Bob's Links and Rants

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Wednesday, January 15, 2003

Let me say to those who profit from the strip malls and McMansions, if you reap the benefits, you must now take responsibility for the costs.-- New Jersey Governor James E. McGreevey, quoted in the NY Times. Good for him! I absolutely detest sprawl. I recently watched a video called "The Sprawling of America." It was made here in Ann Arbor by the Great Lakes Television Consortium. It spends a lot of time showing how a few federal programs, especially VHA and FHA loans and the Interstate Highway program, were in large part responsible for the depopulation and impoverishment of Detroit. The current system of overlapping and competing governments--cities, counties, townships, and even state or national governments--makes for lots of win-lose situations: Birmingham grows at Detroit or Southfield's expense, Detroit casinos take revenues away from Windsor's, and so on. The film also shows how this has been brought under control with great success in several places: Portland, OR, Maryland, and the Grand Rapids area in West Michigan. McGreevey is now carrying the torch that Maryland's outgoing governor Parris Glendening, who was quoted at length in the film, has carried for years. Hopefully Michigan's Jennifer Granholm will follow through on campaign promises to curb sprawl here in Michigan. Portland is apparently the best US example of regional planning halting the destructive competition that fuels sprawl in most parts of the country. Read the book Suburban Nation: The Rise of Sprawl and the Decline of the American Dream for detailed information on the enormous costs of sprawl and some exciting alternatives.