It is a good thing that a growing chorus is calling the bluff of the current narrative surrounding smart...
Yup, I’m still thinking about how to increase participation in planning processes. This post focuses on terminology.
At the Ala Moana Transit Oriented Development community workshop, I would suspect many attendees were unfamiliar or at the very least unclear on the terms flying around thick and furious. The presenter did his best to avoid acronyms, but knowing that “FAR” means “Floor Area Ratio” doesn’t actually explain much at all. Probably the consultants, city and county employees and the table of DURPies were able to follow the presentation with ease, but I still got tripped up by what was intended by certain broad terms like “amenities” or “affordable housing.” One person’s amenity could very well be another’s eyesore and as one audience member pointed out, depending on what percentage of Area Median Income was used to define affordable housing, affordable housing may only be affordable for a two-white-collar-income household.
The draft document itself allows a deeper engagement with the concepts than a 2-hour public meeting, but only provides so much in the way of explanatory definitions. Page 144 of the draft plan lists in brief some of the finance tools that could be used in the development, and describes the idea of community benefits, but an expanded glossary would be hugely helpful. I know, I just suggested making a 149 page plan better by adding more pages. ^_^ The TOD website provides a list of resources but in all honesty, it would take a really dedicated resident to teach themselves all the planning concepts included in the TOD plans.
Even Neighborhood Board members, who get a crash course in urban planning by way of their service, often pick up only fragments, raising concerns about sufficient parking spaces without also considering the “high cost of free parking”.
I guess this also feeds back to my obsession with a citizens planning institute (perhaps run via the Neighborhood Commission? Ahem ahem). On page 145, under the strategic partners section, Ala Moana residents and community groups are “responsible for participating in government processes to ensure community input continues to be a part of plan implementation.” Without a familiarity with the terms and concepts under discussion, residents are hampered in their analyses of the pros and cons of proposed options. The democratic process of city-making would really benefit from a higher level of city literacy.
Growing up in London I was not reflected anywhere, not fully. I think most of us tried to grasp on to images of african-american culture, and we tried to cling on to our identities from the caribbean and africa. We’d wave our jamaica flags at carnival and watch reruns of fresh prince but ultimately nothing reflected us. We didn’t exist.
There are a couple spokespersons who seem to have been implicitly elected as the collective voice of the black community in the UK, but I don’t relate to most of them. They normally are male, much older and have a hint of inaccessible academic elite pretentiousness to them. Maybe there were voices that I could relate to once, but they must have been erased or silenced already, because I can’t find them. Why does there have to be a singular voice anyway?
If aliens came to London and determined who was here by the media, they would probably conclude that black british women do not exist, and that black men only come in the form of misogynistic, school age, aspiring rappers or drug dealers who live on impoverished estates. They would never know we were here. We’re invisible.