Jobs, Babies, School, and a PM Opportunity for You!

This year, Cindy and I decided to do a little something different with CodeBrain Media. With Cindy’s plans to grow her family (her 2nd baby is due in October) and my plans to go back to college (I’ve juggled 18hr this summer), we scaled back from any new major client work and decided to run independent contracts.

Cindy worked with the Landefeld’s on some VIP builds and has most recently joined another team for some part time product work. She’s super happy to be moving into product work vs. client work – and who wouldn’t be!?

I wrapped up  my contracts with ServerPress and PlainMade, helped out over at Luminary for a bit, and since April I’ve been working with the team at FaithGrowth in a part-time capacity while going to school full time since June. It’s been a lot to juggle but I’m ending the summer session with all A’s, a hefty scholarship for the next academic year, and fully on track to sit for the LSAT this December, and start applying for law schools shortly thereafter. But the fall semester is going to be another 18hr doozy that includes writing my Senior Honors Thesis and I really need to be able to focus on academics.

So, I gave my notice to Christopher a few days ago & wanted to tell you all about an amazing opportunity to join the FaithGrowth team.

Christopher is an amazing boss to work with. He loves structure, processes, and order, and highly values the feedback of his contractors. He’s quick to brainstorm any and everything with his developer, designer, team members, and PM. He handles client calls like a boss! (Pun intended!) And overall, he’s been one of my favorite people to work with. Also – don’t let his chuckling fool you – he’s one of the smartest people I’ve met, known, worked with. If I weren’t going to school and raising a family at the same time, I’d never leave this job. I’d work for/with him forever. He’s great!

Also – and this is important for all us freelancers – he pays on time. In fact, he has to nag ME to get my invoices in! This tells me that he truly understands the responsibilities associated with running an agency and making payroll is always at the forefront of his mind. I greatly appreciate this about him. Nothing like waiting weeks on end to get paid. Incurring late fees and overdraft fees because you’ve not been paid in months. Or worse: having clients stiff you all together…. He’s a great boss  & you’ll be lucky to work for him!

On top of all that – he runs one of the most efficient WordPress development firms I’ve been a part of. His developer, Jonathan, is SO smart and efficient and effective – he knows his job like the back of his hand – he requires NO micromanagement whatsoever. Just task him up and let him do his thing and BOOM it gets done. A PM’s dream dev! His support devs are just as efficient and require almost no oversight. It’s really been awesome to see a team function so professionally, efficiently, and productively. It’s been **refreshing** and I’m going to miss that for sure!

If you’re looking for a great gig as a Project Manager/Project Coordinator, check out this job listing, and throw your hat in the ring! You’ll be picking up where I’m leaving off – but all his clients are happy and you’ll be taking on a very rewarding opportunity to work with some of the best of the best in the WordPress community. My last day is coming up soon & interviews start next week!

SEEKING: Project Coordinator for FaithGrowth.com

Faith Growth, based in Dallas, Texas, specializes in custom digital ministry solutions for ministry organizations. We help churches effectively implement digital ministry to engage their communities. We also work with small businesses and nonprofits. We work exclusively on the Genesis Framework for WordPress and have a current need for a part-time, Project Coordinator to join our team.
Duties

  1. Proposal Preparation in conjunction with Sales Team
  2. Coordination of Website development projects – both internal and client projects
    1. Oversee Projects
      1. From start to finish with clients and internal Development Team
      2. Sales touch points
      3. Interfacing with clients and subcontractors
      4. Making sure all agreed to deliverables are provided
        1. Design
        2. Development
        3. Quality Assurance – you be the first line of QA for projects
      5. Launch and Training
      6. Creation of training documentation, screenshots, and videos
    2. Track project and task hours to make sure we stay within budget and deliver projects on schedule
    3. Ensure developers, designers, and content folks have enough tasks each week to meet their hourly goals
    4. Regular meetings with supervisor to update on status of all projects

Other Responsibilities

  1. Document all internal processes so they can easily be replicated by all future hires and sub-contractors
    1. Sales Process
    2. Proposal Process
    3. Production Process
      1. Design
      2. Development – Including guides for all sub-contractors
    4. Maintenance/Updates Process
    5. Content Marketing Calendar

Knowledge/Experience

  • Google Apps
  • WordPress
  • Genesis Framework
  • WooCommerce, ACF, Gravity Forms
  • Pipedrive/Agile CRM
  • Screen Capture Software
  • Basecamp
  • HipChat
  • GoToMtg
  • 1Password
  • Toggle/Harvest
  • Self-starter

Position Type

  • Job Title: Project Coordinator
  • Contract/1099
  • Compensation depends on experience.
  • 20-25 hours a week
  • Remote/Deployed

To Apply
Please complete our Project Coordinator questionnaire to be considered.
We will begin scheduling interviews in early the week of August 15, 2016.
Thanks for your interest in our position. Please complete the following questions and we will be in contact to schedule an interview.

Project Coordinator Questionnaire

Adios, Sunrise; Hi there, iCal!

When Sunrise announced they were shutting down I was bereft. 

At the time of the announcement, I was actively working across 4 different WordPress product teams & web dev agencies. Along with those 4 calendars, I was managing my personal calendar, my kids’ calendar that I shared with my ex-husband, and my financial calendar that I shared with John. Additionally, I had connected project management apps to my Sunrise account: Asana (2 accounts), Trello, & Basecamp. It was SO nice to go to ONE app on my Macbook or iPhone and be able to immediately check my schedule. Also, I had just been accepted back to Texas State University to finish up my undergraduate degree & prepare for law school applications, and I was thinking how lucky I was to have Sunrise at hand – it’d be easy to keep up with everything considering all the bells and whistles. Needless to say, I was in deep, sweet, love, with Sunrise.

But…Sunrise sold to Microsoft. 

I do genuinely appreciate that Sunrise gave all their users ample notice (three full months) to figure out what to do. I looked for Sunrise Calendar replacements but the only thing that was remotely close was Fantastical; however, I wasn’t willing to shell out $50 for calendar software for my desktop, another $5 for my iPhone, $5 for the Watch app, and another $10 for the iPad = $70 bucks for calendar software…I’ll find another way. (Not that it isn’t worth it – probably – but me in school = me not billing 40hrs/week = me is poor right now!)

Screenshot 2016-07-30 23.43.17

So, I tried Outlook for iOS

Knowing that Sunrise was integrated within Outlook, I downloaded Outlook iOS for my iPhone and was able to quickly sync up most calendars within the Outlook system. However, the only apps the Outlook iOS calendar connects to are Evernote, Facebook for Events, and Wunderlist, none of which I use. Strike one. (Although, yes, I can fully appreciate how exhaustive the to do list must be for fully integrating Sunrise into Outlook and I’m sure the team is working hard to get it all up to speed – but that doesn’t help me, today.) Nevertheless, I gave it a shot. For the last two month’s I’ve used Outlook for iOS while keeping Sunrise on my iPhone and Desktop. I really appreciate the familiar end-user experience between Sunrise & Outlook’s calendar.

But, there are a few key things missing that I just can’t live without.

First, the calendar app lives inside Outlook. I have to unlock my phone, open Outlook and find the Calendar icon before I can do whatever it I need to do. Sunrise was a stand alone app. I’d just unlock my phone, click the Sunrise icon, and boom – I’m where I need to be. I don’t know about you guys – but when I open my email app, I’m immediately sidetracked and I have to stop and think, “Don’t open that email…look in the bottom navigation bar, and find the calendar app.” It might seem like a small thing to you all – but it is a deal breaker for me.

Outlook - No Option to Repeat

Second, the ability to make an event recurring is gone. Remember those kids’ calendars I spoke about? Well, one kid has piano, voice, and cello lessons every week. For the entire school year. Another kid is starting horseback riding lessons. Another kid is volunteering at the fire department twice a week. All of those calendar events are going to have to be entered individually. The risk of error increases each time I have to add a duplicate event in the calendar. I don’t trust myself – not to mention it’s just tedious and time-consuming. Another deal breaker.

Outlook - I mean...🤔

Third, the ability to set customized alerts is really insufficient. I’m a busy mom/manager/student. I live by alerts to help me remember so and so has a Dr. appointment at whatever time, and then so and so has to be at work, and so and so needs to be picked up from friends’ house, and also I have a client meeting in the middle of it all. Alerts are my VA. The options for adding the alerts I am used to via Sunrise are gone. See Screenshots. Another dealbreaker.

Fourth, and probably the most important, I do not want to install Microsoft Outlook on my MacBook just so I can access the calendar in Outlook on my desktop. I can’t remember the last time I owned Outlook for personal or business use. I’m quite content with the way I manage email now and I don’t want to change it all up. I realize that I can buy Outlook just for the sake of using the calendar, and not use the email, but truthfully I’m just not willing to spend money on it. Also, I can’t figure out what I need to buy in order to have Outlook & it’s calendar on my desktop. I just looked again and I had to jog through 3 different product screens and pricing ranged anywhere from $5/mo to one-time fee of $150 – but I’m not really sure what I’m buying! So – I’m out. Dealbreaker. I don’t want to have to overthink my calendar issues any more than I already overthink my calendar issues. 😁

Time to give iCal another shot.

It’s been a few years since I’ve seriously looked at the iCal desktop app and iPhone app. I’ve been using Sunrise for about two years now I think. The last time I really looked at iCal was probably in 2014 and to be honest, I can’t remember why I ever left it, but I’m sure it was a usability feature.

Today, I finally decided to bite the bullet and move all my calendars back to iCal and see if I can achieve *almost* everything I did with Sunrise, via the native Apple apps. Knowing I have one more month before Sunrise stops working altogether, I figured the timing was good. I thought I might have to keep Sunrise on my Phone and Desktop for a few more weeks while I got used to the new interface and usability of Apple’s Calendar, but turns out it is more than sufficient, and I’ve already uninstalled the Sunrise apps.

Working first on my desktop, I was surprised to see all the changes that have taken place over the last two years. While I’m still not able to connect iCal to other apps (like Basecamp, Trello, etc) almost every other feature I was looking for was present — and then some! I especially appreciated that I could add my travel times into my schedules which will REALLY come in handy once school kicks in for everyone.

Screenshot 2016-08-03 12.35.15

I LOVED the ability to set fully custom alerts, drive times, and literally see the map to my locations within the Calendar app itself – both on desktop and iPhone. Making events repeat was a breeze, and being able to access the Calendar app without first having to open a mail app is a total win.

The transition was seamless. After getting everything loaded into iCal on my desktop, I fine tuned the settings on my iPhone and **BOOM** all the calendars and events immediately showed up. Perfect! Transition done.

Nicely done, Apple. There are some fun features of Sunrise that I’ll miss: festive icons, friendly faces, Basecamp pushes (that’s really a beautiful feature.) But I can live without it. I figured I’ve already paid for this software, I might as well use it. It’s really come a long way since the last time I gave it a shot  & at least I don’t have to worry about yet another app being pulled off the market.

7 Burning Questions About Bill Clinton’s Future FGOTUS Lifestyle!

For my entire life, I’ve looked forward to new United States Presidential Elections. Not because I care about the future of my country, the leadership at the helm, or politics in general. No, what I’m always excited about is learning about the First Lady of the United States’ hair styles, favorite designers, interior design plans, and menus for the state dinners she hosts.

As a little girl I used to think, “WOW. If I could just be like Nancy Regan! Barbara Bush! Hillary Clinton! Michelle Obama! They’re so regal, glamorous, exquisite, and well cultured. They are my role models. Maybe I’ll marry a man who will be President, and I’ll get the chance to redecorate the Oval Office! Stand next to him in a designer gown! Create elaborate menus for heads of states! What a life I would have….”

But that’s all changing, now, ladies and gents! In November, I predict that Hillary Clinton will win the 2016 election cycle and we will swear her into office shortly thereafter. And that changes everything!

For the first time in my life I will find myself looking at Bill Clinton as the First Gentleman of the United States. As the FGOTUS (doesn’t really roll off the tongue like FLOTUS but we’ll make it do I guess) Bill will have some unprecedented activities to tend to and I can’t wait to see how the media serves us the dish on his…well…dishes! Hairstyles! Pant suits! And more!

Here are 7 Amazing Bill Clinton Pictures That Really Show Off His Future FGOTUS Style!

1) Will he maintain his current style?

Already showing off his Dapper Style, Bill’s pant suit selection during the Democratic National Convention really left me feeling confident in his ability to dress the part of FGOTUS. The way he coordinated the blue tie with the blue stars under his feet was just brilliant and really allowed his eyes to POP! I hope we can expect to see more of his classic style in years to come!

Former President Bill Clinton speaking at the DNC last night
Photo by Andrew Dallos & Available on Flickr via Creative Commons License: http://tinyurl.com/gp6e7js

2) Will Bill Clinton add flower beds to the White House entrance?

Bill Clinton is from Arkansas, The Natural State. This photo is of my son standing at a travel center right after you pass into Arkansas. Arkansas travel centers are welcoming, comfortable, and beautiful. I’m betting Bill will really put his landscaping style to good use once he has a nice new yard to color with flowers, bushes, and other foliage! If he can make the entrance to the White House as beautiful as the entrance to Arkansas, that will really help White House Presidential Visitors feel more comfortable and really help Heads of State appreciate Bill’s many talents!

Arkansas Travel Center
Arkansas Travel Center, Photo by Sarah Pressler, August 2015

3) What will Bill Clinton’s Presidential China look like?

Michelle Obama just replaced the White House China in 2015, so it’s questionable if Bill will get to design his own set or not, since normally we only replace our national china every 10 years. But I hope if Bill gets to design and approve new china, that he has an audience and wears something gorgeous to show off his biceps!

Michelle Obama inspects new china 2015
“Michelle Obama Inspects New China 2015” Photo by Amanda Lucidon & shared under public domain. http://tinyurl.com/jnh3cmj

Of course, when Future President Clinton reviews her husband’s handiwork, I expect she’ll have much privacy. This is important because if she wants to criticize his designs, that should be done with much privacy so as not to embarrass Bill or hurt his feelings. You know how sensitive househusbands can be about home decor choices!

Barack Obama inspects new china 2015
Notice the lack of audience members cheering on Obama as he sneers at Michelle’s designs. I guess he’s ok with them. He’s a good husband so I’m sure he just encouraged her to keep trying. Photo by Amanda Lucidon & shared under public domain. http://tinyurl.com/jnh3cmj

Hillary Clinton’s Signature Style: How state dinners were served when she was in charge of decor. Let’s hope Bill’s style is a little less royal. It’s clear that here, Bill was just allowing Hillary to fully explore her womanly role in the home

Bill Clinton Presidential Library 8
Photo by gGraphy. Shared via Creative Commons http://tinyurl.com/jealqdc

//embedr.flickr.com/assets/client-code.js

4) Will He Maintain His Waistline?

It’s important for all First Spouses to not let themselves go during this time in the White House, considering what an emphasis our nation places on physical fitness. Maybe he can log his time and win a Presidential Fitness Award!

Clinton Working Out
President Bill Clinton stretches his left leg during a morning jog along the waterfront in Naples, July 10, 1994. Clinton is in Naples for the annual economic G7 summit. A U.S. security man and Italian carabinieri (paramilitary police) are at right. (AP Photo/Marcy Nighswander)

Whoah! Watch out there, Bill! That’s not a very becoming pose for the First Gentleman! Someone’s going to need to give Bill some lessons on modesty when in public. Save the sexy posing for the bedroom, Mr. First Gentleman! We know it’s hard to understand how something as innocent and necessary as a quad stretch can be sexualized, but that goes with the territory.

5) Will Bill’s Christmas Tree Truly Deck The Halls?

Christmas in the White House is on the horizon for the Future President and her husband. It will be Bill’s duty to his country to ensure the holiday tree is cheerful, bright, merry….diverse, inclusive, and accessible. Personally, I cannot wait to see the unveiling of the tree Bill decorates! Won’t he look dashing, standing by the green, shiny, holiday hallmark?! I’m sure he will make Hillary proud, and even if she hates it, she’s such a classy lady – she’ll pretend she loves it! I’m just SURE of it! I really **really** wish I could be there when Bill gives his first Holiday Home Tour!

1997 Blue Room Tree with FLOTUS, Hillary Clinton
By The White House (The White House) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

6) Will Arsenio Hall join Bill Clinton on his Carpool Karaoke ride with James Corden?

Michelle Obama’s highly acclaimed Carpool Karaoke sesh was lit! But I believe Bill blazed a trail for who and I bet he will quickly upstage her performance when his time comes! I sure hope President Clinton lets her husband stay active and engaged in pop culture; he’s a true icon for our country!

Clinton Saxophone
Bill Clinton killing it on the sax, on the Arsenio Hall Live show! What a gem!

7) But the most important question:
Will a man FINALLY take home the win for the Traditional Family Circle Presidential Cookie Bake-Off??

“Since 1992, when Hillary Clinton and Barbara Bush bumped spatulas, our First Lady cookie contest has been a terrific tradition and political pacesetter. All but one winner went on to live in the White House.”

I’m really looking forward to the Bill Clinton v Melania Trump Cookie Bake-Off! I don’t know about you, but I’m betting Bill wins hands-down. Of course, I’ll try both recipes, but I’m just betting Bill has a little extra help on the side (if you know what I mean!)

Oatmeal cookies
Hillary’s Winning Recipe used for a previous contest. I can’t wait to see what unique and delicious recipe Bill submits! You can get the recipe here: http://tinyurl.com/hjptwur

POSI 4397: Article 2 – The Role of States in Local Government Hazard Mitigation Planning

Smith, G., Lyles, W., & Berke, P. (2013). The Role of the State in Building Local Capacity and Commitment for Hazard Mitigation Planning. International Journal Of Mass Emergencies & Disasters31(2), 178-203.

Introduction

One of the most important things a local community can do to protect itself from damages caused by natural disasters is to prepare and implement a high quality and fully comprehensive hazard mitigation plan (HMP.) Furthermore, having a Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) approved HMP available, and at-the-ready immediately following a natural disaster, will greatly expedite FEMA funds for local governments. This is a critical and much-needed resource for communities when they are facing after effects of natural disasters.

However, many local governments lack the resources and know-how necessary for putting together a quality HMP. Recognizing this need, along with the need to increase efficiency within FEMA, Congress passed the Disaster Mitigation Act of 2000 (DMA) which provided a framework to help federal, state, and local governments work together in pre- and post-disaster planning. The goal was to encourage and enable local governments to take responsibility for their own hazard mitigation planning, and expedite the disbursement of FEMA funds when warranted.

In The Role of the State in Building Local Capacity and Commitment for Hazard Mitigation Planning, authors Smith, Lyles, & Berke, research the impact the DMA has had at the state level to answer the question: “What activities have states undertaken to assist local governments to build the capacity needed to develop hazard mitigation plans and policies in light of the requirements of the Disaster Mitigation Act of 2000?” (Smith et al., 2013:179) First, the authors provide a high-level review of the DMA. Next, they share the research methods used to evaluate how well states are helping local governments with pre-disaster planning. Then, after comparing and analyzing the results, the authors present the general findings from their research. And finally, the authors offer their conclusions and make recommendations on how federal, state, and local governments can improve hazard mitigation planning.

 The Disaster Mitigation Act

            According to the authors, at the time Congress passed the Disaster Mitigation Act, FEMA was under review for failure to efficiently disburse funds to several federally-declared disasters. The new law sought to correct issues within the FEMA organization and provide direction & funding to enable states and local governments to take a more proactive role in helping their local governments be “disaster ready.”

To this end, the DMA had three core functions. First, the DMA placed a heavy focus on pre-disaster planning: it required states and local governments to develop FEMA-approved hazard mitigation plans in order to be eligible for federal hazard mitigation funds. Next, the DMA provided for predisaster hazard mitigation grants to help states and local governments create and implement effective hazard mitigation plans (HMP). This resulted in the creation of the Pre-Disaster Mitigation grant program (PDM) which provided grants to help offset the cost of developing these pre-disaster mitigation plans. Lastly, the DMA helped states assist local governments with the development and implementation of FEMA-approved pre-disaster HMPs through the establishment and funding for State Hazard Mitigation Officers (SHMOs). These officers are “responsible for the oversight and administration of state hazard mitigation planning and grants management activities as well as providing technical assistance to local governments.” (Smith et al., 2013:198)

Research Methods

The authors executed a systematic review of two Pacific coast states (California & Washington), two Gulf Coast states (Texas & Georgia), and two Atlantic coast states (Florida & North Carolina). These states all have coastal communities who were managing “…high growth pressures and high vulnerability to natural hazards (Smith et al., 2013:182). Data was collected via mail surveys, telephone interviews with SHMOs, the review of archived documents, and information from previous analysis of mitigation plan quality. Specifically, the authors wanted to review how states managed staffing SHMOs, funded mitigation programs, shared costs of developing mitigation plans, delivered technical assistance in hazard mitigation planning, and if states encouraged land use planning in the development of hazard mitigation plans. The findings from these issues would answer the original question regarding what steps states have taken to help local governments meet the requirements of the DMA.

 Results and General Findings

Results from the research efforts included data from the mail survey, anecdotal information from the SMHO interviews, and information found in the review of older mitigation plans and state and local policies and programs addressing hazard mitigation planning. In order to provide an accurate and comprehensive cross-state analysis of the research data, information was classified into one of the following six specific areas:

  1. State Hazard Mitigation Planning

            Staffing for mitigation planning offices appeared tenuous. Aside from the federally funded SHMO positions, the majority of hazard mitigation positions are paid for with time-limited post-disaster FEMA funds. This leads to a high turnover rate in hazard mitigation positions. “Fluctuation in size and experience levels of state hazard mitigation staffs was cited by SHMOs as a major problem.” (Smith et al.; 2013:184). The inability to fully hire, train, and maintain hazard mitigation staff impacts the effectiveness and longevity of hazard mitigation departments. The authors noted that the study only included actual state mitigation officials and did not include staff that works with other state agencies, so the “staffing levels [reported in this study] probably underestimated overall capacity.” (Smith et al.; 2013:184)

  1. State Hazard Mitigation Funding, Policies, and Programs

Hazard mitigation funding, policies, and programs meant to strengthen the ability of local governments to manages hazard mitigation issues varied greatly among the six states reviewed. California and Florida focused on regulatory actions. California passed a law to provide local governments additional state funds following a presidentially-approved natural disaster if the local government had included hazard mitigation plans into local planning and development. Florida focused on building strong relationships with the insurance industry, water management districts, and homebuilders associations, as well as others, to help foster state regulatory programs to address hazard mitigation. One such program, the Residential Construction Mitigation Program, aims to educate and assist homeowners with wind hazard retrofit projects so as to help their homes survive a hurricane.

North Carolina, on the other hand, provides incentives to help local governments manage hazard mitigation planning. These incentives include grants to help with pre-disaster planning, relocation funds to help move low-income families out of disaster-prone areas, and a state floodplain mapping program to keep flood insurance rate maps up to date allowing home owners the ability to purchase adequate coverage. Furthermore, North Carolina created their own state-level natural disaster fund to help communities deal with smaller natural disasters and requires communities to adopt and maintain local hazard mitigation plans in order to be eligible to receive state funds under this plan. The authors note that North Carolina’s approach seems to have been a success as the local governments are quite capable of creating and implementing high-quality pre-disaster mitigation plans.

  1. State Cost-Sharing of Federal Hazard Mitigation Grant Programs

Data regarding state cost-sharing of federal hazard mitigation grants provides another way to assess the effectiveness of states in helping local communities access pre- and post-disaster hazard mitigation grants. However, an interesting contradiction was found in reviewing the data from the six states surveyed: as states took on a willingness to provide some or all of the of the non-federal match requirements, local communities and individuals were less incentivized to adopt locally and privately funded pre-hazard mitigation measures. Additionally, how the non-federal match requirement was met differed in every state. Local governments in California cover the non-federal match requirement without any state-level support or matching funds, whereas North Carolina covers 100% of the non-federal match for the hazard mitigation grant program, but no other mitigation programs. And in most states, there are no provisions to help homeowners cover the non-federal share of housing related projects.

  1. State Delivery of Hazard Mitigation Planning Technical Assistance

Aside from funding hazard mitigation planning, all six states provided technical assistance hazard mitigation planning through various outreach methods. All six states held workshops and conferences for training and education, provided local governments with data to use for pre-disaster planning, trained local governments in the planning process, and offered pre-review of local plans before submitting those plans to FEMA for approval. Other technical assistance and guidance provisions noted were: creation and distribution of training manuals and guidebooks, publication of case studies with best practices, hazard analysis training for local planners, direct help with the planning process, and connecting local governments to regional consultants or agencies.

  1. State Encouragement of Local Awareness and Commitment to Hazard Mitigation

When conducting interviews with the SMHOs, it became apparent that, across the board, increasing awareness with local officials remains one of the most difficult and challenging aspects of hazard mitigation planning. Additionally, SMHOs noted that some local governments were not apt to identify hazard mitigation projects and/or implement hazard mitigation plans out of concern that in doing so cities will then be held liable when disaster strikes.

Overall SMHOs stated that the most successful thing a state could do, in order to help local governments, see the value in pre-disaster hazard mitigation planning, was the availability of a subject matter expert who could provide long-term assistance to the local communities. In providing a primary contact for the local community to turn to during all phases of the pre- and post-disaster mitigation planning, implementation, and recovery efforts following a natural disaster, provided the best outcome. However, the SMHOs admitted that the time-intensive nature of such a position negates the ability for the federal government to provide that service to local governments.

  1. State Encouragement of Local Land Use Planning

Surprisingly enough, FEMA does not require land use planning in the creation of hazard mitigation plans, and therefore most local governments do not incorporate land use planning into their mitigation plans. One SMHO suggested that the involvement of land use planners with hazard mitigation plans was low because local emergency managers were usually in charge of developing the hazard mitigation plans, and without the requirement for incorporating land use planners, emergency managers simply were unaware of the benefits of coordinating with land use planners.

Conclusions

After reviewing all the findings, and comparing it to the last state-level study on hazard mitigation planning (1999), the authors note that some progress has indeed been made with regards to the state governments helping the local governments develop and implement high-quality hazard mitigation plans. However, there is still a way to go. Major problems noted are:

  • Too many variations across the states.
  • Focus on access to federal funds vs. focus on the development of local hazard mitigation plans.
  • Lack of incorporation of land use planning techniques into hazard mitigation plans, which is not required to meet minimum standards of the DMA.
  • Understaffed state hazard mitigation offices which limit the effectiveness of the staff.
  • The resistance of local governments to develop and implement hazard mitigation plans due to issues related to property rights, development pressure, and liability concerns.

Recommendations

The authors recommend three major steps be taken to help states do more to help local governments create and implement local hazard mitigation plans.

  1. Reduce differences between the states to build consistency at the federal and state level.
  2. Provide additional staffing to allow longevity at the state agency level, and better integrate cross-agency resources (emergency services, land use planners, city governments) to provide a more comprehensive and effective hazard mitigation plan.
  3. Put more focus on land use planning as a primary tool during all phases of the development and implementation of local – and state-level hazard mitigation plans.
  4. Encourage changes in the DMA to put a greater emphasis pushing states to help local governments take bigger steps towards accepting full responsibility for hazard mitigation planning.

The original intent of the DMA was to help states help local governments actually create and implement hazard mitigation plans. As you can see from the review of the study performed by the authors, states are not readily achieving these goals. Although progress has been made, the authors suggest even greater progress could be achieved if the local governments leverage land use planning as a tool to help build high-quality hazard mitigation plans, states bolster staffing to help SMHOs deliver resources to the local governments, and the federal government help smooth out all the differences between the states to bring about a universal standard for pre- and post-disaster mitigation planning.

Final Review Notes

This article brings up many good points that have not been covered elsewhere. The lack of any real longevity of employees in the state hazard mitigation office and the lack of involvement with land use planners in hazard mitigation planning stuck out as issues worth addressing from federal or state level legislation. The variation of functionality across the states seems reasonable as every state is so different in the types of natural disasters they face. Of most interest, however, was the statement made regarding the lack of interest in identifying or planning to hazard mitigation due to the perception that doing so would increase liability.

POSI 4397: Book Review, Urban Containment & Fringe Development

Daniels, T. 1999.  When City and Country Collide: Managing Growth in the Metropolitan Fringe

Introduction

Tom Daniels’ book, When City and Country Collide: Managing Growth in the Metropolitan Fringe, provides a comprehensive examination of the far-reaching and complex issues fueling land use development out past the farthest edges of suburbia and into what has been coined “the fringe.” First, Daniels starts by explaining what “the fringe” is in terms of where it is and why it is important. Next, Daniels weaves in a wide variety of topics in order to show how these different issues have collectively fueled growth and development out into the fringe. Finally, Daniels concludes with recommended counteractive measures to help fringe communities preserve their small-town character while facing challenges associated with absorbing a larger population and the commercial development that comes along with that growth.

Analysis of Content

Definition of The Fringe

Simply defined, the fringe is a geographical “…region of middle ground between wide-open rural lands…and expanding suburban residential and commercial development.” (Daniels, 1999:10) Just beyond the suburbs and edge cities, but before the farm and rural lands that lie beyond the major metropolitan regions, fringe areas (also known as exurbia) make up a large percentage of land surrounding major metropolitan areas. Fringe areas are the less developed regions of metropolitan cities and many nonmetropolitan counties that border metropolitan areas, have low population density rates, and have specific attributes that qualify the areas as “fringe” communities.

For example, the Austin-Round Rock Metropolitan Service Area (Austin-RR MSA) is a free-standing metropolitan area composed of five counties, and bordered by another 9 counties, as defined by the Texas Comptroller. (http://comptroller.texas.gov/taxinfo/staxqtr/stxqtr_info.html)

In the map below, the Austin-RR MSA area is shown surrounded by the red border. Inside the Austin-RR MSA resides 5 counties with 8 large cities, 16 medium sized cities (suburbs), 23 small towns (edge cities), 15 fringe cities (exurbs), and 32 unincorporated areas. The population distribution is shown in the chart below. In this example, the 47 areas that make up the fringe cities and the unincorporated areas tend to lie on the outskirts of the area inside the red boundary line, and some of the smaller towns were even identified as residing in two different counties. These areas qualify as the fringe communities surrounding the Austin-RR MSA.

(table not included)

However, population distribution and proximity to the major city centers is only one way to identify potential fringe communities. It is possible for a fringe community to reside even as close as 10 miles away from the city center. When considering if an area is located in the fringe the following attributes can be considered:

  • The population density in the fringe is generally less than 1000 people per square mile, although this is not a hard and fast rule.
  • Fringe areas can lie a few miles beyond small cities to forty or more miles outside of major urban centers. Distance from city center can vary greatly in the fringe.
  • Housing development will appear scattered, and the fringe will have low-density settlement patterns, and homeowners will generally own one or more acres of land.
  • Most fringe areas utilize on-site sewage systems whereas suburban development will have mass-developed neighborhoods tied into the city sewer system.
  • Fringe areas are not generally connected to major highway areas; farm to market roads and smaller highways are more common in the fringe.
  • Agriculture, forestry, mineral mines, and other such industries often reside in fringe areas; however, they will be in decline as population growth and development is encroaching on these areas.
  • Fringe areas are often described as having open space, a slower pace, and a sense of safety; commuters travel more than 25 miles to work and back each day, passing through the easily identifiable suburban communities on their way to work and back each day.

Fringe History

Fringe areas have been recognized as early as the 1800s, as the term “rural estate” was an object of envy. Where the city was crowded, noisy, filthy, and crime-riddled, the countryside offered a quiet, safe, and clean way of living. However, due to limited means of travel, owning property out in the country was often achieved by those who had the financial means to do so. At the beginning of the 19th century, the city center was the hub of industry and commerce, and since most transportation was still limited to horse drawn carriages and walking, settlements were densely built so a person would have a means by which to reasonably live and work.

But transportation would advance and as people became more mobile, the exodus from the cities became achievable goals. In the late 1850’s the first suburban community was born in Llewellyn Park, New Jersey, to meet the aesthetics of well-to-do elitists who wanted out of the hustle and bustle of New York City. Some thirteen miles from city center, Llewellyn Park offered a direct access to the railroad which allowed residents to commute daily to New York City. Large homes built on spacious lots, planned green space, and a ban against commercial development, the Llewellyn Park suburb offered a “quiet, bucolic place to live” and other “railroad suburbs” started taking shape. (Daniels, 1999: 20)

The next boom came about with the invention of the streetcar at the turn of the century. This allowed much more people to commute to a job from the suburbs to downtown and cities experienced a surge in residential housing that appealed to the middle-class worker. Commonly referred to as “row houses” (houses that were built on uniform long and narrow lots), these streetcar suburbs gave commuters a clear separate of work and home life. The evolution of land use laws originated out of the introduction of the street car which was challenged all the way to the Supreme Court in 1926. The end result was a ruling that set the precedent for “zoning to be the primary land-use control in America” and by 1928 the Standard Zoning Enabling Act was imposed on all the states.

By the 1920’s the personal automobile was the preferred mode of transportation and the 1916 Federal Road Act paved the way for urban sprawl. No longer confined to trains or streetcars, the middle-class worker could now drive him or herself to and from their own office, in their own car, and every single day. By the 1950’s the suburbs were almost completely residential: work and commerce were in the city, home life was for the suburbs.

Cities were booming, suburbs were humming along, and the construction of interstate highways started opening up the countryside for commuter travel. By the 1970’s the nonmetropolitan counties grew faster than the metropolitan counties. Between 1977 and 1997, the suburban population grew by 30 million residents, the fringe area expanded to include 20 million people and more than 700 counties, while the 39 major metropolitan areas of the time saw less than 1 million new residents. (Daniels, 1999:40) For many, the cities were out, and the suburbs and fringe areas were in.

Problems & Solutions for Fringe Development

Growing pains facing rural-fringe areas is a relatively new problem that emerged from poor land-use planning practices as suburbs and edge-cities pushed out into the fringe. In essence, fringe communities are quickly becoming the suburbs of the suburbs. Eighty percent of Americans reside in and around 273 major metropolitan regions. Inside those regions lie 25% of all counties in the United States. While big cities and suburbs are the focus of city planners, state oversight, and federal bureaucrats, the fringe is struggling to keep up with explosive growth.

With the fringe taking up this growth trend isn’t going to reverse anytime soon (Daniels, 1999:40). City planners, managers, and leaders are feeling the stress of this growth as they struggle to manage growth while supporting concerned long-term residents, enthusiastic new neighbors, and eager developers. The biggest challenge, Daniels says, is in balancing growth while maintaining the essence, or community small-town feel, of a fringe city while safely absorbing increased population and the commercial development that comes along with growth. Daniels identifies eight complex obstacles, that are often interrelated, that encumber organized, sustainable, and successful growth management in the metro fringe:

  1. Fragmented and overlapping governments, authorities, and special districts that influence development in the fringe (state agencies, school districts, medical districts, economic development boards, etc.).
  2. The large size of fringe areas that include fringe cities and unincorporated areas that must be considered when planning city resources and basic emergency services.
  3. Lack of a community, county, or regional vision given the private and independent nature of the residents in the fringe.
  4. Lack of a sense of place and identity due to the vast settlement patterns exhibited in the fringe.
  5. Conflicts between the newcomers who might want to see more commercial development in their new areas, and the long-term residents who want everyone to leave.
  6. The spread of scattered new development which can result in a large sprawling rural town with too few residents to support city services.
  7. Too few planning resources available for the area leaders.
  8. Outdated planning and zoning techniques that lead to poorly designed communities with many unforeseen consequences.

Success for these communities depends on a thorough and proactive growth management plan to address the issues listed above and prepare the community for future growth. A successful growth management plan is exhaustive but when done properly will provide planners and community members with both a vision for their city and a direction in which to move. Community planning efforts that follow the formula below will reach tremendous milestones in their development and address many of the complex issues listed above.

Daniels Steps for Growth Management Planning

  1. First: start with the end in mind. A successful growth management plan will rely on solid population estimations for the next ten to twenty years.
  2. Next: compile the data. The plan must inventory, analyze, and identify existing and future needs. The region must be mapped out to show the current and future capabilities for housing, commercial, industrial, transportation, schools, water resources, parks, natural areas, farmland, etc. Each area must be mapped out for both current and future needs. For example, knowing that the population of the area will double in twenty years, how can the city ensure adequate fire, police, and ems services for its citizens? Does the city adopt a new residential housing plan to help wrangle in the community? Does the city build ten combined safety centers spread across the region? Each fringe area will answer these questions differently. This data collection and mapping exercise will provide the legal basis for the zoning ordinance as the foundation for the comprehensive plan.
  3. Finally: collect the taxes. Once there is a legal basis for zoning in place, planners can begin to assess the financials, collect taxes, and move the comprehensive plan forward.

In all fringe cities, Daniels says there is a common sense of urgency to hurry up and solve the problem of growth – as if it is a one-time solution simply needs to be voted on. When, in reality, managing growth in fringe cities is an active exercise in “the search for and implementation of effective public policy solutions.” (Daniels, 1999:259) These policies boil down to three options: pro-growth, balanced growth, or no/slow growth. Pro-growth strategies allow development to take off and turn a fringe city into another suburb, or an edge city. The balanced growth strategy places an emphasis on pacing growth to allow for environmental preservation. Balanced growth works well in areas where there is a lot of agriculture, mining, forestry, or other natural environmental areas worth protecting. Balanced growth sees the environment as an asset worth protecting and will slow growth down to do so as needed. Lastly, no/slow growth strategy makes development difficult and expensive as a way to keep change to a minimum. These fringe communities are protective of their space, their tax base, and their quality of life.

Federal, State, and Local Governments + the Fringe

Proactive growth management in the fringe should be a collective responsibility between the federal, state, and local governments. Daniels suggests local and state governments should handle most of their own planning, and should actively improve coordination of efforts amongst each other, via open communication between local and state government – to help efficiently meet their community needs. Ideally, more transparent and open communication between local and state government will result in solid growth management policies that will face minimal risk of being overturned by the federal government. Regional planning between city and country, village, and townships is simply a necessity. In fact, he states that the “…emergency of regional metro governments with, at minimum, jurisdiction over planning & transportation, is the wave of the future” and the only way to ensure successful growth management in the fringe regions. (Daniels, 1999:208)

Furthermore, the federal government should be an active participant in managing growth in the metropolitan fringe. The federal government has the means and the ability to assist in a wide variety of ways. From helping communities with grants for infrastructure development (such as helping a large fringe area put in a regional water treatment system to replace or eliminate single-home septic systems), to protecting agricultural space & endangered species, and passing laws to protect the environment (such as the Clean Air Act, Safe Drinking Water Act), the federal government can play a big role in driving the vision for fringe development.

A Sustainable Solution

Daniels concludes his work by outlining sustainable principles for land use with the goal being that current development can meet the present needs while affording future generations the ability to meet their needs. Daniels suggest the following:

  • Compact, transit-oriented development will help reduce fringe dwellers reliance on personal transportation to get around fringe areas.
  • A mixed-use development that emphasizes walking and biking in town, and between fringe towns, will help preserve the small town feel within these fringe areas.
  • In-fill development to help fill-in vacant lots and open spaces in clustered fringe cities will help to minimize fringe-sprawl.
  • Low-density zoning in the countryside can be leverage to reduce and discourage sprawl.
  • Financial incentives to encourage rural landowners to keep their land open and not sell to developers.

Balancing these sustainable growth principles alongside a no growth, slow growth, or fast growth plan of action can help communities successfully manage growth in the fringe, but it will require the communities to work together in an open and transparent manner to develop both regional and community growth action plans.

Conclusion

Daniels book provides the reader a comprehensive understanding of what defines a fringe city, how fringe cities evolved into the fastest growing land area today, how the federal, state and local governments can prepare and manage the growth. Developing a growth strategy, managing long term land use and planning, designing for a sustainable, nurturing economy, and overseeing responsible stewardship of natural resources, requires careful consideration to many different details. Full of valuable information and insight for communities struggling to deal with the influx of residents and development, taking the steps to pull together a thoughtful and comprehensive plan for growth management will serve the community, the state, and has the potential to influence federal policies. Longevity and sustainability are the end game, and a successful end game requires a vision, takes careful planning, and requires work to implement. But Daniels suggests all these things are not lofty goals, but achievable gains when the foundation is prepared and the communities are committed.

 

POSI 4397, Article Review I: The Paradox of Urban Containment Policy

Raymond J. Burbury, Arthur C. Nelson, Dennis Parker & John Handmer (2001) Urban Containment Policy and Exposure to Natural Hazards: Is There a Connection?, Journal of Environmental Planning and Management, 44:4, 475-490

Introduction

Urban containment policies aim to create safer, more sustainable communities through limiting land available for development, preserving green spaces, and restricting the delivery of public goods and services within defined growth boundaries. However, a serious, unintended, consequence may have evolved from these policies. In Urban Containment Policy and Exposure to Natural Hazards: Is There a Connection?, Burbury, Nelson, Parker, & Handmer suggest that development into less-expensive, hazardous lands, outside the growth boundary lines, can lead to a higher loss of life and property in the event of a natural disaster. The authors explore this issue as a hypothesis by doing three specific things. First, the authors review urban containment policies and show how those policies have directly contributed to the increased development of hazardous areas. Next, the authors examine naturally contained urban areas and cite circumstantial evidence to support their claims regarding risks associated with development in known hazardous areas. And finally, while acknowledging that more research is needed to fully understand the big picture, they suggest that including hazard mitigation plans alongside containment policies will help reduce loss of life and property when nature strikes.

Urban Containment Policies & Hazardous Development Areas

With the rapid expansion of all major metropolitan areas in the 20th century, and the urban sprawl that goes along with it, urban containment policies were quickly adopted as way to manage growth and reduce sprawl. Through a variety of rules and incentives, urban containment policies aim to promote, and even restrict, residential and commercial development towards the central areas inside the growth boundary lines. In doing so, cities and counties are able to keep the bulk of jobs and tax revenues in the central city, which allows the city to deliver public goods and services to its residents in the most efficient and fiscally responsible manner. Additionally, by confining growth within boundary lines, cities can maintain dedicated green space, protect farmlands, and preserve natural resources. City governments were the first to start implementing urban containment strategies, and several states have developed enforceable land use and planning containment policies.

However, as successful as urban containment policies have been, the development of residential and commercial properties within hazardous land areas has emerged as an unintended, yet, direct outcome of these growth strategies. Containment policies limit land available for development which inevitably leads to higher land prices. Land development then naturally turns to lower-priced areas inside and outside of the containment boundaries. These areas can include hazardous lands purposefully left outside of original growth boundaries, or lands inside the growth boundary that were originally not zoned for commercial or residential development. Hazardous land areas can include anything from land near a river that swells every time it rains, an active fault line, a dense greenbelt that becomes a fire hazard, or a retired landfill that isn’t truly old enough for development (among other conditions).

Since this land is cheaper to build on, development in inevitably happens. If developers take steps to mitigate the hazardous conditions during development (slope-stabilization on hillsides, elevated foundations in flood plains, reduce brush in green spaces, etc.), then the associated risks might be greatly reduced, or even negated. However, without local governments requiring developers to take these precautions, developers will most likely not make these expensive land improvements before building and the risks remain. Furthermore, homeowners generally do not take measures to protect or prepare their properties from natural disaster, even if their home is zoned in a previously known hazardous area. Either they do not purchase enough insurance (unless required to do so), or they do not want to pay a developer for the extra work needed to insure a safe and sound home has been built. But the issues just aren’t with the developers and the home owners: homes built outside of the containment areas may not lie close enough to allow the city to respond to an emergency in an efficient and effective manner. If a city or county has not planned accordingly, they will not be able to support those citizens who live in the hazardous areas in the event of a natural disaster. Considering all the variables, development in hazardous areas can clearly result in a marked increase in the risk of loss of life or property, as compared to non-hazardous development areas, or in the event of a natural disaster, if the known risks are not mitigated by the developers or local city planners through hazard mitigation plans.

Natural Urban Containment and Hazard Mitigation

Next, the authors examine circumstantial evidence provided by New Orleans, San Francisco, and Los Angeles, in order to demonstrate associated risks with development in hazardous areas, and justify the need for hazardous mitigation plans. These densely populated regions are constrained by natural, physical barriers (vs. an arbitrary boundary line set by a planning board.) When examined through a “contained urban area” lens, these areas can provide planners ample information on how to reduce damages from natural disasters. While the authors recommend more research is needed, they argue that circumstantial evidence supports their claims regarding hazardous mitigation plans as a necessary tool to help in managing development and growth in and around areas affected by urban containment polices.

New Orleans, San Francisco, and Los Angeles are three regions in which a dense city center is surrounded by naturally occurring “containment” boundary line. New Orleans is bound by the “…Mississippi River, Lake Pontchartrain, and extensive coastal marshes and is one of the most contained urban areas in the USA.” (Burby, 2010) San Francisco is bordered by the water and hills. Los Angeles lies in between the Pacific Ocean and a mountain range. All three geographic areas must manage their growth within a tightly contained region. All three are very densely populated. All three are susceptible to one or more natural disasters: floods, fires, hurricanes, and earthquakes. The authors highlight the costs associated with disasters in these areas. A category 5 hurricane could cost New Orleans an estimated $30 billion+. A massive earthquake in San Francisco could cost upwards of $120 billion just in damaged buildings. And if another major flood, massive earthquake, or roaring fire hits Los Angeles, the losses would soar well beyond anything they’ve managed before, well into the $100 billion range. Again, this information is provided to show how development of residential and commercial properties in hazardous regions poses an increased risk of loss of life and property in the event of a natural disaster. The authors are not suggesting that development not occur in those areas; but rather, if they must occur, that the development plans should include hazard mitigation plans so that if the worst case scenario unfolds, loss of life and property will not be as extensive.

Hazard Mitigation Plans & Urban Containment Planning

Finally, hazard mitigation plans require careful consideration in order for planners to fully understand all costs associated with containment policies – good and bad. A solid hazard mitigation plan can let a city planner know if the proposed containment policy is affordable and sustainable. This information is invaluable in the early stages of city and development planning and because the costs associated with implementation of a hazard mitigation plan after development would be considerably higher it is imperative that the hazard mitigation plan be completed alongside, or even before, the development plans kick off.

The authors provide applicable information on how to develop comprehensive hazard mitigation plans and explain why they should be created right alongside any urban containment plan development with the following six different types policies and action plans:

  1. Preventative Policies: Seeks to limit new development in hazardous areas.
  2. Property Protection Policies: Affords financial support to retrofit old properties, relocate structures, or obtain insurance.
  3. Structural Protection Policies: Normally used in flood-prone zones, these policies require both cities and builders to invest in and proper flood control measures such as drainage ditches, levees, dams, etc.
  4. Emergency Services Policies: Aims to reduce the severity of a natural disaster after it strikes by providing efficient and effective emergency response teams and provisions.
  5. Natural Resource Protection Policies: Protecting spaces that are prone to natural disasters as a preemptive measure to reduce hazardous development.
  6. Public Information Policies: Building awareness by educating home owners on their options, and developers on their duties, is a major part of any hazard mitigation plan.

Because every region is different, every hazard mitigation plan will be different, and these six policies above are not the full extent of what kinds of policies and action plans will be required to properly mitigate every hazardous area. It will be important for the hazard mitigation plan to adequately and appropriately apply to the specific region or development area for which is being planned. For example, an area prone to hurricanes and flooding will want to focus on property protection, structure protection, and emergency services policies. However, an area prone to fires and earthquakes may want to adopt some preventative policies, natural resource protection policies, and emergency services policies. Each different type of hazard mitigation policy is equally important – it all depends on the area in question.

Conclusions

The authors conclude by stating that this article is simply an examination of an issue they have identified within the urban containment planning and policies. While they are adamant that hazard mitigation plans will help reduce the loss of life and property, in the event of a natural disaster, they admit that this is an hypothesis that needs more fleshing out. Never the less, they hold firm their stance that planners have a duty to produce a thoughtful, comprehensive, and thorough hazard mitigation plan.

Additionally, they offer two other questions which they say deserve more research. First, they want to know if urban containment actually does increase development in hazardous areas. The authors have suggested that this is the case, but admit there is no hardcore evidence to support their claim. Secondly, they want to know what extent have other “…areas pursuing urban containment adopted appropriate hazard mitigation plans…” in order to answer the nagging suspicion that without state mandates, planners will continue to ignore the need for hazard mitigation planning.

This article is interesting in light of issues faced by development in far outlying areas known as “fringe cities.” Fringe cities can mitigate their risks in the event of a natural disaster by developing a hazardous mitigation plan at the same time containment plans are being developed. While these remote communities may not initially have resources to plan for natural disasters, as fringe cities adopt containment policies, it would be prudent to produce a comprehensive hazardous mitigation plan. Not only will this plan be of vital importance in the event of a natural disaster, it could shield the city from any negligence suits, as well as help the city prepare for its own future sprawl.