HBT “On The Issues” Series

Over the years, HB Tomorrow has faced many issues from across our community, and our positions on them have been informed by views likewise from across our community. In our new series, HBT On The Issues, we want to let you know where we have come out.

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We Want Your Opinion:

One issues HBT’s Board has not resolved is what emphasis our city should have toward families with small children. A fascinating article about demographic changes facing suburban cities appeared in City Journal recently. Key quote:

“Even in the most affluent cities, the dearth of families reinforces public policies incompatible with children, argues the Austrian demographer Wolfgang Lutz. For example, fewer middle-class families means less political pressure to reform education or support for tougher law enforcement.”

HBT has not formulated a position on this issue yet. One Board member (yours truly) observes a tension between the possibility of selling school sites to raise revenue when we have just increased funding for more yoga instructors at our sparkling new senior center, and after our Council has balked at removing toxic chemicals from where our kids play because of the modest costs involved. The thought of selling school grounds to develop potentially more density follows the dubious trend of such decaying cities as Chicago, San Francisco, and Seattle. Our city would lose ability to attract families for a generation, perhaps indefinitely, unless we make a pointed effort to be a city for families and not just for retirees and the “creative class.”

Other voices on HBT’s Board point out that we do need more housing of all types, and the school closings are the decisions of the school districts, not Council. Moreover, in the Franklin Park school site, the school closed in 1992, but the park was preserved and 51 new single family homes were built for families — perhaps a positive example of “creative destruction”?

I saw an internet discussion between two communists recently, one against single family homes, the other arguing that while density is to be preferred, people are getting crushed by the limits on the housing stock so whatever we can build just build it toot sweet. A refreshing acknowledgement of economic reality to be sure, but if the Lutz thesis is correct, a city cannot just be a cafeteria of land uses: high-rise apartments, mini mansions, tract homes, mixed use, whatever floats a developer’s boat. It doesn’t work because each of those uses presupposes a certain ordering of other values that are going to clash with one another. A city has to have an ethos.

Have an opinion? Tell us!

You can find some of our first installments to our series at these links:

Bookmark the entire series here, where you can find our positions on more issues.

-Tim Kowal

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