Table of Contents | Chapter 2

Chapter 1
Vision Statement and Goals


This is our vision of a better future for America's people, communities, and environment. We hope it will help stimulate a national dialogue followed by action to create the future we want for ourselves, and our children and grandchildren.

We believe that our nation's communities can be far better places to live and work in than they are today. They can also exist in closer harmony with nature for the benefit of both the community and the natural environment. The key to building sustainable communities - those that get better and stronger over time - will be to recognize that economic opportunity, ecological integrity, and social equity are interlocking links in the chain of well-being. The pursuit of one without the others or in opposition to the others will ultimately jeopardize our future progress. Development that maintains a mutually supportive balance among all three will strengthen our communities for generations to come.

We will have a greatly expanded range of options: better opportunities to learn and earn a living, more choices of the kind of home we wish to live in and where it will be located, and more choices of how to travel - or telecommute - to visit friends, shop, or go to work.

People will participate more actively in community life. Increased flexibility in the workplace - providing more time for involvement in schools, religious institutions, voluntary organizations, neighborhood associations, and local politics - will help revitalize our democratic institutions. Our nation's cultural diversity will be a driving force for creativity and a source of our strength. Wounds of racial and ethnic division will heal.

Communities will expand opportunities and incentives for civic involvement, and they will recommit schools and other community institutions to civic education. They will encourage citizens to look beyond short-term self-interest to the long-term common interest. Widespread participation in programs to envision a sustainable future and to identify shared community goals will help restore a sense of common purpose. Because agreement on shared goals is not always easily reached in our highly diverse society, innovative arrangements will be developed to clearly articulate differences and accommodate them whenever possible.

Participatory decisionmaking arrangements will promote direct and meaningful interactions among all parties potentially affected by decisions, including traditionally underrepresented groups. Information technologies will be used to maximum advantage to encourage public dialogue and provide easy access to the information citizens need for effective participation. Critical gaps in our democratic institutions will be filled by strengthening the decisionmaking role of local neighborhoods and expanding collaborative arrangements among communities for decisionmaking on a metropolitan and regional scale.

Accounting systems and prices will give us more complete information about the economic, environmental, and social costs that our choices exact. Computer models, for example, will help local communities evaluate alternative land use and development decisions by more fully accounting for the long-term costs of transportation and infrastructure, land consumption, environmental impacts, required social services, congestion, and other factors. New arrays of economic, environmental, and social indicators will give people a detailed picture of how living conditions are improving or declining in their community or region.

Many people will continue to choose to live in suburbs, and the automobile will continue to be a major mode of travel. Gradually, however, major improvements will occur in the convenience and accessibility of our communities, giving us new options of where to live and how to travel. Ultimately, the impact of these improvements will be profound,in raising our quality of life, protecting and restoring the environment, and promoting human-scale development. Government regulations and government-supported market subsidies that favor low-density development will gradually be removed. In place of these subsidies, policies will be put into place that allow and even encourage the development of mixed-use, walkable communities. Market distortions which prevent such communities from developing will be eliminated.

Improvements will occur as both redevelopment and new growth increasingly occur in physically compact spaces, where mass transit can be effective and affordable and where neighborhood-serving businesses reduce the need for driving. New mixed-use, pedestrian and transit-oriented growth will require less new infrastructure and decrease the costs of infrastructure maintenance and repair. It will also protect our farms and rural communities from being overrun by development. Permanent greenbelts, wildlife corridors, and other natural areas preserved from sprawl will enhance ecosystem health and allow future generations to continue to enjoy the beauty of nature.

New neighborhoods produced by this kind of growth will have many of the qualities that make small towns and traditional neighborhoods so appealing. They will be designed with well-defined centers and edges to give them a distinct physical identity. Their centers will contain public facilities such as libraries, meeting halls, government offices, religious institutions, and public squares or greens to encourage a strong sense of civic identity. Jobs, stores, and housing will be in close physical proximity. Networks of bike trails, paths, and lanes will run everywhere. Affordable, frequent, reliable rail and bus transit will be a short walk away. Streets laid out on a grid pattern will reduce traffic congestion by providing alternate routes to every destination. These high-access livable neighborhoods will be much sought-after places to live.

These new neighborhoods will also offer wider choices of housing types, densities, and costs than conventional suburbs, and a better integration of people of different ages and economic classes. Single-family homes will remain available to all who want them, but more low- and moderate-cost housing will also be available, including small apartment buildings, living space above retail establishments, "granny" flats, and garage apartments. Affordable housing in close proximity to jobs will help break up the concentrations of people living in poverty in the cheapest, most deteriorating housing in urban centers.

Whether we travel by automobile or by public transit, zero-emission vehicles will minimize air pollution. With the information superhighway reaching everywhere, working, studying, shopping, banking, and even consulting the doctor will often be done without physical travel.

Increased energy efficiency and renewable energy use will reduce the negative environmental impacts caused by burning fossil fuels - from local air pollution to regional acid rain to the buildup of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere. Advanced manufacturing systems that use energy and materials efficiently and recycle wastes will make industry a more desirable neighbor. High-quality water purification and sewage treatment will be available at lower costs through systems based on ecological engineering. "Green" building technologies will bring dramatic advances in energy efficiency, indoor air quality, sustainable produced materials, environmentally friendly construction processes - and the livability of homes and workplaces.

Our vision is one of prosperous communities that provide jobs for all. Within those communities, the excessive economic polarization that divides us today will be overcome. Poverty will be reduced steadily as the conditions that produce it are eliminated. High-quality health care will be available to all. Lifelong learning and training opportunities will allow people to continuously upgrade their skills. The needs of the disabled, the mentally disadvantaged, and other special groups will be met with understanding. Homes will be affordable. A sense of security will replace fears of a dismal economic future.

Communities will think globally and act locally. They will attract global businesses and encourage local businesses to reach out into the global economy. But they will also protect themselves from job losses due to changes in global competition by encouraging diversity in the local production of goods and services. Higher energy efficiency and increased use of renewable energy will keep money circulating in local economies rather than flowing out to pay for oil imports. Farmers adopting sustainable agricultural practices will produce a wider variety of foods for local and regional markets.

Attracting businesses that incorporate environmental considerations into the design of their products and processes will pay off in terms of jobs and growth as well as environmental quality. Many communities will create eco-industrial parks which improve production efficiency and minimize negative environmental impact. Eco-industrial parks that co-locate a number of businesses will make use of each other's byproducts, so that each firm's "waste" is always another firm's "food."

Walkable neighborhoods will encourage neighbors to know and feel responsible for one another. Crime and violence will decline to the point where we feel safe being out in our communities at any time of the day or night. We will invest money to create high-tech schools, not just high-tech prisons.

We will be responsible in our stewardship of the ecosystems and natural resources that underpin our economies and human life itself. The health of our communities will not be threatened by pollution and toxic wastes. The water we drink will be pure and the air safe for all to breathe. Large recreational open spaces and natural areas filled with wildlife will be preserved to sustain and uplift us.

Finally, we hope that these developments will affect the national psyche to the point where Americans feel a strong sense of community has renewed our capacity to work together to solve problems and improve our neighborhoods, communities, and ultimately, our lives. We hope for nation that can once again feel confident that those who come after us will have better opportunities and choices in the future because of the wise decisions we have made and the positive changes we have created.

This is a hopeful vision. It is not a naive one. We recognize the magnitude of the challenge if we are to achieve these ends - but we also recognize the capacity of the American people to achieve extraordinary ends when we work together. Together we have built a nation that is the envy of many. Is it naive to think we can now save that which we have built, and in the process, make it even stronger?

Goals toward sustainable communities

Ten goals were developed by the task force to express their aspirations for more sustainable communities. These interdependent goals were used as guides for developing the policy recommendations that follow.

Although the task force did not finalize indicators for each of these goals, it recognizes the importance of measures of progress. Appendix E includes a compilation of initiatives to develop indicators.

Community Capacity Building

Goal 1: Community Involvement and Decision Making

To create communities where people participate actively and knowledgeably in community affairs, and where open and democratic decisionmaking processes involve all parties potentially affected by decisions.

Goal 2: Equal Opportunity

To create equal opportunity for all people to improve their quality of life.

Goal 3: Fully Informed Decision Making

To improve the quality of decisions made by policy makers, businesses, and individuals through more complete information - including accounting and pricing mechanisms - about long-term economic, environmental, and social costs and benefits.

Partnerships for Design

Goal 4: Sustainable Community Design

To design and revitalize communities within a context of regional cooperation to reduce sprawl, preserve open space and historic buildings, use land and infrastructure efficiently, and increase mixed-use and mixed-income development.

Goal 5: Transportaion and Access

To improve access to jobs, services, and activities: To decrease pollution by providing greater transportation choices including mass transit, and by encouraging use of communications technologies that reduce the need for travel.

Economic Development and Jobs

Goal 6: Economic Development and Jobs

To improve the ability of people to meet their needs: To provide a high quality of life, and improved employment opportunities, through economic development that preserves and enhances the natural environment.

Goal 7: Education and Training

To achieve full literacy: To provide all people with opportunities for continuing education and training for jobs in the marketplace, and to participate knowledgeably in community affairs, thereby making the United States more competitive.

Goal 8: Suitable Technology

To maximize the benefits and minimize the adverse impacts of economic activities by utilizing environmentally sound technologies for energy production and use, transportation, manufacturing, information transfer, construction, agriculture, and natural resource management.

Safe and Healthy Communities

Goal 9: Safe and Secure Communities

To increase the safety of communities, enabling people to live, work, and play without fear.

Goal 10: Healthy Environment for All

To ensure that all Americans enjoy a healthy environment - where they live, work, and play - that provides access to nature, clean air and water, safe food, and that is free of environmental hazards; and to ensure that no segment of society is disproportionately affected by environmental risks.