How Smarth Growth Can Save Growth

By Tom Angotti

I saw Lewis Mumford the other day. He was the beneficiary of a technological revolution in embalming (how ironic, he so distrusted technological revolutions). He said he heard all the chatter about Smart Growth and Growth Control and thought he was being summoned. He said he expected that some day the world would come around to his ideas but never thought it would happen before the fifth Millenium or the Apocolypse, whichever came first.

Well, I too have been listening to the Smart Growth planners, the Smart Growth Vice-President and the Smart Growth legislators. But it seems to me that Smart Growth is a smart-ass way to protect Growth. And Mumford came too soon.

It takes a banker in a limousine over two hours to get from downtown Chicago to the urban fringe. So he thinks it’s time to Get Smart. So the Smart banker is investing in all those empty pockets of potential real estate value in the CBD and the emerging “Edge Cities.” That makes the banker happy. For the banker it’s infill time, it’s Enterprise Zone time, time to “regenerate the inner city.” Right on Rockefeller!

The Smart Traffic Engineer says it’s time to get all those cars out of the way of the limousines. So he’s giving us Smart Highways. These roads have as many brains as the Smart Politicians who fall for the idea that electronics can beat the laws of physics. All the Smart Highways are supposed to do is tell people where the short cuts are so they can get out of the way of the limousines. In truth, they produce Traffic Growth, and that’s what makes them Smart.

The Smart Landlord wants to have Smart Tenants, so he needs Smart Buildings in order to get them. Smart Buildings will last until the next technological revolution or the end of the mortgage term, whichever comes first. They produce Capital Growth for investors, and that’s what makes them Smart.

It’s smart to be Smart. It’s Smart Time in the USA and may the doltish doubters of Growth mire in their ignorance! Let there be Smart Foods, Smart Watches, Smart Cars, Smart Gardens and Smart Sweethearts! Who wants to be Dumb anyway?


Mayor Rudolph Giuliani declared a new war on homeless people. Using the indignation whipped up when an unknown man threw a brick at a midtown office worker, the Commander-in-Chief of the NYPD solemnly declared that no one has a right to be homeless. “Streets do not exist in civilized societies for the purpose of people sleeping there,” he said. It ain’t in the Constitution! The police admitted there was no evidence that the perp was homeless, but that didn’t stop Rudy. From now on homeless people, he said, would be locked up if they refused to go to a shelter.

This follows a Giuliani mandate that every able-bodied person in a shelter has to work to pay for the roof over their heads. So at the Giuliani labor camps, the slackers won’t be able to go back to the streets without facing arrest. And the street sleepers will face arrest. In sum, homelessness will become de facto an illegal human condition.

Only a day after the Mayor’s dictate, a Police spokesperson was anxiously “clarifying” the mayoral dictate, saying there would be no crackdown on the homeless. The NYPD, not usually known for its advocacy of civil liberties, chose to back away from a confrontation with homeless advocates. While the Mayor likes to present himself as a moderate Republican and friend of the Police, he’s placed himself to the right of his own law enforcement agency.

What our Big Apple Despot didn’t mention is that while there’s no explicit constitutional protection for people who sleep on the street, there’s no ban, either in law or the Constitution, against homelessness. The American Dream is supposed to be a goal, not an obligation of citizenship.

And just because something’s not in the Constitution doesn’t mean it shouldn’t be. Like a right to housing. A right to housing is a right not to be homeless. At the second United Nations Conference on Human Settlements (Habitat II) the U.S. was one of a handful of opponents to a resolution declaring housing to be a human right. Fearful that Americans would have the nerve to claim their right to housing in a court of law, the U.S.balked at adopting the declaration, however empty it may have been, that other governments throughout the world had no problem with. Says something about the political culture in the U.S., which thrives on blaming victims and scapegoating poor people. It’s no wonder that every time Giuliani bullies poor people, the press cowers, his suburban constituency (he’s going to be running for the Senate) gloats, and the commuters that don’t like looking at homeless people feel better.

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