Was a big success, and we were at the Fortress of Planning (pictured above) so late they turned off the lights and kicked us out. Special thanks go to my fellow panelists - Eric from Thayer Avenue, Cindy at Rockville Central, David at Greater Greater Washington, and Barnaby from the Friends of White Flint blog - and of course everyone at the Planning Department who put this together, including Rina Brulé who put it together, moderator Fred Boyd, and department director Rollin Stanley, who I still have a bit of a "planner-crush" on.
Not surprisingly, the Planning Department's own blog The Straight Line has a nice re-cap of last night's event:
Two ideas in the discussion struck me. The first was Dan Reed’s passion for his community and the sense of justice that prompted him to start blogging. He recounted some success in connecting the Silver Spring skater kids to the planning process through his blog. This is the kind of outreach planners know that must do to create a valid plan, but don’t always achieve.
Connecting to a larger community through blogs may be one way to get beyond the “white, middle-class, retired” people who Reed sees as making decisions for communities they may not be part of.
(I think this is giving me a little too much credit. I've written a lot about skaters in Silver Spring, but I don't think I've directly influenced the planning process other than making non-skaters aware of the issues at hand.)
Either way, if you haven't seen the blog before, definitely check it out. It's really exciting to see what planners do for a living, and what inspires them. Hopefully, that kind of transparency will make the general public more interested, or at least more trusting, of those who make the decisions that affect their lives and communities.
Next week, the Rethink Montgomery speaker series continues with a discussion on "Infrastructure," with panelists Casey Anderson of the Washington Area Bicyclist Association (and a Woodside resident) and planning consultant Richard Layman, who writes Rebuilding Place in the Urban Space. The event's next Thursday, April 15 at 7:30pm at 8787 Georgia Avenue in Downtown Silver Spring.
Dan, just so you know, there is a large population of white, middle-class, and even retired persons in Silver Spring. We all know that Silver Spring is one of the more diverse cities in the area, but white, middle-class people are probably the relative majority. I don't think that they are the enemy, either. In fact, I'd argue that many of those in power in this county are much more progressive than many of the newcomers.
You're absolutely right, though I don't think you would disagree that the make-up of many of our community organizations - and of our community leaders - often doesn't reflect the diversity of our community, whether in race, economic status, or politics.
Nobody is "the enemy" here, nor did I suggest that. But we have a responsibility to bring as many parties to the decision-making table as possible, and right now that isn't happening. That must change if we want to ensure that everyone's needs are met.
I was at last night's panel and I liked what I heard. Moving beyond Silver Spring's middle-aged white retirees, I'd like to comment on something that came up a couple of times: blog retirees and the issue of succession when a blogger leaves the scene.
The Silver Spring Penguin was mentioned a few times. When Jennifer Deseo left SS for New York she left a real void in the local blogosphere. When you leave to attend grad school, there will be another void.
I wonder if it is practical to plan on succession as a blogger when someone like you or the Penguin or another influential voice anticipates a change of venue.
The New York Times and other publications have a Stylebook they give to new writers. I'm not sure if that would work with a blog - when someone leaves, they take with them their voice and their specific expertise, two things that can't easily be taught or replicated.
So I'm not sure what will happen if, in fact, I do leave, but it's certainly something I've been thinking about a lot.
Actually, as a white, sort-a-middle class, almost retired SS resident, I was grateful to find out about the issues that skate boarders were having, and teens in general were having in DTSS. I sure never would have found out in the local newspapers! Now I can try to be part of the solution, as we used to say.
I did really enjoy the panel. I was particularly amused by your mentioning of the sin of discussing parking at a dinner party.
Even in a pretty liberal group there can be some reflexive positions on those issues but I've also found that I can often bring people around at least partially as a lot of the problems of the current system show up pretty quickly if you talk it through.
I'd say probably the biggest trick I need to manage is to really learn how to compellingly explain new roads failing to resolve traffic because of induced demand. Figuring out the merits of performance parking just requires some micro-economics, I think understanding induced demand requires getting into the implications for development of any transportation project and the fact that transit can scale in a way roads can't. But that implications for development point seems like it'd just start a whole new battle and is a bit more than I want to handle at an only moderately wonky party.
I follow your blog every day and am also in Montgomery County: http://montgomerycountydaily.blogspot.com/
Dan, I don't understand what's meant by you connecting skaters with the planning process? How?
I know you said they gave you too much credit, and I tend to agree.
I appreciate some of your pro-skateboarding blogs, but none of them comes close to conveying the level of harassment skaters have (and do) experience downtown. So to the extent that you have encouraged more openness towards the idea of skateparks -- we appreciate that. But when kids are being verbally and physically abused by security guards, getting bogus citations, being banned from numerous public streets, and when they're threatened with criminal charges for simply carrying skateboards on Ellsworth, the problem is far greater than what I've ever read on your blog. And you didn't connect the young skaters with the planning process -- I did that.
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