At Lincoln House September 2017

Research provides roadmap for Harvey, Irma recoveries

As Gulf Coast communities survey the damage from Hurricane Harvey, and Hurricane Irma barrels through the Caribbean and southern Florida, communities need to plan their recoveries carefully so they can emerge stronger and more resilient than before. That’s the message of the report After Great Disasters and the companion book, which the Lincoln Institute is providing free to those in areas hit by the two hurricanes.

The report and book, by Laurie Johnson and Robert Olshansky, draw on the authors’ deep experience as advisors who have helped places recover from disasters around the world, from the 1995 earthquake in Kobe to Hurricane Sandy in 2012. They have studied best practices in the United States, Japan, China, New Zealand, Indonesia, India, and several other countries around the world.

The book and report are each targeted to members of disaster recovery teams, the authors noted when the book was published in June:

“The level of detail in the book is invaluable for disaster recovery workers on the ground, compared to the concise recommendations in the earlier report, which is geared to readers at the executive level,” says Olshansky, head of the Department of Urban and Regional Planning at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champlain. Johnson is an urban planning researcher and consultant, and chairs the U.S. National Advisory Committee for Earthquake Hazards Reduction.

As Johnson notes, “Disasters can change the fortunes of a city or region forever.” Chicago and San Francisco became more successful cities after being ravaged by fire and earthquake, respectively, and Tokyo successfully survived devastating fires caused by earthquake and war. But the city center of Managua, Nicaragua, never recovered from a 1972 earthquake, and Galveston, Texas, lost its status as a booming metropolis after its destruction by a great hurricane in 1900.

Hurricanes Harvey and Irma are already prompting some soul-searching on the fundamental elements of urban development, zoning, land use regulation, and best practices incorporating natural systems into the fabric of cities through green and blue infrastructure. As climate change increases the intensity of extreme weather events, experts and officials are questioning patterns of unfettered growth in flood prone areas, encouraged partly by the National Flood Insurance Program, now $25 billion in debt.

Hurricane Sandy, which struck the Northeast in 2012, is a useful case study in how to rebuild effectively, according to the Lincoln Institute report Lessons from Sandy: Federal Policies to Build Climate-Resilient Coastal Regions. Hurricanes Sandy and Irene, which struck in 2011, have also forced difficult discussions about managed retreat from flood prone areas, an issue explored in the report Buy-In for Buyouts: The Case for Managed Retreat from Flood Zones. The Lincoln Institute has also studied the role of green and blue infrastructure in protecting cities from flooding and other threats.

The Future of the Property Tax for Public School Funding

The property tax accounts for more than a third of public school funding in the United States, and it is a much more stable source of revenue than income and sales taxes. However, it is constantly under attack, and often entangled in debates about educational equity.

In a new policy brief, Lincoln Institute Research Fellow Andrew Reschovsky explains the importance of the property tax and proposes ways to improve its performance, ease the burden on taxpayers, and reform state funding mechanisms to reduce disparities between school districts.

The policy brief builds on work over the past decade, including a chapter in A Good Tax by Senior Fellow Joan Youngman, a Land Lines magazine article on efforts to eliminate the school property tax in Pennsylvania, and the 2007 report, The Property Tax-School Funding Dilemma by Fellow Daphne Kenyon.

Land Matters

As cities weigh incentives for Amazon, research raises questions about the effectiveness of tax breaks … Our report on smaller legacy cities has generated media coverage in cities like Albany, New York, Lancaster, Pennsylvania and Gary, Indiana, and in national outlets like CityLab and Next City. We look forward to a productive roundtable with our partners the Greater Ohio Policy Center on building civic capacity … It’s time for cities to think more creatively about alternative sources of funding, writes Senior Fellow Martim Smolka … Senior Fellow Armando Carbonell joined the timely Blue Ribbon Panel on Climate Change and Resilience … Martim Smolka discussed land value capture at the International Congress on Urbanism and Mobility in Buenos Aires, Argentina (text in Spanish) … Three authors of our book Nature and Cities are on Planetizen’s ballot for "Most Influential Urbanists" of all time … With our Sonoran Institute partners, we will help train leaders in how to use land efficiently and conserve water as communities grow … Georgism as a philosophy for Silicon Valley billionaires … Our researchers broke down the complexities of property tax limitations at the International Conference on Assessment Administration, where Steve Eisman of Big Short fame spoke about the 2008 financial crisis to some 1,500 assessors and others ... This month’s highlighted Working Paper: Financial Sustainability Index: A Self-Assessment Tool for Financial Sustainability, by Shayne Kavanagh, Mark Pisano, Shui Yan Tang, Michael F. McGrath, Doug Linkhart, Monika Hudson, and Erik Colon.

--ANTHONY FLINT & WILL JASON

Photo: iStock.com/Karl Spencer

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