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Guest on The Infra Blog: Aaron M. Renn, Urban Affairs Analyst and Founder of The Urbanophile

Posted by Content Coordinator on Tuesday, October 28th, 2014

Aaron M. Renn on The Infra BlogAaron M. Renn is The Urbanophile, an opinion-leading urban affairs analyst, entrepreneur, speaker, and writer on a mission to help America’s cities thrive in the 21st century. In the Urbanophile he has created America’s premier destination for serious, in depth, non-partisan, and non-dogmatic analysis and discussion of the issues facing America’s cities and regions in the 21st century.

The Urbanophile site began in 2006, and it has developed into one of America’s top urban policy destinations. Renn is also the founder and CEO of Telestrian, a data analysis platform that provides powerful data mining and visualization capabilities previously only available in very expensive, difficult to use tools at a fraction of the cost and with far superior ease of use. Renn was honored by the Chicagoland Chamber of Commerce for his innovative ideas for public transit in Chicago. The Urbanophile was also cited as among the most important urban planning web sites in America by Planetizen.

Pinpointing The Problems With America’s Infrastructure
I think, unlike many programs, there’s sort of a consensus around the utility of infrastructure investment. The public seems to like it in the abstract, but isn’t necessarily willing to fund it at this point in time…I think we really have to pick it apart and think about what we’re talking about when we think about infrastructure.

Failing Infrastructure: Is That What We Want?
Fundamentally, we have to take a hard look in the mirror and realize that, to some extent, the systems that we have in place in America are a reflection of the values of the people who live here…The public needs to take a look in the mirror and say this is what we’ve chosen as a society.

Things Aren’t as Bad as They Look in the “Report Card”
If you look at the bridge ratings, often what we find is many of them are classified as bad because they are functionally obsolete, not because they are in some sense in danger of falling down…The reality is the I-35 bridge collapse in Minneapolis was not a maintenance issue…The NTSB concluded that was a design flaw.

Negative Citizen Engagement Hurts Projects
I think we need public input and engagement, but we basically have created an endless stream of potential vetoes and litigation points in the process that are really being exploited by motivated minorities to go against things, to try to derail things they don’t like, some for personal reasons, others for ideological reasons.

Sustainable Urban Success In The 21st Century
…I’m on a mission to try to help America’s urban region find real sustainable success in the 21st century…I try to focus a lot on cities that don’t necessarily get a lot of love, analysis, or attention from major media sites, urbanist organizations; especially the overlooked cities of the Midwestern heartland, post-industrial America.

Download full transcript (PDF): Aaron M. Renn on The Infra Blog

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