Monthly Archives: March 2012

April Fool’s Day (aka- Automobile Independence Day)

In my master’s coursework, I was assigned to read Suburban Nation: The Rise of Sprawl and the Decline of the American Dream by Andres Duany, Elizabeth Plater-Zyberk, and Jeff Speck.  The 10th anniversary edition is still as poignant as when it was originally printed.  I highly recommend reading it.

What caught my eye was a chapter called “The Victims of Sprawl.”  Children growing up in cul-de-sacs, mothers chauffeuring their children to numerous activities, bored teenagers unable to experience independence without access to a car, the elderly unable to drive anymore, commuters, the immobile poor– all were identified as “victims” of suburban sprawl.  I couldn’t help but nod as I read the chapter identifying how suburbia’s dependence on the automobile has created such victims and how much money is spent supporting this dependence.  I had to chuckle out loud when I discovered a new holiday– “Automobile Independence Day.”  The authors explain:

“Recognizing the tremendous cost of the auto-dependent lifestyle, the author Philip Langdon has proposed a new national holiday: “Automobile Independence Day.”  It would take place on that date each year by which we have earned one quarter of our salaries, the amount that it takes to support our cars.  How appropriate that it is April Fool’s Day.”

How much do you spend on supporting your car?  It brings a whole new meaning to April 1st, now doesn’t it?  Perhaps, in the end, the joke is on us.

Smart Growth– A Conservative Perspective

The phrase “smart growth” has a liberal connotation, but that label is unfairly given.  Smart growth policies benefit everyone.  It is not a partisan issue; at least it shouldn’t be a partisan issue.  Conservatives often attack smart growth policies, but I think this is a result of a misunderstanding of the impact smart growth policies can have on a community.

David Goldstein wrote a blog post highlighting the reasons why conservatives should support smart growth policies, namely “economic freedom, limited government, and responsibility.”  (Read the blog post here.)  He brings up many good points that should appeal to both sides of the political divide.  He sums up his argument perfectly when he writes:

“Smart Growth looks at these issues in a holistic way.  It does not advocate eliminating land use planning, nor letting anyone borrow money regardless of their ability to repay.  But in many ways it does reduce the heavy hand of government and other big bureaucracies to tell you what to do.” (emphasis original)

Smart growth policies will benefit our entire community, but we must join together in the effort to establish these policies in our communities first.  Liberals, conservatives, and independents alike should stand together to implement these changes to improve our communities.  No matter the demographics or political affiliations, smart growth will benefit us all.

Bringing the Water Infrastructure Discussion Above-Ground

Water.

We all need it, and we all want clean water to come out of our faucets.  Unfortunately, our aging infrastructure system threatens the delivery of that necessary, clean water.  The underground pipes are reaching the end of their useful lives.  The decline of these systems means more water disruptions, more contaminated water, and less reliable delivery of water to our ever-growing population.  The cost of repairing and replacing our water and waste water systems will only continue to grow the longer we wait.

On February 28th, Aurel Arndt, general manager of Lehigh County Authority, spoke before the House Subcommittee on Water Resources and Environment on behalf of the American Water Works Association (AWWA).  Aurel is no stranger to the need to rejuvenate our water infrastructure; he has worked for the Lehigh County Authority since 1974.  During his service, he has seen the decline in our community’s water infrastructure.  Aurel highlighted the large, yet absolutely necessary, expense to restore the buried drinking water systems as well as the above-ground drinking water facilities, waste water, storm water, and other water-related infrastructure in his remarks to the subcommittee.  The cost for such an overhaul is well over $1 trillion, but the ultimate cost for letting our water infrastructure deteriorate further and attempting expensive emergency repairs without a feasible solution will be much more costly.

AWWA recently released a report entitled, “Buried No Longer: Confronting America’s Water Infrastructure Challenge.” The report focused on the need to address the current water infrastructure nearing the end of its useful life.  It succeeds AWWA’s report, “Dawn of the Replacement Era,” in which AWWA first noted hat the time had come for our water systems to be replaced before they completely fall apart.  (This report and other AWWA material can be found on our website at www.renewlv.org/water.)

In his remarks, Aurel and AWWA endorsed a new approach to funding the overhaul of our water infrastructure– the Water Infrastructure Finance and Innovation Act (WIFIA).  The act is modeled after the highly successful Transportation Infrastructure and Innovation Act (TIFIA).  WIFIA would lower the cost of infrastructure investment and alter the financing process so that communities would be able to afford the necessary replacements in their water systems.  WIFIA would “assist communities in meeting the nation’s water infrastructure needs in a manner that would have minimal cost to the federal government while complementing existing financial mechanisms, maintaining the current federal role, leveraging private capital, and creating vital manufacturing and construction jobs.”  The entire program would provide a feasible solution for communities to address the water infrastructure problem, while also providing a cleaner environment and greater quality of life for residents.  (Read Aurel Arndt’s full statement.)

Renew Lehigh Valley has encouraged a regional and cooperative approach to the water infrastructure challenges facing the Lehigh Valley.  The WIFIA legislation would provide a means for cost efficient solutions to be developed for the communities within the Lehigh Valley, while also fostering a mindset of sustainable growth and development.  Water is vital to our existence.  It’s time to bring the discussion about our water infrastructure challenges above-ground and address them as an entire Lehigh Valley.

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