Recently there has been a lot of discussion in the blogosphere on the shortcomings of downtown Phoenix, my adopted hometown. First, there was some consternation that events like Ignite Phoenix and TEDxPhoenix, were in fact not held in Phoenix at all and therefore not to be attended by ‘true Phoenicians.’
In addition, there have been posts from bloggers like Derek Neighbors, Tyler Hurst, and the Downtown Devil explaining what they see as downtown Phoenix’s shortcomings. And of course there is Jon Talton, the ‘exiled’ Arizona Republic journalist who doesn’t pull punches when describing what has happened to his beloved home town. All of these people and their writings have raised the hackles of some downtown Phoenix cheerleaders. However, all of these people are deeply engaged in their communities in their own ways, something that many cheerleaders are not (Hint to cheerleaders: eating dinner at a local restaurant does not make you active in the community).
As an incurable urbanist, I am excited by what’s going on downtown, and have been one of the area’s biggest boosters. I am a firm believer that the only thing worse than unconstructive criticism however, is blind boosterism. As such, I am not blind to the fact that downtown Phoenix is a work in progress that still has a long way to go before it becomes a truly vibrant urban hub and I’m grateful that the above people are willing to point out its flaws.
Yes downtown has come a long way over the past 10 years (and especially the last 5 years). However, all this work has barely laid the foundation for a ‘real’ downtown; an urban space that offers a mixture of opportunities to live, work and play. It is far to early to sit back and proclaim that downtown Phoenix has arrived, and definitely too early to castigate those who dare to point out the remaining shortcomings and hurdles that the downtown core faces.
Boycotting events or ignoring those you disagree with is no way to help the city or region grow. So rather than write of the comments of Derek, Tyler or Jon, why not listen to them and learn how others see the city? Sure you may disagree with some, or all of their points, but chances are you will re-examine your perspectives and may even find some common ground with the critics to work with. By simply writing the critics writing them off as negative cranks, however, you are missing an opportunity to improve your city.
There are plenty of opportunities to share your opinions and ideas. To begin with, share your opinions in the comment section of this post, or TD‚ Derek‚ or others. Better yet, invite the critics out for lunch coffee or a beer (we are extremely social people) or start up a conversation at your local coffee shop or pub; downtowners are more than willing to share their impressions on what is going on in the communities and engage in constructive debates on where the city is heading.
The point is to get involved and get engaged in your community and neighborhood. Sitting back and cheering is just as bad as sitting back and complaining. After-all, it is only by acknowledging our shortcomings that we care able to address them and help realize downtown Phoenix’s full potential.