I just got back from spending a week in West Palm Beach, meeting with new urbanists and, together, plotting a makeover and economic revival of America.
My voice is gone and after successive nights of little sleep and 14 hours of travel Sunday, not much stamina either, but I'm left with one thought that I want to share today. It is this: the great strength of the Congress for the New Urbanism is the constant, self-reflecting insistence on improvement that members all seem to hold.
I have spent many years as a member of the American Planning Association and the National Society of Professional Engineers. Both professions have their accreditation process and are hostage to the continuing education merry-go-round. APA in particular has a cattle car feel, where you run from session to session to get your credits in law or ethics or whatever you need to check off for that year.
At my very first CNU in Denver, I was very confused about why the breaks between sessions were so long. Lunch was often two hours long and, even then, the sessions afterward didn't start on time because people weren't back. Do New Urbanists just like to eat? No, they have a lot to talk about.
The highlight of my week was a late evening conversation Friday night with mostly NextGen members. We arranged chairs out on the courtyard following a CNU reception and we talked about our vision for the future. What are the big changes that need to happen in America? How do we bring them about? Are we thinking big enough or are we still hostage to some flawed assumptions? It was invigorating.
As I get home then, I receive a link to two videos, one recalling the accomplishments of the first 20 years of New Urbanism. The second, reflecting on what we did wrong or should be doing better. I can see other professional organizations publicly releasing the first, but can you imagine an organization like the American Society of Civil Engineers releasing the second.
If forced to, their video would go something like this. "What have we done wrong.....well, I suppose we should have made a stronger case for more highway funding."
This is the stuff that makes me proud to be a New Urbanist. If you're not there and you think you know these people, I'm going to humbly suggest that you don't. Plan to be there next year in Salt Lake City and add your voice to the mix.
Our coverage of CNU 20:
We'll be releasing more audio in the coming days, so stay tuned. Thank you to everyone who followed us remotely. Hope to see you all in Salt Lake City in 2013.
Charles Marohn is a Professional Engineer licensed in the State of Minnesota and a member of the American Institute of Certified Planners. He is president of Strong Towns, a non-partisan, non-profit organization that advocates for changes in development patterns and a complete understanding of the full costs of methods of growth.
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