(10/11/2013, Los Alamitos/West Orange County) Once again our Thursday Columnist’s weekly piece is well worth waiting an extra day for. His thoughts today seem as applicable to Cypress, Seal Beach, & even Rossmoor as to Los Al.
by “Highlands Guy:” As we get older we probably look in the mirror less and less.
I’m not quite sure why, but it may have something to do with not caring as much as we used to about how we look, or put another way, focusing more on the important stuff that life has given to us or put in our way.
In the same way I am sometimes critical about how my kids look or their progress in the things I deem as important. It’s in that sense that I offer today’s thoughts on
The experts tell us half the world’s population – 3.6 billion people – live in cities. Cities are the main source of global economic growth and productivity, and they account for most resource consumption and greenhouse emissions.
Lots of studies have looked at how cities perform in economic, environmental, and social terms that help us understand the elements of a great city. But what is important on a more basic level, is to get a handle on what the leaders can do to forge their cities into greatness.
While all cities have a different starting point, according to the McKinsey Global Institute, leaders that make important strides in improving their cities, do three things really well:
- Achieve smart growth
- Do more with less
- Win support for change.
These primary issues are important to all cities, but since we’re pretty much built out and so darn small, the results will have much greater impact. Thus I beseech each of our civic leaders to pay close attention to every matter that comes before them.
All city leaders want their local economies to grow. Economic growth, however, does not automatically deliver a better quality of life and may harm the environment.
The first step, at least on the business side, might be to identify our competitive advantage and use it to support targeted business offerings. Obviously the almost-to-be minted General Plan needs to play an important role in this process, and held up as a constant measure.
The folks on the dais need to take a more pro-active stance in talking up the city to businesses/industries that would make a good fit and/or enhance our image. And finally, promote social integration with, for instance, measures to make sure we incorporate an affordable housing component.
Do more with less
As with most U.S. cities, counties, and now the Federal Government, our budget is under tremendous pressure. We have had to cut programs, reduce city staff, and defer maintenance on a deteriorating infrastructure.
Effective city leaders will make the most of available resources, by exploring public/private partnerships, embrace technology, eliminating waste, and making the best use of taxpayers’ contributions. Included may be: cost-efficient IT investments, organizational changes that eliminate overlapping roles, downgrading of standardized specifications on vehicles and computers, scrutinize current long-term contracts (like red-light cameras), and make sure any investments are earning a reasonable return.
Win support for change
R.T. Rybak, mayor of Minneapolis, notes, “In my job as CEO of the city, a large part of what I do is articulate the vision of the council and the community.”
Michael Bloomberg, major of NewYork, embodies the idea of mayor as CEO of the city as a business, and its residents as customers who deserve high quality services. Internally, this may take on the look of building a high-performance team and creating a culture of accountability.
Transparency, two-way communication, and getting the folks in the neighborhoods engaged, builds consensus and popular support. It has been said that quickly reaching short-term goals will positively affect the popular support of long-term objectives, especially during the limited terms of most officials.
Things we can all do:
Obviously, the role of the individual citizen in creating a great city cannot be overstated. But most of the time it is reactive as opposed to proactive.
If the center divider on your street needs the weeds pulled, do it. If the wooden bench in the pocket park up the block from you looks crappy, get out the sand paper.
Get on the phone and call that neat little eatery you stopped at up the coast and tell them about the empty store fronts on Katella…near the expanding hospital.
If crime is increasing in your immediate neighborhood, get together with a few neighbors and show some 24/7 visibility at one of the entrance streets. This approach may get the job done, but it may also motivate action from city hall.
And finally, you can do a self check to assess the quality of our city. Just look around with a critical eye. It’s in the grass, the tennis courts, the sidewalks, the center dividers, the city hall, the police station, the crime rate, the recycling initiatives, the gathering places, the safe places for our kids to hang out, the long range infrastructure plans…you get the idea.
“The chief function of the city is to convert power into form, energy into culture, dead matter into the living symbols of art, biological reproduction into social creativity.”
-Lewis Mumford (1895-1990) American sociologist, historian, philosopher. Particularly noted for his study of cities and urban architecture. A contemporary and friend of Frank Lloyd Wright.
…And that’s just the way I see it.