In the News

Another View: Speaker will offer insights into suburbs

SacBee OpEd | Oct 18, 2013

In a special op-ed for the Sacramento Bee, former Folsom city manager and city attorney Martha Lofgren highlights the value of suburbs and calls for intelligent dialogue on plans for regional economic vitality.

By Martha Lofgren – Special to The Bee

The Sacramento Metro Chamber of Commerce and Sacramento County will co-host the annual “State of Sacramento County,” a November event that was the focus of a recent column by Stuart Leavenworth (“Sacramento County offers a platform to skewed scholar of suburbs,” Oct. 13). This year, leadership from both organizations decided to provide another perspective on housing choice, which is why Joel Kotkin was invited to speak.

The “State of the County” event, along with the other events hosted by the Metro Chamber throughout the year, is designed to bring a perspective to business and civic leaders that will stimulate dialogue and inform decision-making. No doubt Kotkin will achieve this goal.

Kotkin theorizes that significant population growth will occur in the United States over the next 50 years. As supporters of Next Economy, a regional blueprint for economic vitality, our civic leaders aspire to attract and maintain economic growth in the Capital region. Residential and business growth go hand in hand. Not all of this growth can be accommodated in the urban core. From that perspective, I commend the county’s leadership for helping to bring Kotkin’s perspective to our community, so that we can learn about responsible options for a vital and – to use Kotkin’s phrase – “aspirational” region.

On a personal note, I devoted 12 years of my professional career to helping build one suburb: the city of Folsom. I’m proud of Folsom’s achievements. With that personal history, I am looking forward to Kotkin’s remarks. I’m also interested in Kotkin’s perspective because I’m a “new urbanist,” having recently moved from Folsom to midtown Sacramento. I live in a compact town home in a mixed-use neighborhood.

On the positive side, I no longer contend with Highway 50 traffic. We can walk or bike to a variety of eating establishments, art galleries and boutique-style stores. We enjoy urban living, with one exception. Venture out at night and the ambiance changes. Midtown street lights are rare, the homeless population presents a challenge, and petty property crime is common. For me, the pros of urban living may ultimately outweigh the cons. But I’ve found that it’s far more complex than simply talking about “walkable communities” and mixed-use development.

Thought-provoking speakers like Kotkin call attention to important issues and provide insights worth debating. Let’s highlight what is great about the suburbs while we discuss and plan what needs to be done to encourage sustained investment in downtown Sacramento. Responsible growth and economic development throughout the region will benefit us all.
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