City Counseling (Session #1)
Last night, in front of city hall, we had a conversation about the ways we want to shape our city.
In the midst of rising tensions around existing city services and new infrastructures, there seems to be a renewed wish for not just more public dialogue with the city, but a dialogue based on transparency and vision.
We haven’t been seeing that kind of dialogue, so we thought we might try to have our own.
We took our projector, battery, some bristol board and paint markers and started asking questions of the handful of community members who showed up at 9:30pm last night. We setup a camera on the bristol board and shot the projector at the side of City Hall.
We wanted to demonstrate what public process can look like — how dialogue can unfold in a public way.
We started by asking what we might change or create tomorrow, if we had the chance. One by one, we came up with:
- A cohesive community plan that’s legible to all
- Buses that arrive on time and more often
- Pedestrian-friendly and accessible development
- Pedestrian access to Detroit
- A more open border
- Open and transparent and consultive funding proceses and policies
- More assistance and focus on small businesses
- The disappearing of Walker Road, south of Division
- Press that covers the arts and employs critics to do so
- More green space
And incomplete wish list, to be sure, but a list that was developed by 14 twenty-somethings based on very intimate experiences with this city.
On to a new list, we want more:
- Vegan restaurants
- Focus on the local arts
- After school youth activities
- Accessible social programs
- Free culture
- Space for community activities
- Information and messages (non-ads)
- Updated libraries
- Public consultation
- People that care about this place
- Opportunities for artists to be recognized municipally
- Funding for students to take on unique research
- Money for creative activities across the city
- Focus on repair and reuse over rebuild
And then, another list, we want less:
- Urban sprawl
- Consumer culture
- Ignorance around sustainability
The best part of compiling these lists is how they came to articulate a response to the city, beyond administration, staff, or even exclusively things over the purview of city bureaucracy. It was a response to the things we see unfolding in front of us and how we could imagine addressing them, ourselves.
The ideas that we discussed started pointing us towards activities that might unfold at a neighbourhood level.
So, then we wasked how — how might we start to facilitate these things we want to happen?
- Meetings like this one on a regular basis
- Civic engagement embedded in undergraduate courses
- Reinventing Speaker’s Corner
- Action Committees
- Bartering practices
- Targeting youth for new ideas
- Parallel city council meetings
- Mixers for Doers
- Block Parties with artists
- Vacant houses get free maintenance
- Street-level skill bank for neighbours
- More friendliness
- Walking clubs
- Animating your front yard
- Being outside
- Developing shared public spaces
- Fireworks and sidewalk chalk
- Visual timelines for activities
- Fun time together
We continued to take notes and the conversation continued to build, and I think we left off asking about something you would never change about this place … wish we had written it down.
However, the night left us anxious for more time together, outside in a place like this.
Meeting new people at random…
…and surrounding ourselves with old friends makes for an incredible summer night.
Being able to project our notes as we took them down and display them for anyone to see seemed like a great start to thinking about how the city could open up its public consultation.
But really, it seemed most important to do this again — light up a public space with a small lamp, get a bunch of paper and markers, and talk about making the city the place we want to live. These lists have already sparked new projects that I’m hoping we can tackle in the coming months. I wouldn’t mind doing this again sooner rather than later, hopefully we can entice some more people to join us next time.