Monday, August 31, 2009

Budget Deal Seems Closer

It looks like a budget is close. The House has been in recess all day caucusing. Yet another budget bill was released by Democratic leadership. It's a monster document but the independent agency analysis is a little more approachable. See it here.

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Budget Stalemate Shaking Loose?

It seems the budget stalemate may be breaking up. Governon Rell sent the following email message today: "Governor M. Jodi Rell, in an effort to move negotiations forward and have a budget in place by September 1, today presented a compromise budget alternative that provides an immediate tax cut for everyone, requires $520 million in spending cuts and proposes $710 million in new revenue.

'We need a state budget. It is time to move negotiations forward, not inch-by-inch but with great strides toward a meaningful agreement,' Governor Rell said. 'If the Democrats show flexibility on the spending side, I will be flexible on the tax side. Therefore, I am offering a true compromise with my fourth budget that should be voted on and signed into law by September 1.'”

The House and Senate will be in Special Session, Thursday, 8-27. They are caucusing today on the latest budget proposals.

Will there be funds to hold off the need for steep increases in the property tax? Will bonding be authorized for transit oriented development, brownfields clean up, affordable housing, historic preservation, open space preservation, farmland protection? Will the Special Transportation Fund receive the infusion necessary to match federal dollars and move key transit expansion and road & bridge repair projects? The budget must protect the health and safety of those most in need today and meet our need to invest for our future as well?

If you can, please take time tomorrow to join advocates at the Capitol to urge adoption of a more progressive income tax and smart, sustainable investments that protect critical programs and services and put us on the track to economic recovery.

Come anytime after 10 to lend your voice!

Sunday, August 23, 2009

Zoning, Land Speculation, Benefits and Externalized Costs

At Green on Green in Higganum the other day, zoning was a hot topic. A self-identified environmental scientist came over to the 1000 Friends booth and told me he was entirely opposed to smart growth. When I said I thought that an odd reaction from a person with his background, and asked why he had such strong negative opinions, he told me a story. He said he’d invested his retirement savings in a large piece of undeveloped land. Some time after he’d closed on the property, the town updated its zoning. Now, he said, he won’t be able as-of-right to subdivide the parcel into as many lots as he’d hoped.

A member of the land trust came by later and said the land trust was very active. New subdivision regulations require developers to set aside a certain percentage of the land as open space. A number of developers have offered protected parcels to the land trust. He said the trust had refused a number of parcels it had been offered because the land would be nearly impossible to steward and was of questionable value as open space. He described housing lots cut out like gerrymandered political districts with disconnected dregs left to make up the requisite open space set aside.

In the case of the first man, it’s a shame his investment didn’t go the way he hoped. It’s very sad, as anyone can attest who’s watched his/her their stock portfolio in the last couple of years, when our speculative investments don’t perform as we thought they should.

Because the zoning code was changed, he ceased to be able to externalize the negative short and long-run costs of unsustainable development.

Good zoning delivers positive outcomes. It should make it easy to build in the right places, build the right structures, meet design and engineering standards, all while protecting the private investments of land owners and delivering public good.

Does your town’s zoning code regulate to achieve the outcomes its citizens want today and into the future? Does it preference the desires of current land speculators or protect future generations from their externalized costs?

The environmental scientist’s investment didn’t give him the return he’d hoped for, but the zoning change should mean that when he subdivides his property, he will receive the return the real estate market will deliver. There will also be a positive return to the natural water system by maintaining open space for aquifer recharge, it will aid in cooling the planet through the carbon sequestration benefits provided by tree foliage, it will maintain the viability of interconnected species that rely on contiguous and varied habitat of a suitable size, and it may even boost the tourism economy and quality of life for residents of the town and the state.

Unfortunately, the comments of the land trust member led me to wonder if the new code is adequate to achieving the desired results.

Friday, August 21, 2009

How Should CHFA Spend its Money?

The Draft 2010 Qualified Allocation Plan (QAP) (a plan for how the Connecticut Housing Finance Authority will spend its money) has been approved by the CHFA Board of Directors. Now, the agency is looking for public comment.

Send your comments to Delbe Spath, Manager, Tax Credit Programs, Connecticut Housing Finance Authority, 999 West Street, Rocky Hill, CT 06067 or to by September 21st.

You can also share your thoughts at a public hearing:
Sept. 9, 10 to noon, Harrison Apartments Community Room, 651 State Street, Bridgeport, CT.

Sept. 16, 10 to noon -- Hamilton Apartment Community Room, 281 Hamilton Avenue, Norwich, CT.

Sept. 18, 1 to 3 -- Naubuc Senior Community Room, 193 Welles Street, Glastonbury, CT.

August Smart Growth ENews

The August Smart Growth ENews is hot off the presses. In this issue, Senator Dodd's Livable Communities Act, Transportation update, pictures from the Fourth Annual Meeting and more!

Thursday, August 20, 2009

EPA Releases New Guidebook to Encourage Smarter Community Design and Healthier Living for Seniors

Subject: News Release (HQ):
CONTACT: Enesta Jones


August 20, 2009

EPA Releases New Guidebook to Encourage Smarter Community Design and Healthier Living for Seniors

WASHINGTON - The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has released a new guidebook to help older adults access information about the importance of environmentally friendly community design and how to become involved in decisions about what is termed as “smart growth.” Smart growth covers a range of development and conservation strategies that help protect our natural environment and make our communities more attractive, economically stronger and more socially diverse.

"Growing Smarter, Living Healthier: A Guide to Smart Growth and Active Aging” addresses the basic principles of “age-friendly” neighborhoods and town designs that are healthier for people and the environment.

The guide offers suggestions and links to resources to learn more about how to remake neighborhoods to get around easier, whether someone lives in a city, suburb or small town. It also presents ideas for getting involved, providing housing options and gathering places, eating healthier and making it easier to carry out daily activities.

The guidebook also contains a self-assessment tool that allows communities to rate themselves based on how their communities are following the principles of smart growth.

Access the guidebook.

Update on Office of Urban Affairs, from the Lincoln Institute Newsletter

President Obama's Office of Urban Affairs is up and running, but for those tracking a new relationship between the federal government and metropolitan regions, there has been equal ferment at the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, under Secretary Shaun Donovan. HUD has been forging new partnerships with the Environmental Protection Agency, the Department of Transportation and the Department of Energy, and a key player moved to Washington recently to help set the administration's sustainability agenda: Ron Sims, former executive of Washington's King County.

"Our idea is to sync things up," Sims said at a gathering of the Citistates Associates, led by Neal Peirce of the Washington Post Writers Group, for three days of brainstorming on regional initiatives on climate, energy, infrastructure, and transportation at Bridgewater, New Hampshire at the end of June. "I have never seen people moving more directionally on sustainability and livability."

Sims said the aim is to change the culture of HUD, and turn it back into an activist community development agency. "We must stop losing the opportunity to have an impact," he said, not just by focusing on cities but broader regions.

The new policy pathways are numerous, and they are all happening now: the $787 billion stimulus package and its implications for infrastructure, recently analyzed by SmartGrowthAmerica and the New York Times; the evolving cap-and-trade Markey-Waxman climate bill; and reauthorization of federal transportation spending.The Citistates group called for a "recalibration" based on the recognition that metropolitan regions are population centers that are hubs of innovation in the new green economy, requiring new ways of thinking of how they function most efficiently – and competitively – in the US economy. Currently states and individual cities compete for funds and conduct planning more like individual fiefdoms.

"We need a new narrative," said Bill Shutkin, director of the Initiative for Sustainable Development at the Leeds School of Business, University of Colorado. "The question is, can we respond to feedback, can we read the signals? Do we have the capacity to recalibrate and recover? We are at critical moment," he said, citing Jared Diamond's Collapse.

Regional initiatives on climate and transportation show signs of promise. But the group was guarded and pessimistic, and continued to look to Washington to seize the moment.

Brownfield Grant Guidelines Available

The Environmental Protection Agency made EPA Brownfields Grant Proposal Guidelines available. They are on the web. Applications are due October 16, 2009.

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

CDC Recommendations for Obesity -- Includes Complete Streets

Read the Report in Full


Approximately two thirds of U.S. adults and one fifth of U.S. children are obese or overweight. During 1980--2004, obesity prevalence among U.S. adults doubled, and recent data indicate an estimated 33% of U.S. adults are overweight (body mass index [BMI] 25.0--29.9), 34% are obese (BMI ≥30.0), including nearly 6% who are extremely obese (BMI ≥40.0). The prevalence of being overweight among children and adolescents increased substantially during 1999--2004, and approximately 17% of U.S. children and adolescents are overweight (defined as at or above the 95% percentile of the sex-specific BMI for age growth charts). Being either obese or overweight increases the risk for many chronic diseases (e.g., heart disease, type 2 diabetes, certain cancers, and stroke). Reversing the U.S. obesity epidemic requires a comprehensive and coordinated approach that uses policy and environmental change to transform communities into places that support and promote healthy lifestyle choices for all U.S. residents. Environmental factors (including lack of access to full-service grocery stores, increasing costs of healthy foods and the lower cost of unhealthy foods, and lack of access to safe places to play and exercise) all contribute to the increase in obesity rates by inhibiting or preventing healthy eating and active living behaviors. Recommended strategies and appropriate measurements are needed to assess the effectiveness of community initiatives to create environments that promote good nutrition and physical activity. To help communities in this effort, CDC initiated the Common Community Measures for Obesity Prevention Project (the Measures Project). The objective of the Measures Project was to identify and recommend a set of strategies and associated measurements that communities and local governments can use to plan and monitor environmental and policy-level changes for obesity prevention. This report describes the expert panel process that was used to identify 24 recommended strategies for obesity prevention and a suggested measurement for each strategy that communities can use to assess performance and track progress over time. The 24 strategies are divided into six categories: 1) strategies to promote the availability of affordable healthy food and beverages), 2) strategies to support healthy food and beverage choices, 3) a strategy to encourage breastfeeding, 4) strategies to encourage physical activity or limit sedentary activity among children and youth, 5) strategies to create safe communities that support physical activity, and 6) a strategy to encourage communities to organize for change.

Advocates Appeal to Federal Railroad Administration for High Speed in New Haven-Hartford-Springfield Corridor

August 11, 2009

Joseph C. Szabo
Federal Railroad Administration
United States Department of Transportation
1200 New Jersey Avenue, SE
Washington, DC 20590

RE: Support for the New Haven-Springfield Commuter Rail Line

Dear Administrator Szabo:

Several weeks ago, with the strong support of Connecticut Governor M. Jodi Rell, the State of Connecticut submitted a pre-application for High Speed Rail stimulus funds to be used for implementation of the New Haven-Hartford-Springfield (NHHS) rail project. The NHHS project includes Massachusetts as a key partner, and is a critically important component of the joint Vision for the New England High-Speed and Intercity Rail Network recently released by the New England state transportation agencies with the bi-partisan support of New England’s governors.

Extensive support for the NHHS project exists not only at the state level in Connecticut and Massachusetts, but also at the federal level. The list of public supporters is long and, at the federal level, currently includes Senators Edward Kennedy and John Kerry, and Representatives Jim McGovern, Richard Neal, Niki Tsongas and John Olver of Massachusetts; as well as Senator Christopher Dodd and Representatives Chris Murphy, Rosa DeLauro and John Larson of Connecticut.

We write to add the advocacy community’s backing to the NHHS project’s growing list of supporters.

As advocacy groups representing varying interests, we do not always agree on all issues. However, we do agree that federal support for the New Haven-Hartford-Springfield rail corridor is integral to move the New England and Mid-Atlantic regions into the 21st century.

This rail corridor is an ideal candidate for federal High Speed Rail stimulus funding and should be viewed as a project of regional significance by the Federal Rail Administration (FRA). While the project is primarily based in Connecticut, it also holds potential benefits for the greater New England region. For example, according to the Pioneer Valley Planning Commission 2006 Briefing Report: The Economic Impact of the Proposed New Haven-Hartford-Springfield Commuter Rail Line and the ConnDOT Implementation Plan, it is expected that the New Haven-Hartford-Springfield line will:

• Reduce the number of vehicles on roads by approximately 6,000 cars each day
• Increase the connectivity of rail and bus systems at 12 train stations, including the proposed Hartford-New Britain Busway
• Foster better linkages between Bradley International Airport and the region
• Generate close to 1,000 jobs
• Generate $459 million in new economic development and $38 million a year in new tax revenues

These are just a few of the many benefits that the New Haven-Hartford-Springfield rail project will bring to New England. In addition, improvements to the rail corridor will reduce travel times as well as increase reliability on the existing Vermonter route which links Connecticut, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, Vermont and Canada. Investment will also lay the foundation to connect several Connecticut and Massachusetts cities with the economic spine of New England and take the first step towards long term travel-time savings between New York and Boston.

Finally, the project fits seamlessly into FRA’s strategic plan for High Speed Rail. For example, implementation will create efficient and multi-modal transportation options; promote smarter, more livable communities with greater affordable housing opportunities centered around transit service; bolster economic development and economic competitiveness; and protect our environment by reducing the number of both vehicle miles traveled and the number of idling vehicles along the already gridlocked I-91 corridor; all preferred outcomes found within the strategic plan.

Once again we urge you to support the New Haven-Hartford-Springfield rail corridor application and to recommend stimulus dollars towards its implementation.

Please feel free to contact us with any questions.


Kate Slevin Tom Irwin
Executive Director Senior Attorney
Tri-State Transportation Campaign Conservation Law Foundation

David Kooris Curt Johnson
Vice President Director of Programs, Senior Attorney
Regional Plan Association-Connecticut Connecticut Fund for the Environment
Herbert Singleton John Pagini
President Professional Development Officer
Pioneer Valley Advocates for Commuter Rail Connecticut Chapter-APA
Jill Kelly and Carol Leightins Oz Griebel
Co-Coordinators President and CEO
Connecticut Citizens Transportation Lobby MetroHartford Alliance

Christopher Phelps Peter Griffin
Program Director President
Environment Connecticut NH Railroad Revitalization Association

Toni Gold Lori Brown
President Executive Director
Urban Edge Associates CT League of Conservation Voters Education Fund

Mark Richardson Diane Randall
President Executive Director
NH Businesses for Transportation Partnership for Strong Communities
and Infrastructure

Phineas Baxandall Kenneth Niemcyzk
Federal Tax and Budget Policy Analyst City Planner
ConnPIRG City of Lebanon, NH

Elizabeth Weyant Joe McGee
Staff Attorney Vice President, Public Policy and Programs
MassPIRG Business Council of Fairfield County

Heidi Green
1000 Friends of Connecticut

Cc. Senator Edward Kennedy, Massachusetts
Senator John Kerry, Massachusetts
Senator Christopher Dodd, Connecticut
Representative Jim McGovern, Massachusetts
Representative Richard Neal, Massachusetts
Representative Niki Tsongas, Massachusetts
Representative John Olver, Massachusetts
Representative Rosa DeLauro, Connecticut
Representative John Larson, Connecticut
Representative Chris Murphy, Connecticut
Governor Deval Patrick, Massachusetts
Governor M. Jodi Rell, Connecticut
Joseph Marie, ConnDOT Commissioner
Karen Rae, FRA Deputy Administrator

Monday, August 10, 2009

News on federal passenger rail policy and developments from the Nation's Capitol

The Capitol Limited
(from the latest issue of Fast Mail for Rail)

FRA Receives 278 Pre-Applications for High Speed Rail: U.S. Secretary of Transportation Ray LaHood announced that the Federal Railroad Administration has received 278 pre-applications for grant funding totaling $102 billion. The money will come from the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA) for the High-Speed Intercity Passenger Rail competitive grant program.

Amtrak Unveils First Rebuilt Passenger Car from ARRA Investment: Passenger car no. 25103, damaged a few years ago in a yard collision but now completely refurbished - complete with that "new car" interior smell - was shown off at Amtrak's maintenance facility in Bear, Del. More than 100 hard-hatted workers joined Amtrak president and CEO Joseph Boardman in celebrating completion of its restoration.

Senate Approves $150 Million Appropriation for Washington (D.C.) Metro: The Senate Appropriations Committee included $150 million for Metro in a spending bill for the next fiscal year. The House approved a spending bill last week that includes the money. On Tuesday night, by unanimous consent, the Senate approved a change in Metro's compact that allows the agency to receive federal funds.

Analysis: High Speed Rail Supports American Business: Whether you agree or disagree with the premise of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act, it is clear that higher-speed rail most completely fulfills the goals of ARRA. Government is often criticized for spending money on projects that generate no economic benefit. If the numbers above are accurate, high speed rail can generate more than $8 in private investment for each public dollar spent.

Analysis: Might Delay in High Speed Rail Allow for Better Projects?: Now the U.S. is in a great position to take advantage of being late to the game by eliminating common challenges faced by those who preceded us, such as the improper maintenance of sensors on tracks or not being able to respond to major sporting or weather events when scheduling trains through the largest cities. Just observing what has and hasn't worked in other places can save the U.S. billions of dollars as we build our high-speed passenger rail systems. This savings can be critical, considering the tight budgets the states will be working with.

Thursday, August 6, 2009

Senator Dodd Introduces Livable Communities Act

Creating Better And More Affordable Places To Live, Work And Raise Families

Senator Dodd’s Livable Communities Act will help local communities plan for and create better and more affordable places to live, work, and raise families. With sustainable development, our communities will cut traffic congestion; reduce greenhouse gas emissions and gasoline consumption; protect rural areas and green spaces; revitalize existing Main Streets and urban centers; and create more affordable housing.


Incentives To Plan For Livable Communities. The Comprehensive Planning Grant Program will help communities develop comprehensive regional plans that incorporate transportation, housing, community and economic development, and environmental needs. Grantees must demonstrate a commitment to integrated planning and sustainable development. The Act authorizes $400 million in competitive grants over four years.

Funding to Implement Sustainable Development Projects. The Challenge Grant Program will enable communities to implement cross-cutting projects according to their comprehensive regional plans. With $3.75 billion authorized for competitive grants over three years, these projects will help communities create and preserve affordable housing; support transit-oriented development; improve public transportation; create pedestrian and bicycle thoroughfares; redevelop brownfields; and foster economic development.

Partnering with Local Communities. The legislation ensures that the federal government is a supportive partner for communities’ sustainable development efforts, offering technical assistance to regions that apply for Livable Communities grants and giving special assistance to smaller communities that may need additional help to get started. As a resource for sustainability best practices and technical assistance, the Office of Sustainable Housing and Communities will ensure that communities learn from each other’s successes.


Interagency Council on Sustainable Communities. By bringing together the Department of Housing and Urban Development, the Department of Transportation, the Environmental Protection Agency, and other federal agencies, the Interagency Council on Sustainable Communities will coordinate federal sustainable development policies; coordinate federal sustainability research; coordinate with HUD to implement Livable Communities grants; identify barriers to sustainable development; and promote coordination of transportation, housing, community development, energy, and environmental policies.

Office of Sustainable Housing And Communities. The Department of Housing and Urban Development will establish the Office of Sustainable Housing and Communities to coordinate federal policies that foster sustainable development and administer HUD’s sustainability initiatives; recommend and conduct research; implement and oversee Livable Communities grant programs in coordination with the Interagency Council; and provide guidance, best practices and technical assistance to communities seeking to plan for the future.

Liveable Communities Act -- What People Are Saying

Here’s What People Are Saying About Dodd’s Livable Communities Act:

Senator Dodd’s proposed Livable Communities Act represents a major step forward for the federal government and its contribution to the economic health of vibrant communities and urban centers. The bill recognizes the relationship between housing, transportation and environmental performance - a relationship that is essential to the nation’s long-term economic prosperity.
--JOHN DESTEFANO, JR., Mayor, City of New Haven, Connecticut

Senator Dodd's Livable Communities Act is manna from heaven. It finally marries smart housing, transit and environmental policy in an enlightened way by allowing localities and regions to plan affordable homes for workers near transit. Local control is vital and homes near transit will increase affordability and reduce congestion and pollution. When the story of smart 21st Century community development is written, Senator Dodd and this bill will be the stars of the drama.
-- DAVID FINK, Policy Director, Partnership for Strong Communities

The Partnership for Strong Communities raises public awareness and advances solutions to end chronic homelessness, creates affordable housing and builds healthy, economically vital communities in Connecticut.

I am delighted that Senator Dodd’s initiative builds on the work of the Capitol Region Council of Governments. By forming a nexus between efficient transit systems and responsible zoning, the Livable Communities Act effectively promotes citizens’ quality of life while combating harmful carbon emissions. The bill Senator Dodd has introduced is exactly what we need to build better communities.
--LYLE WRAY, Executive Director, Capitol Region Council of Governments

CRCOG assists citizens and local officials of the 29 communities of Connecticut’s capital region in articulating, advocating and implementing the vision, needs and values of their regional community.

Demographic and market research shows that Americans are increasingly clamoring for more walkable, bikeable and sustainable communities that offer them cleaner and healthier options to get around. Senator Dodd’s bill is a forward-looking approach that will give metropolitan regions the tools they need to meet this growing demand and prepare our cities, towns and communities for the 21st century. The bill follows a proven model to create jobs and build more energy-independent, economically competitive, attractive and healthy places to live while saving money over the long term.
--GEOFF ANDERSON, President, Smart Growth America

Smart Growth America is a coalition focused on preservation, the environment and neighborhood revitalization to improve the ways we plan and build the towns, cities and metro areas we call home.

Today's announcement is a welcome one in the planning community and a sign that better living through smart community planning and development around cleaner transportation options is, and should be, achievable around the country. We congratulate Senator Dodd in this bold step and look forward to working with him to advance the goals of this important piece of legislation.
-- ROBERT YARO, President, Regional Plan Association

Regional Plan Association is dedicated to improving the quality of life and the economic competitiveness of the 31-county New York-New Jersey-Connecticut region through research, planning, and advocacy.

“NLC applauds Senator Dodd’s leadership in integrating land-use, housing and transportation planning among all levels of government. The Livable Communities Act would strengthen the intergovernmental partnership between federal, regional, and local leaders, helping all levels of government serve our nation’s neighborhoods and families more effectively.”
– DONALD J. BORUT, Executive Director, National League of Cities

“The nation’s counties strongly support Senator Dodd’s Living Communities bill. We commend the Senator for his leadership on this critical initiative which will result in a more efficient and sustainable use of federal and local housing, transportation, and environmental resources.”
-- LARRY E. NAAKE, Executive Director, National Association of Counties

Monday, August 3, 2009

Survey for Urban Infill Research Study

This link will direct you to a brief online survey. This survey is part of a National Cooperative Highway Research Program (NCHRP) study to develop guidance and a methodology for the preparation and review of transportation impact analyses (TIAs) of infill development in urban or urbanizing areas. You can help support this effort by answering a few brief questions.

Why this is important

Higher density, mixed-use redevelopment and infill development are smart growth concepts that are an increasingly common form of development subject to environmental review and often traffic impact studies. However, there is a lack of standardized guidance and trip and parking generation data for preparing these studies.

Why your help is needed

The first phase of this study involves collecting information on current infill development definitions, infill traffic and parking generation data and estimation methods, TIA analysis methods and agency review procedures. Kimley-Horn and Associates, on behalf of NCHRP, would like to survey those involved in various aspects of infill development in order to collect this information. Your responses are completely confidential and will be used to identify valuable information and resources regarding the current state-of-the-practice of analyzing the impacts of infill development.

Thank you for your time. Please click to complete the survey.

Restoring Prosperity August 2009 Newsletter

Restoring Prosperity Report

To subscribe to the newsletter, contact Mara at Smart Growth America

State and National News

News from Smart Growth America's State Stimulus Campaign

June 29th marked the 120-day deadline for states to commit at least 50 percent ($13.3 billion) of the transportation funding available through the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA). SGA's state stimulus campaign has released The States and the Stimulus: Are they using it to create jobs and 21st century transportation? ( The report evaluates state project lists at this 120-day mark to determine how effective states have been in achieving the goals set forth by ARRA, as well as their success in creating jobs, building towards a 21st century transportation system, and making transparent and accountable spending decisions.

At the national level, the study identifies some discouraging trends:
? Despite a multi-trillion dollar backlog of road and bridge repairs, states committed almost a third of the ARRA Surface Transportation Program (STP) money to new capacity road and bridge projects rather than repair.
? Most states did not use ARRA funding to fill the giant backlog in public transportation investment.
? Overall, transparency of decisions is lacking, and accountability for results is weak.

However, the study also highlights some notable achievements at the state level: seven states are spending more than 10 percent of their funding on expanding public transportation, walking, and biking choices, and 17 states are spending more than 90 percent of funding on road repair. Read more about the report here [].

House Transportation Bill Released

Congressman James Oberstar, Chairman of the House Transportation Committee, released a draft of the House Surface Transportation Authorization Act of 2009 []last week. Some of the basic principles for reform are present, but key details are still missing. Positive features of the bill include that it increases public transit funding, simplifies and streamlines federal transportation policy, increases local control, directs money towards repair and maintenance, and helps large metro areas meet their pressing transportation needs. Critical areas for improvement include the need for a greater focus on performance targets and accountability, incentives that would encourage states and localities to coordinate land use and development planning with transportation, and a greater focus on equity and affordability. The Obama administration has requested that the transportation authorization be tabled for 18 months, but Congressman Oberstar has voiced his desire to move forward with the bill. To track the legislation's progress, visit the Transportation for America blog [].

Congresswoman Schwartz (PA) Introduces Green Communities Act

In April, Representative Allyson Schwartz (PA-13) introduced the Green Communities Act (HR 2222) [], which would give grants to municipalities for community greening initiatives. This act [] would provide funds for eighty municipalities to encourage revitalization of parks and other public spaces, landscape community areas, plant trees and participate in other urban forestry projects, preserve open space, construct green roofs, create green stormwater infrastructure, manage vacant lots, and educate the community on these green initiatives. Projects funded through this bill could improve neighborhoods, increase real estate values, encourage commercial development, and reduce violence and crime. The program would extend for five years ? fiscal years 2010-2014 ? and provide a total of $270 million in funding for these initiatives to improve neighborhoods. Advocates are seeking cosponsors for the bill now. For more information, contact Greg Lewis [] at the Northeast-Midwest Institute [].

Middle Class Task Force Announced

On May 26th, a new interagency partnership called the Middle Class Task Force [] was announced []. The task force is "a major initiative targeted at raising the living standards of middle-class, working families in America." It is chaired by Vice President Biden, and includes representatives from several executive agencies: Labor, Health and Human Services, Education, Treasury, Commerce, Housing and Urban Development, Transportation, Agriculture, the National Economic Council, the Office of Management and Budget, the Domestic Policy Council, and the Council of Economic Advisors. Among its goals are ensuring that "green" jobs are readily available for middle-class workers, providing training and employment for public housing residents, expanding education, protecting incomes for working- and middle-class families, and improving work and family balance. Through inter-agency coordination, the task force hopes to improve the quality of life for middle-class families and reinvigorate the American manufacturing sector through "green" jobs.

EPA Joins HUD, DOT in Partnership for Sustainable Communities

Earlier this year, HUD and DOT announced an unprecedented agreement to implement joint housing and transportation initiatives.This month, EPA announced that it would also be joining the partnership []. The three agencies will work together to ensure that the goals of these housing and transportation initiatives are met, while simultaneously protecting the environment, promoting equitable development, and helping to address the challenges of climate change.The partnership will be guided by a set of Livability Principles [] that touch on equity, affordability, and investment in existing communities. ''Where you live affects how you get around, and how you get around often affects where you live," testified EPA Administrator Lisa P. Jackson before the U.S. Senate Committee on Banking, Housing, and Urban Affairs. "Both decisions affect our environment. In order to have the most effective greenhouse gas reduction strategy, we should have a strategy to reduce vehicle miles traveled. In order to provide truly affordable housing, we should take into account what residents must pay for transportation, energy, and water.''

Connecticut Passes Slate of Smart Growth Legislation

Thanks to the hard work of 1,000 Friends of Connecticut [] and other state and local advocates, the Connecticut legislature passed several bills this session that advance smart growth and planning in the state. Bills addressed needs including: defining smart growth and making it integral to the state's planning, encouraging regionalism, financing green development near transit, expediting the cleanup and reuse of polluted sites, propping up struggling dairy farmers, protecting the dedicated revenue source (the Community Investment Account) for affordable housing, open space, farmland, and historic preservation, and making the streets more complete for cyclists, pedestrians and transit users. The state also passed a vacant properties registration act [], an important tool for communities across the country that are facing heightened vacancies in the fact of the foreclosure crisis. SB 951, An Act Concerning Neighborhood Protection [] requires the registration of any vacant or foreclosed properties with local authorities, and gives those authorities enforcement capability if there are problems with the properties. Read more about the range of legislative victories that occurred this month in Connecticut here [].

Millennial Mayors Congress Launched in Michigan

The Millennial Mayors Congress [] is an exciting new program launched in metropolitan Detroit by the Michigan Suburbs Alliance [] which brings together towns and generations to build ideas and policy for the region. The Congress has two delegates from each of the 22 participating communities in Wayne, Oakland and Macomb counties ? one local government representative (the mayor or another city official) and one "millennial representative" ? an 18-35 year old community resident. The millennial delegates include attorneys, students, nonprofit leaders, organizers, technical experts and business owners. On June 6th, the Millennial Mayors Congress had its first meeting, and discussed the issues it may tackle this year: economic development and diversification, building a green economy, energy efficiency, and municipal cost-saving strategies. Through a collaborative, regional approach, the Congress hopes to address some of these issues through shared goals, local action, and coordination.

Restoring Prosperity Policy Case Study

Build on Economic Strengths: Invest in Downtown Revitalization

The Problem: The forces of urban sprawl can often divert resources away from city centers and cause downtowns to suffer economically. This process not only hurts the immediate downtown, but also the health of the region.

The Solution: Invest in multi-pronged approaches to downtown revitalization, taking advantage of the synergistic benefits of historic preservation, mixed-use development, improved public transportation, and local business development. Take steps to make downtown public spaces attractive and safe.

Case Study

State: New Jersey

Policy: Starting in 1998, Newark's neighborhood planning process generated a revitalization plan for the area, which includes the Lincoln Park and Coast historic neighborhoods, in order to combat its slow decline. That neighborhood plan articulated a vision of an arts and cultural district that would include artist live-work spaces, mixed-use buildings, community programs, historic preservation, a Museum of African American Music, and restoration of Newark Symphony Hall, all using green building techniques. The Lincoln Park/Coast Cultural District (LPCCD) emerged from that process in 2002 as an organization dedicated to implementing the neighborhood plan, and the Newark Municipal Council adopted the plan in 2005. LPCCD is planning to build 300 "green" units, including townhouses and condos, over four years. These will be targeted to a variety of income levels, so that the housing is accessible to current residents as well as new residents interested in green buildings. LPCCD also created the Green-Collar Apprenticeship Program (GreenCAP), which puts local residents to work on LPCCD's construction projects while giving them both traditional union apprenticeships in HVAC, electrical work, and plumbing and specific training in green construction techniques. The first class, with 30 participants, started work in spring 2008.

More info:


The Brookings Institution
The Brookings Institute's quarterly MetroMonitor follows markers of economic health for the 100 largest metropolitan economies in America, including employment, wages, Gross Metropolitan Product, housing prices, and real estate owned (REO) properties.

High Road or Low Road?
Good Jobs First
In this report, Good Jobs First looks at the labor quality and standards for existing green jobs, and makes recommendations on how to assure that newly-created green jobs provide sufficient wages and other quality-of-life benefits.

Reclaiming Foreclosed Properties for Community Benefit
This tool provides a framework for developing a comprehensive foreclosure recovery plan and showcases the most innovative and promising strategies for the acquisition, maintenance, management and transfer of these properties to low-income renters and homeowners, or for other beneficial use.

Ask the Climate Question: Adapting to Climate Change Impacts in Urban Regions
Center for Clean Air Policy (CCAP)
In partnership with government leaders from several large counties and cities, CCAP launched the Urban Leaders Adaptation Initiative in 2006 to serve as a resource for local governments as they face important infrastructure and land-use decisions in the face of climate change. This document highlights the progress each partner county or city has made in advancing their local climate adaptation efforts and provides a summary of lessons learned and policy implications gathered by CCAP to date.

In the News

Michigan: No More Appeals, Tiger Stadium Falling

California: Rebooting Urban Watersheds

New York/New Jersey: Work Begins on the Nation's Largest Mass Transit Project

New Jersey: Suburban Sprawl Stops in Morris County