Working for Smart Growth:
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New Jersey Future Hosts National Gathering

November 16th, 2016 by

gmla1Representatives from more than a dozen state and regional smart growth organizations from around the country gathered in Newark, N.J., for their annual meeting, which was hosted by New Jersey Future. Their group, known as Smart Growth America’s State and Regional Caucus (formerly the Growth Management Leadership Alliance), is a peer-to-peer network of organizations focused on community problem-solving through the lens of land use. New Jersey Future Executive Director Peter Kasabach and Greenbelt Alliance Executive Director Jeremy Madsen co-chair the caucus and also serve on the board of Smart Growth America.

Each year one of the member organizations hosts the two-day caucus gathering. This year, New Jersey Future and the city of Newark welcomed attendees. New Jersey Future Deputy Executive Director Teri Jover, and Marianne Jann, the organization’s manager of office and budget, organized a very productive and memorable experience. Events included a professionally facilitated peer-to-peer sharing session; a practitioner and funder dialogue about infrastructure, housing and transportation and the importance of embedding social and economic equity within this work; and a conversation about the implications of the national election. Participants were also given insights into a key issue in New Jersey through a panel discussion focused on the Jersey Water Works collaborative, and a taste of Newark via a walking tour of downtown Newark and the Ironbound community, lodging at the new Indigo Hotel (in an adaptively re-used bank building), spectacular views from the Newark Club and an authentic Brazilian meal.

It was exciting to hear that significant progress is being made in other states to advance policies that promote economic development and community revitalization through smarter growth. For example, in a number of states and metropolitan areas, initiatives were passed that will fund more mixed-income housing opportunities and transit infrastructure, while other states were able to align infrastructure spending to advance redevelopment and smart-growth objectives. While New Jersey’s state-level policies have not kept up with others, we have adapted by breaking new ground in building strong collaboratives for change and facilitating positive transformations at the local level. Meeting participants were especially inquisitive about the current New Jersey governor’s efforts to weaken affordable housing, transit and environmental programs, dismantle key state government functions and not pursue a strategic planning policy for the state’s future, since this executive approach may be mirrored nationally by the president-elect.

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