Fourth of July in Carlisle, IA. Photo by the Carlisle Chamber of Commerce.
This post was originally published on The Tomorrow Plan Exchange, a community forum for discussing, sharing ideas, and imagining a more sustainable tomorrow for Greater Des Moines. The post was authored by Ruth Randleman, the Mayor of Carlisle, IA, a member of The Tomorrow Plan’s Steering Committee and an Advisory Board member of Smart Growth America’s Local Leaders Council.
As a member of The Tomorrow Plan Steering Committee, and as a mayor of a metropolitan area community that is addressing the issues required to move a community forward, I hope to add a perspective from an “on the ground” and “in the trenches” view on the often misunderstood and overused terms of “smart growth” and “sustainability.”
Having participated in a primary election for State Representative as a conservative Republican, I have been involved in many discussions around sustainability and smart growth. The perceived differences in the intended outcomes of these concepts seem extreme, and the information is often interpreted by political ideology rather than practical application. There is nothing intrinsically “liberal” or “conservative” about smart growth. Advocating for more efficient development patterns and expanding the range of available housing and transportation options while reducing the cost of government are things both sides of the political spectrum can and should agree on.
As a conservative, my ideology supports using taxpayer money more effectively, allowing the market to respond to current demands, and being a good steward of our natural resources. In fact, much of the country’s suburban development is not a product of the “free market” but instead of heavy-handed government policies and costly subsidies. Much of contemporary suburbia is a product of strict controls on individual property rights, strong government regulations, and a lack of fiscal responsibility, all lying in conflict with many core conservative principles. Conservatives should be at the forefront in creating prosperous, livable, and fiscally responsible communities by using principles that create more efficient and, yes, sustainable patterns of growth.
Sustainability means the capacity to endure and to leave a healthy environment for future generations. At the heart of community planning also lies the right that our citizens have to participate in the future of their community. The Tomorrow Plan has encouraged public participation and incorporated much of that input into the plan itself resulting in a citizen driven effort. This effort will guide our elected leaders, in partnership with their citizens, into the future.