The feds are stepping up their efforts to spread 'smart growth':
- Responding to a growing number of requests from states for assistance in managing growth, three former governors with a long history of promoting smart growth -- Christie Whitman (New Jersey--also former EPA Administrator), Parris Glendening (Maryland) and Angus King (Maine) -- today joined EPA and the National Endowment for the Arts in announcing a new Governors' Institute on Community Design. The Institute is intended to support governors' leadership in good community design and sound planning.
"States have always been laboratories for innovation," said Governor Whitman. "Through the Governors' Institute we hope to inspire a new level of innovation that will make our communities economically stronger, healthier, and more attractive places to live and work."
The Institute, funded by EPA and the National Endowment for the Arts (NEA) will be jointly administered by two organizations with extensive experience in helping states address development and related quality-of-life issues -- the Smart Growth Leadership Institute and the National Center for Smart Growth Research and Education, both at the University of Maryland.
"Many governors want to address housing, transportation, health or other issues related to land use and development, but need the tools to do so," said Governor Glendening. "There are many examples of successful community design. Our goal is to share those strategies with governors and their staffs."
EPA and the National Endowment for the Arts (NEA) are each providing $200,000 to launch the Institute. EPA's funding is being provided through its national water and smart growth programs. EPA's Smart Growth program encourages development that protects environmental resources and human health, expands economic opportunity, and creates and enhances places that people love.
For the moment, let's set aside a couple of obvious problems with smart growth:
- higher densities intensify traffic congestion and air pollution;
- growth boundaries and other burdensome land restrictions don't protect land from development as much as they just shift development to other areas;
- the argument that sprawl threatens human health is shaky at best;
- smart growth planning reduces housing affordability;
- existing planning systems fail trying to meet rational planning goals;
- smart growth runs counter to well-established consumer preferences; and
- opposition to sprawl is based more on opposition to lifestyle preferences than concerns about density, congestion, and the like.
What I want to know is this: is it a legitimate function of government to "enhance places that people love?" Maybe we could all agree that the Grand Canyon is worth setting aside, but when we're talking about the built environment, one man's suburban family home in a good school district is another man's example of waste and consumerism. Conversely, one man's dense, thriving urban neighborhood is another man's claustrophobic nightmare full of crime and bad schools.
I, for one, don't feel comfortable with the idea of the NEA & EPA being the arbiter of what kinds of communities are worth loving. Average Americans can make those choices for themselves, thank you very much. Unless the 'smart growth' crowd gets its way...