Shared Values Are Always Sustainable

Sarah Newstok
Coalition for Livable Communities

Representing a diverse group of local stakeholders, the Coalition for Livable Communities (CLC) supports the development and redevelopment of healthy, vibrant, and economically sustainable communities throughout the greater Memphis region. We do this by educating residents, building a shared vision of livable communities, and promoting public policy to further that vision. The CLC has five core values: Balanced Development, Shared Benefits & Costs, Access & Choice, Community Input & Collaboration, and Environmental Protection. If embraced when making development decisions, these values would go a long way toward creating a livable Memphis. What exactly do we mean by “livable?” A Livable Memphis would be home to great neighborhoods that offer residents efficient, effective, and (hopefully) pleasant ways to accomplish their daily needs—getting to and from work, school, play; access to and options for housing, work, food, education, services, and recreation. A Livable Memphis looks at the entire region as a community. The needs of one neighborhood cannot be sacrificed for another. Livability won’t just happen. It needs to be planned. (The alternative is haphazard development that drains resources from existing neighborhoods: e.g. sprawl.) The City of Memphis and Shelby County have the ability to design our region for livability. The Sustainable Shelby initiative, under the leadership of Mayor AC Wharton, does exactly that. Great neighborhoods, environmental protection and localized economic development are on the horizon through this new plan, which is aligned with the values of the CLC. Mayor Wharton convened more than 100 local leaders to catalog issues facing Shelby County. In doing so, he boldly stated that our “present course is unsustainable on the basis of public finances, environment and land use, disposable neighborhoods, deteriorating health, and declining quality of life.” Committees of citizens and experts tackled major issues and outlined recommendations for the Sustainable Shelby staff. These recommendations are currently being translated into real implementation strategies for moving toward the vision that this collaborative group created. (Clearly the CLC value of community input and collaboration was embraced.) As the process nears public release, the CLC is excited for another tool for promoting healthy growth in the Memphis region. The theme of Great Neighborhoods is an overriding priority of the agenda. A commitment to reviewing the social impacts of development decisions recognizes the importance of access and choice. Sustainable Shelby promotes smart planning and balanced development. Revitalization of commercial corridors and public realm investments encourages the redevelopment of adjacent existing communities. Sustainable Shelby addresses the need for all County residents to equitably share both economic benefits and costs of development. Sustainability benchmarks will become a measure to assess projects that will receive incentives from public sources. Locally owned businesses may find assistance easier to come by, especially when they can stimulate neighborhood-centric opportunities. From parks to water quality, environmental protection is on the Sustainable Shelby agenda. Highlighting the relationship between reduced resource consumption and economic savings, Portland economist and Sustainable Shelby presenter Joe Cortright calculated that by decreasing their average daily drive by 1.6 miles, Memphians could “generate $260 million in annual savings that could stimulate the local economy.” Simple recycling measures and sophisticated energy consumption audits could create a green ethos throughout the community—and save money! The CLC supports Sustainable Shelby’s commitment to building public awareness and offering opportunity for continued collaboration. A Green Center and Office of Sustainability would further embed sustainable practices among local governments, private industry, and the community at large. Sustainable Shelby’s ability to succeed is strengthened by its promise of balanced development, equitable distribution of costs and benefits, and providing access and choice to community members—all under the umbrella of environmental protection. And, CLC members may have been given a resource to promote with pride and enthusiasm. CLC Values: Balanced Development: Growth should be planned and managed in a way that balances both private and public interests. Future growth must address the entire community’s need for economic development and healthy, diverse neighborhoods. Shared Benefits & Costs: All Shelby County residents must share in the economic benefits of growth, as well as its costs. Public expenditures (tax dollars) should be spread equitably among both new and existing neighborhoods. Access & Choice: All residents deserve equal access to jobs, schools, shopping, transportation and neighborhood facilities. Citizens also must have choices in housing type and location, as well as multiple transportation options. Community Input & Collaboration: All residents should have a voice in how the community is developed. Venues for effective citizen input should be well-publicized, timely, and accessible. Environmental Protection: Open space, natural habitats, and landscapes must be protected and preserved for the benefits of citizens and the greater community.