Maryland Gov. Parris Glendening wants the federal government to take a more active role in the burgeoning "smart growth" movement. Speaking before a packed house at the National Press Club in Washington, DC Thursday (2/1) Glendening said, "Smart Growth must be more than a nationwide movement in the states, it must become a national movement with the federal government as an active partner."
Glendening, a two term Democrat, made his mark as an advocate of the land use, economic development and transportation policies that are generally lumped under the "smart growth" rubric. Speaking at a conference sponsored by Governing magazine he said that just as states have directed public spending to discourage sprawl, the federal government could do the same. He called for federal courthouses, office buildings and post offices to be built in established neighborhoods.
"How many times have we seen a brand new post office located on the outskirts of town? Think about what that means," he said. "Citizens, especially seniors, can no longer walk to the post office disrupting a social routine that in some cases had been in place for generations."
Glendening asserted that federal programs such as low interest GI loans that encouraged home ownership after World War II and the Interstate highway system built in the '50's and '60's had the unintended consequences of encouraging sprawl.
Even now, he noted, federal highway spending favors roads over public transit by an "unacceptable" 80-20 ratio.
Glendening pointed to small business loans that could be targeted to businesses located in existing communities, as another example of a federal program that has the potential to encourage smart growth.
He said that if governments cannot move fast enough to accommodate growing distaste for worsening traffic congestion and polluted air, frustrated citizens would take the initiative and push Draconian solutions that would inhibit economic development. He pointed to two such "extreme" initiatives that were on the ballot in Colorado and Arizona. Both were defeated last November.
Ticking off various approaches to control growth that are occurring in Utah, Oregon, Georgia, New Jersey and Minnesota, Glendening noted, "there is no right way or wrong way to pursue the goal of smart growth." He said that broad support among the nation's governor including Minnesota Independent Jesse Ventura, made the idea not just bipartisan but "tripartisan".
As he spoke New Hampshire Governor Jeanne Shaheen announced an initiative in her state called "GrowSmart, NH. " Her program would take many of the steps advocated by smart growth advocates such as redevelopment of so-called brownfields and grants to regional planning agencies to encourage better land use practices.