First off, I am grateful to have Strong Towns podcasts during all of this time at home. I get tired of national politics discussions, and I think the one thing that is clear about Strong Towns is that focusing attention at a local level can lead to more resilient places. Relying on grants (free puppies), state or federal funding, or outside investors removes the sense of ownership for cities, particularly in small towns. This is what made this episode so discouraging. I have no idea if these issues are the chicken or the egg in the fragile system we are experiencing.
I have no idea what is the first step is in supporting local businesses and by support, I do not necessarily just mean spending more money at local businesses. An example they discussed in the podcast was the directional signs we all recognize before interstate exits that give the direction and distance to corporate restaurants, gas stations, and hotels. These corporations have a vested interest in the built environment we have gotten used to.
As always, I am bothered by the same chains that make up our suburbs, but Strong Towns provided the connection that showed this is part of a bigger problem. As the podcast mentioned, some local businesses have bought in to the car-centric approach themselves and would prefer wider roads, more parking, etc.
This has turned into more of a rant, but where do we start? The change has to start somewhere, and it will probably not be popular or comfortable. And even more, politicians don't want to have these conversations. We see this at the national level, too.
I will try to spend more money at local businesses even if a bit more expensive. I am encouraged that my generation is generally turned off by corporate chains.
I will also try to advocate against growth for the sake of growth. I imagine it is appealing (and politically safe) for cities to approve new projects that are quick generators of money and provide jobs (albeit low wage ones).
In general, it seems that many people want a vibrant downtown with local businesses, but I'm not sure people realize that supporting people and businesses that prioritize convenience is counterproductive for walkable, economically-productive downtowns. I am glad conversations are taking place beyond Strong Towns, but I think considering the economic impacts of the coronavirus, people will lean in more to the cheap and easy route.
Anyway, the podcast can be found at the link below.
Edit: And my downzone is I have been rewatching Malcolm in the Middle. I am sure there is a Strong Towns component in there.