Monday, December 30, 2013

Once Again, It’s Time to Reflect and to Plan

With the hours of 2013 rapidly dwindling, this post was to be about my urbanist resolutions for the New Year.  So I began by dividing my goals into two stacks, urbanist and personal, a task that seemed logical to me at the time.

And then Brent Toderian illuminated the error in my thinking.  Toderian, a city planner who I’ve often referenced here, makes a sound and incontestable argument that the personal and the urbanist needn’t be separate.  Instead, a great many self-improvement tasks can also strengthen one’s city.

If you have time to read only one blog post about New Year’s resolutions, read Toderian’s.   He writes with a measured good sense and astute insight to which I can only aspire.

If you’ve finished Toderian’s resolutions and are still willing to spend a few minutes on my less profound thoughts, here they are:

Write better: I have an old high school friend who writes eloquently about his wife’s potentially fatal illness.  He digs deep and finds gems of wisdom to share about the emotional travails that both of them experienced.  I often congratulate him on his words, describing my efforts as “stolid and pedantic” in comparison.

 There is humorous self-deprecation in that description, but there is also a soupcon of truth.  I’m working to improve the emotional content and persuasiveness of my words, an effort that will continue.

Become more willing to speak out: Given the publishing schedule of this blog, you’d think that speaking out isn’t a problem for me.  But there are times when the spoken word carries far more weight than the written word.

Perhaps my greatest regret of 2013 is not speaking on behalf of extending the Petaluma road diet further south.  I don’t think my public comments would have made a difference, but would have been better than silence.  I’ll do better in 2014.

Study more: At CNU 21, Andres Duany highlighted the wealth of good writing being done about urbanism.  I need to set aside more time to delve into the growing wealth of insight and analysis.  If anyone is looking for a reading list, Brent Toderian (there he is again!) recently wrote of the top 100 books on city planning that he’d read.

Dig deeper: My resolution for 2013 was to embrace being an urban generalist.  I think I met that goal.  But sometimes it’s feels like I skitter between subjects like a water bug.  I don’t know what the subjects will be, but in 2014 I’ll find an urbanist subject or two in which to dig more deeply.

Find ways to motivate more folks: I’m pleased by the participation in Petaluma Urban Chat.  It’s been a benefit that I didn’t expect when I began this blog.  But there is still room for more participation, both in attendance at Urban Chat and in Urban Chat folks making their leanings known at city halls throughout the North Bay.  My task will be to help foment that growth.

Travel smarter: Every year, I take a trip after which I realize that I was close to an urbanist destination that I should have visited.  One needn’t spend time at a public plaza or town center to write about it, but the visceral feel of shoes on urban sidewalks adds emotional weight.  For 2014, I’ll spend more time on advance research, so I don’t miss something I’ll later regret.

Make a difference: Reading the jubilation in Santa Rosa about a pending street widening project is a reminder that there are many minds yet to be educated about the truths of walkable urbanism.  It’s not a destination that will be reached in 2014, but I’ll do my part to ensure that urbanism makes progress in the coming year.

Those are my thoughts.  You’re encouraged to supplement below.

As always, your questions or comments will be appreciated.  Please comment below or email me.  And thanks for reading. - Dave Alden (

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