Prove This!

Well Put

If we have to mathematically prove every design parameter in order to change anything, we’re done. Let’s just give up and go home because it won’t happen. There will never be enough proof to convince people who don’t want to change that they should.”

~ Strong Towns’ Charles Marohn in Change the ground rules, then debate

The above piece is part of a larger series of posts about moving communities forward in implementing decisions that may be uncomfortable to some, but otherwise will strengthen and enhance them.

Strong Towns’ discussion is centered around the narrowing of streets (Strong Towns), but it could as easily be said about improving neighborhood parkland, adopting an assertive traffic calming program or pursuing modern roundabouts in our problem intersections and corridors. These are all items Traverse City has on its plate (to name just a few) and are susceptible to the old “paralysis by analysis” adage (Wikipedia).

To break free of that status, we need leadership. Not in the “rah-rah, get behind and follow manner”, but just clear decision-making that is able to see through the B.S. that is often presented as information. We have that in by our Mayor, Chris Bzdok, and, depending on the issue, in some of the other city commissioners. We need more of it.

The best example lately where I’ve seen leadership locally is on the joint recreational authority where they didn’t accept the plan for the South Campus Entrance (twice!) without being convinced that people not in cars would be provided for: they raised the bar and then, worked to help achieve the goal.

One of the closing paragraphs to Marohn’s post is worth quoting:

Do we need every answer before we proceed? No, we don’t. If I’m a city council member, I tell my engineer to build streets to a neighborhood context. I tell my planner to change the codes and get the bureaucracy out of the way so we can start recapturing value in our neighborhoods. And I tell the fire chief to come up with a plan to adapt to the new reality that will be evolving from these other decisions. These people are all professionals. They’ll get it done. And if they don’t, I replace them with people that can. That’s leadership.


  1. JohnRobertWilliams
    March 14, 2011 at 9:39 am

    So many times, it’s been proven the answer(s) are wrong. It is the perspective of the viewer and the goal(s) that must be beyond just the visionary….communal desires and education, along with a collective “eye-opening”, to understand that there can be a better way and not to accept mediocre or worse, as a place to live. From gardening to yardening to urbaning….plan a garden or a yard, lay it out, create it, watch it bloom. Urbaning allows us to conceive, plant the seeds and live-in, get about and experience a much more attractive, functional, beautiful, fruitful, magnetic city. We CAN and WILL do that in Traverse City. We will not fail!

  2. March 14, 2011 at 10:17 am

    Addition: For fear of making the post any longer, I failed to address the conundrum of both needing information & analysis, and not being bogged down with it. I suppose that is another quality of leadership to recognize and value: decisions need to be based on more than “gut” reactions and public opinion, they need facts.

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