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Fodor, Eben. Better Not Bigger: How To Take Control of Urban Growth and Improve Your Community. Gabriola Island, B.C.: New Society Publishers, 1999 (175 pp.). Fodor is a long-time activist in the growth battles that have take place in Portland, Oregon, one of the few cities in America that has enacted policies like Urban Growth Boundaries. This book stems from his research into the costs and consequences of the growth machine, which, he maintains, controls many city halls, city councils, and other decision-making bodies. His argument is straight-forward: Americans have been sold a bill of goods by the growth machine (developers, real estate groups, construction industry, chambers of commerce), that growth for cities is both inevitable and good. He points out, first of all, that there is nothing which mandates that communities have to grow to remain successful; in other words, a city that remained at a certain population and size could continue to fulfill all of the needs of its citizens and provide for a sound quality of life. It is developers, he maintains, who preach that cities must grow or die. Most of the book, however, is spent calculating the costs of growth and then providing tactics for not only controlling but stopping growth. The growth industry will often argue that more people will provide additional taxes for schools, roads, and other services, but Fodor shows in dozens of community studies how extra homes and businesses end up costing tax payers more. Much of the book centers on these actual costs for services, and it does get a bit dry when explaining all of the calculations, but activists wanting to challenge growth will be aided by his formulae. He also spends a considerable amount of time gauging the environmental and social costs of growth, whether it’s lost open space, contaminated rivers, a higher crime rate, or a less friendly community. Admittedly, these and related topics are more difficult to quantify, but they are often the most important losses for many residents. The beginning of the book refutes the 12 Big Myths of Growth (such as more jobs, no growth hurts the economy, growth is inevitable, etc.) with quantifiable evidence. Later, Fodor offers dozens of tactics that concerned citizens and groups can use to hold city councils and other officials responsible, and he documents in numerous case studies the ways in which some communities, like Boulder, have managed to nearly stop growth while maintaining a strong economy and healthy quality of life. He also refutes many of the developers’ arguments, such as the oft-cited claim that growth boundaries increase housing costs. The author draws a clear distinction between "smart growth," "managed growth," and his stop-growth platform; the first two, while noble pursuits, he says, still invite growth – just a more acceptable form of it. His message is that growth of any kind, no matter how well managed, is costly and can destroy communities, and he provides clear and quantitative data to support his arguments. The conclusion of the book borrows much from many of the sustainability movements – whether it’s about living patterns or America’s overt consumption. Anyone fighting development in his or her community – especially those commercial ventures that are subsidized with public money because of the promise of "more jobs" – would benefit from the information provided and the approaches suggested here.


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