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Your January Useful Community Plus
January 12, 2023

This month: Time to Huddle on the Year's Objectives, Top 15 Pages of 2022

Visit us at the Useful Community Development Website.

The fresh start at New Year's is an excellent time to get your board together without the usual agenda of pressing matters, just to talk about what's really important, the priorities, and how to work together better.

Recently someone challenged me to explain why this is worth the time it takes. There are several answers:

1. Research shows that face time increases the amount we like one another, providing disrespectful interactions can be avoided.

2. Most board meetings are flat, treating every agenda item as almost equally important. In the real world, some topics are several times as important as the other, often trivial stuff on your agenda. A time apart lets you spend the time needed to deal with long-term priorities.

3. Retreats and strategic discussions help people learn to work together for a common objective. Profund conversations build commitment, whereas half-hearted repetitive ones undermine enthusiasm.

4. Often if the environment is relaxed, rather than goal-oriented, new ideas surface, and new questions are raised. Both may lead to better programs and policies. The opportunity to ask questions in an unstructured environment is especially helpful to newcomers to the group.

For tips, see a previous newsletter where we wrote about this. You might still have time to pull something together for a January meeting. (Maybe you can find a room with a fireplace.)

As has become our habit, we wanted to share the 10 most popular pages from our website in 2022. But a funny thing happened: the margin between the 10th place and 15th place was very small, so we decided to give you a helping of lagniappe as our Louisiana friends would say. If you don't speak Cajun, let's just say we are giving you five bonus entries.

From 15th place to 1st place, here you go.

15. Abandoned Buildings

14. Cleaning Up a Neighborhood Park

13. How to Start a Community Development Corporation

12. What Is a Flag Lot?

11. Urban Design Principles

10. Street Lighting

9. Starting a Petition

8. Code Enforcement Officer in Backyard

7. Beautification

6. Code Enforcement

5. Church Zoning

4. How to Oppose a Rezoning

3. Page exploring the Community Planning Process

2. How Far Can the City Go in Forcing Property Owners to Obey Codes?

1. (Drumroll please) Community Development Ideas

Here's the problem: Americans broadly support the concept of producing more affordable housing, but just not near them, as this attitude survey data shows.

We appreciated this podcast on the state of federal rural policy. Incidentally you can find some links on that page to other Brookings Institution work for rural communities, and learn how to sign up for other Brookings podcasts.

The evidence mounts for the positive impact of beautifying vacant lots on public safety.

Those of you interesting in gentrifying urban neighborhoods will appreciate this video of a panel on cultural equity in Washington, DC, sponsored by the National Neighborhood Indicators Partnership. Panelists discuss the impact of what they call cultural equity on preserving small businesses in gentrifying neighborhoods, as well as community power in such neighborhoods.

Lastly, we saw some interesting reading on the largest direct subsidies to private industry from 1991 to the present in the U.S. How about that $6 billion plus to Micron Technology in 2022? Good Jobs First is the go-to resource if you are interested in tracking state and federal economic development subsidies.

We are working hard on revising pages, but in the meantime, we share some new questions from website visitors that we answered.

We made some comments about how to resolve a disagreement about whether reporting property owners to code enforcement is worthwhile. Here's a hint: we don't think people are always doing the best they can.

What to do when a bicycle trail extension must cross a major road

Empty parking lot at a big strip center or power center

City ignoring its own zoning to allow gas station near historical property

Should a business district manager help an individual business?

Feel free to reply with comments. To ask a question, use that public-facing community development questions page on the website. Our next issue will appear on a Thursday in February.

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