Inside the Mind of the Anti-Planner

Next American City chats with Randal O'Toole -- the "Anti-Planner" -- about the problems of planning and what makes the ideal city.
October 28, 2008, 7am PDT | Nate Berg
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Next American City: "What's our ideal city? You're always the critic, but if you didn't have to be, if everyone listened to Randal O'Toole and followed your prescriptions, what would that look like?"

Randal O'Toole: "To start with, I worked for 15 years for environmental groups, so I was identified as an environmentalist, and then I've worked for the last 15 years for libertarian groups and I'm identified as a libertarian. But the truth is I'm a pragmatist. I want things that work fine. And, you know, spending millions of dollars and getting very little result and return is not something that work.

[ ]So, I'm a pragmatist. I don't a vision of what a city should look like, I have a vision of a process that allows people to live in the kind of city they want to live in. There's a significant amount of people that want to live in a city like Manhattan or San Francisco. And there's a significant amount of people who want to live in a city like Houston. And what I want is a process that allows people to live in whatever kind of city they do want to live in. I think that if a process were implemented that basically allows property owners to do what they want with their property as long as they're not directly harming other people, and basically allows people to decide how they're going to get around based on the real cost of transportation – making sure that auto drivers pay the full cost of their travel and making sure that people who ride transit pay the cost of they're transit, with, perhaps, subsidies for low-income people who need help – if they have that kind of system I think most American cities would look a little more like Houston and Omaha then San Francisco or New York. But we'd still have dense areas – we'd still have Manhattan, we'd still have downtown San Francisco, for the people who want to live in places like that."

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Published on Monday, October 27, 2008 in Next American City
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