I’m back from the New Partners for Smart Growth conference in Kansas City, where I learned a lot, met some really bright people and, oh, by the way, gave a speech to the biggest audience of my career. As a bonus, I experienced a first — my speech was live-tweeted!
You can tell if a movement is vibrant or dying by attending conferences like these. If you see a lot of creative new thinking, you know a movement is gaining momentum. If you see a recitation of the same, worn nostrums, you know it’s slipping into senility. Let me tell you, there was no paucity of fresh thinking at the New Partners event. I talked to people who designed “parklets” (micro-sized public spaces shoe-horned into small urban spaces), adapted golf courses for wildlife habitat, used remote sensing technology to map urban tree canopies, conducted walking audits to measure a community’s walkability, and pushed the envelope of urban design to spur economic innovation.
Another sign of vitality is the organizers’ openness to different viewpoints. While smart growth tends to be a liberal or greenie preoccupation, the organizers invited me to deliver a speech, “Smart Growth for Conservatives,” an earlier version of which I had published on this blog. Also participating in the plenary session was Michael Lewyn, a libertarian law school professor at the Touro Law Center. Following the speeches, we engaged in a discussion moderated by Smart Growth America CEO Geoffrey Anderson.
My broad conclusion: There is roughly 80% overlap between liberals and conservatives on goals and objectives… Let’s work together to execute the smart growth elements we can agree upon and haggle over the details later.
During the conference, the Smart Growth Network released a compendium of smart-growth articles, entitled “The National Conversation on the Nature of Our Communities.” Among the highlights:
“Smart Growth for Everyone,” written by yours truly. Pull-out quote: “Are planners so omnipotent that they can accurately predict the market demand for housing and business space in a dynamic economy for years in the future? Not bloody likely. Governments should unleash entrepreneurs by giving them more freedom. Let the marketplace, not comprehensive plans, decide what gets built and where.”
Also, “A Libertarian Smart Growth Agenda,” authored by Mike Lewyn, the libertarian law school professor. Pull-out quote: “If ‘smart growth’ means support for more walkable, less vehicle-dependent communities, smart growth supporters and libertarian-minded property rights supporters should have much in common.”