whose involved with smart growth
The Politics of Smart Growth

Forging a New Kind of Metropolitics

The Constituencies of this New Political Majority
It is worth itemizing the many constituencies affected by sprawl and
explaining why they have a keen self-interest in joining a smart growth coalition. 

Business is an often-overlooked constituency with a serious stake in smart growth. Many companies are starting to recognize how sprawl can hurt the long-term vitality of a region, artificially raise taxes to pay for excessive infrastructure and intensify traffic congestion, which affects employees and company productivity. 

Urban Minorities are suffering from higher property taxes, reduced public services and declining neighborhoods as sprawl drains urban areas of residents and businesses. The increasing isolation of city residents-- racially, economically and politically-- has put them in a downward spiral that is not likely to be halted without new allies from outside the city. 

The Working Class In Inner-Ring Suburbs are seeing their
neighborhoods buffeted by the same forces ravaging the inner city,
especially as newcomers fleeing the city bring their socio-economic
problems with them. These suburbs have swelling needs, but not the tax
base, government infrastructure or social services to deal with them. 

Advocates For Social Services (housing, jobs, food, children) cannot
make significant progress as long as the economic foundation of the city is
imploding. Regionalism would go a long way toward helping these groups
achieve greater results over the long-term. 

Faith Communities are acutely aware of how sprawl affects the poor and
divides people along racial and income lines, and how many
once-flourishing houses of worship in the city are now empty shells. In
many metro regions, ecumenical coalitions are showing great moral
leadership in organizing metro-wide forums around issues of sprawl and
urban disinvestment. 

Historic Preservationists, long identified with the preservation of
buildings alone, are increasingly focussed on revitalizing communities and,
with them, the great architecture of our past. The rehabilitation that historic
preservationists advocate is a more cost-efficient, community-friendly,
environmentally benign alternative to sprawl. 

School Reform Advocates are not likely to make significant progress in
equalizing funding between the cities and suburbs until they address regional sprawl--the engine for the racial and economic disparities they decry. Neither busing nor lawsuits have proven successful in assuring equal
educational opportunity. Regional development planning could. 

Environmentalists are only too aware of the air and water pollution,
abandoned brownfields and habitat destruction that results from sprawl,
and of the limited efficacy of traditional regulation. Working with other
political groups to address a core problem-- patterns of land use-- offers
immense new opportunities to make environmental progress. 

Good-Government and Civic Groups have traditionally worked hard to
ensure open, informed policymaking and to boost the quality of public
amenities. But these goals are often undermined by regional forces that no
single city or town can control. Metro-wide planning and governance could
help advance the agenda of good-government groups. 

Fiscal Conservatives, particularly in outlying suburbs, are coming to see
how sprawl is imposing huge new tax burdens on their communities, while
introducing many quality of life problems. These advocates realize that an
unfettered market does not yield fiscally prudent results over the long term, nor in the aggregate. 

Farmers are losing their lands to sprawled development at a breakneck
pace. Their efforts to preserve their lands for agricultural uses could be
greatly strengthened by support from urban and suburban constituencies. 

Conservationists And Outdoors Groups share the same motivation as
farmers in preserving open spaces on the urban fringe. But their niche
interests, in hunting, hiking and other outdoor recreation, are politically
limited if pursued in isolation-- but greatly strengthened through a smart
growth coalition. 

Scenic and Community Beautification Advocates. Many individuals
and groups can be mobilized to oppose the sheer ugliness of cheap, mindless commercial and residential sprawl, and to protect "sacred places" and special landmarks of a community. Aesthetics and beauty matter. 

The Elderly And "Soccer Moms" are two sizeable constituencies whose daily lives are affected by long drives to stores and schools, dependency on cars, traffic congestion and social isolation. Smart growth initiatives speak powerfully to their needs, especially as they relate to transportation. 

Coalition Efforts