The plan to spew evermore bailout money at cash-starved auto companies marches on, unemployed levels rise, and now we’re “officially” in a recession. And still the ABI drops . President-Elect Barack Obama’s pledge to establish an Office of Urban Policy and invest in historic public infrastructure programs are cause for optimism, but one prestigious commentator thinks that the planning required for public infrastructure and the way it’s likely to be funded are inherently incompatible.
David Brooks of the New York Times argues in his Tuesday column that the (so far) haphazard way the government has handed out money privileges expediency over planning to such an extent that you can do little more than prop up the infrastructure and organizations that lost us all this money in the first place. “In a stimulus plan, the first job is to get money out the door quickly,” he wrote. “That means you avoid anything that might require planning and creativity. You avoid anything that might require careful implementation or novel approaches. The quickest thing to do is simply throw money at things that already exist.”
That doesn’t sound like much of a design opportunity.
In fact, it might be a recipe for making the same planning and design mistakes that we are just now beginning to understand. Brooks chides Obama for his plan’s lack of innovation and creativity, but one hopes that if the president-elect surrounds himself with the right people (read: architects and urban planners), they can provide the design and planning expertise to Obama’s push. So far, the prospects for such voices being listened to seem good. And it would be quite a welcome change for architects suddenly to be flooded with more money than they can spend. . .