7.04.2007

More Can Mean More

Here's yet another difference between Philadelphia and Seattle.  In Philadelphia, we recently arrested a loud street performer for disturbing the peace.  In Seattle, Mayor Nickels pays street performers with public money. 

It's the Jane Jacobs school of thought when it comes to parks: more action means more crowds, and more crowds means less riff-raff, and less riff-raff means less perception of crime, and less perception of crime means more crowds, and so on and so on. 

In other words, parks by themselves are neutral city resources. If they are deserted, people fear them and they become liabilities.  But if they are bustling, people are drawn to them and they become assets.

At least in Philadelphia, it has always been easier to develop in the suburbs than in the city.  Part of this is unions, part of this is land assembly, and part of this is demand.  But while some of that equation is still in place, in many cases the suburbs are becoming almost as hard to develop in. 

Chalk it up to suburbanites who, having fled the noise of the city, are loath to have the noise creep out to them.  So any proposed development is viewed as contributing only bad things: more congestion, more users of public services, more crime.  In the suburbs, more is less.

It doesn't have to be that way.  More can, in fact, be more.  More can mean parks and streets are healthily trafficked, leading to sufficient eyes and ears to keep away the riff-raff and allow families to enjoy leisurely strolls and social outings without fear of being stuck in a deserted part of town.  More can mean exposure to new people, new sights and sounds, new experiences.

So whether in the city or the suburbs, more doesn't have mean less; more can mean more.  And it doesn't even necessarily take a mayor willing to pay street performers a few bucks to draw a crowd. 
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