Why Towns Can Work Even When Washington Doesn’t

The Case for a Strong Town Council

“The good news, which my wife and I have been surprised by as we’ve traveled in smaller-town America these past few months,” writes James Fallows in this month’s Atlantic, “is that once you look away from the national level, the American style of self-government can seem practical-minded, nonideological, future-oriented, and capable of compromise. These are of course the very traits we seem to have lost in our national politics.”

Read the whole article for fascinating case studies of how two different down-on-their-heels municipalities — Greenville, SC, and Burlington, VT — managed, against the odds, to turn themselves around:

“Study groups come from cities around the world to analyze how Greenville has brought an assortment of restaurants, national and local retail outlets, high-end hotels, bars, theaters, in-town residences, public art, and riverfront pathways to what had been a boarded-up crime- and drug-ridden area.”

“Burlington Mayor Bernie Sanders pushed to create a “land trust,” a kind of permanent endowment for low-cost housing in the city. His economic-development agency concentrated not on recruiting big outside employers—maybe the clearest contrast with Greenville—but on “helping the small businesses we had grow.” Many have: Seventh Generation is a major supplier of natural and “green” cleaning and personal-care products; NRG sells wind-turbine instruments around the world; Burton is a leading snowboard and recreation company. Sanders started after-school programs that are now popular at all the city’s schools…”

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