Life on the ragged edge. Moments and decisions when there are no maps, no models to follow because nobody has ever done it before – places without even a box to think outside of – are moments when you know you’re onto something special. The ragged edge doesn’t happen naturally. It flows from experts, those that have mastered their craft and traversed every detailed corner of their field. Upon mastery of your craft, you are then, and only then, allowed to bend (or openly break) generally accepted rules, like Cormac McCarthy not using quotation marks when he writes, or Jannett Sadik-Khan placing folding chairs smack in the middle of Times Square, or that totally dreamy, intelligent, and humble SpokanePlanner who’s on the cusp of saying some hard things to Spokane’s Mayor elect, as follows:
Follow the Map! The Map is for You! There is No Ragged Edge! Stay Inside the Box!
Just because you got elected Mayor doesn’t mean you know how cities work, it simply means you know how to capture a campaign narrative. And I’m not talking about allowing those in City Hall to run rampant and you follow all their bureaucratic whims. Screw the bureaucrats. I’m talking about the science of cities.
I suggest you pick up a few books about how cities work because the solutions you seek are found within them. Don’t wing it. Come from a place of knowledge.
Be the Big City
We’re the big dog, the central city. Others in the metro can be the best suburban products they can be. The City of Spokane, however, has an obligation to be the metro’s best urban product because we create its sense of place. Don’t screw up our product by emulating suburban development patterns. Where some might argue: “We don’t want to be Seattle,” I argue those whom make such arguments lead very sheltered lives wholly within ever narrowing boxes.
Say what you will, but the results are in; prosperous twenty-first century cities elevate walkability, transit, and mixed land uses into economic development priorities. The same prosperous cities are not pointlessly paranoid and distracted by gun nuts, Agenda 21, and snobby bike riders.
The recipe to solve our challenges is a cocktail of walkability, density, transit, and leveraging economic development tools. Suburbanization is the problem, not the solution.
If You Like the Realtors’ Association, You’ll Love the Public Development Authorities
Congratulations, you have three new best friends who are capable of making you look either wonderful or incompetent depending on how you choose to use them. If your goal is to gain the acceptance of the adoring masses, it’s your three public development authority executives that will help get you there. University District, West Plains, and Hillyard all have their own respective PDAs. Learn how they work. Leverage their competitive advantages. Lean heavy on them and then take all the credit as outside investments flood our city.
Master the System
There’s gonna’ be some civic entities with airs of authority that will lead you to believe they’re cocks of the walk. Don’t be fooled. You and City Council are the only two cocks a walking; pretty much everything else is an illusion. Nothing more than cheerleaders, the heretics that portend authority are just that, cheerleading heretics that portend authority.
Identify the sizzle from the steak. Don’t let the tail wag the dog. Don’t get hustled by those we pay to hustle.
You’re the One That Gets to Cure Homelessness
It was your campaign platform. You won on the issue. You have four years to do what no other city has ever done. It’s on you now and the clock is tickin’. Life on the ragged edge. Good luck.