Welcome to The Barber Brief!

Photograph by Emily Najera

Why do cities like Reno look and feel the way they do, and what can the average person do about it? The form and function of our urban landscapes are the products of countless decisions, made over time. For the most part, those decisions are in the hands of private property owners and our local governments, who together play an enormous role in shaping the communities in which we live.

I’m Alicia Barber, PhD—historian, writer, and educator. Through my decades of research, service, consulting, and public advocacy, I’ve learned a lot about the dynamics of city planning, policy, and promotion. Above all, I’ve come to understand how critical it is for local residents to understand the processes governing the development of their communities. I believe that the key to ensuring that the decisions made by our local governments align with community wishes is an informed and engaged citizenry.

I started this newsletter to help keep my local community in Reno, Nevada better informed about actions that impact our city’s development. I’m a frequent contributor and op-ed writer for media including This is Reno, C-SPAN, and The Nevada Independent, where my focus is on issues related to urban policy & planning, historic preservation, and the built environment. But my expertise also extends to analyzing how the power of private interests, media, marketing, and PR efforts is leveraged by various entities to pursue specific political outcomes and shape public perception of these issues. In addition, I work throughout the community and state to help strengthen a sense of community and public memory through public history projects of all kinds, so I write about that sometimes, too.

My hope is that the information and insights I provide can help our community (and others!) feel better informed and empowered to participate in the local processes that affect the places where they live, strengthening their sense of connection to them in the process. With a PhD in American Studies and an awareness that many communities face similar issues, you’ll see that my interests range beyond Reno and Nevada to provide national context that informs our local spaces. You can also check out my book Reno’s Big Gamble: Image and Reputation in the Biggest Little City for my analysis of how the landscape and reputation of Reno have been shaped by powerful interests, shifting economic priorities, and a constant awareness of the city’s fragile and ever-evolving image.

Stay up-to-date.

Subscribe to keep up with my latest commentaries, information, and tips for how to get and stay involved. I don’t have a regular publication schedule, but you can generally expect one or two posts per week. I have added an optional paid subscription level for occasional subscriber-only posts but mostly to provide readers with the ability to directly support my writing, if desired. Sign up for any level now, and every new edition of the newsletter will go directly to your inbox.

Be part of the conversation.

Respectful discussion and the sharing of ideas are more essential than ever to building and retaining strong communities. And that’s exactly what I hope to accomplish with The Barber Brief. You can read my full Archive of past posts here. Welcome aboard.

Feel free to support my efforts via Venmo. To find out more about the company that provides the tech for this newsletter, visit Substack.com.

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Promoting awareness & engagement in Reno's city development


Historian, educator & author Alicia Barber, PhD, offers info, research, and analysis on issues including city planning, politics & policy, history & place, and media/PR in Reno, Nevada & beyond.