Strong Towns president and founder Charles L. “Chuck” Marohn is coming to Kenmore City Hall on Sept. 12 as part of his Strong America Tour, which coincides with the release of his new book, “Strong Towns: A Bottom-Up Revolution to Rebuild American Prosperity.”
The speaking event, which was after the Reporter’s print deadline, goes from 7 to 9 p.m. and will be formatted in a way that complements the interests and needs of Kenmore residents.
Marohn founded Strong Towns in 2008 as a personal blog. At the time, he was working as an urban planner and civil engineer. Through his work, though, he eventually realized that the communities he worked with were frequently financially fragile, and that his jobs were in part contributing to that instability: his projects were helping increase city debt.
Once he started writing about his experiences and observations, his world view — that the act of city building needs a “bottom-up revolution” — gained traction. Soon, Strong Towns grew into what communications manager Kea Wilson describes as “a movement” comprising people interested in learning and discussing how to make tangible changes to the status quo.
The organization has steadily built its presence through Strong Towns Media, which is supported by essays, videos and podcasts; Strong Towns events, which cull community gatherings providing more information on understanding of the Strong Towns approach; and the Strong Towns Network, which give platforms to members trying to connect with other communities.
According to Wilson, every Strong America event opens with a 15-20-minute overview of the new Strong Towns book, which enables community members who are unfamiliar with the organization to get acquainted with its ideologies. After this, the presentation moves into what Strong Towns describes as the “choose your own adventure” segment of the talk, in which the organization zeroes in on one of the major topics covered in the book to better accommodate what’s resonating with the residents of a given community.
Wilson noted that Marohn’s commitment to the organization has allowed him to become familiar in previous years with many of the towns he has visited so far.
“He’s been traveling for Strong Towns for almost a decade now, so he’s seen it all, and is an expert at making presentations feel personal and meaningful for each unique place,” Wilson said in an email. She added that to better gauge community interest, the organization additionally invites one community member per stop to join Marohn on stage to discuss their views on the local landscape.
Wilson said that the reception from communities has been “overwhelming.” After putting out what she describes as a “bat signal” to communities interested in bringing the Strong Towns message to their area in May, the organization received more than 250 requests — a number she says is rising.
“We’re thrilled that there’s so much of a national appetite for this message, and we’re absolutely extending the tour into 2020,” she said.
After the primary speaking portion of a typical Strong America Tour stop, Marohn hosts a question-and-answer session and then a book-signing, which allows for residents to have face-to-face time with the organization’s founder.
Strong Towns will be commemorating the tour through a photo-and-essay book that will be released after its run concludes. After the organization stops by a given city, a staff member writes an essay about a prominent story uncovered there. Once the pieces are completed, and supplemented by photos from local advocates, the book will be published as an e-book.
Wilson said the process of that project has been “incredibly fun.”
“We’re working with our hosts to pre-identify stories that should absolutely be a part of the book, and they’ve got so many great ideas that we’re planning to do a lot of spillover content that won’t fit into the book right now,” Wilson said. “We really think the Strong America book and everything else we write from the road will be a really great legacy of this tour, and will serve as a resource to communities across North America.”
Wilson discussed why she thinks events like the Strong America tour are beneficial to community members nationwide.
“You can change the way your town is built and have an impact on your community’s future, and attending [Strong America Tour] event is the first step in learning how to do it,” she said.
For more information about Strong Towns, visit www.strongtowns.org.