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July 26, 2019  

A Left-Wing Wrench and a Right-Wing Hammer

July 26, 2019

At Strong Towns, we’re proud to be building a movement that brings together people from across political divides to make their cities more financially resilient. But we also know that we’re kind of… well, we’re a weird bunch.

Look: we know that when you look beyond the computer screen (or when your Strong Towns local conversation meet up winds down for the night), most of us find ourselves in a world that very rarely allows people of different political beliefs to work together peaceably, even when our values are fundamentally the same. The harshest tones of our partisan political debates threaten to seep into everything, even when the conversation turns to the most seemingly politically neutral topics in city building.

Want to see your city make some serious street design changes to #SlowTheCars? Don’t mention it around your ultra-conservative aunt; she might start a fight about the “nanny state.” Want to see your town build a strong, feedback-responsive affordable housing market instead of plunking down another Pruitt Igoe-style public housing tower? Be careful about posting that on Facebook; your capital-L Liberal uncle will call you out for wanting to deprive the public assistance that your poorest neighbors need right now.

It’s all enough to make you want to pick a team, move somewhere where everyone agrees with you, and live out your life in unchallenged peace. But in a recent column for the New York Times, Thomas L. Friedman argues that we don’t just need to think outside the political boxes we put ourselves in. We need to recognize that those boxes are toolboxes—and if we’re smart, we’ll start borrowing tools from our neighbors a whole lot more.

On this episode of Upzoned, Kea Wilson and John Reuter dig into what it really means to work across partisan lines to build a Strong Town, from what it takes for a politically diverse council to bring rural broadband to an Idaho town to using liberal- and conservative-coded strategies to fix Seattle’s housing crisis. Then in the Downzone, they talk over the (very different) things they’re doing to beat the summer heat: eating artisan frozen desserts (John) and…reading depressing-yet-wonderful novels about Mennonite women (Kea).