Monday, September 25, 2017

Regionalism and Sprawl

I am constantly adding to my collection of dirty words. These are the motherhood and apple pie virtues that I used to think were non-controversial. Virtues like tolerance and compromise and civility all have come under attack from conservatives. What I thought made American democracy great is being dismantled virtuous brick by virtuous brick. Liberals can play this game, too. Self-described "libtard" Jim Schutze of the Dallas Observer adds "regionalism" to the list of dirty words. Schutze equates regionalism with sprawl. Sprawl is bad, so regionalism must be too.
the leadership of [Dallas] is so evenly divided between the old-school champions of sprawl, which they call regionalism, and the new-school champions of cityhood.
During the old establishment's 20-year war for [the Trinity Tollroad], the main justification for it was that it would promote regionalism. By offering regionalism as a selling point, the old guard betrayed its utter unawareness that people on the other side of the paradigm think regionalism is the problem. And there you have it.
Source: Jim Schutze.

In Schutze's telling, the enlightened opponents of the Trinity Tollroad finally prevailed, defeating the evil forces of regionalism and promoting something he calls cityhood. Schutze sees this victory as having the potential to spread across Texas. And this is where schizophrenia creeps into his thinking. Not the psychiatric diagnosis (or at least that's not for me to call). I'm using the informal definition of schizophrenia as a state characterized by the coexistence of contradictory or incompatible elements.
It looks to me more like a bunch of people scattered around in cities all over Texas are more or less simultaneously realizing that they have a shared interest in resisting the forces of sprawl, social distrust and climate vandalism.
A very new, still nascent effort is underway in Texas to stitch together a new urban alliance based on these questions, and so far it's a product of cooperation more than competition.
Source: Jim Schutze.
In Schutze's mind, regionalism is bad but "a new urban alliance" is good. A product of cooperation, not competition. Schutze's thinking is muddled. From my viewpoint in a thriving urban setting north of Dallas, regionalism has *always* been about cooperation, not competition.

Richardson is a city in its own right, not a suburb. There are many places in the City of Dallas that are as suburban in form and thought as any place in Richardson. Richardson has all the same issues with sprawl everywhere else has. Its own cityhood is threatened by these issues, too. Regionalism isn't the cause of sprawl. Regionalism is needed to deal with sprawl: cooperation, not competition.

Richardson backs mass transit over car-centric highways. Support for DART and the Cotton Belt line comes from Richardson. Richardson residents don't want Central Expressway widened through Richardson for the benefit of Allen and Dallas residents. One lonely voice (yours truly) called for tearing out Central Expressway in Richardson back in 2011, when the first voices in Dallas began calling for ripping up I-345 in downtown Dallas.

What are the issues facing Richardson? As it turns out, they are the same issues Angela Hunt sees facing Dallas, issues that Schutze sees as well:
Former Dallas City Council member Angela Hunt says that the recent defeat of the Trinity toll road, a project she fought for a decade, has given her an opportunity to pause and look forward. "I have been thinking a lot about this since the Trinity toll road was killed last month," she says. "What are the issues that we need to focus on as a city? Here are the three that have come to mind as critical for the next 50 years to our really creating a 21st century city: improving our schools, creating affordable housing across the city and creating mobility options that don’t focus on massive highways to the suburbs."
Source: Jim Schutze.
The irony of all this is that if Jim Schutze looked, he would find supporters of the new urban alliance that he seeks in the cities all over the north Texas region. He just needs to quit competing with them and start cooperating with them.

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