Friday, April 23, 2010

Reinventing the City - Numbing the NIMBYs?

Here at "The Reinvented City" conference in Cambridge, Mass. First up, the always provocative Andres Duany, "a rock star of New Urbanism," in the words of Anthony Flint of the sponsoring think tank, the Lincoln Institute of Land Policy. (Other sponsors: Nieman Foundation, and Harvard's Graduate School of Design).

9:15 a.m. - Duany - "For me the century started in 2007-2008. The pivotal events all occurred about 2008." They were the bursting of real estate bubble, the public recognition of global warming, and the erasure of public confidence in government.

And he's got a great riff going about the problem of the public process in planning. "There's something radically wrong with the public process" in planning. "We dumbed it down too much." And he says, the immediate neighbors are a special interest. Currently the immediate neighbors carry extra weight. But, he notes, "they are not the community as a whole." They will block things that are in the larger interest - bike paths, schools, power lines for new alternative energy projects, etc.

"Large shopping malls are perfectly located to be future town centers. "

And for those who think New Urbanists and Smart Growth advocates are always pro-government. New Urbanist guru Duany is ow trashing government standards. His firm was trying to design a flood-proof house, which could be flooded and not be damaged. "And then we ran into government."

Re New Orleans: It's a Caribbean culture. "The Caribbean culture is not about the accumulation of wealth. It's about the accumulation of leisure." You can't have leisure if you're in debt. People lived in houses granddaddy owned, so there wasn't much debt. "All the do-goody people are actually destroying the culture of New Orleans by eliminating leisure. And by raising the housing standards."

9 comments:

James said...

how nice!

Brian said...

The things you own, end up owning you.

J said...

You are right Mary - I do think New Urbanists and Smart Growth advocates are always pro-government. Duany's bad experience isn't enough to change my mind on that one.

"All the do-goody people are actually destroying the culture of New Orleans by eliminating leisure. And by raising the housing standards."

What the @&%$#*&??????

For all the things I disagree with Barack Obama about (and there are MANY) I appreciated a part of his innaguration speech where he called out people "who value leisure over work." This guy is essentially saying that New Orleans values leisure over work, and people are wrong for wanting to change that. This is what makes conservatives want to upchuck - people who want to play, and don't want to work, and want the government to pay for everything for them. I don't see how people like that sleep at night. A real man wants to do his own work and take care of his own family, not expect others to take care of him.

Bob said...

Its a mighty big leap to go from:
"valuing leisure over work"

to

"people who want to play, and don't want to work, and want the government to pay for everything for them."

There is lots of room in the middle: retirees, vacationers, folks who earn a good living but still value their freetime etc. Has the tea party become that Orwellian?

J said...

Bob - You completely missed my point. The 2 phrases you refer to from my post are synonomous, not worlds apart. And they do not in any way include retirees, vacationers or people who value free time. On the contrary, people in those categories are much more likely to be people who value work over leisure, not the other way around.

I believe the President referred to people "who value leisure over work" as a generic, non-inflamatory way to refer to people who want to play, and don't want to work, and want the government to pay for everything for them. If you don't believe New Orleans has a large population of these types of people, you are dilusional. The hurricane is the perfect example. Everyone knew at least 2 days ahead of time the hurricane was coming. A huge chunk of the population just sat there, believing it was the government's job to evacuate them. And when the government badly mishandled the evacuation, everyone blamed the government and called the President a racist.

I have a young adult family member that has a similar mentality - he complains regularly that no one will give him a job - but he's not looking very hard. He spends much more time hanging out with his buddies. It's the mentality that everything is the government's job. And New Orleans has a bunch of them. And I think this urban planner is out of his mind to think that changing that culture is bad.

Brendan said...

Smart growth is only pro-government to the extent that individuals generally fail to come together and solve problems as a community without the government being involved. But, individuals would rather let the government handle things (until it affects them personally) instead of getting off their butts and going to vote and discuss things at the town hall every week. Democracy requires individual responsibility and effort (more than just voting every year) and it would appear that the vast majority of Americans have said quite loudly "I don't have time and I don't care, someone else handle it so I don't have to."

Bob said...

J: I pointed out that just because someone "values leasure over work" it does not mean that they don't work for a living. (even if they live in New Orleans)

How does that make me delusional?

Theo Tiefwald said...

"Re New Orleans: It's a Caribbean culture. The Caribbean culture is not about the accumulation of wealth. It's about the accumulation of leisure."

Excellent point. A lot of African cultures are exactly like that.

Though I'm White, I too prefer the accumulation of leisure over the accumulation of wealth (this is rather common amongst many Southerners both Black and White). But unlike many other people who wallow in leisure and piddle their lives away, I spend my leisure time constructively by reading, writing, socializing, getting smarter, exercising, gardening, etc etc.

Theo Tiefwald said...

In regards to leisure, one way to 'green' the economy without too much socioeconomic disruption is to shorten the work week to about 35 hours (or even 30) for many American workers like they do in Europe. Since everything needed for a good decent existence has already created by human ingenuity, there is no need to work endlessly for survival because we already have things pretty well figured out. So why don't we just SLOW DOWN a bit and enjoy life a little more? Things aren't going to fall apart or collapse if the majority of the population doesn't work 9-5 M-F.

With more leisure time available to many more people, that means folks will not be as hurried and rushed and that ought to lead to less consumption, less stress, less daily traffic, and less environmental degradation. JM Greer, a great blogger I follow, has stated that returning to the one-income per family model can eliminate the unemployment problem in the USA - http://thearchdruidreport.blogspot.com/2010/04/blindness-to-systems.html

One of the worst things I've witnessed in The South during my 27 years on this Earth is the transformation of parts of NC and other Southern states in to overly busy and polluted concrete wastelands reminiscent of NY, or NJ, PA, MI, etc. This is clearly the result of an influx of Northerners, immigrants, and others who do not value leisure as much as us Southerners, people who devote their entire lives to often pointless work and the soulless pursuit of money, and they are majorly sullying the Earth with their incessant busy-bee-like socioeconomic activity. So if we all just slow down, work a little less, enjoy our leisure time more, it'll be better for the environment as well as people's general well-being too.

"The tempo of the industrial life is fast, but that is not the worst of it; it is accelerating. ... The amenities of life also suffer under the curse of a strictly-business or industrial civilization. They consist in such practices as manners, conversation, hospitality, sympathy, family life, romantic love-in the social exchanges which reveal and develop sensibility in human affairs. If religion and the arts are founded on right relations of man- to-nature, these are founded on right relations of man-to- man." - http://xroads.virginia.edu/~MA01/White/anthology/agrarian.html