CEDEV 509: Population, Land Use, and Municipal Finance

CEDEV 509: Population, Land Use, and Municipal Finance


Hello there. My name is Mike Fortunato. I’m a research associate and instructor here at Penn State University at Community and Economic Development and this is CEDEV 509: Population Land Use and Municipal Finance. It’s an interesting course and we’re going to talk about how the course really plays out but it’s one of the most important courses that we offer here in the CEDEV program because it gives you a fund of skills, a fund of knowledge. Some important things that are good for community development professionals to master before going out there and really trying to say “hey we’re trying to make a difference in our community” here are some ways of actually being able to do that. I’ll tell you a little bit about myself. I am a reasonably new professor. I actually just graduated with my Ph.D this past year which is very exciting but I’ve been in the community economic development scene for a while now. I actually have a masters in community economic development like you someday will, and also a Ph.D in rural sociology where I studied entrepreneurship and also studied regional innovation systems. So I take a look at ways of actually going into communities that are lagging or struggling and try to find new strategies for actually bringing them back to life from the ground up. It’s really exciting work. And it’s very interesting too because even though it’s very creative work and involves a lot of big creative thinking, it’s amazing how often you really have to put the “meat and potatoes” behind it so to speak. Some of the numbers, figures, good planning, concise understanding of what’s happening in the community before you can really make good targeted suggestions for where the community could go and how to appropriately engage with the population and work with them. So CEDEV 509 is really some of those “meat and potatoes if you will. It’s about getting an understanding of what’s happening in the local community. So you can understand what can be done there and how you might potentially engage with local citizen grounds and businesses and governments and what not to get things done. So as you can see from the title there’s three real elements to this course. Population, we’re talking about population change and trends, land use, that’s a fun one, obviously communities are made up of land. And how it gets used is often one of the most contentious things that happens in a community, and Municipal finance, another very important element because, obviously most communities and many communities, certainly, in Pennsylvania where I am right now, finances has always been a large issue because finances are shrinking and sometimes you have to get creative about the kinds of initiatives, as much as we’d all love to build a major stadium sometimes the funding’s just not there. So we need to understand, sometimes, what’s happening with these three elements. And even though they’re treated somewhat separately in the course, population change, land use change, Municipal finance situation, we’re going to find as we go through that they’re extremely interrelated. One tends to affect the other to affect the other. For example, let’s say you have a community. with a declining population. And as that population shrinks, so does the tax base. Well that might also affect the Municipal finance situation which means that critical infrastructure can’t be built. Which might also change the way that land is being used. If for example, you can’t widen the streets in the center of town, you might end up getting sprawl on the outside of town. There’s all kinds of different things that can happen. We’re going to talk about that throughout this class. So, once again, just to briefly recap, there will be three essential sections to the course. Understanding population change, understanding land use change, and understanding municipal finance and how to manage it and present all these issues to governments and to agencies and to people you may be working with. But we also want to understand more holistically how community change comes about for any of these angles. And that is something we’re going to discuss openly. When you get onto the course website, you’ll notice that there’s a lot of project-based work. But I also want to open up the discussion, to talk about these interrelationships and to discuss what maybe your perspectives are, your concerns are. Certainly you’re coming to the table with a lot of ideas. Maybe some practical experience. I’d love to hear all about that and see how we can relate this into the course. Part of the core philosophy of what we do here is that we want to learn from each other. And I think that’s extremely important. I look forward to learning from you. Hopefully you’ll learn something from me too. I’ll at least offer some good ideas for developing communities and I think as we go through the course, we’re going to have a good time interacting. If you do have any questions or concerns, by the way, feel free to contact me at any time via the course website. You can send me an email. Or if there’s any issues with my connectivity as I’m moving around and traveling a bit this summer I’ll be happy to share my experiences with you from the community development world. And if there’s any gaps in my getting back to the class, I’ll let you know right away. Anyhow great to meet you. I look forward to seeing you more in the course. Take care until next time.

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