Sunday, November 20, 2016

As Trump Age dawns, a dispatch from the city Sanders built

At Politico Magazine, the subjects for the What Works series are picked months in advance, so it's by coincidence that, days after Donald Trump's upset victory in the U.S. presidential election, the series visit Bernie Sanders' hometown. I did field research for this story a couple weeks before election day; now it reads like a dispatch from an alternate universe, where a town with few meaningful fissures is creating a sustainable economy under the guidance of their municipal government, itself run for much of the past four decades by social democrats.

In any case, the new story is on Burlington, Vermont's 37-year drive to build a sustainable city, protected from international fossil fuel markets and the whims of distant corporate boards. The result: the first city able to power itself entirely from renewable energy -- it owns its own grid and generating capacity and could theoretically cut itself off from the outside world without interrupting power -- and one that is now working to become net zero in transportation and thermal energy use as well. It also grows a lot of its own food.

This is my ninth full-length "What Works" piece this year. The others were on how Des Moines went from dull to cool; how Manchester, New Hampshire turned its vast 19th century millyard to spinning high-tech gold; on how Denver built its game-changing light rail system, only to discover its most powerful effects were not what they'd expected; how Cincinnati transformed "America's most dangerous neighborhood"; how Philadelphia repurposed a 1200 acre former naval base;  how Milwaukee breathed life back into a legacy industrial district, creating the manufacturing park of the future; how Roanoke, Virginia went from a train city to a brain city; and how Winston-Salem, North Carolina pivoted from tobacco manufacturing to high-tech innovation. In addition -- on the occasion of the Republican National Convention -- I had this shorter story on how Cleveland revamped its long-neglected Public Square.

Where's next? Hint: They filmed Breaking Bad there.

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