Every city is a dream.
It is a dream of a million people with a million minds and it is a dream that is forged on the anvil of commerce and civics.
A city is a dream.
A dream of how we can come together.
How we can live together.
And how we can work together.
Unfortunately, for most, the city is a nightmare.
A place that fills with rot, ruin, and decay.
Once the city was to be the beacon, the heart of the larger community, a place beyond the rural network where commerce and industry could be held away and moved forward.
As society grew, the cities changed, and society changed, and the cities died, and in some ways society died.
We created cities to be beacons to draw everyone together where work and play were both nearby and one could entertain themselves and dine in areas of close proximity.
Now, again, this was a dream.
But we have to start somewhere and we choose to start with the dream.
Reality can be cold, and cruel, and rough and sometimes you need to start with what a thing COULD be before you get to what it will be or is.
You have to start somewhere.
Cities are not dead.
Not Chicago, not New York, and not Flint.
We need cities.
We just need to realize that they are a lot more than we dream them to be.
We have all woken up and reality has come like a cold wind to remind us that –
Not everyone is upwardly mobile.
Not everyone has ‘prospects’.
Not everyone can afford a lifestyle of choice.
Not everyone can afford to live above poverty.
Not ever everyone.
But the city serves all.
And we need to work on that.
We love the tall buildings, the shiny glass, the loud clubs, the fairs, the events, and the tourists.
We love the excitement.
But there is darkness to every day and sometimes that darkness is dangerous.
We have to work to help the people who cannot help themselves.
We need to build a city that reflects the people there, all of the people there, but one that can evolve.
We need to build our cities so that they are not pushing people away but embracing everyone.
We forget, far too easily, how low cities have sunk.
We forget when people left in droves.
We forget the riots.
We forget the protests.
We forget the strikes.
We forget the abuse, misuse, and refuse.
We look past the homeless and futureless.
We have to see them.
We have to see all of them.
And all of it.
A city will never become a utopia where problems don’t exist but it doesn’t have to be a place where the poor are pushed into ghettos, far away from everyone, and left to languish.
We can create a city that works to find solutions. Not perfections, but solutions.
Solutions are not always right, are not always perfect, and are not permanent (hopefully).
They are steps in a direction we hope is forward.
What needs to happen though is a waking up.
The sad fact is that very few people hold the wealth of the world, and thus, very few people are the creators, molders, and taste makers.
This is not a complaint so much as a truism.
Being that this is the way it is, we need for people to start looking beyond their boards, and profit, and to the bottom line beneath the bottom line.
The real bottom line is this – if we can turn a city around (to degrees because you just can’t pretend that a few spins of the wheel and a city and its people will behave) then it helps everyone. Yes, the ‘easy’ thing is to make something for a segment you know will use/enjoy/frequent it. I get it and it is business and it is necessary. But there is more beyond that. So you create the nightclub, awesome, and you get the staff and security, great, but don’t you wanna make sure the neighborhood is safe? That your business will thrive? Aren’t you inherently invested in the future of the city now?
And it’s not as easy as buying out the ‘undesirables’ because these people who we turn our eyes from have to go somewhere. They won’t disappear. And the thing is this – a city welcomes all people. We can’t sit together and say, well, we don’t need THESE people or THOSE people because we need ALL people. This isn’t hippie love stuff, this is fact. The world is full of crummy people, yes, and it’d be great if they turned their lives around but that isn’t always the case but it CAN be the case.
And there’s the heart of it.
We need cities because we need hope.
A city is a constantly changing, constantly evolving space and it thrives when it has more ideas and more people. A city is always reinventing itself and so too then can people do the same. A city represents hope, and hope is the one thing that humans need to continue as an individual, and a race, outside of the basics. We need hope, even against the bitter taste of reality, because it is that hope that pushes us to grow and become better. We can change, if we want to.
There is no one path to move forward for a city.
And there are a lot of ways to screw it up.
If you push out the creatives, the natives, the young people and old, then you’ll take the heart and soul of a city.
If you focus on a populace that is fickle and indifferent and disconnected, then you’ll end up right back where you started.
You must serve the past and future at the same time.
You have to understand that by bulldozing the past and uprooting everyone who has an emotional investment in the city that all you do is create controversy, drama, and danger.
Yes, this may not be the money source you want but they are a resource. They know the people causing the trouble, they want to see the city better, and they want to be a part of it. They just don’t want to lose their homes or have to suddenly pay exorbitantly.
There’s a way to do it.
If people want to.
If the key holders will listen.
If the communities will work together.
And if people care enough to believe that we still and will always need cities.
None of this is easy.
The easy part is writing a blog telling people what to do or coming up with ideas.
The hard part is doing it.
But we can do it.
You can have the newness and the shine and the new investments and you can still honor the artists and people that are there and have been there and who want to remain there.
And in all of it you can shine more light on the places where the people up to no good hide and make it a little bit safer.
Vision and guts and the head for business to see beyond the business because there’s a whole world out there and we’re all a part of it.