Your City is Sick

How we can take lessons from the wellness industry to make human habitats healthier for the people that call them home.


Humans’ greatest strength is our ability to adapt to our surroundings, but what if those surroundings are unhealthy? What if the conditions we are growing accustomed to are not fit for our own habitation? What if the very places we find ourselves living are making us sick? The places we shape, in turn, shape our lives. We are a product of our environment and our environment has degraded to the point of having severe consequences for our personal health. As we have experienced decline all around us, we can’t help but follow suit internally. Our places dictate the people we become, the friends we will make, and our health and happiness. Food has become an obsession in our culture, yet we only eat three times a day. We are shaped by our places 24/7 and it is time we flip the table and give as much thought to the places that shape our lives as we do the ingredients we consume. Ultimately, it is the places in which we exist in that will dictate the people we will be. In understanding this, we can begin to grasp how important it is to shape those places accordingly.

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Jeff Siegler is a writer, speaker, and consultant concerned with the powerful role place plays in our lives. He is the founder of the civic pride consulting firm, Revitalize, or Die and co-founder of the organization Proud Places. After obtaining his Master’s in Urban Planning from Virginia Commonwealth University, Jeff went to work on Main Street. First as a downtown manager, and later as the Ohio Main Street State Coordinator. Jeff and his wife Amber and their four kids call Pittsburgh home.

“For anyone who’s wondering if their town might just be the civic equivalent of a bad boyfriend, Jeff Siegler provides some serious couples counseling in Your City Is Sick. Siegler doesn’t pull any punches as he describes the toxic cycle of neglect, apathy, sprawl, and misguided economic development policies that have derailed American communities over the past fifty years, including the Rust Belt town where he grew up. But he doesn’t let his simmering rage keep him from identifying smart, doable fixes, including prioritizing walkability, aesthetics, and community pride (and maybe a kickball league). Every community leader, economic developer, and hopeful resident should study Siegler’s anti–business-as-usual manifesto for making your town the kind of place people actually want to live. It had me rethinking what really matters for shocking a town back to life. I loved it.”

Melody Warnick – Writer/editor in the Office of the Provost at Virginia Tech. Author of THIS IS WHERE YOU BELONG: Finding Home Wherever You Are, and IF YOU COULD LIVE ANYWHERE.

“It takes guts to title a book Your City is Sick.  Jeff Siegler is an unorthodox champion of revitalization. He digs deeper than physical and economic symptoms, into  the underlying psyche of apathy and acceptance of “the way things are here” that feed inertia.  Your City is Sick offers no miracle cure, but with humor and tough love challenges communities to face uncomfortable truths.”

Mary Means, founder of the national Main Street revitalization movement and author of Main Street’s Comeback and How It Can Come Back

“This is an annoying and inconvenient book.  It is full of reasons why I cannot sit on the sidelines and complain about what someone else ought to be doing.

Your city is sick is a serious and consequential diagnosis.  What’s wrong with the health of your city? What are the symptoms? Is there a cure?

Siegler assembles a detailed argument for what’s wrong in so many places and why folks should give a damn.  As for the remedy, he makes a compelling case for taking relentless incremental action.  That’s a straightforward and painfully simple course of treatment.  He warns us that we cannot conflate action that is simple, with action that is easy.”

R. John Anderson, CNU Fellow, builder, developer, urban designer, and recovering electrician. His work focuses on small scale, incremental design and development.