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Thread: Yes, it is about sprawl

  1. #1

    Yes, it is about sprawl

    The article by Chris Fiscelli "It's not about sprawl" got it all wrong, which is not unusual for the unReason crowd. His statement that "distaste for modern America and the lifestyle choices we make freely" reveals a fundamental lie that pro-sprawl, pro-auto advocates make. Americans are not making housing and transportation decisions in a free market offering true alternatives to automobile-dependent sprawl living. There is a powerful sprawl industry and sprawl lobby that for decades have been controlling most levels of government to maintain land use and development requirements that keep true alternatives to sprawl out of the market. When consumers are given real choices many of them choose something other than sprawl; that does not mean, however, not choosing suburbia. Many courageous developers are building smart growth or New Urbanism communities in suburbia that are mixed-use and not so automobile-dependent. The problem is not suburbia, it is suburban sprawl that is gobbling up our land, environment, and culture. And sprawl kills people and much more. The smart growth movement must be careful not to give impressions that it is only addressing urban infill projects. Alternatives to sprawl must be offered in suburban locations.

  2. #2
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    I agree for the most part. I get tired of hearing "they want to force you into a tiny house on a tiny lot on top of each other" from the sprawl advocates.
    I don't recall hearing anyone wanting to "force" people to do anything. It's a matter of options, and I believe that if the alternatives were given a chance in the market, the sprawl advocates would be shocked. Seems as though they'll do whatever it takes (scare tactics, lobbying, etc) because in the end, it's their bank account that's at stake.

  3. #3
    Cyburbian Duke Of Dystopia's avatar
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    Originally posted by CiNYC
    I get tired of hearing "they want to force you into a tiny house on a tiny lot on top of each other" from the sprawl advocates.
    I don't recall hearing anyone wanting to "force" people to do anything. It's a matter of options,........
    A) Thats the hidden part of the "Anti Sprawl" advocates. With any significant growth in population, and a limit on growth, the alternative is to increase density and "stack them higher". It is the default message that can't be avoided. For good or ill, it is a correct assumption.

    B) There is no discussion of force because it would be met with increadible political unpopularity. Any overt talk of forcing people into such a situation would meet with incredible resistance.

    I would love a 2500 sqf flat with a 550 sqf garage with no yard to take care of. Good to great school system a must. Amenities close by would be great. Priced less than 150K. OH yeah, thats going to happen in an "significant urban environment".

    Your discussion of choices would be more apealing if they dealt with the schooling system (planners have nothing to do with that mess), and affordability.
    I can't deliver UTOPIA, but I can create a HELL for you to LIVE in :)DoD:(

  4. #4

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    I think the Duke is right. Smart Growthers ARE being somewhat disingenuous when they deny the impacts of their policies. Where the Reason folks fall short is their failure to acknowledge the often pernicous impacts of 1. past and current federal policy which emphasizes suburban development; and 2. Marketing as propaganda generating often socially undesirable results. I have no idea how to eliminate the latter, as the suburban dream is now the dominant paradigm in all except a few metro areas.

    At the same time, those "choosing" the suburban liffestyle are often not paying the full social costs of that lifestyle. We've had vociferous debates on this forum about what those costs are and how one can even fully internalize these "market externalities." I would note that new development in post Prop-13 California DOES pay for many of the direct costs. At $40,000 per housing unit in impact fees...

    Boy, this was a pompous post.

  5. #5
    Cyburbian Duke Of Dystopia's avatar
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    Originally posted by BKM
    .....Boy, this was a pompous post.
    Nah, not so bad.

    I would agree that the urban areas and people in general would make different decisions if the subsidy format was changed. LIke, how road building is prefered over infrastructure upkeep. A change like that would go a long way toward calming sprawl.

    This is something that has to happen at state and fed levels.

    The balance would really tip toward the favor of urban areas if we could find out how to fix our educational dilemas. This can not be overlooked or swept under the carpet.
    I can't deliver UTOPIA, but I can create a HELL for you to LIVE in :)DoD:(

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    I have begun to doubt the reflexive (often union-based) opposition to school vouchers. There are a lot of difficult issues associated with a movement towards school choice, and many of the advocates are coming from a sectarian perspective that I find troubling, but...

    That's a whole new topic thread

  7. #7
    Cyburbian jordanb's avatar
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    I fully support school vouchers PROVIDED that if a kid from Englewood can demand to be bussed Jefferson Park to go to school, at the Chicago Public School System's expense, then a kid from Harvey will be able to demand to be bussed to Naperville to go to school at the Naperville Public School System's expense.

    Fact is, all these voucher programs are designed to do is saddle urban public school systems with a logistical nightmare, both simply the "paratransit" style busing, and the problem of handling declining funding at already low-ranked schools while handling the deluge of students into hitherto highly ranked schools. Urban school districts like Chicago’s, which are starting to show gains, will be chopped off at the knees by the new requirements while suburban districts like Naperville can continue to operate totally unaffected.

    I would even go so far as to suggest that the situation at urban schools isn’t as bad as many like to suggest. Fact is, if you take a school, and you collect together a whole bunch of poor kids with fractured home lives, and combine them with a whole bunch of immigrant kids with barely passable English, and you put them all in that school, then you take another school and populate it with kids from wealthy, two parent, single income English speaking families, the former school could have an all-star cast of teachers and an unlimited budget and it’s not going to perform as well as the latter. You can’t saddle schools with those kinds of handicaps and expect them to turn out kids as educated as from schools that can rely on students and their parents to basically educate themselves.

    I love to point out to people attacking the CPS that Magnate schools in the city frequently outperform suburban schools. Whitney Young, I believe, is off-and-on the highest scoring school in the state. This is a school run by the exact same bureaucracy as, say Phillips High (one of the worst scoring schools in the state) with the principle difference being that Whitney Young gets to select who it educates.

    How would I fix the school situation? I agree with Duke that drastic action needs to be taken, but the focus must be on leveling the playing field among all public schools and giving parents a choice not through bussing but, rather, through direct control over their schools.

    The first thing I’d do would be to eliminate the taxing school district. School taxes would be levied by the state and all schools would be funded out of a single pot, based on how many students the school educates and what special needs (if any) those students have. Individual schools would each have their own districts and a non-partisan state commission would be assembled to draw the borders, ignoring political boundaries. Then each of these districts would be run by an elected board and superintendent, who would field parental concerns and inquiries, control teacher hirings, and regulate the curriculum. Also, the PTA should have a statutory advisory role in the school.

    Magnate schools and such should be eliminated, everybody in the neighborhood should go to the same school, but the schools should be required to establish three tract offerings (advanced, normal, and remedial) for every class offered. Students should be allowed to choose the tract that best suits them (so if a student is good in math but poor in English, she could select advanced math and remedial English). This prevents good students from being slowed down by classes designed for students that need more help, but avoids social stratification that Magnate schools and “honors programs” create. This is the way my high school managed educating a student body with diverse abilities and it worked very well.

    PS: Sorry about the long post, but this is a complex topic.

  8. #8
    Cyburbian jordanb's avatar
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    Mods: How about a thread split?

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    Interesting, jordanb. I'm childless and went to a "fancy" high school in the suburbs, so my direct experience is pretty limited.

    From thus limited experience, you make many good points. Of course, the other side has its points, too. There are too many fancy EdD's out there, too much politics, too much intereference at the federal and state level.

    I don't know. My first reaction would actually be closer to your's But, sometimes, observing local politics at the school board level, I wonder.

  10. #10
    Member Wulf9's avatar
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    California went from local school taxes to statewide taxes. California schools dropped from the top 20% to the bottom 10%. I think there is a direct cause/effect relationship between local funding (high achievement) and state funding and control (low achievement).

    I think what happened was that there was a broad set of schools in the middle achievement range when schools were funded locally. When funding went to the state, those schools dropped to the bottom. Of course the high achievement schools will stay high achievement whether funded locally or not.

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    Cyburbian jordanb's avatar
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    Originally posted by Wulf9
    California went from local school taxes to statewide taxes. California schools dropped from the top 20% to the bottom 10%. I think there is a direct cause/effect relationship between local funding (high achievement) and state funding and control (low achievement).
    Um, what would be the cause of that relationship?

    I'm not aware of that California system, but I think the details are very important. First question that springs to mind is if the median school funding increased or decreased when it was brought under sate control. Another would be if the state left spending in the hands of the local communities or if they decided to run every school from Sacramento.

    I think what happened was that there was a broad set of schools in the middle achievement range when schools were funded locally. When funding went to the state, those schools dropped to the bottom.
    What leads you to think that?

    Of course the high achievement schools will stay high achievement whether funded locally or not.
    Why?

  12. #12
    Member Wulf9's avatar
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    When California changed from local to state funding (prop 13), schools dropped in quality for a variety of reasons. A major one was funding. Per student funding dropped when Prop 13 turned financing over to the State. The State became more intrusive in terms of rules, reporting, and other non-productive requirements. There was an influx of immigrants, increasing the burden of students who needed special language assistance. Class sizes increased significantly (funding, of course). Schools started getting more funding for special needs, so general education got less emphasis. Local school boards felt less responsive to their electors because funding came from the State.

    My experience with the "good" schools is mainly observation. Schools in areas that had been in the top 10th percentile tended to stay in the top percentile because they had a lot of parental involvement, top teachers, and parental funding.

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    Cyburbian Duke Of Dystopia's avatar
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    Originally posted by Wulf9
    ........My experience with the "good" schools is mainly observation. Schools in areas that had been in the top 10th percentile tended to stay in the top percentile because they had a lot of parental involvement, top teachers, and parental funding.
    Thats my point in this thread. Most infill or redevelopment in urban areas I am aware of, takes place by empty nesters or young urbanites pre-children.

    When the pre-child urbanites start thinking about kids, they quickly discover thier dream flat is in a crapy school district that will not do. One of the largets causes of sprawl is a poor urban education system.

    I believe there is GREAT talent in the CPS system. To many parents think that the school is supposed to do everything for their kids. As mentioned above, those schools and students with dedicated parents continue to do well. They draw good residents that care and create a reinforcing wave of acomplishement. Why would anyone stay in an large urban public school environment and send thier kids to a school where the social capital in the average student is low. That would be foolish. You move to a better area, or send them to private school. Sprawl increases because of this unfortunatly.
    I can't deliver UTOPIA, but I can create a HELL for you to LIVE in :)DoD:(

  14. #14
    Cyburbian Michele Zone's avatar
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    Originally posted by jordanb

    everybody in the neighborhood should go to the same school,
    I don't want to get too into this because I have wasted too much of my day on Cyburbia already , but I did want to agree that "neighborhood" schools -- ie schools where less than 5% of the students live outside of walking distance -- are typically some of your best schools.

    The excellent school that was such a godsend for us for k through 2nd with our oldest child was in one of the poorest parts of town (and therefore qualified for all kinds of wonderful Federal programs, that we directly benefitted from) but was the last remaining neighborhood school in Manhattan, Kansas -- and it was also the best elementary school in that town at that time, one of the top public schools in the nation. Which brings up another point: Manhattan, Kansas is one of the few remaining "college towns" in America. When I lived there, about one third of the population of the town was either attending or working at the college. This fosters an intellectual atmosphere that makes a huge difference in the quality of education available. As I understand it, these factors are more important than money per se in the quality of education.

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    Cyburbian H's avatar
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    As I read this thread I am just continually amazed at how important schools are in the realm of planning and how little planning departments and education departments seem to coordinate or even think about each other.

    I have been involved in real estate basically since I can remember due to my family’s business and my jobs through the years (I currently work for a planning consultant firm). It was no secret in real estate that people looking for a home that had or wanted kids ranked the local school system tops on the list of their requirements (assuming they did not want private school). Families would drive longer commutes; live in less of a house, whatever it took to be in the ‘good’ school district.

    In an essence the search for the new and “better” school district is one of the largest contributing factors to sprawl.
    "Those who plan do better than those who do not plan, even though they rarely stick to their plan." - Winston Churchill

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    Originally posted by Duke Of Dystopia
    A) Thats the hidden part of the "Anti Sprawl" advocates. With any significant growth in population, and a limit on growth, the alternative is to increase density and "stack them higher". It is the default message that can't be avoided. For good or ill, it is a correct assumption.

    B) There is no discussion of force because it would be met with increadible political unpopularity. Any overt talk of forcing people into such a situation would meet with incredible resistance.
    Could i trouble you for some info to back this? As I said, I've always been under the impression that this is simply a scare tactic to misinform the public and maintain the profitable status quo.

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    Cyburbian jresta's avatar
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    I'll have to second that motion CiNYC.

    Everything that i've ever read on smart growth or new urbanism is more or less the same old suburban houses with different facades, situated squarely on smaller lots. People still have their cars and garages . . . oh, and there are a few parks squeezed in. It's basically every small town in america built between 1890 and 1929.

    Nowhere have i read (or heard) this BS description of some Le Corbusier fantasy of towers in the park . . . much less that everyone should live in Manhattan or Tokyo (which is what the detractors are suggesting).

    So, if you are going to repeat that please back it up with something in print.
    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.

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