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Thread: Wendall Cox: A Friend or Foe to Society?

  1. #1
    jzt83's avatar
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    Wendall Cox: A Friend or Foe to Society?

    I think Wendall Cox is a Croc! He has a some sort of personal vendetta against Portland, OR, which I dont get. His website mentions how Portland has such a low population density and horrible traffic problem. He also mentions that Los Angeles, California is the model city. Just because a city has a low population density, it doesn't mean that it can't be an effective city, and vice versa.

    I lived in downtown Portland, Oregon for 6 months, and despite it's low population density, I feel it is a very pedistrian friendly and convenient place to live. On the flip side, there are areas in Honolulu, Hawaii with really high densities, but with barely any foot traffic. Again I must point out, more density doesn't always equate to a better city. There are many more factors that contribute to a cities prosperity. As for the traffic in Portland, Oregon-it wasn't half as bad as it is here in Honolulu, Hawaii. And if the traffic were bad in Portland, it really wouldn't of mattered much, as I rarely drove. As for Hawaii, a car is almost a neccessity.

    He also mentions that most light rail systems are a waste of money, and rarely anyone uses it. Nonsense! Although light-rail isn't as quick or convinent as mass-transit, it is heaps more better than catching a bus. Ridership on the MAX and Street Car was high from what I observed. It was like riding a ride at Disneyland. You also can't forget the fact that the emissions of the a light-rail system is cleaner than what busses emit.

    Don't take Wendall Cox word for it, and visit Portland, Oregon. It's a great city, with many great attractions within walking distance.

  2. #2

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    We have had many discussions about Mr. Cox. My opinion will not be expressed (I have been cautioned )

  3. #3
    Cyburbian el Guapo's avatar
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    Got Links?

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    Cyburbian jresta's avatar
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    Yeah , Cox is a Toole - or is it O'Toole?


    But you have to give the guy credit for taking the most arbitrary statistics and putting them in a press release. It's a war for public opinion. If you don't understand how to look at the statistics he's offering and don't even realize you don't understand you're going to believe whatever this guy says because he makes a very emotional appeal with (bs) statistics to back it up.
    Indeed you can usually tell when the concepts of democracy and citizenship are weakening. There is an increase in the role of charity and in the worship of volunteerism. These represent the élite citizen's imitation of noblesse oblige; that is, of pretending to be aristocrats or oligarchs, as opposed to being citizens.

  5. #5
    Cyburbian
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    jresta

    are you suggesting that smart growth advocates do not play fast and loose with statistics?

  6. #6
    Cyburbian jresta's avatar
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    Originally posted by gkmo62u
    jresta

    are you suggesting that smart growth advocates do not play fast and loose with statistics?
    using statistics to exaggerate a claim is one thing - using statistics that don't relate to your claim is another, and using them because you know 99% of the people listening to them won't understand how it doesn't relate is cowardly.

    Beyond that - i don't see many "smart growth advocates" tossing around statistics and certainly not to the degree that Cox does. Most of Cox's argument centers around transportation - not smart growth.
    Indeed you can usually tell when the concepts of democracy and citizenship are weakening. There is an increase in the role of charity and in the worship of volunteerism. These represent the élite citizen's imitation of noblesse oblige; that is, of pretending to be aristocrats or oligarchs, as opposed to being citizens.

  7. #7
    maudit anglais
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    I was at conference a few months ago, and Wendell Cox was one of the speakers. He really flew through his stuff - I think it was an attempt to overload us with information. I think he realized though about halfway through that he wasn't dealing with a bunch of pushovers - he made some comment to this effect. I don't think he was terrifically well received.

    Of course - the one TV story on the conference had to feature an interview with Mr. Cox, stating that Toronto "needed to build more highways to solve it's traffic problems".

  8. #8
    Cyburbian jresta's avatar
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    Originally posted by Tranplanner
    Of course - the one TV story on the conference had to feature an interview with Mr. Cox, stating that Toronto "needed to build more highways to solve it's traffic problems".

    'the way to solve your traffic problem is by making room for more cars!'

    'the way to solve your sprawl induced housing affodability crisis it to build even more sprawl!'

    . . . ahhh the "builder's remedy"
    Indeed you can usually tell when the concepts of democracy and citizenship are weakening. There is an increase in the role of charity and in the worship of volunteerism. These represent the élite citizen's imitation of noblesse oblige; that is, of pretending to be aristocrats or oligarchs, as opposed to being citizens.

  9. #9
    (for now) Frozen Caveman Planner mendelman's avatar
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    I know kidnapping is illegal, but.......

    Off-topic:
    Building more highways as a solutions reminds me of an political ad from Georgia I once saw that stated the Smarth Growth/New Urbanism people were trying to take away people's cars and force them to live in the crowded city. At the end the viewer comes to find out the ad was paid for by the Georgia Highway Builders Assoc. or some group like that.
    I'm sorry. Is my bias showing?

    The ends can justify the means.

  10. #10

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    I am not defending Cox or his ilk at all, but I think one thing we forget is that, to a certain extent, he is right. IF the American dream is only to be expressed through large lot single family homes in "cities" designed and defined by the private automobile, than the critics are correct-Smart Growth will not provide that version of the American Dream. Advocates of smart growth cannot sidestep the reality that their ideas will inevitably conflict with "the American Dream." If we are going to be increasing our commute sheds, increasing our average miles traveled, concentrating all of our commerce into widely scattered WalMart Superstores and Super Regional Malls, then we had better start building more freeways, and quickly.

    This is not a troll post, just my opinion of what current reality and market forces demand. Atlanta and Houston are THE AMERICAN DREAM far more than Portland.

    Now, I would argue that this version of the American Dream is flawed, and SHOULD be changed, but I believe that most people would disagree. After all, in the Bay Area, it ain't just inner Bay Area housing prices that are driving exurban construction in Fairfield and Vacaville and Manteca. People are spending $500,000 on a house-and there are modest houses for sale at that price in the region's inner suburbs. These modest houses don't have 3,000 square feet, are not "brand new" and don't have three or four car garages. People are CHOOSING to commute 45 miles to their jobs. CALTRANS is 25 years away from building the freeway and interchange improvements to facilitate these (questionable-to ME) choices. That IS a problem, if you accept the libertarian view that government exists to facilitate people's lives and choices.

  11. #11
    Cyburbian jresta's avatar
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    If one took a true libertarian view and not just the convenient libertarian view none of this mega-sprawl would be possible in the first place.

    "stated the Smarth Growth/New Urbanism people were trying to take away people's cars and force them to live in the crowded city"

    this is exactly the kind of false dichotomy that people like Cox succesfully exploit. Making people believe that you're either going to be living in your 4,000 sq. ft. house on 5 acres or you're going to be living in an 1,100 sq. ft. box in a 42 story building in the middle of a concrete jungle. When in fact almost all NU examples to date (outside of urban ifnfill projects) are dominated by single family houses with garages.

    The issues that make sprawl and traffic a problem to begin with have little to do with the square footage of the house or even lot size for that matter - because i can point to a lot of sprawling sub-divisions full of 2,000 sq. ft. homes on 1/4 acre lots.

    The problem is the layout - how a development of 700 homes might have one entrance dumping all of its traffic on to one arterial and every trip outside of the house, everything, requires going out onto this arterial.

    Plenty of towns/counties have been successful at creating an open space network and even preserving farm land in the midst of all of it but it doesn't do anything to change the fundamental problems of traffic and sprawl.

    People should always be able to live where they choose in the type of house they choose. The opportunity to do it the old-fashioned way still exists. Find a lot, hire a builder, get your dream house.

    Homebuyers don't need to be regulated - the developers do.
    Indeed you can usually tell when the concepts of democracy and citizenship are weakening. There is an increase in the role of charity and in the worship of volunteerism. These represent the élite citizen's imitation of noblesse oblige; that is, of pretending to be aristocrats or oligarchs, as opposed to being citizens.

  12. #12

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    You have many points, jresta.

    Of course, I am by no means a believer in the "libertarian" viewpoint, so I am probably mis-stating the beliefs of the more thoughtful folks. And, there are certainly alternatives to the high rise versus the sprawlsville.

    It is easy to get cynical and blame the homebuyers. I am not entirely willing to let them off from blame, though. You can resist sales pressure, choose to do something a little more difficult than buying a "consumer product." And, this is partly reflected in areas like the Bay Area where smaller homes in established communities with a lot of character are highly valued in the marketplace.

    Because we don't require developers to follow the simple lessons of the past, what is built out in sprawlville is homogenized, marketing and engineering-driven consumer products. And, some people who can't afford the inner areas are forced to buy out here. But, given recent price rises, I am afraid that most people (who could afford a "better" alternative) buying out here don't care. Patio Man doesn't care about walkable streets. Give them the square footage and a perception of "exclusivity"-and that's all they want. Still, as planners, are we not charged with looking after long term goals and broader needs?

  13. #13
    Cyburbian jresta's avatar
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    you have a point and so does Cox. A house with a lot of square footage, a quiet neighborhood, a decent yard and a nice patio/deck does appeal to some romantic notions probably lodged in my brain by a decade or so of sitcom viewing.

    But when i think about the maintenance and money that goes into taking care of those things, the cars i would have to finance and insure to make the house viable, and how utterly bored i would be - it's not appealing in the slightest.
    Indeed you can usually tell when the concepts of democracy and citizenship are weakening. There is an increase in the role of charity and in the worship of volunteerism. These represent the élite citizen's imitation of noblesse oblige; that is, of pretending to be aristocrats or oligarchs, as opposed to being citizens.

  14. #14
    Cyburbian Runner's avatar
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    Re: Wendall Cox: A Friend or Foe to Society?

    Originally posted by jzt83
    I think Wendall Cox is a Croc! He has a some sort of personal vendetta against Portland, OR
    Nuf said! Ditto!
    Cheers,
    UrbanRunner
    :)
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  15. #15
    Cyburbian jresta's avatar
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    wasn't Cox or one of his buddies at Cascade throwing around the number -

    "only 3% of the land area of the US is developed."

    probably meaning, if you squished all the rooftops together and counted alaska you would come up with a similar number.

    but if you could cut and paste all the paved areas in this country you could cover PA, NJ, MD, and DE from corner to corner and we could have our own little desert. Imagine the run-off from just an average storm event !
    Indeed you can usually tell when the concepts of democracy and citizenship are weakening. There is an increase in the role of charity and in the worship of volunteerism. These represent the élite citizen's imitation of noblesse oblige; that is, of pretending to be aristocrats or oligarchs, as opposed to being citizens.

  16. #16
    Cox is scary in my opinion. I don't mind the opposite view or even good stats or ideas that are thought provoking, however lots of what he says are pretty off the wall. he has put himself in the position of making himself a good income as being the go to go guy for opposition to planning projects. I wonder how much of what he does and says is just part of a huge show he puts on....who knows...

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