Scholarship offer for ‘Strong Towns’ workshop

The City Wire Editorial

The Applied Sustainability Center at the University of Arkansas is offering such an intriguing workshop that The City Wire and Potts & Company have partnered to provide scholarships to 10 elected officials and top paid employees from the city of Fort Smith and Sebastian County government. And we’re dang serious about the offer.

We’ll also offer transportation if necessary.

“Strong Towns” is a concept founded and promoted by Chuck Marohn. His work is focused on helping city’s improve their budgets, budgeting process, bolster local tax bases, reduce taxpayer burdens, promote economic diversity and help community leaders “plan for long-term viability.” The official title of the workshop is, “Strong Towns: The Intersection of Land Use, Transportation, and Financial Resilience.”

Michele Halsell, managing director of the UA Applied Sustainability Center, is excited about having Marohn in Fayetteville on April 3 for the “Strong Towns” workshop. She said several cities around the state are sending “teams” in an effort to better capture the info and take it back to their respective areas. The University of Central Arkansas’ Center for Community and Economic Development is also a sponsor.

As of Feb. 10, no persons from the Fort Smith area had signed up. Again, The City Wire and Potts & Company have partnered to provide scholarships to the first 10 elected officials and top paid employees from the city of Fort Smith and Sebastian County government who contact us. (And we will pay for anyone already registered who qualifies for our scholarship and transportation offer.)

In the statement announcing the workshop, Halsell noted: “This workshop is geared toward city planners, mayors, city financial directors, city council representatives, public works directors and economic development professionals. It is an opportunity to learn from one of the best in the field about ways to grow and strengthen your community in a way that is sustaining.”

One of those attending is Travis Stephens, CEO of the Clarksville-Johnson County Chamber of Commerce and a former Fort Smith City Director candidate.

“I try to go to anything like this, to see what the new trends are, to see the new practices and the new strategies. It’s continuous learning more than anything else, and to find out what other communities are doing successfully,” Stephens explained.

Marohn’s push for a strong town follows five basic tenets.
1. The town or local government must be near-term financially solvent.

2. The town or local government must have the tax base and resources to cover long-term financial commitments. Under this point, Marohn’s questions include: Have the public investments that have been made in your town's infrastructure resulted in private-sector investments that can financially sustain the maintenance of that infrastructure? Is your town reliant on government transfer payments or extreme amounts of debt to pay for maintenance of basic infrastructure systems? Does your town have a capital improvements plan that accounts for the maintenance and replacement of all infrastructure systems?

Good questions.

3. The town or local government must have sufficient age diversity so that population will be added at a rate greater than population is being lost.

4. The town or local government must have sufficient economic diversity and vibrancy so that businesses are added at a rate greater than or equal to the rate they are lost.

5. The town or local government must have the courage and leadership to plan for long-term viability. Marohn’s questions under this point include: Does your town have a long-term plan for success? Do the leaders in your community understand that plan and embrace it? Are short-term decisions made through the prism of the long-term viability of the community? Are the members of the town engaged in a broad and comprehensive way in the planning of the community?

The UA press released also offered this as an explainer as to what Marohn promotes: “Marohn and Strong Towns staff members promote an understanding of the costs associated with community growth. In their view, the current approach to growth emphasizes investments in new infrastructure, has caused economic stagnation and decline and left America’s towns dependent on public subsidies. The Strong Town approach focuses on obtaining a higher return on existing infrastructure, tax base and resources to cover long-term financial commitments.”

Admission to this three-hour workshop in Fayetteville on April 3 is $25. Again, The City Wire and Potts & Company have partnered to provide scholarships to the first 10 elected officials and top paid employees from the city of Fort Smith and Sebastian County government who want to take advantage of the offer. We’ll also offer transportation if necessary.

We’ll be happy to help the first 10 who contact us from either the city of Fort Smith and Sebastian County government. To contact us, e-mail admin@thecitywire.com, and put STRONG TOWNS in the subject line. (The process will be that the first 10 qualifying city or county employees then handle their own registration, and we will reimburse those who show proof of registration and proof of attendance.)

We look forward to the workshop and supporting the attendance of local government officials.

Comments