Wednesday, August 3, 2016

Blogger Candidate Forum: The Urbanist VPOTUS-In-Waiting

Hillary Clinton and Tim Kaine
Hello Everyone:

It is Wednesday and time for Blogger Candidate Forum.  Before we get going on today's subject, Senator Tim Kaine (D-VA)'s urban bona fides, yours truly must declare this space a Trump gaffe-free zone.  Blogger was losing her mind and lunch responding to every utterance coming out of Mr. Trump's mouth.  Therefore, if we talk about Mr. Trump, it will be in the context of specific issues not who he has recently insulted or latest tweet.  That out of the way, shall we move on to the Gentleman from Virginia?

Senator Tim Kaine
Senator Tim Kaine made his big debut last Wednesday, with his address before the assembled Democratic National Committee Convention delegates at the Wells Fargo Arena in Philadelphia.  Senator Kaine spoke of his life experiences and how it formed the man he is today.  As the campaign progresses, the national audience will get to know the Gentleman from Virginia very well-i.e. where he stands on the issues of: gun control, abortion, and global trade. He will be scrutinized and analyzed to see where he fits into the political landscape like his appeal to blue collar voters in crucial swing states.  However, Anthony Flint recently pointed out in his CityLab article, "Tim Kaine's Urbanist Bona Fides," the Gentleman from Virginia was chosen for something that not many people (including Blogger) were aware of, the Senator is an urbanist.

Then-Mayor Tim Kaine
Like Housing and Urban Development Secretary Juli├ín Castro, also vetted for vice president, Sen. Kaine was a mayor, and learned all the urban mechanics he need for the job.  Sen. Kaine came into the office of Mayor of Richmond, Virginia as a Harvard Law School graduate with a focus on fair housing, winning a jury verdict against Nationwide Insurance for discriminatory practices.

Laudable as this is, Mr. Flint points out, " was in statewide office that he built a record that should pique the interest of anyone who cares about cities."  Virginia is a state best know for traditional suburban development-sprawling subdivisions and corporate office pass.  As governor, he became a sort of anti-sprawl crusader.  Then-Governor Kaine became a handful of governors that shouldered the mantle of smart growth at the beginning of the 21st-century along with former Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger (R-CA), Janet Napolitano (D-AZ). Christine Todd Whitman (R-NJ), Angus Kings (I-ME), Mitt Romney (R-Mass), and Parris Glendening (D-MD).

Tyson's Corner, Virginia
Slowly but surely, the Gentleman from Virginia began to move away from the idea of building new highways and toward new transportation strategies that more integrated with sustainable land use: "increasing options to include transit, bicycles, and pedestrians."  Not happy about the disappearing Virginia farmland and countryside, the-Governor Kaine pushed forward a "$100 million open-space acquisition initiative."

Prior to becoming a United States Senator, Gov. Kaine was instrumental in bringing about the transformation of Tysons Corner, once a "soulless edge-city poster child to transit-oriented development hub."  As governor, he supported a tunnel for the D.C. Metro extension, making this former soulless edge city more vital.  In an aside, Anthony Flint writes, "Although he apparently joked about the fierce advocacy of 'mole people' during the debate over surface versus underground."

SGA logo
The advocacy group Smart Growth America ( was quick to note that when the Gentleman from Virginia was appointed DNC chairperson, he demonstrated an appreciation for urban design.  As chairperson, the Gentleman from Virginia invited the Governor's Institute on Community Design to his home state for one of the first closed-door planning and policy sessions with a governor and his staff, according to the SGA.

Anthony Flint recalled his own experience meeting the Gentleman from Virginia shortly after the publication of his book This Land: The Battle Over Sprawl and the Future of America and moved from the Boston Globe Governor Romney's smart-growth bureau in Massachusetts.  Virginia was interested in then-Gov. Romney's organization strategy for coordinating state agencies involved in growth and development-transportation, housing, the environment, economic development-which was eventually adopted in partnership with federal agencies under President Barack Obama.

The cover of Anthony Flint's book
 Anthony Flint observes, "He was aware of my book and dove right into some policy-wonk banter.  Here was a guy whose eyes lit up at the mention of land-use regulation..."  Mr. Flint goes on to mention that then-Governor Mitt Romney was a nice unpretentious person, which Blogger had no doubt about but that still did not compel her to vote for him in the previous election cycle.

In the rough and tumble world of land policy, there is a possibility that the Gentleman from Virginia's predilection for smart growth could be turned against by the Trump-Pence campaign or surrogates.  Over the past several years, the anti-density sentiment has been growing around the country, manifesting in TEA Party protests during local planning meetings.  The pitched battle for property rights and the attending resistance to planning, the aftermath of the United States Supreme Court case Kelso vs. New London (, is another result of this rebellion.

Like his former counterparts in Maryland and Massachusetts, then-Governor Kaine did not stress urban growth boundaries as much as incentives for growth and development options.  Generally speaking, supporting sustainable development is part of a post-carbon environmental position: mitigating climate change, reduce emissions though transportation options made possible by more efficient land-use patterns, and supporting renewable energy resources (wind and solar).  These are not positions that would be supported by a Republican ticket insisting on dismantling the Environmental Protection Agency.

Anthony Flint has the final word. "It's notable that both parties are holding their conventions in struggling cities but thus far haven't made much in the way of reference to urban policy.  In Tim Kaine, there is now a figure on the national stage who is eminently conversant."  

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