Watch “Liquid Assets”, help raise awareness of Minnesota’s critical infrastructure needs

Along with BluePrint Minnesota, Minnesota APA is working to increase awareness about our State’s infrastructure needs.  They are raising funds to produce a local version of “Liquid Assets”, the trailer for which can be seen above.

The full documentary explores the history and challenges of our water infrastructure, and is a great reminder of the importance of systems we usually take for granted.  So watch the trailer, head over to BluePrint Minnesota and help out if you can.

Climate Climate Initiative and USGBC will help build “Climate Positive” communities

More than half the people on earth now live in cities.  Cities are responsible for 2/3 of global greenhouse gas pollution.  Not content to shoot for a Nobel Peace Prize, like some, the Clinton Foundation, and their Climate Initiative, want to do something proactive.

They’ve announced a program in partnership with USGBC to support development of large urban communities that will be “climate positive”, meaning they will reduce CO2 emissions to below zero.  Some other features:

  • Reuse and recycle water
  • Reuse waste and sewage for energy
  • Prioritize sustainable transportation
  • Use ultra-efficient buildings
  • Make money for the developer and be a benefit to the surrounding community

When these projects are complete, nearly 1 million people will live in climate positive communities (0.015 percent of the earth’s population, in case you were wondering).  Projects in North America include Destiny, Florida, Dockside Green in Victoria, BC, Toronto Waterfront – Lower Don Lands, and Treasure Island Redevelopment Project in San Francisco.  The full list of projects can be found in the press release.

I think I tend to get carried away by grand jestures like this, but I’m really glad that organizations like USGBC are getting organized enough to show people that addressing the climate crisis does NOT mean destroying the economy.

Is it just me, or did APA get scooped here?  USGBC has one rating system related to community development (that is still in pilot) that represents only a tiny fraction of new development while the American Planning Association has been around for over 100 years in some form and has 43,000 members with planners employed in a huge range of cities, towns and private practice.  Are we so mired in the minutiae of day-to-day activity that we can’t take on visionary projects?  Or is it just that APA views itself as an educational and professional certification organization rather than a project participant?  I hope it’s the latter, because since its inception, USGBC has out-hustled APA in media-savviness and headline-grabiness.

Planning Conference ends, thousands of plots to steal your land hatched

Insert joke about planners dancing.

Sorry for the Onion-style headline, I couldn’t resist.  The 2009 American Planning Association conference in Minneapolis has officially come to a close.  4,000-plus planners descended on our city for learning, networking and Target-sponsored debauchery.  The conference seemed well-run and successful, but as any good blogger does, I’ve got gripes, mostly about sessions.  Or, how about instead of gripes, we’ll call them “constructive criticism”:

  • Add a “skill level” rating to session descriptions.  Perhaps this becomes undoable due to the range of disciplines and the variety of session topics, not to mention the question of who decides whether a particular session is “entry-level” versus “medium”, etc.  A few sessions I attended seemed extremely basic.  With so many choices during any particular time period, making the wrong choice was particularly frustrating.
  • Review slides for images and word counts.  This sounds overly simplistic, but I think even rules this simple can make people a lot happier and more engaged.  A 75-minute slideshow without a single photo, not even clipart, is a snoozer, I don’t care how dynamic a speaker you are.  This happened in a session I was in, no joke.  Here are some suggested guidelines: at least 1 graphic or photo every 5 slides and no more than 50 words per slide.  If you need more words than that, write yourself some note cards and don’t use powerpoint.
  • $55 for a lunch?  I heard there were a lot of empty seats.

Now, to be fair, some good things:

  • It didn’t snow.
  • The convention center.  I thought this was a good venue.  Easy to navigate inside, plenty of space, easily accessible to roads and transit.  They could have opened a temporary second Dunn Brothers station in the mornings, but other than that very pleasant.
  • Planners, planners everywhere!  It was great to see people I don’t usually see, connect and hear stories.
  • Motivation.  Planners can be a pessimistic group, but there hearts are generally in the right place.  People care about their communities and they want to solve problems.  It’s nice to be surrounded by these people for five days.

I lose the hashtag race

Looks like I was way beaten to the punch on the hashtag for the 2009 American Planning Association conference. #APA09 is the one everyone is using, and APA itself is twittering (@APA_Planning).  Switching over from now on, since #2009apa has got all of two users (thanks for hanging in there Joe).

Sessions look good today, the lineup looks much more interesting than the very introductory stuff I got out of yesterday’s training workshops.

APA Conference starts this Saturday

The 2009 American Planning Association conference in our burg, Minneapolis.  It’s too late to sign up for mobile workshops, but I’ll be co-moderating Car-free Campus and the Central Corridor LRT on Tuesday morning.

Some other events of note: Opening Reception on Sunday, Humphrey Institute Planner’s Alumni dinner on Monday night (at the Humphrey Institute), and the keynote by Jonathan Alter.