Ithaca’s 27-Year-Old Mayor Gets Localism – Washington Post

From Washington Post February 27, 2015

The future of urbanism according to the 27-year-old mayor of Ithaca

http://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/govbeat/wp/2015/02/27/th

Svante Myrick is 27, but he’s going into his fourth year as the mayor of Ithaca, a city whose prosperity defies the woes blanketing the rest of upstate New York. (Jeff Guo/Washington Post)
Svante Myrick is 27, but he’s going into his fourth year as the mayor of Ithaca, a city whose prosperity defies the woes blanketing the rest of upstate New York. (Jeff Guo/Washington Post)

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Highlights

Myrick has a millennial’s vision of city life: walkable and dense. (Thursday, he sported a black Jawbone fitness tracker.) He believes that environmentalism implies urbanism and vice versa. As mayor he oversaw rezoning efforts to attract more and higher development downtown. He takes the bus often and regards parking lots as a blight.

Our generation is flooding back into cities. They realize they’d rather walk to work. How many people do you know who are eager to live in a suburb? They want to be close to the coffee shop, close to the office. They want to live around the corner from the new Ethiopian restaurant.

Here’s why I think this is a permanent shift. I think what we went through over the last 50 years was the temporary shift.

Part of it was we changed zoning. We did what [New York City] mayor Bill de Blasio is talking about now in New York City, which is incentive-based smart growth — dense zoning to allow for taller building in the core. We let them build taller. You can eliminate the minimum parking requirements, which is something we did in downtown and Collegetown.

Our funding models at the local level are 100 years old, or older. And they’re out of date. It was just property taxes, which made sense 100 years ago because if you owned the general store in Ithaca, N.Y., you lived in Ithaca, N.Y. You lived on the other side of town, you would tax where the store was and where you lived, and between those two, you’d pay for your impact on the social compact.

Now you can own Wal-Marts in every community in the country, take all of that wealth and bring it back to one community in Arkansas.

Now how are we going to repave all the roads that lead to Wal-Mart? How are we going to protect the roads leading to and from Walmart with the police department, with the fire department, when really all the wealth that’s generated there isn’t in the community?

And then what are you going to do when Lowe’s pops up next to it, and McDonalds, and one after another? The wealth that’s being generated is being siphoned up out and over into someplace else.

Then to make it even worse, with the advent of highways and automobiles, it’s now easier than ever to live just outside the city in the suburbs, in a lower tax district.

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