Rethinking Investment, Remaking Success

17 Jan

The news that the Governor’s proposed budget is “roughly in balance” confirms our tentative assessment that the Golden State has truly turned a corner and is on its way to a real economic recovery. Without going off the deep-end into a spending-frenzy, now is the time to plan for the not-so-distant day when the state and cities have extra revenue that can be tapped to rebuild our communities.  In this month’s newsletter we highlight some inklings and foreshadowing of the creativity that can help us remake our communities into the places we deserve.

Now is the time to think about what a truly sustainable economic development strategy might look like.  We might start by defining success not by the amount of sales or property tax generated or by the level of real estate development we can spur, but by the number of enduring middle class jobs we can create in growth sectors.  We might define success by the number of entrepreneurs and innovators that choose to start and grow their businesses in our communities.  We might define success by the percentage of families that pay less than a third of their income for housing in safe, healthful communities.

Now is the time not to plan for building more road capacity for cars, but to plan for investing in the public infrastructure, transit, pedestrian and bicycle improvements that can help us create more compact, walkable and livable communities.  We might define success by how many different ways a resident can easily access jobs, services, parks, healthy food and educational resources.

Now is the time to plan not just for how to achieve compliance with environmental laws, but how to leverage investments for multiple benefits like stormwater management, open space, distributed energy and recreational opportunities.  We might define success by the percentage of children who breathe clean air and live within a 10 minute walk to a park. We might define success by falling rates of obesity, asthma, diabetes and heart disease.

And to help us do this well, we must strive to use the amazing and seemingly-daily advancements in information and communications technology to do our planning and investing in transparent ways that truly engage and inform the public.  We should expect nothing less in a place where dreams are made real and where innovation is rampant.

Sincerely yours,

Cecilia V. Estolano | Jennifer LeSar | Katherine A. Perez-Estolano

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