Out of Control Policy Blog

Tea Parties and Urban Planning

My most recent post on Planetizen.com focuses on how Tea Party fiscal conservatism will likely influence urban planning. I write in part:

Much of the political support for this fiscal conservatism is populist in nature, creating a mixed bag for planning. The practice of urban planning is fundamentally populist: Citizens serve in decision making capacities on planning commissions; these planning commissions report to elected officials; and professional planners provide expertise, advice, and counsel to both. Thus, in theory at least, the Tea Party populism can be a boon for citizen activism. Moreover, the substance of Tea Party concerns suggests that some of this activism can be channeled into community activism.

On the other hand, the political motivations of Tea Partiers are fiscally conservatives. Tea Partiers engaged in local politics are likely to bring the same requirements for accountability, balance, cost effectiveness, and transparency to local government that they are demanding at the federal level. Local activists spurred to political engagement will be less tolerant of local government excesses such as the debacle in New London, Connecticut (Kelo v New London) that spurred a national backlash against eminent domain’s use for economic development, the emerging procurement disaster drowning Houston’s light rail initiatives, or the rosy-scenario decisionmaking (also called “optimism bias”) that increasingly jeopardizes regional transit projects such as FasTrac in Denver.

Samuel Staley is Research Fellow


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