NIMBY Nation: Mad as hell and I don’t blame ‘em. For now.

You know, I gotta give NIMBYs their due. In many instances, their tireless efforts have kept the world from becoming a worse place, and that’s no small feat. But, sadly, it’s not their only accomplishment.

They’ve also kept the world from becoming a better place.

Welcome to the problem with NIMBYs. Their reactionary nature can’t tell the difference between bad change and good. And that’s a problem if you’ve any hope for building better communities.

Early on, NIMBY action centered around large, substantive initiatives with no shortage of arguable downsides. Nuclear plants. Landfills. Toxic industry. Projects universally loathed no matter where you went.

These were proposals whose negative impacts would be felt community-wide, leaving little reason to view NIMBY efforts as self-serving. Quite to the contrary, they were the work of community stalwarts, fine-tuning the art of grass roots political organizing for the betterment of the common man. Democracy at its most basic level.

Together, NIMBYs saved their homes and communities from being trampled by powerful corporate interests in cozy cahoots with nearsighted government opportunists and, in the process, earned a seemingly well-founded reputation as a sort of David in the shadow of Goliath. Progressive and passionate, they were mad as hell and unwilling to take it anymore.

Or so it seemed. But then a funny thing happened.

Somewhere along the way, NIMBYs began applying these new organizational tools and techniques not just to projects presenting some level of threat but to any project offering the prospect of change. Which is to say, any project at all.

Read more at New Urban Network


About Bob Voelker

Head of the Munsch Hardt (Dallas law firm) Hospitality & Mixed Use Development Group, and former developer of affordable housing. I'm i
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