New York Governor creates smart growth cabinet

“New York’s economy and environment are inextricably linked. Quite simply, smart growth is smart business. As our economy and population grow, it is vital that we ensure the development of vibrant, livable communities.” – Gov. Eliot Spitzer (NY)

State governments have a crucial role to play in determining the course chosen for handling growth and development. In many states, decisions are made piecemeal, with each individual state agency making decisions as if there are no repercussions or connections with the work of other agencies.

A new highway gets proposed by transportation folks, opening up new land that the environmental or agriculture agency has been working to preserve for growing crops. Or a new building is constructed outside of the town core for the state health department office, putting it out of reach from the poor or elderly, resulting in more transportation cost via new bus and shuttle service to get them there.

States can either enable or prevent communities that want to plan and invest for a more livable future. And the leadership of the Governor can set the rules for how the state will cooperate to make sure that their money is funding projects — in all departments and agencies — that advance a more sustainable future.

So it’s encouraging to read about New York Governor Eliot Spitzer — who has praised smart growth in the past as a market-driven success — creating a new Smart Growth Cabinet last Tuesday. The office will review “state agency spending and policies to determine how best to discourage sprawl and promote smart land use practices.”

Gov. Spitzer is the latest in a line of Governors who are embracing the power that the state has in subsidizing sprawl, or enabling a “smarter” alternative that will allow us to remain mobile and productive long into the future.

Whether it’s Gov. Rell in Connecticut, Gov. Baldacci in Maine, Gov. O’Malley in Maryland, or Gov. Bill Richardson in New Mexico, Governors all over the country are stepping forward in leadership to try something better than the haphazard piecemeal approach of the past.

Congratulations to SGA coalition member Regional Plan Association (and others), who have been working so hard for years now behind the scenes to lay the groundwork for such an outcome.

Read more about Spitzer’s executive order from the Tri-State Transportation Campaign.