Earlier this year I had the privilege of speaking with dozens of Local Conversation organizers, one at a time. I wanted to learn how they got started, what they’re working on now, and how we as an organization can help. In the process, I also experienced firsthand just how impressive and inspiring Strong Towns advocates are. Here are some things I learned (or was reminded of):
1. Strong Towns advocates come from all walks of life.
Local Conversation organizers and members include built environment professionals (planners, architects, engineers), city officials (council members, mayors), young activists, retirees, non-profit leaders, small business owners, men, women, etc.
2. Local Conversations are working on a variety of issues.
Strong Towns advocates are working across multiple issues. These include—but are absolutely not limited to—affordable housing, incremental development, making our streets and roads safer, making our cities more walkable and bikeable, public transit, opposing infrastructure projects that don’t pencil out and/or will hurt a neighborhood, economic development, and much more.
3. Local Conversations are taking action to make their towns stronger.
There is a virtuous cycle that comes from taking action. The city, and the Local Conversation, are strengthened together. Here’s a short list of things Local Conversations are doing:
Fighting infrastructure projects (highway expansions, unnecessary bridges, and more).
Getting members elected to planning commissions, city councils, mayor.
Conducting DIY value-per-acre analyses.
Hosting Q&A sessions with city office candidates.
Getting members appointed to committees working on new master plans, environmental plans, etc.
Writing op-eds, starting blogs, and producing podcasts on Strong Towns themes.
Undertaking tactical urbanism projects—for example, converting excess parking spaces into parklets, turning excess parking into impromptu stages for public performances, doing traffic calming, and more.
When people connect in their city and take action together, the Strong Towns movement truly gets activated. This is why, over the coming months, Strong Towns is going to be pouring resources into our Local Conversations. We’re going to be coming alongside them, encouraging them, helping them identify and overcome the challenges they’re facing locally, and telling their story to the wider movement.
Local Conversations are where the rubber meets the road, and the Strong Towns movement is getting some serious traction. Will you help us put the movement to work in more towns and cities by becoming a sustaining member today?