Tue 14 Mar 2017 8:50PM

A Planned City

CS Clay Shentrup Public Seen by 22

I've often pondered the (crazy?) idea of creating a city specifically to try a myriad of esoteric advanced voting reforms: Score Voting, SRV, Approval Voting, Reweighted Range Voting, Asset Voting, 3-2-1 Voting — you name it.

This isn't necessarily as crazy as it sounds. One of Y Combinator's research initiatives actually involves making "new cities", planned to meet today's urban challenges like housing and public transit.

Prospect New Town is a pretty impressive "new urbanism" development near Longmont, CO. Not incorporated as its own city, but the basic model of building a community from scratch is well established.

Often times these ideas stem from extremely narrow ideological interests, like "We're going to build a floating Libertarian Utopia and never pay taxes again!" I'm not suggesting anything exclusive like that. The idea is to invite any and all, with really the only core unifying being "advanced democracy".

As for the underlying development, it would have to have some kind of exciting idealism of its own, the way Prospect New Town does. I can imagine some kind of sustainability focus, with solar panels and dense walkable neighborhoods. Who would be remotely interested in such a crazy idea?

Note: Oregon is one of 10 US states where cities have local control and can use whatever crazy voting method they want without state permission. At least as I understand it. Portland formerly used Bucklin Voting for instance.


Sara Wolf Wed 15 Mar 2017 6:22AM

I have a similar design dream! Complete with a design for it that I actually dreamed and then drew out in sharpie on a brown paper bag. it's for a small post-apocalyptic snowed in village but could be adapted! This kind of dreaming is bound to happen when you put architectural design, permaculture design, natural building, sustainable agriculture and political idealism all in the same person! There are lots of eligible ghost towns in rad remote areas.

Here in Portland there are a ton of people working on just these ideas, Mark Lakeman of Village Repair/Communitecture comes to mind first. The Village Building Convergence is a 10 day teaching and building festival for this stuff that's coming up soon in Portland. Every spring!

I have a group of nice pirate friends from the Salish Sea that want to find an investor for a particular variation on this. In the middle of the pacific there is the Great Pacific Trash Gyre! Yes, that an exclamation point! The idea is to lash all the big stuff together and pile organic matter on it and build a city. The city's economy would revolve around recycling the plastic and converting it to energy and new recycled goods for export using recycling barges. (It's being done on a large scale for profit in Scandinavia.) The aesthetic would be a cross between Venice and Amsterdam and feudal Japan. The layout, design criteria and principles are laid out in the book "A Pattern Language"1. The culture would be international and nautical. The ecology/agriculture would be based in indigenous Polynesian techniques and permaculture design! Any takers? If you need more convincing read about the Raft People in the middle of Ursula Le Guin's book "The Farthest Shore"2

Lots of our societies problems stem from bad design on every front and there's a lot to be said for starting from scratch on any number of levels. A cool book on the subject is "Gaviotas,"3 which is about a group of engineering students from Bogota, the capitol of Colombia who terraformed a section of acidified barren high desert and turned it into a fertile oasis for innovations and appropriate technology. They actually healed the land enough that Amazonian jungle seeds that had laid dormant for centuries sprouted and grew into a volunteer jungle of species that had died out entirely in that area! Wow! Geoff Lawton is doing similar work in the Middle East greening the desert with Permaculture design. The idea is to figure out how to survive and thrive while healing the world, just in case. ;)

On a more practical note if you just want to find people to try out voting systems on a small town scale, why not start with universities? My Dad is the longest standing Professor ever at PSU if that helps.. Over 50 years in the English Department! He is also the founding bike commuter in PDX, but I digress...

Suggested Reading:
1. "A Pattern Language". A must read if you're at all into this! Highly entertaining and conveniently laid out by scale from largest to smallest. Each design point has key principles big and bold so it's easy to skim past stuff you already know and then dig into new or more controversial ideas! <3

  1. "The Farthest Shore" by Ursula Le Guin, the third book in the Wizard of Earthsea Trilogy.

  2. "Gaviotas". So rad. Fun to read! Inspiring! Means Seagull in Spanish.