August 5, 2000 - From the August, 2000 issue

White House Task Force on Livable Communities Celebrates Local Innovation

With the Democratic National Convention in town this week, TPR is pleased to present this excerpt of the Clinton/Gore Administration report, Building Livable Communities, Sustaining Prosperity, Improving Quality of Life, Building a Sense of Community. Unfortunately, we may not hear a lot about the Livable Communities Initiative during this campaign as political analysts have advised that these are not issues that turn swing votes. Yet the substance of this report is certainly news.

Executive Summary

The Building Livable Communities report describes the changes to the American landscape over the past several decades and the current challenges of dealing with unplanned growth, or "sprawl." The report celebrates a "wave of local innovation" as Americans work together to improve the quality of life in their communities and cites several local and state examples of smart growth. The report also defines the appropriate role for the federal government and presents a 30-point package of policy actions and voluntary partnerships-the Livable Communities Initiative-which demonstrates the federal government can be a supportive partner with communities.

A Wave of Local Innovation

Effective responses to the challenges and opportunities posed by sprawl cannot originate from the federal government. They must arise in communities as concerned citizens join in partnership with civic and business leaders. Indeed, a wave of local innovation already is sweeping across America as communities and regions take creative steps to tackle economic, social, environmental, and safety challenges posed by our patterns of development. The report lists several examples of local and state efforts designed to promote sustainable, smart growth.

Communities Know Best

The Livable Communities Initiative is based on the principle that communities know best. Land use decisions have traditionally been--and must remain--the domain of state and local government. Each community should grow according to its own values. The responsibility of the federal government is to assist and inform, not direct. The initiative is based on this and focuses on expanding the choices available to communities to help preserve open spaces and the environment; ease traffic congestion; revitalize our older cities, towns and suburbs; restore a sense of community; promote cooperation among neighboring communities; and ensure sustained prosperity.

Role of Federal Government

The emergence of this "wave of local innovation" raises the question of the appropriate role for the federal government in building livable communities. The Clinton-Gore Administration strongly believes that it's the responsibility of the federal government to support, not direct, such efforts. The Livable Communities Initiative defines four primary roles for the federal government in building livable communities:


• Expanding Community Choices by Providing Incentives. The livability challenges facing communities are as diverse as the communities themselves. Tackling these challenges requires a variety of strategies based on the unique assets and needs of the community. The federal government can support local efforts to address livability issues by expanding the choices available to communities by providing incentives. Examples from the report include the Better America Bonds proposal, expanding alternative transportation choices, increasing brownfields redevelopment, offering regulatory incentives under the Clean Air Act, and creating a task force on urban-influenced agriculture and forestry.

• Expanding Community Choices by Providing Information. Good information contributes to good decisions. Many communities recognize that a lack of quality information impedes the consideration of the full range of choices available to address the challenges they face. The federal government has data, information, and analytical tools that can be useful to communities. This section details ways to make federal information, data, training, and tools more accessible to communities. Examples from the report include publishing community livability guides, providing smart growth and other types of training, and establishing a national, web-based livability resource center.

• Being a Good Neighbor. The federal government manages buildings, lands and its workforce in communities across the country. In these communities, the federal government has an obligation to be a good neighbor and ensure that its actions support-not hinder-community efforts to achieve livability goals. Examples from the report include working closely with communities to catalyze smart development, helping communities adapt to military base closings, encouraging federal workers to use alternative transportation, and seeking legislative approval to lease federal building space to private retail interests.

• Building Partnerships. Partnerships are emerging across issues, sectors and regions as people realize that livable communities policies and practices can foster economic prosperity, environmental quality, and a higher quality of life. The initiative includes 15 partnerships with communities across the country. The Partnership for Regional Livability includes the metropolitan areas surrounding Atlanta, Chicago, Denver, and the San Francisco Bay and is regional in nature. An additional 11 Community Partnerships focus on community-identified issues in the following 11 areas: Brownsville, Texas; Central Kentucky; Eastern North Carolina; Hartford, Connecticut; Los Angeles, California; Omaha, Nebraska; Philadelphia, Pennsylvania; Riverside County, California; Rochester, New York; San Diego, California; and Tioga County, New York.

The Livable Communities Initiative was developed under the leadership of the White House Task Force on Livable Communities. The Task Force was created by the Clinton-Gore Administration in August 1999 to coordinate livable community policies and activities across 18 agencies of the executive branch of the federal government.

The full report can be found


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