Yesterday I wrote about some of the strengths that Phoenix has, and how they are building blocks for creating a great city. However, too many of us still look to the politicians, developers and civic organizations to arrange these building blocks and create new ones. The trouble is they keep squandering this responsibility by chasing after the next big block, instead of finding ways to pull together what we already have. Put another way, we have allowed city-building to become so problematic, so institutionalized that it has lost all but the most rudimentary citizen input.
Part of this is our own problem. We have sat back and watched the real estate industrial complex and kookocracy take over our city. We are satisfied with the odd positive outcome and accepted their empty platitudes. Sure a few people have complained from the sidelines, a few more have attempted to get involved, and fewer still have been able to affect some positive change. This makes the rest of us victims. As Derek Neighbors has said “the biggest faux pas that creative class has made in downtown Phoenix is not getting involved in the right organizations and making an impact.”
If enough people do not care to do more than whine among themselves; if enough people don’t have the passion to get involved, then there isn’t a platform for positive change to build on. Sure we can stand around and hope that Kimber will enter the Mayor’s race, but without a critical mass of ACTIVE supporters there isn’t much she can do, even as mayor. We all need to prove to our civic leaders that there is a market, not only for denser downtown, but a vibrant downtown created by community involvement. We need to give them with not only good ideas, but also the confidence to enact them.
The decisions made today were conceived months–if not years–ago. They weren’t pulled out of thin air; they were built and negotiated by city staff, developers, and business groups. Some of them may have been referred to a committee for consideration. By the time they reach the public, it is too late to do much more than smooth a few rough edges. If we want to affect sustained change, we need to have impact earlier in the decision-making process.
Quite simply we need to GET INVOLVED. Instead of simply complaining, find an organization you would like to see changed (or influence change) and start attending their meetings. Try to get on their board od directors. At the city level, there are dozens of citizen based boards and committees, many with vacancies (I have listed several vacancies with the City of Phoenix in another post). Find one and apply to be on it. In the meantime, start attending your council district, neighborhood association, and/or HOA meetings and learn about what is going on and who the key influencers are.
Be warned that this won’t change things overnight. Those with the power wont hand it over because you attend a meeting or two. Real change takes perseverance and patience. The developers have it. This is why they are so often on the winning side. If we want to balance the tables, we need to have it as well. If we love our city, then a little effort put into making it better is a small price to pay. If enough of us get involved in a concerted way, I guarantee that real change WILL occur.