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Suburban Conversion

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  • Robert Hines
    I ve been thinking about property tax reform a lot and its place on dismantling the suburban establishment. There are a lot of ideas on how existing suburbs
    Message 1 of 11 , Feb 5, 2002
      I've been thinking about property tax reform a lot and its place on
      dismantling the suburban establishment. There are a lot of ideas on how
      existing suburbs could be converted but I believe property tax is the
      first step to take.

      Upping the taxes on gas so that it covers the negative influence on our
      environment is a step to take eventually but then suburbanites would
      still be living in the suburbs and municipalities will have to provide
      more inefficient public transportation to carry them downtown and back
      unless the taxes would be raised so high that it would force people to
      move closer to efficient transit. Does anyone know what a litre of gas
      would cost if the taxes reflected its negative impact?

      Metrics would outlaw most homes in the suburbs and many in the city but
      it could work after we harness sprawl by making people pay for the
      benefits of open space, personal transportation, false sense of
      security, and a lackluster social life. But it would be chaos to impose
      this organized idea on paradigm which is the complete opposite.

      Money definitely talks in this profit margin world, people do not and
      will not pay for an expensive place to live and if they decide to, they
      will pay accordingly. I wholeheartedly support property tax reform but
      at the same time if these laws were adopted people would react in
      protest; these reforms would effect millions of people where it hurts
      the most, their pocketbook. They will argue that they will have to live
      in crime filled streets in the city, that it is their right to live in
      the suburbs, and that they will have to protect their children &
      families. These suburbanites have massive numbers, voting power, and
      money to spend on legal fees to protect their kingdom. How are planners
      and advocates going to deal with this?

      I'm all for a suburban relocation program, counselling would have to be
      provided free of charge of course.
    • Simon Baddeley
      Too often even the bereaved don t blame the car. They persist in thinking of what has happened as a tragic accident . This is a piece I have just written
      Message 2 of 11 , Feb 5, 2002
        Too often even the bereaved don't blame the car. They persist in thinking of
        what has happened as a tragic "accident".

        This is a piece I have just written about our "Royal Society for the
        Prevention of Accidents" - RoSPA - which works with the car industry and
        perpetuates the idea of the "accident" and blames the victims of the car
        rather than the car and its drivers.

        The word "accident" contains a presumption. Shortly after the Selby crash,
        long before the guilty verdict on the driver who caused it, the Bishop of
        Doncaster, said "Accidents are part of life. Tragically, accidents occur.
        And when they do occur I think we simply all have to be here, you know,
        pulling together and working with the people involved." He was seeking to
        convey a spirit of conciliation amid grief, but his words didn't feel right
        at the time and certainly not to a jury.

        "Accident" fixes a meaning which, in the case of death on the roads, is
        under pressure. I sat in a meeting a few weeks ago with the Attorney
        General, Peter Goldsmith, and the Solicitor General, Harriet Harman, as a
        two parent RoadPeace lobby asked gently but firmly why the courts are still
        delivering penalties for speeding way below the statutory limits. You can
        never quite gauge how seriously you are being taken at these events.
        Conversation is circumspect. The rationale for the meeting is that it is
        being held. What I noticed in the hour we were together was that neither
        politician nor the civil servants once used the word "accident". The concept
        and what it denotes are as real as ever, but in the case of deaths on the
        roads the great and the good are becoming cautious about the word
        "accident". Its use is becoming infrequent, and its growing conditionality
        may create difficulties for individuals and organisations who still believe
        they rely on an agreed and stable concept.

        The Royal Society for the Prevention of Accidents (RoSPA) - whose mission
        and name enshrine the word "accident" - is fixed in the amber of an
        abandoned view of causality. The growing extraction of the word "accident"
        in discourse on road safety must be troubling to an institution with that
        word so prominent a part of its name and mind-set.

        RoSPA believe in accidents where more and more can see fault and
        liability.They see solutions in technical fixes, where others note the need
        for a change in attitudes to mobility, liability and duty to others.

        RoSPA tends, in the case of roads, to respond to symptoms instead of
        strategic sources of danger. Like doctors when they say "we must treat this
        symptomatically because we are at a loss to know from what you are
        suffering", RoSPA see as a series of separate and distinct events what
        others with no less scientific an approach recognise as epidemic.

        I wrote to RoSPA's patron, HM The Queen, about this, thinking, after the
        failure of other attempts to get into any sort of dialogue with RoSPA, that
        this would be a way to get a letter (or even a leaflet) answering my
        reproaches about their unwillingness to acknowledge road speed as a major
        public health problem causing widespread collateral damage across
        populations. The Palace responded politely thanking me for my letter and
        saying my observations and questions would be forwarded to RoSPA. RoSPA did
        not reply.

        Perhaps they are institutionally incapable of seeing what stares most of us
        in the face. Go back a century or so and you can imagine the position RoSPA
        might take in relation to waterborne disease. Faced with the statistics of
        infant mortality amongst the populations of our cities, RoSPA would be
        concentrating on the habits of the poor. I suspect that they would have been
        unable to get excited about the "excessive vision" of damming lakes in Wales
        and piping clean water over a 100 miles via a massive sanitation
        infrastructure that would pipe away foul water to unprecedently large sewage
        works. Their reflexive institutional focus is on the behaviour of victims
        and their personal hygiene.

        Such myopia had it been applied to waterborne disease would have made RoSPA
        a natural ally of those opposing so massive a public works programme as
        would be required to bring clean water to Birmingham (or less toxic forms of
        mobility to the whole UK).There were after all public voices claiming 19th
        century child mortality could be put down to the fecklessness of the poor.
        (see Asa Briggs' account in his histories of Birmingham for examples of
        fervent opposition mounted against plans to bring clean water to Birmingham
        and other industrial cities).

        If you looked at the sudden downward slopes in the child mortality rate
        graphs after the sewers and supply systems were completed you see that, by
        their attitude, people who took such "victim-blaming" stances were failing
        to ally themselves with - even directly opposing - one of the most dramatic
        improvements in quality of life of any public works programme in the last
        150 years.

        The Road Danger Reduction Forum, which split from those allied to RoSPA on
        these grounds, includes - formally and informally - all those
        individuals and groups committed to promoting a new agenda for road safety.
        It aims to reduce road danger at source, promoting equity and accessibility
        for non-motorised road users. Taming motorised traffic is not on RoSPA's

        It will claim deep concern about lives lost or damaged on the roads, but it
        does not - as an institution - recognise the notion of road danger as a
        public health problem causing blight and tragedy in the same way as did
        waterborne disease over a century ago. It does not recognise the
        impact of auto-dependency on air quality, noise pollution, community
        severance, urban sprawl, the distance between producers and consumers,
        energy waste and personal health, especially children's.

        This inability to respond to the pathological impact of our travel habits
        will be noted by historians of our times, but it would be so exciting
        if they could add a final paragraph attesting to the courage of people
        within RoSPA who caused it to make a major shift in strategy at the start of
        a new century.

        Simon Baddeley
        34 Beaudesert Road
        Birmingham B20 3TG
        0121 554 9794
        07775 655842

        ----- Original Message -----
        From: "Louis-Luc" <exqmtl@...>
        To: <carfree_cities@yahoogroups.com>
        Sent: Tuesday, February 05, 2002 1:00 AM
        Subject: RE: [carfree_cities] Re: Carfree and Free Minded
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