Wednesday, October 22, 2003

Shifting Regional Wealth

I don't know about you, but I happen to think that the hoary old saw about a picture being worth more than a thousand words is overused and often wrong (you'll just have to forgive my admitted biases toward words over images). But of course there are times where a single visual does nicely speak volumes. I was reminded of that when I recently came across this arresting map on the EcoCity site, charting the distribution of regional wealth. It speaks loudly about how the region is becoming increasingly like that dreaded donut, with all the good stuff at the edges and an empty space in the middle. And the Cleveland blight is of course now beginning to affect the inner-ring suburban neighbors. What to do? The very nature of the economic, political and even historical forces affecting sprawl from older areas can render even well-intended folks like those who labor for Eco City all but ineffectual in fighting an uphill battle. I won't get into the larger issue of whether conventional anti-sprawl arguments can be uncomfortably elitist and anti-choice, as I think they often are. Whether we intellectuals want to admit it or not, the majority of Americans will always care more about the theories and values of Jay Leno than those of Jane Jacobs, and our cities will reflect that. So get over it.

What's needed to reverse the polarity of decline are some big, breakthrough ideas, not tiny incremental adjustments in the flow of people and money and resources ever outward. Which is why I'm fascinated to watch the whole clash over Lakewood's controversial West End project, which, whatever else it is, certainly has to be called a bold leap at changing the dynamics of inner ring decline. While I understand the outrage of residents and opponents of the project, and while I honor the efforts of my friend and colleague Steve Fitzgerald and his role in helping channel community dialogue through his Lakewood Buzz, I have to say I come down on the side of those who want to try to reshape the city in this dramatic way. They say in development circles that it's almost impossible to relocate a cemetary, because of all the ancient, buried interests, and developing an older area such as Lakewood has similar dynamics (including the necessary if often distasteful method of eminent domain). But I hope this project, or something like it, somehow goes through, because I've come to love Lakewood, and its continued vitality is at stake..

Ever Wonder What Your Favorite Blog Would Look Like as a Book? Take a look at this, and decide for yourself.

Corporate Myths Die Hard. As it grew into a force of the web that surpassed Amazon and now rivals Google, eBay always nurtured and repeated a warm and consumer-friendly tale about its founding, about how it all came from one man's search for more of his favorite Pez dispensers. The only problem was that it wasn't true, as even the company has long since admitted. And yet we still have tech-savvy national mags such as Business 2.0 that don't seem to have gotten the message. Maybe there's a glass half-full here: while the artwork illustrating this piece uses Pez as a backdrop, thus strongly implying the connection, at least the piece itself doesn't make an explicit link to the old (wrong) legend.


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