Infinite Earth Radio – weekly conversations with leaders building smarter, more sustainable, and equitable communities

Infinite Earth Radio is a weekly podcast produced by Skeo and the Local Government Commission and hosted by Mike Hancox and Vernice Miller-Travis. Each week they interview visionary leaders, dedicated government officials, savvy businesses and forward thinking individuals who are working to build smarter, more equitable, sustainable, and prosperous communities through social and economic inclusion that values the contribution of all citizens and seeks meaningful lives for everyone. You will discover new leading edge strategies for lifting up and building great 21st century communities, along with cutting edge strategies for revitalizing under resourced communities and empowering excluded populations. Smart Growth, Prosperity and Sustainability are not possible without social, civic, and economic inclusion for people of all economic, social, and racial backgrounds.
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Infinite Earth Radio – weekly conversations with leaders building smarter, more sustainable, and equitable communities


All Episodes
Now displaying: April, 2017
Apr 27, 2017


The Importance of Play in Our Society

In This Episode:

01:50 Aisha Alexander is introduced.
02:02 Aisha shares what KaBOOM! is.
02:40 Aisha provides why play opportunities are so important.
04:06 Aisha explains why access to play is an issue.
06:02 Aisha describes the Play Everywhere Challenge.
09:08 Aisha states how people can learn more about KaBOOM! and the Play Everywhere Challenge.
09:38 Mike comments how playspaces have dual benefits.
10:16 Aisha expresses how kids are indicator species for cities.


Aisha Alexander is a Director of External Affairs for KaBOOM!, where she leads efforts promote the creation of kid-friendly cities. She attended Hampton University, where she earned her BA in English and Early Childhood Education; and Temple University, earning a Master of Social Work, concentrating in Community and Policy Practice. Before joining KaBOOM!, she worked in municipal government, most recently for the City of Charlotte, where she managed the city’s neighborhood improvement programs. Aisha is an expert in community engagement, neighborhood quality of life and social sector innovation.

Take Away Quotes:

“KaBOOM! is a national nonprofit organization that’s committed to making sure that all kids have the access to the play opportunities they need to thrive.”

“There’s lots of reasons that play is really important. Number one, we believe that play is a fundamental right of childhood; it is the work of children.”

“We realized through our community-built playgrounds that we could not address the problem at scale, and so we worked with Ideas42, a behavioral research firm, to figure out what are the barriers to play, and when we looked at those barriers, we found out that what needs to happen to be able to give access to all kids is to really make play everywhere.”

“We really wanted to have this Play Everywhere Challenge to help spur these types of ideas of how you can infuse play into everyday spaces where kids and families are already spending time.”


Play Everywhere Challenge

The Play Everywhere Playbook


Apr 20, 2017


Expanding the Conversation of Community Resiliency

In This Episode:

01:50 Co-host Kif Scheuer is introduced.
01:54 Guest John Zeanah is introduced.
02:05 John shares how he became involved in community resiliency
04:20 John explains what he thinks the word resiliency means.
05:31 John informs how communities across and within jurisdictional boundaries are responding to resiliency.
09:58 John relates the kind of conversation that takes place within the community he works in.
14:40 John comments on energy-cost burdens and how costs are factored into response strategies.
18:09 John tells if resiliency is just another word for disaster preparedness.
20:29 John addresses how to have the conversation of investing money for the benefit of something that won’t happen, like a flood.
23:28 John identifies the pieces of his plan that will continue beyond the grant.
27:07 John mentions how people can look at his plan.


John Zeanah is the Deputy Director of the Memphis and Shelby County Division of Planning and Development. In this role, Mr. Zeanah assists the direction of planning functions including land use, comprehensive planning, sustainability and resilience, transportation, housing, and development services. Prior to this role, Mr. Zeanah served in the roles of program manager and administrator for the Memphis-Shelby County Office of Sustainability, coordinating various program areas including energy efficiency, waste reduction and recycling, green infrastructure, and sustainable food systems. Recently, Mr. Zeanah led the development of the Mid-South Regional Greenprint and Sustainability Plan, a unified vision for a regional network of green space connecting across the Greater Memphis area, and Shelby County's Greenprint for Resilience initiative, which received over $60 million in HUD's National Disaster Resilience Competition. Mr. Zeanah holds a BA in Political Science from Rhodes College and a Master of City and Regional Planning from the University of Memphis.

Take Away Quotes:

“I think the evolution of resilience is pushing people to think beyond just, how do you bounce back from a flood, or how do you build back from a hurricane, but also as you’re building back, as you’re bouncing back, how are you doing that in a way that’s addressing so many of the social and economic issues that your community may face.”

“I don’t know that the way that we’ve thought about disaster preparedness as a practice has taken in, at least to the degree that we’ve seen in the last few years around resilience, this concept of focusing on co-benefits, focusing on the multiple benefits, and ensuring that what we do around a preparedness initiative or project in a community has benefits throughout the year.”

“My advice for any community out there is think about when you have a disaster, whether it’s a flood or something else, what are the systems that have to get in place to be able to prevent damage from happening? What are the cleanup efforts that have to take place? What’s the dollar value of those things?”


Learn More about Shelby County’s Resilience Efforts

Resilient Shelby – Resilience Plan

Shelby County Planning and Development

Mid-South Regional Greenprint

Apr 13, 2017


Sales Tax Issues and Impacts

In This Episode:

02:27 Guests Bob Lewis, Jim Brasfield, and Sarah Coffin are introduced.
02:57 Jim shares why he’s interested in sales tax and distribution equity.
03:18 Bob tells why he’s interested in sales tax and distribution equity.
03:52 Bob talks about his role as Principal at Development Strategies.
04:13 Sarah speaks about why she’s interested in sales tax and distribution equity.
04:55 Bob gives his view of what sales tax distribution equity is.
06:13 Jim explains where sales tax money goes and what it pays for.
08:15 Sarah shares what the negatives of sales tax distribution are.
09:43 Bob speaks about how the sales tax system drives land-use decisions.
11:30 Who decides who is a point-of-sale city?
12:54 Mike speaks of the incentives for more commercial development than housing development.
13:51 Sarah comments about the zoning decisions made by local governments and the affordable-housing issue.
14:48 How do we fix the problem of poorer communities going to rich communities to shop and the rich communities taking the sales tax?
16:26 Is there any property tax sharing or is it just the sales tax?
17:31 Mike mentions the challenges of too many local governments and overlapping jurisdictions.
18:02 Bob adds to the conversation of sharing the costs.
18:55 Sarah reflects on how St. Louis County supports its cultural districts.
20:23 Are there any words of wisdom for other parts of the country that aren’t doing sales tax sharing?


Sarah Coffin is an Associate Professor of Urban Planning and Development at the Center for Sustainability at Saint Louis University. Learn more about Sarah and her research here.

Bob Lewis is the Principal at Development Strategies. Learn more about Bob.

Jim Brasfield is a Professor Emeritus at the George Herbert Walker School of Business and Technology at Webster University. Learn more about Jim.

Take Away Quotes:

“In St. Louis County, when you buy something at a store, depending on the kind of city you live in, the money goes in a pool and is distributed to other cities around the county, or if you are in a city that is a point-of-sales city, it means that most, but not all, of the money goes to that particular city. And one of the unique things about St. Louis County, and I think fairly unique in the country, is that the point-of-sale cities share about twenty percent of the total revenue collected in sales tax with other cities in the county on a per capita sharing.”

“The jobs-housing mismatch is a challenge for St. Louis, and some of the research I’ve done on tax increment financing (TIF), those communities that are wealthier communities, that are low-minority, low-poverty communities, are the one’s that…use their TIF tool for retail, to promote retail sales, which is then those large clusters of low-wage jobs, which are the jobs that a lot of the poor people need, but they’re located further out in the county, whereas in the poorer communities, the more distressed communities tend to focus on residential TIFs and mixed-use TIFs that have a high degree of residential use.”

“It was a tough political battle to ultimately get the sharing, but I think in that instance, both sides had to be willing to compromise, and that’s something that these days in politics seems to be in short supply as people stake out their positions. But as someone who was involved in that discussion leading to the sharing, there was a willingness on both sides to sit down and discuss it and find a middle ground, and I think that’s a key to this and other decisions is that you can’t sit in an ivory tower someplace and say this is what’s best; you’ve got to work with the local people and try to develop some kind of consensus, even if that means you don’t get everything that you would like to get.”


Infinite Earth Radio Episode 52: Affordable Housing and Employment Patterns in the San Francisco Bay Area (Re-release), with Dr. Chris Benner

Infinite Earth Radio Episode 65: #Carbon Series: Conservative Republicans Propose a Carbon Tax, with Catrina Rorke

Development Strategies

George Herbert Walker School of Business and Technology at Webster University


Apr 6, 2017


Making Sure All People Have Access to Affordable Food

In This Episode:

02:16 Mike gives the topic that will be addressed in today’s episode.
02:38 Julia Freedgood is introduced.
02:47 Julia tells about the American Farmland Trust.
03:08 Julia shares why farmland and food equity are important.
04:19 Julia explains what food equity is.
05:40 Julia discloses if food insecurity is a real problem.
06:50 Julia reflects on what needs to be done to attack the problem of food insecurity.
09:08 Julia gives examples of communities that are making progress in the issue of food insecurity.
11:28 Julia provides information regarding the content on the Growing Food Connections website.
13:44 Julia indicates how to get access to the Community Guide to Planning for Agriculture and Food Systems.
15:00 Julia identifies some of the issues that are creating an obstacle to food security and food equity.
19:45 Julia communicates what the average person can do to be supportive of more food security for other people.
23:23 Mike mentions the book “The New Grand Strategy.”


Julia Freedgood is the Assistant Vice President of Programs for the American Farmland Trust and oversees federal, state and local program and policy efforts to support farmland protection and agricultural viability.


American Farmland Trust is dedicated to preserving the nation's farm and ranch land – and critical natural resources like soil and water. They also make sure to never forget that it is people – our family farmers and ranchers – who feed us and sustain America.

Take Away Quotes:

“The American Farmland Trust is a national nonprofit organization. We were founded in 1980 to protect farmland for farming, so our mission is to save the land that sustains us by protecting farmland, promoting sound farming practices, and keeping farmers on the land.”

“For us, in the context of the project that I was talking about, which is a project American Farmland Trust is part of called Growing Food Connections, and the goal of that project is to strengthen community food systems by supporting small and midsize farmers who are growing food within their communities and regions, and also by improving food access, food security, or food equity. And so for the food-equity piece, we’re really looking at making sure that all people in a community have access to affordable food that’s culturally appropriate, the kind of food they’re familiar with and like to eat, and that it’s readily available.”

“Fifty million people in the country are affected by food insecurity, and so that means lack of access to food on a regular basis. It doesn’t mean that they’re starving, necessarily, but it does mean that they don’t have food access every day, three meals a day, healthy food. It’s gotten a little bit better in the last few years, but it’s still worse than it was before the Great Recession, and it’s still a problem that we need to work on. And you find it especially in low-wealth communities and communities of color and rural communities.”

“Through the project [Growing Food Connections], we studied what we call Communities of Innovation, and so these would be places across the country that have really addressed food-system issues through planning and policy and building partnerships and making investments.”


American Farmland Trust

Farmland Information Center

Growing Food Connections

“The New Grand Strategy”