More on Gov. Spitzer's smart growth cabinet

As we mentioned earlier this week, Gov. Spitzer in New York created a new smart growth cabinet via an executive order that will attempt to coordinate all state agencies’ spending and policies into a coherent vision for growth and development in the state.

Regional Plan Association’s Bob Yaro, which has been working for years behind the scenes to secure such an outcome, wrote about this exciting development in their latest issue of Spotlight on the Region. [Scroll down on the main site and click on “in this issue” – we’ll update this link once they get a permalink up]

New York’s status in the national smart growth debate may be about to change. This week, Governor Spitzer announced the formation of a Smart Growth Cabinet that would elevate land use development as a state priority and coordinate the actions of state agencies in support of a center-oriented agenda. The action is significant for two reasons.

First, it fulfills a campaign pledge of the Governor to instill smart growth principles into agency plans and investments, which reaffirms his commitment to carefully balancing economic development and environmental goals.

Second, it attempts to align this agenda with an economic development strategy that promotes job growth in underperforming cities, towns and villages. Other states have struggled with shaking the image of smart growth as a cloak for environmentalists with an anti-development agenda. This new initiative from the Empire State could help inject energy into a movement that is showing signs of age.

While this decision will certainly inject energy into the movement, it is important to distinguish the current smart growth movement with the arthritic “growth management” movement of old, which was little more than a faith that top-down state planning could accomplish something. Those who have been leading this next generation have expressly rejected that notion, and have sought to make systemic change at every level the goal, albeit a tough one.

Today, that movement for systemic change is maturing, which is not the same as showing signs of age. With concerns over energy, climate, aging, sustainability all coming to the forefront, we’re entering a period of unparalleled relevance. Kudos to New Yorkers, Gov. Spitzer, and RPA for capitalizing on that relevance to sow the seeds of change.