Local Leaders Council talks smart growth implementation at 2013 New Partners for Smart Growth conference

Members of the Local Leaders Council and Smart Growth America staff. Top row, from left: Bill Fulton, Mayor Madeline Rogero, Mayor John Engen, Mayor Ken Moore, County Board Member Chris Zimmerman, Vice-Mayor Anu Natarajan and Jessica Holmberg. Bottom row, from left: Neha Bhatt, Councilmember Dave Richins, Mayor Rick Danner, and Mayor Scott Avedesian.

Smart Growth America’s Local Leaders Council was in Kansas City last week to collaborate, learn, and present solutions at the 12th annual New Partners for Smart Growth conference.

Over 1,100 people convened in Kansas City for the conference, including city planners, elected officials, bloggers, community leaders, health experts, and business people. Attendees traded ideas and stories, presented questions and solutions, and found new allies.

Fifteen members of the Local Leaders Council’s Advisory Board took part in the conference, networking with dozens of fellow elected leaders from around the country and sharing their expertise in smart growth implementation. Their message was straightforward: smart growth strategies work. They require patience and public participation, but these strategies can move communities in the direction of greater economic stability and better quality of life. Here is a glimpse of some of the compelling dialogue that took place over the three days.

Mayor Danner (Greer, SC), Mayor Stodola (Little Rock, AR), and Mayor Pro Tem and Councilmember Gonzalez (Houston, TX) speaking at the conference.

As a former police officer and homicide detective, I know first hand the public safety implications of the built environment. We need more complete neighborhoods and eyes on the street for safety. — Mayor Pro-Tem Gonzalez (Houston, TX)

People said there was no point in putting sidewalks around their properties – they don’t link up anywhere. Well, they are starting to link up now. It’s a marathon, not a sprint. — Mayor Danner (Greer, SC)

You’ve got to have the will to grow. You’ve got to understand the history of your community. You have to show the public you are making changes, and that these changes are good for the community. — Mayor Hsueh (West Windsor, NJ)

Building political base for smart growth is also about engaging elected officials at state and federal levels and people on editorial boards. — Mayor Strickland (Tacoma, WA)

“Bus has to be part of your strategy if you’re trying to create a walkable community that does all the things we aim for in smart growth.” — County Board Member Zimmerman (Arlington, County)

“We have to help people envision what being greener and more sustainable means, what it looks like and why it matters” — Mayor Rogero (Knoxville, TN)

Mayor Strickland (Tacoma, WA), Vice Mayor Natarajan (Fremont, CA), and County Commissioner Eckman (Auburn, AL) at one of the conference’s panel discussions.

Politicians who do not travel to other places, miss out on possibilities for their own community. — County Councilmember Eckman (Auburn, AL)

We didn’t use “smart growth” verbiage; we talked about what was good for our community, and we have made progress. — Mayor Randleman (Carlisle, IA)

Naysayers make you sharpen your knives. — Mayor Mallory (Cincinnati, OH)

After years of chipping away, my anti-planning mayor is now talking about the need for better planning policies. — Vice Mayor Natarajan (Fremont, CA)

Creating more choices – that’s what smart growth is about; it’s no more complicated than that. — Councilmember Richins (Mesa, AZ)

One of the things that concerns me is we are not prepared to support people with transit options. Going forward we have to have a multi-modal approach to solve problems such as gridlock. — Mayor Moore (Franklin, TN)

Turning a smart growth vision into reality is not always easy, but it is important work. Public demand is stronger than ever for vibrant main streets, walkable downtowns and neighborhoods with more transportation and housing choices. — Mayor Avedisian (Warwick, RI)

When you have groups opposing each other, get them face to face, get coffee. Walls will start to come down. — Mayor McKinney (Kalamazoo, MI)

Once you get away from the politics and get down to the basic goals communities have, there is more agreement than not of what makes for a strong and sustainable community. — Mayor Engen (Missoula, MT)

Local Leaders Council