30 October 2008

Columbia’s Chief Planner Publishes Book

William E. Finley, the Chief Planner of Columbia, Maryland recently published the book “Curing Urbanitis.”

An overview of the book can be found on the Planetizen website.

Americans have a love-hate relationship with big cities. They love the vibrancy, diversity, the sophisticated shops and restaurants, the preserved neighborhoods and the museums and shiny towers that justify and state their importance. They dislike, but put up with, high costs, traffic, crime, rudeness, long commutes, too few taxis, erratic transit and many annoying inconveniences.

I [Finley] propose that Congress charter a nationwide non-profit corporation, in the public interest, to be the forceful catalyst in both administering the incentive grants to existing local governments and undertaking the planning and building of new metropolitan areas.

In order to give the new entity leverage with the budgeting functions of the Administration and the spending powers of Congress, the new non-profit will be able to float its own revenue bonds. Those indentures will be backed partially by a Federal guarantee and the net proceeds of the community development activities in building eight to ten new metropolitan cities of at least 500,000 population each. The details on how to achieve this dramatic goal are covered in Curing Urbanitis.

The proposed National Partnership for MetroCities would utilize its funds to match Congressional appropriations on a one-to-two basis; that is, it would match each $2 of regular Federal funds with $1 of its own financial resources. This, conceptually, would both give the new corporation the freedom to be creative in its grants program and give Congress an incentive to help it on its way.

No doubt this innovative methodology will be caught up in a myriad of politics but this approach to turning the metropolitan ship around is the only approach likely to succeed. Money talks!

Eventually, when the policies are in place, many subsidy programs affecting local governments, and they are many, could well be tied into the incentive-based grants program. Dealing with Congressional processes will be a challenging task.

I have ordered the book, and am anxiously awaiting its arrival.

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