Friday, September 01, 2006

A Bill Of Rights For A Livable City

From CEOs For Cities blog comes a proposed bill of rights that would be a welcome aspiration for Memphis:

Berkeley resident Sharon Hudson has proposed an urban bill of rights for the city as a reaction to what she sees as excessive development and a "race to the bottom." She bills it as "The NIMBY Manifesto, which is enough to make most urban leaders quake.

(The irony of NIMBYs is that they likely would not be occupying their own home if the neighbors who got there before them had had any say in the matter.)

Nonetheless, Ms. Hudson offers the following for community debate:

1. The right to see significant greenery, the sky, and the sun from within one’s home.

2. The right to natural cross ventilation in one’s home.

3. The right to enjoy peace and quiet within one’s home with windows open.

4. The right to sleep at night without excessive artificial ambient light.

5. The right to be free in one’s neighborhood from pollution of air, water, soil, and plant life.

6. The right to be free from undesirable local environmental change caused by poor urban design, such as wind, shadow and noise canyons, excess heat caused by overpaving, etc.

7. The right to adequate space for storage, hobbies, and other personal activities in and around each dwelling unit, including play space for children in family housing.

8. The right to mobility, regardless of income. If automobile use is discouraged by prohibitive pricing, public transit must be adequate and low cost.

9. The right to parking space for each household.

10. The right of convenient access, on foot if possible, to basic daily needs, such as good quality food at reasonable prices, daily household and medical supplies, laundry facilities, etc.

11. The right of convenient access, by foot, private vehicle, or transit, to places of employment.

12. The right of equal access to the commons and to taxpayer-funded and other public facilities, such as government buildings, libraries, museums, bridges, and roadways.

13. The right of access within walking distance to nature, recreation, outdoor exercise, and discovery, including parks, open space, and areas inhabited by wildlife.

14. The right to equal and adequate police, fire, and emergency services, which shall not be infringed on the basis of income or neighborhood character.

15. The right to participate in and guide, through equitable, representative, democratic processes, land use decisions that affect oneself, one’s neighborhood, and one’s community.


mike said...

I'm always leery of these things for some simple reasons. "Rights" as enumerated here always come from government. How else to achieve these things but with the intervention of some government body or agency?

And yet, we already have a government that is failing spectacularly in the jobs its already been given. The folks who would desperately like to change things can't seem to get control away from those who are the problem.

Their solution? More government agencies, but this time *they* control them. At least for a while, until the folks who like power, or have the money and influence to buy and control it, move in and subvert it all. Like we have now.

I don't know why otherwise reasonable and intelligent people cannot understand this. Government (and its agencies and inspectors, etc.) is a *tool* and like any other tool it can be used and misused. It depends on who wield it. A screwdrive can assemble a bookcase or kill someone. An airplane can either move people quickly great distances or bring down two of the world's largest buildings. Explosives can either aid construction or shred flesh.

Create a tool of power and you will attract folks with the money to buy it away, or the strength to simply take it for themselves. This is ancient and immutable human nature! Create a large, general purpose tool and others will want to create a lot of smaller, specialty tools to do lots of detail work. Soon, you have a big toolbox overflowing with useful tools.

The trick is not in micromanaging a situation until it comes out the way you want it. Have you ever done that? It's rarely successful. The way to success is to find out how to make it economically rewarding to give people what they want in environmentally sensitive ways.

One question / example: Why do shopping centers always have to have enormous parking lots? Acres of concrete awaiting that fourteen day period around Christmas? I'm told it has to do with laws. (Surprise!)

Mom and Pop stores worked because they offered a reasonable selection close to home, at a time when transporation (being able to go somewhere beyond the immediate neighborhood) was costly. Big box stores worked because economies of scale lowered prices dramatically *and* because cheap transportation made travel less onerous at the same time.

The trick is getting that thin second layer of retail (smaller stores closer to homes) to be financially workable. Good luck.

Anonymous said...

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