Back in June of 2006, I started this blog as a research exercise upon learning that the neighboring cities of Franklin (where I live) and Oak Creek would somehow cooperate on developing 27th Street, which acts as a border between the communities.
That led me to the discovery of a book called THE GEOGRAPHY OF NOWHERE by James Howard Kunstler, a reading experience that utterly changed my view of the world around me.
Haven't read it yet? Take a break and GO ORDER A COPY. I'll wait.
Anyway, attempting to follow the 27th Street drama led to my attendance at many Common Council and Plan Commission meetings, where, combined with my outside reading, I learned "how the sausage is made" in terms of suburban development. I discovered that our suburban built environment will continue to be bleak and uninviting (with precious few exceptions) unless citizens and stakeholders step up and voice their opinions. So very often, bad planning was a result of simply continuing with policies that "worked" in the past, without regard to our present reality or the long term effects of, for instance, making it impossible for kids to walk to school or sporting events.
So my blog became a voice in the suburban wilderness, introducing terms like "walkability" and "smart growth" into the public debate (I think I can take credit for the recent proliferation of the phrase "sea of asphalt" in local media). I began speaking at public meetings -- and, after a period of attracting little more than quizzical stares, I think the economic and social sense of what I was advocating began to take root.
I did my time on the Economic Development Commission; continue to work on connectivity issues while serving on the Trails Committee (including helping to capture a Safe Routes to School Grant); and kept plugging away at the Sprawled Out blog.
Recently, a vacancy appeared on the Franklin Plan Commission, and I threw my name in for consideration. Last night, the Common Council voted unanimously to endorse my nomination, so I am now a Plan Commissioner -- first meeting is tomorrow night.
I'm grateful for the opportunity, and hope to bring something of value to Franklin's overall vision. I also want to use this blog to increase transparency of the planning and development process in Franklin, so you can look forward to seeing, whenever possible, pdfs of the materials Plan Commissioners .have access to for each meeting and decision.