First book in the field I’ve read so all new to me. Plenty of unintuitive insights. Inspired me to read my city council’s annual report.

Didn’t feel particularly rigorous though - both with use of historical stories and current data - , which leaves me suspicious. But curious to learn more.

he social return can be enormous, and we can develop all kinds of optimistic ways to suggest that it is, but if the investments we’re making don’t pay a real return – if we don’t create enough wealth to pay for the investment and its long-term maintenance – it’s not going to matter much. The accumulated weight of negative-returning investments will weigh us down, forcing us to divert more and more of our resources from things that could improve our lives to sustaining systems that never will.

The scary thing is that all cities that take on debt for infrastructure maintenance believe they have a cash-flow problem. They believe this despite not having done the analysis to determine whether this is true. The example I’ve given is ridiculously simplified: four streets over four years. Cities sometimes have hundreds of miles of streets with maintenance occurring over decades. A local government must be obsessively intentional, organized, and disciplined to discern its true financial status.

Cover image for Strong Towns