Mayors and City Planners Ask Presidential Candidates, "What's Your Plan for America's Cities?"

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American City Quality Foundation, American City Planning Directors' Council, National League of Cities and the U.S. Conference of Mayors Designate April American City Quality Month

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It is time to ensure we really consider issues about sustainability, livability and wellness, inclusiveness, and equity in city planning.

April is American City Quality Month, and city leaders and planners are asking Presidential Candidates, “What’s your plan for America’s cities?”

In a joint statement, The Honorable Stephanie C. Rawlings-Blake, Mayor, City of Baltimore, Maryland and President of the U.S. Conference of Mayors; The Honorable Melodee Colbert-Kean, City Councilmember, City of Joplin, Missouri and President of the National League of Cities; and the American City Planning Directors’ Council of the American City Quality Foundation specifically ask:

  • What is the candidate’s vision for the future development of America’s cities and regions?
  • How do we accommodate the U.S. Census projection of 23 million additional citizens by the year 2025 and 36 million by 2030? This is the equivalent of building 12 cities the size of Chicago.
  • Is their vision business as usual, enabling continued urban sprawl, higher government operating expenses and taxes? Or is it development that is more concentrated to create more livable, walkable, inclusive and sustainable communities linked by improved public transit?
  • What is the federal role?
  • How can land use, housing and transportation systems be better coordinated?
  • How can we better link public sector goals with private sector implementation?
  • How will infrastructure, housing, public facilities and utilities be funded?
  • Will we ensure there is a real cash-on-cash return on public investments that can be used for infrastructure operations and maintenance and re-investment similar to a private investment?

The questions are submitted on behalf of the nation’s city planning directors to urge continued support for the preparation, adoption, funding, implementation and coordination of urban and regional Better Quality Communities Plans. In conjunction with this outreach, the Council has sent a letter to the U.S. Congress, state governors, and state legislators asking the respective leaders to immediately commit to preparing, adopting and implementing the nationwide and regional physical development plans to support economic and social development and environmental protection policies.

The plans must:

1.    Be a coordinated intergovernmental and private sector commitment for better quality city planning, re-development and development of our nation’s cities and surrounding regions.
2.    Be comprehensive and address all federal/state and local policies and programs impacting physical development.
3.    Involve developing and adopting better quality federal, state and local land use patterns, economic development zones, pedestrian-oriented civic centers and neighborhoods, affordable housing, public transportation (including passenger rail service), inter-regional high-speed rail facilities, airports and harbors, renewable energy facilities, prime agricultural lands protection, recreational/open space/conservation land, air quality, water supply quality and conservation, public schools, public safety and related facilities and utility systems, and overall urban design and beautification.
4.    Ensure taxpayers receive an actual financial return on their investment, just like a private sector investment, and lower governmental operating expenses and taxes.

The commitment is sought as part of the 28th annual, month-long national American City Quality Month program. This year’s theme is “Planning for Smart Growth is Planning for Quality Communities.” City planners across the country are urging everyone to be engaged. Public support is needed to adopt plans, implementation programs, and ordinances to achieve results.

Some work has been started to comprehensively coordinate intergovernmental and private sector investments and actions affecting physical development to achieve better quality and sustainable urban and regional communities. The inter-department cooperation between HUD, DOT, EPA, DOC-Economic Development, USDA, HHS and others has been terrific. However, more Congressional support and funding is required, along with plan adoption and implementation to guide billions of dollars in infrastructure investments and create millions of new jobs.

“Business as usual policies that continue urban sprawl and higher government operating expenses and taxes are unacceptable,” said Gerald R. Mylroie, AICP, Chairman of the American City Planning Directors’ Council and the American City Quality Foundation. “Urban and regional planning policies affecting physical development must be viewed differently; they must be comprehensively and collaboratively coordinated. Revenues must be shared among cooperating jurisdictions.”

Mylroie added, “It is time we actually link transportation with land use decisions and obtain real cash-on-cash returns on investments for citizens from publicly-funded infrastructure projects. It is time to ensure we really consider issues about sustainability, livability and wellness, inclusiveness, and equity in city planning.”

About American City Quality Month
April has been designated as American City Quality Month by the National League of Cities, the U.S. Conference of Mayors, American City Planning Directors’ Council and American City Quality Foundation. Other sponsors include Urban Land Institute, National Building Museum, and International City / County Management Association and others. The purpose is to annually focus national and local public attention on the status and future of America’s cities, and to promote better city planning, decisions, design, development, management, and action to improve cities.

During American City Quality Month, cities across the country will be expressing appreciation for the mostly voluntary time contributed by city planning board members to improve city quality. Also they will be conducting be conducting public meetings, passing proclamations, holding events, displaying educational exhibits, and conducting “teach-ins” at local schools. Topics that local city planners and officials will be discussing include changing demographics, local economic and social development opportunities, land use, transportation, affordable housing, climate change implications, and urban sprawl.

For more information, see http://www.cityquality.org or contact your city planning director or the American City Planning Directors’ Council at ACQF(at)aol(dot)com.

American City Quality - What is it?
Quality means consistently achieving a higher standard. City quality means consistently achieving higher standards for development, education, security, social conduct, environmental protection and other factors that influence urban life. These standards evolve from the needs and expectations of citizens. A quality city knows the needs and expectations of its citizens, sets goals and standards, then acts to achieve them. Also, a quality city will monitor its performance and take corrective action if it is not able to meet these standards. But, what are the standards? How are they identified, set and achieved? This is a continuing process.

City planners, as well as others, play a critical role in this process. They help identify needs, set vision or plans and standards, and help meet them. But this is difficult given competing interests and time and resource limitations. Thus, increased public awareness is needed.

American City Quality Month (ACQM) will spark debate about standards for our cities. Given the current condition of many cities, we need new vision, new plans, new standards and actions to achieve them, and increase American City Quality. This is the fundamental objective of American City Quality Month.

In April, events will focus on the current and emerging city issues; provide opportunities to formulate plans for solutions and put these plans in motion. While the concept seems simple, achieving a quality city is not easy. Commitment is vital. Elected officials, government employees, business and residents must support a city’s standards. Technical assistance and a reward or recognition program are also critical if a city is to improve.

Participants/Activities/Events
City planning directors, in conjunction with other public and private sector civic leaders will be conducting a variety of events to raise public awareness. These include:

  • City officials are encouraged to hold public meetings to discuss city planning and development issues; sponsoring exhibits on new plans and programs for community revitalization; and discussing urban issues and opportunities with local school students.
  • Corporations are urged to sponsor public national advertisements describing what they are doing to help improve the quality of America’s cities.
  • Local city planning and other civic organizations are urged to hold meetings and initiate projects to improve cities.
  • Schools are encouraged to develop educational programs on cities and how they can be improved (e.g., build models, write essays, and draw pictures).
  • Universities offering degrees in City Planning and other agencies are urged to initiate teaching programs and activities to raise public awareness.
  • Local and national media are encouraged to report and/or publish articles on the status and future of cities and how they can be improved.

For more information, see http://www.cityquality.org or contact your city planning director or the American City Planning Directors’ Council at ACQF(at)aol(dot)com.

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Gerald R. Mylroie, AICP