sam's notes

notes on government, sports and popular culture

Wednesday, January 19, 2005

Wharton hits the nail on the head regarding yesterday's visit from Bush EPA official Geoffrey Anderson:

"What struck me about Anderson's talk was how un-regulatory it was. He started by noting how much smart growth in the US has been locally driven, and is not the result of state or federal mandates."

One other quote from Anderson, that struck a nerve with me:

"It's popular to say evil developers are doing it (contributing to urban sprawl). That's so oversimplified."

Wharton obviously took pretty good notes. I arrived late, walking into the slideshow presentation from the afternoon sunshine. It was dark in there; I couldn't see what the hell I was writing.

My thoughts:

The one place where I thought Anderson was sticking a square peg into a round hole was the relationship between childhood obesity and walking to school. He made his point effectively; he asked everyone who walked to school as a kid to raise their hands, and nearly everyone in the audience responded. Then he asked everyone whose kids walked to school to raise their hands, and one hand went up.

So the solution would be to build new schools closer to neighborhoods on tracts of land smaller than the average 20 acres. With more kids walking to school, they won't get as fat, and school transportation costs will go down.

But here's the problem we have in Guilford County: With the move toward school choice, including an emphasis on on magnet programs, parents are willingly sending their kids to schools outside their neighborhood, necessitating a bus ride or automobile transportation. That was a major cause of the school bus fiasco at the start of the year. So many kids are going to magnet schools several miles from their neighborhood. As we speak, the school system is busily refining its bus hub system to prevent those problems from happening again.

This, in my mind, is an example of how the concept of smart growth conflicts with the realities of many areas. But that said, the presentation on the whole showed that federal regulators have an open mind regarding the realities of this vast country.


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