Bad Data = Hidden Taxes

Chris Steins's picture
Paul FarmerAmerican Planning AssociationExecutive Director Paul Farmer testifies before the House Government Reform Subcommittee on Federalism and The Census that public investment based on unreliable data and analysis may constitute a hidden tax in the form of higher costs for infrastructure.

Farmer's compelling testimony (PDF, 150KB) is based on his role as CEO of the APA, as well as his work with several cities across the U.S. Interestinly, his testimony is full of references to GIS:

Good data are the hidden backbone of sophisticated Geographic Information System and scenario planning software that allows citizens to literally see the potential impacts of public policy decisions involving land use, development regulations, redevelopment options, zoning, and infrastructure investments. These technologies have proven effective at engaging people in decisions about the future of their neighborhood and community. However, it is important to realize that the technology and the process are only as good as the underlying data.

He also specifically calls out the Envision Utah and Chicago Metropolis 2020 projects as good examples of how sophisticated technical analysis results in better cities:

Two recent award-winning projects - Envision Utah and Chicago Metropolis 2020 - have used technical modeling, based on local data, to help stakeholders plan for where and how they live... As part of Envision Utah, Quality Growth Demonstration Projects have taken place in three sub-regions where 21 cities in the Wasatch region are working together to plan for their regions. After collecting baseline inventory using some of the state's technical tools and analysis of public input, Envision Utah developed alternative growth scenarios showing possible development patterns that could result if various growth strategies are implemented during the next 20 to 50 years. An extensive analysis of each scenario was conducted to determine and demonstrate the relative costs and impacts of each strategy on population, infrastructure costs, air quality, water, open space and recreation, preservation, traffic congestion, affordable housing, business patterns and other significant topics. Extensive public input was gathered leading to the adoption of a new regional growth plan.

It's fabulous to see APA so actively engaging in the technology issue. The APA's Information Technology Division (disclaimer: I was chair until this year) has been a big proponent of technology to support planning for the last couple years, and this is a sign that the use of technology has become a mainstream branch of planning.

Credit: Thanks to Milton Ospina for the link to this testimony.
Chris Steins is co-founder and co-editor-in-chief of Planetizen.


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