First, thank you for not getting stupid-drunk and smoking crack in public like Toronto’s mayor Rob Ford. Sometimes I get so caught up with the “half-empty” perspective that I forget to be thankful for the full half of the glass. You are each wonderful public servants and you’re working hard to make our shared City the best it can be in very challenging times. Thank you.
Today is the 150th anniversary of Lincoln’s Gettysburg Address. I heard a couple of articles on NPR this morning that got me thinking of using Lincolns as vehicles instead of Fords.
One piece of radio reporting covered the correlation between commute time and political involvement (http://www.npr.org/2013/11/19/246085202/study-commuting-adversely-effects-political-engagement). Seems commute time has increased in the past couple of decades, and those who drive late-model Lincolns long distances (i.e., the wealthy) remain politically engaged, while poor people with long commutes disengage politically.
Another story marked the anniversary of President Lincoln’s address (http://www.npr.org/blogs/thetwo-way/2013/11/19/246109496/listen-for-its-150th-a-reading-of-the-gettysburg-address). A century and a half ago, one of our most respected and well-known presidents spoke of “a new nation, conceived in liberty, and dedicated to the proposition that all men are created equal.” President Lincoln grappled with leading a nation immersed in a Civil War.
You now must grapple with leading a city that is in the throes of economic divisions. The gap between rich and poor keeps growing, and the poor are losing their civil grasp. They are checking out, politically, and withdrawing from civic engagement. I’m sure if we were to conduct an electoral audit to determine the demographic profile behind the 30% of registered voters who bothered to mail in their ballots in the last City election, there would be clear evidence of over-representation of the wealthy and under-representation of the impoverished. This troubling trend spells disaster in the near future as we face mounting challenges due to global warming, peak oil, and crashing economies.
What can be done?
Here are a couple of ideas:
- Granny YANA (You Are Not Alone) Spots or Community Conservation Centers – devote dormant publicly-owned space to physical centers where human connections between neighbors can be fostered and a conduit for non-profits can forge linkages to provide volunteered advice, goods, and services from those with excess resources to those in need.
- Bus Passes – Give City employees free bus passes to reward their service, to cut congestion in downtown, to reduce single-occupancy-vehicle use, to cut air pollution, to role model public transit use for hesitant friends/family/neighbors of bus pass holders, and to encourage repeat human interaction amongst riders.
And here’s an interesting side note to conclude – I spoke to a Buddhist friend who told me that YANA is a word that means “vehicle” or “means of transportation” (http://www.buddhism-guide.com/buddhism/yana_%28buddhism%29.htm).
My bet is that Honest Abe would love it. He’s dead, while you’re alive and leading us now. I hope you will “get on the bus” and adopt these ideas to proactively and constructively connect the dots. Human connection is a stronger and more resilient currency than those government-issued federal reserve notes, and it behooves us to nurture community.