Category: Local Leaders Council

Deputy Mayor Lesa Heebner is helping people stop, sit, and shop in Solana Beach, CA

Solana Beach, CASolana Beach, CA’s Cedros Avenue Design District. Photo via the Solana Beach Chamber of Commerce.

Solana Beach, CA is not your average beach town. By combining smart street design and placemaking strategies, the city is creating economic growth and drawing residents and visitors downtown.

“A sense of community really comes from the people, but can be promoted by the place. That’s why we are trying to create places in our downtown area,” says Lesa Heebner, the Deputy Mayor of Solana Beach and a member of Smart Growth America’s Local Leaders Council. Solana Beach is the second smallest city in the region, but that does not mean it lacks flavor. “We’re aiming to create quality locations that serve our residents and where visitors are welcome,” Heebner adds.

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Local leaders discuss engagement and regionalism at Leadership Academy for Sustainable Communities

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Cable car tracks in San Francisco, CA. Image by Prayitno, via Flickr.

Last week in Oakland, CA, Smart Growth America’s Local Leaders Council hosted a special track for local elected and appointed officials during the Leadership Academy for Sustainable Communities. Organized by the Institute for Sustainable Communities and sponsored by the US Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD), the three-day workshop emphasized implementation strategies for recently completed regional sustainability plans. One dozen communities sent teams to the event, including local leaders seeking to help their communities achieve the visions outlined in their sustainability plans.

The Local Leaders Council–hosted track focused on developing an effective policy agenda that supports regional vision, building coalitions and partnerships to help move that vision forward, and talking publically about sustainability and infrastructure issues in ways that highlight local priorities. One of the primary takeaways was the need for a big-tent approach.

“Establishing a relationship with everybody, no matter what side of the aisle they’re on, is an important step in the process,” said Commissioner Yousef Rabhi of Washtenaw County, MI. Leaders in the room agreed that working toward a joint regional vision requires going beyond partisan thinking and keeping focused on positive, relatable economic and quality-of-life goals.

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Commissioner Conan Smith aims to improve opportunities for all residents in Washtenaw County, MI

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Downtown Ann Arbor in Washtenaw County, MI. Photo by the Michigan Municipal League, via Flickr.

Washtenaw County, MI is located immediately west of the Detroit metropolitan area, with a population of just over 350,000 residents. A former manufacturing region, the county currently houses several major institutions that are playing a growing role in shaping the region’s economy and development patterns. The seat of Washtenaw County, Ann Arbor, MI, is home to the University of Michigan, which employs more than 30,000 people and has contributed to the growth of a vibrant, walkable business and entertainment district in Ann Arbor’s downtown. The county also houses Eastern Michigan University, Washtenaw Community College, and a major U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs medical center.

While Washtenaw County has seen significant job growth over the past several years—a recent economic forecasting study estimates that between 2009 and 2016 the region will have gained 31,147 additional jobs—economic inequality is a growing challenge for the community. County Commissioner Conan Smith, a member of Smart Growth America’s Local Leaders Council, is working to address this issue by promoting economic development strategies that provide all county residents with greater access to opportunities.

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Council Member Vi Lyles on expanding transportation options in Charlotte, NC

lynx-light-railA planned expansion of the Blue Line on Charlotte’s LYNX light rail system will connect the center city to the NoDA art district and University of North Carolina Charlotte Campus. Photo by Reconnecting America, via flickr.

Charlotte is the largest city in the state of North Carolina, with a metropolitan area population of 2.3 million as of 2013. Over the last half century Charlotte’s economy grew primarily around the financial sector, and as the home of Bank of America’s headquarters, the former headquarters of Wachovia, and a host of Fortune 500 companies the city was the  second largest banking hub in the country when the economic recession hit in 2008. In recent years leaders in Charlotte have worked to make the city’s economy more resilient by cultivating and expanding other industries, particularly energy, logistics, defense and healthcare.

In line with these efforts, there is a growing movement among many city leaders to provide a high quality of life in Charlotte’s unique and diverse neighborhoods, which radiate out from the historic center city, in order to attract and retain new businesses and residents and promote Charlotte as a great place to live, work and play. At-Large City Council Member Vi Lyles, a member of Smart Growth America’s Local Leaders Council, is working to provide these neighborhoods with a greater variety of transportation options to help foster a sense of community and connection to the city among residents. “We are focusing on making Charlotte a place where people want to be. To do that, we have to provide those people with choices,” says Council Member Lyles.

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Supervisor Sandy Ballard aims to build on the history of “The Sweetest Place on Earth”

7633359228_be2e8253e8_kHershey, PA. Photo by Jon Dawson via Flickr.

In the early 1900s, Milton Hershey had a plan for a chocolate factory. Using proceeds from the sale of his caramel company, Hershey bought land for the factory in central Pennsylvania’s Derry Township, near his birthplace. What would follow, however, was much more than just a factory. Based on Hershey’s vision, Hershey, PA grew to include schools, shops, a theater, a stadium, and even the Hershey Amusement Park, which was originally intended for the recreational use of employees and their families. The indelible imprint that Hershey left on Derry Township can be seen in everything from the Milton Hershey School, which continues to educate underprivileged children, to the Penn State Milton S. Hershey Medical Center, founded after Hershey’s death through an endowment of his trust, to the Hershey’s Kiss–shaped street lights that adorn downtown Chocolate Avenue.

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Councilmember Julie Palakovitch Carr on building around transit in Rockville, MD

Rockville Town SquareRockville Town Square in Rockville, MD. Photo by Dan Reed via flickr.

Located just outside Washington, DC to the northwest, suburban Rockville, MD is one of the largest municipalities in Maryland with a population just over 63,000. Rockville serves as the county seat of Montgomery County—the largest county in Maryland by population, with over 1 million residents.

Rockville’s Councilmember Julie Palakovich Carr, a member of the Maryland Chapter of Smart Growth America’s Local Leaders Council, is working to use transit access to help make Rockville a place with a unique identity and a strong sense of community. “Being a suburb of Washington, DC, we are struggling with traffic congestion and other issues that come with rapid growth and redevelopment,” she says. “A lot of it is just managing those things in a way that we are maintaining a good quality of life with nice neighborhoods where people can enjoy open space and parkland, while trying to envision a future where people may be using their cars less and people will be walking more and able to ride their bikes.”

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Capital Ideas conference will discuss innovative transportation funding legislation, Nov. 13-14 in Denver, CO

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As Congress has repeatedly postponed tough decisions on federal transportation funding, a handful of states have stepped up and passed new transportation funding legislation. In early 2015, a host of new state legislators and governors will be sworn in—and in many state capitols, transportation will be on the front burner.

Transportation advocates and legislators are invited to Capital Ideas: Raising Money for Transportation Through Innovative State Legislation on November 13-14, 2014 in Denver, CO. This two-day conference hosted by Transportation for America will explore new ways to raise money for transportation projects.

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Council Member Cindy Pool helps Ellisville, MO reimagine a suburban highway

ellisville-mdAn architect’s rendering of proposed changes to Manchester Road, which runs through Ballwin, Ellisville, and Wildwood, MO. Photo via MODOT.

Ellisville, MO has a chance to turn a busy and dangerous roadway into a community asset for economic investment, and Council Member Cindy Pool, a member of Smart Growth America’s Local Leaders Council, is helping the city do just that.

Located 18 miles directly west of St. Louis, Ellisville is a suburban community of about 9,100 residents. “The people are what makes this town so special,” says Council Member Pool. “Our residents are educated, involved, and have developed a real sense of community because we are so small.”

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