I’m writing to y’all, including decision-makers, but especially all of us whose opinion is supposed to count in democratic governance: If we’re going to get bigger, for goodness’ sake, let’s get better!
What I mean is this: There are small towns and cities all over the world, including in the U.S., that are addressing the inevitable growth and sharing issues that we’re all facing unless we’ve camped out in a remote landscape or on some grand estate somewhere.
Week after week, month after month, we read and feel concerns about how Asheville is growing, how sprawl is spreading, that maybe it shouldn’t be growing so much or so fast. But we also see that we can’t stop the growth. How could we? As people elsewhere become better informed, they can’t miss that this is one attractive place to be, so far. So that’s my point, let’s keep it that way: If we’re going to get bigger, let’s get better!
Better means let’s pay attention to issues of parity in the city and its surrounds. For example, let’s make sure safety is felt in neighborhoods everywhere by following the lead of projects like Portland, Ore.’s City Repair, for example. Projects like theirs promote ways for neighbors to connect and to feel more at home and in control of their neighborhoods by creating ways to slow traffic at key intersections, ways to offer convenience to those on foot (and bikes) and, in general, ways to make friendliness and beautification part of what we expect when we go out of doors.
And why aren’t there more alternative energy projects in Western North Carolina? We could be incorporating wind, solar and hydro power into our infrastructures now! Perhaps tax breaks are the typical approach for these kinds of steps forward, but there are other ways to afford things, including crowdfunding, grant writing and other fundraising appeals. It would take energized people with vision, communication and organizational skills and community support to get things like this going, but that’s where and how these things begin. Anyone want to go for it?
What is special about Asheville, about our region, if not our sustainability potential? We need to do better than being No. 1 in places to drink and dine out. That’s great; yes, of course. But we’ll become just another city gone too far if we don’t balance short-term investment with the investments that will make us outstanding for generations. What if Asheville and its region could become a place you’d imagine your children and grandchildren would still enjoy? What if we could stay the tide of unconscious development?
I’m game. You can write to me at email@example.com and I’ll put us all in touch with each other, just in case good beginnings start this way.
I’ll say it one more time. Dear Asheville: If you’re going to get bigger, get better!
— Arjuna da Silva