Tuesday, November 16, 2021

Recap: Strong Towns event fostering discussion across rather than within a vertical and reframing a question to get at the issue

Quick Recap:
  • Multi-level discussion around how to create sustainable communities. Lots of participation from area communities as well as a good representation of State legislators
  • This is a time with the infrastructure bill to help correct some of the imbalance in the liabilities local communities face. Parallel noted to what was done with infrastructure spending coming out of the World War II period to help the economy shift gears from war production to goods production.
  • To fix a problem it maybe important to reframe the question to address the broader issue. An example of this is around congestion. If we consider that "Congestion is a demand to be in a place", then congestion is a good thing, so let's create alternatives to get there. Let's not always use auto transportation as the first approach. Parking is heavily subsidized. Consider walking and biking as more than 'exercise'.
  • A good start to enabling the conversation we need to have. Consider going across rather than always staying in a vertical approach. Need to be aware of issues with being able to utilize the grants and programs coming. The timeline and resource requirements for such may not be enough to utilize them all due to other economic constraints (i.e. supply chain issues).

As with most meetings in this pandemic period, I took my notes via Twitter while I participated in the event at THE BLACK BOX. 
The Twitter hashtag #st1115 can be found online The thread begins with https://twitter.com/FranklinMatters/status/1460255606804201475
Photos from the event can be found in one album:  https://photos.app.goo.gl/T8ZRubvQKEE6Ab5x6
  • Strong Towns event getting underway here at @BLACK_BOXonline with Town Councilor Cobi Frongillo, State Rep Jeff Roy, Congressman Auchincloss and Charles Marohn from Strong Towns #st1115
  • Little note of interest in that in Cobi's prep for running for the open spot last year he found Strong Towns in the bio of Congressman Auchincloss. #st1115
  • Both Cobi and Rep Roy remark on the collaboration among the three levels of government as key to getting things done and particularly here in Franklin #st1115
  • Congressman Auchincloss participating remotely as he needed to be in WDC for the signing of the infrastructure bill later today #st1115  part of the wonders of tech to make this happen with Franklin TV live streaming the event
  • Charles Marohn talks of the choices to build infrastructure in the post WWII era as a way to avoid going back into the depression of the 30's. The parallel is there to what can be done today #st1115
  • We have responsibilities to address the liabilities created at the local level. The macro economy needs to serve the needs of the local leaders. What does it look like? Pipes in the ground; walking, exercise opportunity  #st1115
  • This is a moment where we can connect the macro level to the local leadership #st1115
  • Question: how do we address messaging around what Newton saw where single family housing was proposed to restricted? #st1115 foster a mixed neighborhood and intergenerational existence
  • Lets look at how we can allow folks to remain in their house and to gain additional income to do what they need, i.e. fix their roof #st1115
  • Question: on how to address infrastructure and schooling costs when faced with new development? #st1115 we have lost capacity to address needs at an intermediate step or approach, need to find a way to neighborhood level growth
  • Question: on unfunded mandates, how do we break that cycle? #st1115  infrastructure bill trying to square up with this funding to cover local liabilities. "subject to appropriation" language added to bills to ensure funding
  • Auchincloss advocates looking to find more of education at a national level, special Ed is probably the largest MA local requirement #st1115  a more broad approach could create more equality in the delivery
  • Question: what do you do to include public engagement? #st1115 four step plan mentioned (will add link to more on this later) a humble approach to address issues, cities are a co-creation, not something someone else does
  • Question: from Attleboro resident, how do deal with nodes of congestion; #st1115 how do we connect the rest of the Town to the downtown? "Congestion is a demand to be in a place" or congestion is good, let's create alternatives to get there
  • "No neighborhood should have radical change, nor should any neighborhood be exempt from change" #st1115
  • Question: Rehoboth no public water, a right to farm community, no master plan and rapid growth residentially #st1115 not a sustainable process, protection of farms to avoid turnover, (master plan?)
  • Question: from a MassBike advocate on transportation, how do we move away from an 'alternative' and 3 years out from disabilities act; #st1115 reliability of public transportation we need to make it dependable and resilient
  • To the extent that we subsidize parking is an issue, until we change that we won't make progress; biking and walking is not just exercise, needs to be a policy shift #st1115
  • Question on the grant requirements and capacity of being able to get things done and recognize that it will take time to do, across state and local levels; thought to make it easier to build things? #st1115
  • Let's look to more coordination across the local levels rather than at a grant single focus level. It is a burden #st1115 Brookline Q - can't ink development with MBTA and developers bifurcation between state and local levels
  • Q - how do we deal with an unnamed online retailer who has brought in distribution, warehouses, etc. #st1115 how do we communicate the quality of life associated with it? Need to have the local discussion
  • Q - what about the sustainability of transit? The train station is permanently subsidized, it is not likely sustainable, only bus transportation comes close to sustainable for a node like ours. What about the regional context? Franklin got to be what it is due to problems created in other Boston neighborhoods  that got folks to move out here
  • Thanks around from Rep Roy, etc. #st1115
More about Strong Towns can be found online -> https://www.strongtowns.org/
Cobi Frongillo talked about the Strong Towns four step approach in his interview preparing for the local election in Nov 2021:
A lot of people around me might hear me talk about a group called Strong Towns. I like a lot of what they say, but I particularly like their four-step approach to community leadership. The first step is to humbly observe where people struggle in your community. Second step is figure out the next small thing you can do to fix that struggle. Third is do that thing, do it right away. And the fourth is repeat that process. I do think that that's the strongest approach to public policy.
The full interview audio (and edited text) can be found ->   https://www.franklinmatters.org/2021/09/fm-611-town-council-candidate-cobi.html

Audio recording of meeting to be available in couple of days


Town Councilor Cobi Frongillo, State Rep Jeff Roy, and Charles Marohn from Strong Towns; Congressman Auchincloss attended remotely
Town Councilor Cobi Frongillo, State Rep Jeff Roy, and Charles Marohn from Strong Towns; Congressman Auchincloss attended remotely

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