Born into the world as part of an overlooked and cynical generation, I've worked to overcome media narratives and self-important Baby Boomers for 48 years. That, and I've done a fair amount of work as an urban designer, architect, planner, form-based coder, redeveloper and wanna-be musician. I'm grateful for the few people per week that seem to enjoy this blog, and I wrote a book called "Why I Walk" in 2014 that sold nearly a few dozen copies. In 2010, I abandoned my Midwestern roots to live in beautiful Savannah, GA, and recently completed a four-year stint as Executive Director of the Savannah Development and Renewal Authority. In 2019, we again relocated back to Kansas City. Though late to the game, I am now happily in the family-formation period of life, hoping to educate my children on how to save civilization from Millennials.
If you are interested in more depth on my professional bio, you can find it here.
Since so much is written about the ten cities that every planner fetishizes in the US, this site will largely focus elsewhere. That's not to say I won't talk about Portland or New York or San Francisco. It's that I'm more interested in how we improve the other 19,000+ cities and towns across the US. If that's not relevant enough for you, you can read literally any other urban planning website.
With all of my efforts, I look for ways to use urban design and development to make people's lives healthier, wealthier and happier. That may sound lofty and even a little granola (as we Gen X'ers used to say), but if that's not the point of our efforts, what is?
Daniel Burnham is famous for saying,
"Make no little plans - they have no magic to stir men’s blood"
But on the next page of the Plan of Chicago, he also said this,
"It should be understood, however, that such radical changes as are proposed herein cannot possibly be realized immediately. Indeed, the aim has been to anticipate the needs of the future as well as to provide for the necessities of the present; in short, to direct the development of the city towards an end that must seem ideal, but is practical."
Too often in the world of urban design, architecture and planning we forget to balance those two critical elements - the yin and yang of place-making: idealistic visions and practical realities; the human need for big plans and dreams and the individual's need to be able to contribute with small actions. One cannot exist without the other.
At times my remarks can get a little wordy. Life is full of nuance, and I think it's important to explore the nuance. As a result, most of my thoughts don’t fit neatly into a 500 word essay. Simple, declarative statements of right and wrong rub me the wrong way. As HL Mencken once said,
For every complex problem, there is an answer that is clear, simple and wrong.
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"Get off this, get on with it
If you wanna change the world
Shut your mouth and start this minute"
Cracker, Get off this