One last farewell from Smart Growth America’s President

Below is a final end-of-year letter from Smart Growth America President and CEO Geoff Anderson as he wraps up this year of work and prepares to depart SGA in early 2018. 

It’s Geoff here. They tell me don’t bury the lede so here it goes: I hope you’ll give money to Smart Growth America this year—in fact, right now! You can give online right here and it only takes a moment.

I can make you a promise: this is literally the last time I’m going to write you this letter to ask you to donate. As you may have heard, I am stepping down from my post at SGA in early 2018. I’ve had a great ten years here and with your help, we’ve accomplished an incredible amount together.

Over the last decade, I’ve sought to build SGA into a bigger and better organization that would continue doing powerful work for communities and smarter growth long after I’m gone, and to leave the organization as a whole better off than when I joined it. As I step away, I can say with confidence that this is true. SGA has a fantastic staff that will continue and enlarge the organization’s work but their success depends on you, so please donate today.

Why does your help matter so much?

We mainly find funding to do very specific projects with specific activities. But your donations are flexible dollars that we can use to be entrepreneurial and nimble. These dollars are rare and we depend on your donations to be able to respond rapidly to crises and opportunities.

As I prepare to leave my position, it’s hard not to reflect just a little bit on how far we’ve come together.

I started working on these issues in the 1990s. Do you remember the mid-90s? I do, and the conventional wisdom was that cities were dead or dying—it was really just a question of making sure the last ones out turned off the lights. The idea of creating walkable communities? That was a crazy idea that nobody would want in a world built for cars. What about scores of Fortune 500 companies flocking to downtowns and walkable locations, and the death of the office park? Mixed-income communities? Putting different types of housing near each other or mixing in some commercial uses? Building transit to spur investment? Streets built to be safe for everyone? Using the arts as a way to engage residents in producing smarter growth?

These were all crazy ideas back when I started working on these issues, and making just a small difference felt like a Sisyphean task. Now many of these ideas are not only commonplace and accepted. They have been built and have proven themselves.

We. Have. Come. A. Long. Way. Together. But there’s still more to do.

When I was growing up in Northeast Washington, DC in the 1970s and 1980s, it was hard to imagine getting any investment in the city at all—let alone that a day would come where the city would have a crushing affordable housing problem. That’s now the case in DC and too many other markets. Despite all the positive changes, sprawl certainly still rolls on in many places unabated, chewing up farm and forest land, adding large-lot single family housing to markets already oversaturated with it, and sucking valuable resources out of existing communities to pay for new infrastructure—while existing systems crumble. Deaths of people walking or biking are once again on the rise nationwide and taking a particular toll on the elderly, communities of color, and people without means.

These are intractable problems, until we solve them. The only constant is change: technology changes, the economy changes, and demographics change, creating new challenges, but also new opportunities. That’s why it is so important to have an organization like Smart Growth America around to continue to identify new challenges, find the innovators who are meeting them head-on, spread the word and advocate for policies that help build better lives by building better communities…one block at a time if we must.

I hope you will help SGA continue its mission and grow even stronger by donating today. The organization proves its worth every day with real on-the-ground action. Together, we can do even more in 2018.

Make your tax-deductible donation today.

Thank you and farewell,

Geoffrey Anderson