Web’s mention the other day of our rail system reminded me of two pet peeves of mine. The first is arrangements that get to rotate between profitability and public good whenever it’s convenient for them. The second is the absurd lengths that some places will go in order to be considered “World Class”.
It is by far the most ambiguous, empty goal that a city can have. Colosse has it, as did Santomas and I’ve read many articles in other cities talking about it. It’s essentially a blank check. It’s saying that we have to spend all of this money on stuff until we’re New York. And since Colosse will never be New York, the spending need never end! When you can’t justify something on the merits, you simply say it’s necessary to become World Class and suddenly all of the big pockets will spend money on campaigns to make people vote for a bond to make it happen.
There are honestly some drives that have been undertaken under the rubric of World Class that I liked and supported. Colosse’s temporary (and since lost) success at cleaning up downtown and making it a place to go was pretty cool. Mixed feelings about the sports stadia and smoking banss. Not so much on the light rail or some of the public park initiatives or so-called “Smart Growth”. Doesn’t matter, though. I support or oppose things things on the basis of whether or not they are good for the city. Others disagree with me and that’s fine. But any time you make any sort of headway opposing any initiative or that, you’re told that if you love the city you have to support it because if we do this the we can sit at the cool kids table with New York City and London.
Except that first it’s futile. Cities like Colosse will never sit at the cool kids table. Santomas gets to sit there on the basis of charisma and not stature and definitely not because of the light rail system that it doesn’t even have. The only way Colosse gets taken seriously is by being its best self. Taking what makes it successful and expounding upon it. Taking what is unsuccessful and correcting it. Bringing in business thus jobs thus people. Good government. Livability. Clean air.
Available jobs will bring in ten times as many people as will a little toy train that runs from one place most people can’t afford to live to another place that most people can’t afford to live. Pollution and crime will drive far more people away than the absence of that fourth greenbelt around the downtown area. The “World Class Cities” are barely even growing (if they are at all). Colosse is. Santomas is. Phoenix is. Boise is. The cool kids will only take the Colosses of the world seriously when they have to. Bike trails (while nice!) won’t do that. People and money will.