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Archive for September, 2005

Message #2 to the newly formed RDA

September 26th, 2005 1 comment

The following are some of my thoughts as I consider the impact the RDA can have on the region.

Agreement is not only elusive it is counterproductive to the very nature of our mission. The necessary range of our endeavor can only be achieved through a decentralized network of interests.

Organizing a region is one of the most ambitious human endeavors. Concepts at this scale are at the height of what is to be a Metropolis and why the RDA has formed. Where planning is generally considered a local responsibility municipal fragmentation is inevitable. Ordering the regional system has generally taken one of three approaches; social, environmental, or transportation.

Social plans emanating from a concern for creating a better place to live include Ebenezer Howard’s Garden City concept, and today’s New Urbanism. They establish three fundamental foci: The Urban Boundary, The Rural Boundary and Transit-Oriented Development. (NWI does not have regional example of this approach, However we do have a few scattered developments ranging from the worker villages of Marktown and Sunnyside to more recent developments such as Coffee Creek)

The environmentally structured plans include Olmsted and Eliot’s Boston Regional Plan. These examplify how the juxtaposition of nature to human settlements transcends ideology. Concerns for health, recreation, as well as our watershed, land and forests can overcome socioeconomic divisions. (The Marquette Plan as our first and only regional land use plan is a worthy expression of a Metropolis)

Until recent concerns for the environment, transportation had been the strongest determinant of the regional form, and continuous to be the ruling determinant here in NWI. (Again NWI is looking to transportation)

It is my recommendation, as we build this Metropolis and compete against other regions, that NWI and the RDA along with other regional authorities seed and overlay plans along all three approaches, To be a successful community we must learn to juggle many balls, and not ignore any for the emanance of one. From a land use perspective NWI has suffered from the tyrrany of single – use planning (some may argue the lack of planning). We must now acknowledge that this approach has not done us well. It has not been smart nor sustainable.

Categories: Northwest Indiana

Message #1 to the newly formed RDA

September 26th, 2005 No comments

Today is an apt time to release some of my thoughts about the forming of the RDA. The following is a message I sent on to Tim Sanders, the NWI representative of the Indiana Economic Development Corp. and one of the organizers of the RDA, on September 6, 2005.

Today’s Opinion section of the Times outlined a number of initiatives for the RDA. Although I fully support the economic opportunities these projects represent to the region, I must encourage the RDA to adopt principles of “smart growth” and “sustainable development” to mitigate against any adverse impact. With the ongoing events on the Gulf Coast (due in part to the weakened wetlands system), the mission of the Great Lakes Collaborative in protecting our water supply, and the regional movement to improve the quality of life here in NWI, it is timely that the economic mission of the RDA partner with ecological principles. As we all know our waterways and air are amongst the most polluted in the country. We have the need and the opportunity to reverse the damage. First, in so doing, we have the opportunity to seed an industry of environmental re-mediation, secondly, in so doing, we open the opportunity to feed-up the American economic food chain and attract knowledge based industries and workers to the region. I have an idea, lets get obsessive about cleaning our environment and lets be known throughout the country for this obsession. Chattanooga, Tennessee can serve as a great example, considered America’s dirtiest city in the 1980’s today it is one of America’s greenest.

At present the mission of the RDA is project or action/transportation orientated, as the outline of initiatives show. The RDA, as a natural outgrowth of NIRPC is like NIRPC, and threatens to duplicate NIRPC and past mistakes. With that said NIRPC’s historical role has been in transportation, leaving land use to the municipalities, in reality to industry (In the case of East Chicago and Gary City Planning and building standards are no longer existent). At some point, municipal shortfalls will need to be addressed at the regional level, if we are to maximize economic growth opportunities. The regions lack of history in land use planning and lack of balance between land use and transportation has contributed to the regions lack of quality of life. We lack so much. I encourage the members of the RDA to bring greater emphasis to land use planning and establish a committee addressing Brownfield redevelopment. For further discussion on Brownfield Redevelopment and three case studies see below.

Although I am not a Historical Preservationist I must also encourage the RDA to act responsibly when it comes to the few remaining remnants of our regions heritage. In the right hands these resources offer nodes of development from which to cluster new industries in todays knowledge based economy. These historical references can give location a place, and a marker to time. In our zeal to get something done don’t forgot the value of what was already here. WE DO NOT LIVE IN AN ENVIRONMENT OF SCARCE OPPORTUNITIES AND WE DON’T HAVE TO BEHAVE AS IF WE DO. We need to behave as we want to be, and we will become that. We just need to prove that we are economically rational, that we understand the value of what we have, and that we treat what we have with value.

Next, I would like to raise a tone of caution when it comes to the planned expansion of Gary/Chicago International Airport, I fear the need to aggressively push expansion through will negatively and severely impact East Chicago’s harbor neighborhoods as this does not have to be the case. As presently planned the expansion would negatively impact the only stable middle class neighborhood in the City, a hospital, three elementary schools, and acres of parkland. If I could I would nominate the airport expansion as a candidate for a smart growth initiative, by orienting growth in a much more compatible manner. It appears the planned configuration is a political configuration, and perhaps a product of the petty fiefdoms. The intent seems to be to threaten the desirability of East chicago, and force East Chicago to negotiate from a negative position, to gain back its future economic potential. The only problem is East Chicago leadership does not yet perceive the threat and are not engaging the issue.

Lastly, Lets be vision makers, and lets build upon our identity.

Categories: Northwest Indiana

Katrina: Timeline

September 12th, 2005 No comments

For a good timeline on the events surrounding Hurricane Katrina visit Josh Marshall at Talking Points Memo.

Categories: National