THE PURPOSE OF CITIES
By; Viviana Frank, FAIA
If the pursuit of happiness is an inalienable right, then the main purpose of cities is access to a happy life. It is in cities that citizens manifest “the pursuit” by the types of local ordinances they pass to govern themselves by the power of Home Rule Rights. Today in cities, citizens by necessity and inspiration, have evolved their thinking about what they value and want from their cities. Increasingly, they want more than the many separated conveniences cities historically provided. They want a synergistic life with their community. It is that which comes from the combined effect and effort of policy, programs, and living in the built environment that creates access to health and wellbeing through daily life, to livability.
Agencies of all types with a focus on millennials and boomers, have defined livability as central to their work in, with, and for communities. The National Association of Realtors and other organizations have adopted the American Association of Retired Persons (AARP) Livability Index, a web-based tool to measure a community’s livability. Their Public Policy Institute defines a livable community;
A livable community is one that is safe and secure, has affordable and appropriate housing and transportation options, and has supportive community features and services. Once in place, those resources enhance personal independence; allow residents to age in place; and foster a resident’s engagement in the community’s civic, economic, and social life.
”Fostering a resident’s engagement in the community’s civic, economic, and social life” is what makes advancements in all the rest of the categories possible. Democracy is a participatory form of government. At the local level, collaboration amongst public and private citizens is the exercise that builds solutions in housing, neighborhood, transportation, environment, health, engagement, and opportunity (productive economy), the same livability dimensions measured by AARP. Public commitment to civic engagement is evident where disciplined citizens, elected citizens, and city administrators alike combine with an equal commitment and discipline to implementation protocols. In an age that mandates data supported decisions, and that management of those decisions be measured, expectations are high that progress is made on goals, policy, and programs and that the process be transparent. The productivity of cities depends on the measured and transparent progress of directives to accomplish community goals. The yield is livability and that most important commodity, public trust.
With the capacity of attenuating the brunt of hard times, citizens have come to value most the trust they build when there is a common pursuit to achieving measured and transparent goals. They have become motivated by the outcomes of practicing a shared responsibility for that which they plan and implement to shape their city and its programs. They are inspired by the fruits of their combined efforts in enhancements in health and wellbeing, and productivity for their community. Citizens who agree on a livability mandate and are faithful to its processes are engaged in making their city and trusting of its capacity to thrive locally, regionally, or globally.
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A shared responsibility is the real power of Home Rule Rights and the engine of the pursuit for happiness in cities. To that end, follow our new blog at www.able.city and www.citymakery.com on The Purpose of Cities, how to access a happy life in cities, great solutions for housing, neighborhood, health, engagement, and opportunity, stories and methods, and adventures in civic advocacy.