My husband and I live in a small town in which, over the past seven or eight years, has experienced significant growth – transitioning from an agricultural area to a desirable suburb of a metropolitan area, bringing a lot of attention from individuals and families who are more interested in a slower pace of life, but still want access to an array of amenities and conveniences.
And while the parameters of growth were addressed in town planning, in hindsight, the rapid influx of expansion, appears to have favored an increasing economic revenue through business growth over a modulated integration of expansion for the purpose of maintaining community values and way of life.
Favoring a financial market over people and community development has historically been the validated theoretical lens for success in maintaining and sustaining ideological foundations of city planning.
A system generally offering only either/or decisions, and power plays for control, can be viewed as "part of the game," and sometimes resulting in relationship conflict, regarding differing views, and their expressions.
Understanding this particular ideology and way of operating can be brought a little closer to home, by revisiting the experience of a well-known film character, named Ebenezer Scrooge in the classic 1951 film, A Christmas Carol.
Ebeneezer Scrooge began his career in an apprenticeship as a clerk under the tutelage of his mentor, Mr. Fezziwig. However, as the times were a changin', men who had for years, owned their own businesses, were now being bought out by corporate interests.
Unable to compete, Mr. Fezziwig also found himself unable to sustain sole proprietorship of his warehouse business. Then one day, a financier, Mr. Jorkin, called on Mr. Fezziwig, offering to buy him out. And the dialogue exchange between the two men reveals, not only the conflict of ideological differences between them, but the conflict of differences in culture as well.
Mr. Jorkin: "Come now. We are men of business and progress."
Fezziwig: "It is not just for money alone that one spends a lifetime building up a business and progress."
Mr. Jorkin: "If it's not, I'd like you to tell me what you do spend a lifetime building it for."
Fezziwig: "It's to preserve a way of life that one knew and loved."
As we read the conversation between Mr. Fezziwig and Mr. Jorkin, and compare the differing perspectives on life and business development, we can also observe another, larger perspective, that of purpose.
Michael Oluf Emerson, Provost and Professor of Urban Studies at North Park University in Chicago, and a Kinder Fellow at Rice University, is also the author of Market Cities. People Cities. The Shape of Our Urban Future.
In his book, he helps bring to our understanding; the difference of goals in a market city and a people city. While identifying the differing priorities of each, he helps us to understand how city planning can take on a new meaning when a city can begin to understand their purpose.
The quality of purpose, while often considered only casually in our changing times, is in truth, a fundamental aspect to help moderate competing interests and ideological views of city planning and development.
For cities and towns to understand, learn, and take steps toward effective planning and quality development, identifying purpose, includes focus and vision, both valuable and supportive qualities for city and town officials, regarding addressing growth and management for a community, town or city – benefiting both people and environment.
Times may be a changin', but when we honor our purpose in the present moment, we give ourselves permission to experience, the unfolding change as a meaningful expression revealed in, not only our communities and our towns, but also in ourselves and our relationships – and that might just be the path to preserving a way of life, we know and love and the changin' times we want.
With thanks to my wonderful son, for providing the informative resource of Michael Emerson.
~Paulette Jackson LPC-MHSP
photo credit: highdivesd.com