Rebuilding Place in the Urban Space

"A community’s physical form, rather than its land uses, is its most intrinsic and enduring characteristic." [Katz, EPA] This blog focuses on place and placemaking and all that makes it work--historic preservation, urban design, transportation, asset-based community development, arts & cultural development, commercial district revitalization, tourism & destination development, and quality of life advocacy--along with doses of civic engagement and good governance watchdogging.

Monday, September 05, 2011

What should be the components of a local civic agenda

Washington Post business columnist Steven Pearlstein has an interesting column about presidential politics and jobs production and the need to be truly innovative and transformational instead of boring, using the example of Steve Jobs and Apple Computer, which admittedly is an amazing story about how to redefine how people use technology and the creation of transformational products. See "A jobs program for a floundering president."

I think about this same general point--about being innovative--a lot in terms of local civic affairs and how we deliver programs.

For the most part, local government isn't all that transformational, doing pretty ordinary and boring things.

I've written about some best practice local government programs such as Arlington County's transportation demand program (and the "Commuter Store"), the Tower Hamlets borough in London and their repositioning of libraries as "Idea Stores," and the resident attraction program Live Baltimore in Baltimore City.

Two others that come to mind are the way that both San Francisco and New York City are repositioning their transportation agenda around placemaking and sustainable transportation. See "Tiny Parks are on a roll in San Francisco" from the Los Angeles Times about the SF parklet program. I've written about this ad infinitum, including in this blog entry, "San Francisco Sustainable Mobility Presentation."

The Indianapolis Star has an article, "Wanted: mayor who's ready to rise to challenges" about the local election there and they write that these are the key issues:

• transit--improving the local transit system, which for a big city, is poor;
• neighborhood stabilization--there are more than 10,000 vacant houses in various neighborhoods across the city;
• parks--the quality of the park system is wanting compared to the need and the city's aspirations to be a major city;
• entrepreneurial culture--"Indianapolis must become a city where more entrepreneurs and creative types are encouraged to take risks."

From the article:

The next mayor must lead a charge that seeks to raise residents' quality of life on multiple fronts. Securing a bright future for Indianapolis is no longer about one issue or one area of the city. All of Indy must rise together.

I like that.

For the San Francisco mayoral election, the San Francisco chapter of the American Institute of Architects sponsored a forum, moderated by urban design writer John King of the San Francisco Chronicle, the Mayor’s Forum: What is Your Vision for San Francisco’s Built Environment?, although I haven't heard what transpired, I think it's a great thing for the AIA chapter to do.

If you want to be inspired about the power of place and place capital for local communities, I recommend hearing Mayor Joseph Riley speak on the topic. Here is a link to his standard speech.

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