and do a lot of convincing, but the last 6+ years (since we adopted our Strategic Plan in 2015), we've been going where people are already asking for change. So, I don't need to convince the skeptical as much as explain to the curious.

And, to me, that is the answer to your question. I have struggled to convince people who don't want to be convinced. I've found that time is better spent building momentum for change around them, then keeping the door open for conversation with them, trying hard to be as inviting and non-judgmental as possible so as to make that transition to a new understanding have as little pain as possible (changing one's mine is painful enough, as it is).

The people we see doing the best work today are people who do more listening than speaking, avoid getting bogged down or defined by national political discourse, and just relentless do what they can accomplish and use that to build momentum. I wish I had a magic way to change someone's mind today, but the reality is that it is a long game.

clmarohn405 karma

Our current Strategic Plan calls on us to build a movement of a million people who care, which we define broadly as a person who cares enough to tell someone else about Strong Towns. Our thinking was that , if we reach that level of interest, there won't be a city in the U.S. making a financial decision where our thoughts and ideas don't influence the conversation, and since so much of Strong Towns is the application of common sense principles in a crazy world, our belief is that this would help us reach that tipping point. If we're not at this goal already, we're really close. I'm shocked every week to see another example of our ideas showing up somewhere I've never heard of, never been, and often where they don't even know Strong Towns (but they know our ideas).

That being said, we are updating our Strategic Plan to shift our emphasis from growing a movement to activating a movement to lead that change. Success to me is where the Strong Towns approach is the default for cities, where it is the expectation among a community that their local government act in a prudent and fiscally responsible manner, that anything else is unacceptable to voters.

clmarohn206 karma

The short answer is, yes.

The long answer is that it is really hard to get someone to abandon their own place. In many ways, our cities define who we are, where we come from, and who we strive to be. Consolidation could be done with a cold and distant logic, but that overlooks the real human tragedy involved.

Instead of thinking of it in an antiseptic way, we should actually learn from hospice care and find a compassionate, respectful, and dignified way to approach end of life for small towns that are at that stage.

clmarohn203 karma

A core Strong Towns principle is that no neighborhood should be exempt from change but that no neighborhood should be subjected to radical change. So, going from SFH to 4-story apartments is typically a level of change that is going to distort the finances of a neighborhood in a way that is unhealthy, leading to affordability problems, stagnation, and resistance to change.

If I could snap my fingers, my zoning code for such places would all each neighborhood to grow to the next step of intensity beyond what it is currently at, by right (no lengthy permit process). This would allow every neighborhood to thicken up over time, allow a wide variety of developers to flourish (from the small scale remodeler to the company listed on the stock exchange), and make the property market more responsive to local capacity (instead of national financing).

No easy answers, but that reform is one part of a successful housing strategy.

clmarohn170 karma

Small town decline is a really difficult topic. I'm on record as saying that most (over half) of our small towns are likely to go away over the next generation because they have become too financially fragile to survive, and have given themselves no real reason to exist (beyond inertia).

That being said, I wrote a plan last year for resource-based communities to do just that, but it is really a good fit for all small towns and their economic development approach: https://actionlab.strongtowns.org/hc/en-us/articles/4402251282452-Breaking-Out-of-the-Resource-Trap-An-Economic-Plan-for-Resource-Based-Communities-E-book-