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Sunday, September 23, 2018

Celebrating Our Identity

What makes a great city?  There are lots of ways to address this question. At this time, the My Plan Phoenix Leadership Committee is grappling with this question and its variants. The committee is working on the General Plan for the entire City of Phoenix. This process will take quite a while. We have had a good deal of public input and we will be soliciting more. At this time we are working on five big ideas that we have distilled from the public meetings and our website. They are : connect people, places and activities, build a greener and healthier Phoenix, sustain community engagement, and creating identity by celebrating diverse communities. This last idea is the one on which my group is working. These titles may change, there may be more “big ideas” added and new input may alter these ideas.

My group started with the original idea that “communities are the foundation of Phoenix.” One committee member said “what about neighborhoods?” So then we thought maybe it should read “neighborhoods are the foundation of Phoenix.”  We would address the relationship between neighborhoods and communities in the explanation that would follow every big idea.  Then one of us questioned the meaning of “foundation.” As a result of that question we started discussing how some critics have said that Phoenix is a city without a there there (or something to that effect). Since we are dealing with a plan for the future, we thought, why not anticipate Phoenix having, sometime in the future, a more distinct identify, an identity unique in its own way.

That dialogue brought in the word “identity.” We talked about how great cities had great neighborhoods and how those neighborhoods gave those cities identity. Then we once again got back to what is a neighborhood and what is its relationship to community. We discuss a point that Dr. George Brooks made during a discussion in the full committee. He said that we should understand that the city is made up of very diverse Villages and that the uniqueness of these Villages must be considered in any plan. At that point we were ready to say “creating identity by celebrating diverse neighborhoods” as our heading and then explain communities and villages later. And I said the following: “I am still not comfortable leaving “community” out of the title. But, maybe this is as good as it gets. Part of my problem is that I am looking for some connectivity that may just be unrealistic at this time. Put another way, in Phoenix at least, neighborhoods make up communities and some of those communities have very distinct histories and geographies. In my part of town, missing that point slowed development by comparison to other areas–by decades. South Phoenix or the South Mountain Village was judged by one neighborhood: 24th Street and Broadway. This was the “neighborhood” most “celebrated” that created our “identity” as far as the media and the rest of the Valley was concerned. We could not grow until we were able to present ourselves as a community which, like most communities, may have a challenged neighborhood within their boundaries: there (the Southside) was a community with a larger identity than any of its individual neighborhoods, good or bad.”

And that is the short version of how our little group got to “Creating Identity by Celebrating Diverse Communities.”  As Southsiders we are pretty good at celebrating our unique neighborhoods. But don’t forget to experience them, as well. Take part in one of Tiger Mountains urban gardens, have lunch on South Central, say a prayer at St. Catherine’s, get a beer at the Silver Pony, buy a rose bush at Green World.  Live our community: we make Phoenix a better place and have always done so.





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