Letter from Ray Gindroz and John Norquist

New Year's Message from Ray Gindroz and John Norquist

CNU's Board Chair and President/CEO explore the year behind and the year ahead

Dear Members,

Thank you for your involvement in the work of the Congress for the New Urbanism. CNU's Initiatives are created and driven by the skill, knowledge and energy of our members.

For all its difficulties, 2009 was a successful year for the CNU. The Denver Congress drew a much larger than predicted number of participants, the Transportation Summit had record attendance, and there has been much progress on several fronts:

A partnership with the Green Building Council and the Natural Resource Defense Council has produced LEED for Neighborhood Development, which rewards walkable neighborhood form and location efficiency, and will soon take its place with other LEED standards. Related to this is the launch of CNU's own accreditation standard for members. Thanks to membership enthusiasm and participation CNU-A is off to a great start.

CNU members are making efforts to legalize smaller houses on smaller lots and advocating for more diversity of housing types. In partnership with the National Town Builders Assn, we are seeking relaxation of Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac rules that discourage mixed-use development. CNU design leaders are refining the transect to include food production calibrated to urban intensity. Working with federal agencies — DOT, HUD and the EPA — CNU is helping to identify and overcome the federal barriers and disincentives that stand in the way of good urban development.

In transportation, CNU and its members have partnered with the Institute of Transportation Engineers to produce a new urban thoroughfare design guide that restores boulevards and avenues to the options available to engineers and planners working in an urban context. CNU
also works with the EPA to reform emergency vehicle regulations that can block development of well-connected street networks. Most recently we've begun working with a coalition that includes Louisiana Smart Growth and New Orleans Catholic Social Services to explore removing the Claiborne Expressway and restoring Claiborne Boulevard to NOLA's Treme neighborhood.

When the organization was only a few hundred members, participating in these efforts was a relatively clear and simple process. As we have grown, it has become less clear to members how they can "plug in" and participate in these programs. For this reason, the CNU has encouraged and supported chapters, revamped the web site and joined expanding networks on Twitter and Facebook. But more means are needed.

There have been calls from members for greater participation in the governance of the organization, in the programming of the annual Congresses, and in determining priorities for Initiatives. In the course of the past two years, a series of efforts have been underway:

Governance and Transparency: Board members are now limited to two 4 year terms with the goal of constantly bringing new talent into the leadership of the organization. New Board members are nominated by the Nominating Committee, chaired by Zach Borders. The Board's goal is to encourage younger members of the organization to come onto the Board as older members leave. The minutes of each Board meeting are posted in the Board section of cnu.org within a reasonable period of each Board Meeting.

Standing Committees: The Board has redefined and expanded the role of committees in the management of the organization. Instead of consisting of only Board members, committees will include a mix of Board members and CNU members with particular interests. For example, the recently formed Finance Committee has done extraordinary work with the staff in navigating the treacherous financial situation of 2009. As a result, CNU not only survived the recession, but has emerged with stronger financial management and better practices. The newly formed Fundraising Committee is developing methods for increasing the revenues so CNU can support more programs. Another new committee is responding to requests for re-thinking the annual Congress. It will not only develop new ideas and programs but will provide continuity from year to year. Ellen Dunham-Jones and the CNU 18 host committee had already been developing some new formats and have created a truly remarkable Congress Program for CNU 18. The role of the committee is to make sure that these innovations are continued and that the Congresses are continually revised and improved.

Initiatives: Open Source Congress sessions have been an expanding part of our annual Congresses. The goal of those sessions is to encourage members to establish new CNU Initiatives. A process for establishing Initiatives was approved by the Board at the end of 2007 and several are now underway. Each one is led by a non-Board member as Initiative Leader and has one or more Board Champions. They will each have space on the web site and the teams are preparing sessions for the Atlanta Congress.

Our goal is to make it easier for members to engage with CNU. We invite you to join any of these programs in an area that interests you the most. The contact information for the Initiatives will be available shortly. We ask that you continue to log in on our blogs, attend the Atlanta Congress and other sponsored meetings, and help to organize chapter activities. We often ask for your financial support and many of you have come through during this very severe recession. We also need and deeply appreciate your ideas and vision. Please get involved in the way the works best for you. We pledge to do whatever we can to make CNU as transparent and easy to work with as possible.

Millions of people would benefit from policies that lead to more efficient urban development. CNU and its membership can help this happen. Have a great 2010 and get involved and help us change the world.


Ray Gindroz and John Norquist

P.S. - If you do wish to make a tax deductible early-2010 donation to CNU please know we deeply appreciate it and to do so just click on this link.