Just spent 4 action-packed days (have you ever tried to keep up with Dan Burden?) touring the Pacific Northwest with Dan, Paul Zykofsky, a very patient charter bus driver, and 40 +/- townmaking fanatics. Our assemblage came from as far away as New Zealand and Taiwan, from small towns and large cities, and from disciplines including planning, engineering, transportation, software design, elected officials, public health, bike advocates, and lots more. We toured communities in Washington state and in British Columbia, meeting local luminaries along the way.
Last year California was one of the states targeted by libertarians in the post-Kelo environment for an initiative that, if successful, would essentially outlaw takings. The country is still at near-fever pitch about eminent domain, but the really scary aspect of the legislation (modeled on Oregon's Prop 37) was that it would have virtually tied local governments' hands with regard to regulatory takings as well. In California Proposition 90 failed to pass after the New York developer who was financing the campaign stopped funding it. However, the Yes campaign had created some strange bedfellows, with poor African-Americans in particular advocating Yes votes as a way to end the destruction of their neighborhoods through badly managed redevelopment initiatives.
The number of farmers’ markets has grown dramatically in the US over the past few years. The number increased by seven percent from 2005-2006 on top of the incredible 79 percent increase from 1994 to 2002. People love the festive atmosphere, the ability to meet the people who grow their food and the connection to the earth this experience provides, and the quality and freshness of the produce. Many patrons value local farmers’ markets as a means of lessening their impact on the earth by allowing them to eat more locally.
Yet in some places, farmers are abandoning the markets. They cite a number of reasons, including:
In the short story The Ones Who Walk Away From Omelas, Ursula LeGuin depicts a utopia that is made possible by the transference of all misery to a child who is kept in a cellar. Some in the community ignore the scapegoat’s existence, choosing the easy life of bliss that is offered to them. Those whose consciences do not allow them to live in willful ignorance often chose to leave Omelas and live complete, full lives that include awareness, and shouldering their own pain.
The built environment is a significant contributor to community health – a fact that researchers, planners, public health practitioners, and advocates around the country are becoming increasingly aware of. We know, for example, that people who live in more “walkable” communities are in fact more likely to walk. Research has demonstrated that living near a grocery store increases consumption of fresh fruits and vegetables. Children who live near freeways may suffer from respiratory problems for the rest of their lives. These facts should be particularly important in shaping land use decisions as we face rising costs from the obesity epidemic and other chronic diseases.
This leaves public health advocates wondering just how best to dig into the world of planning.
Every five to seven years, Congress votes to reauthorize one of the largest and most significant legislative measures affecting land use policies in the U.S - the Farm Bill. This year, Congress will debate the omnibus legislation that defines not only America’s agricultural policy, but determines funding priorities for rural development, food and nutrition assistance, energy and environmental issues.
The impact of the urban grocery store gap, particularly on low-income communities, has been well documented. The presence of full-service grocery store can raise the economic value of surrounding property, serve as an anchor in commercial districts, provide an important source of jobs, and lower the daily cost of living for residents. In an era of skyrocketing obesity rates, public health research shows a strong correlation between the presence of a grocery store and the consumption of fruits and vegetables.