Thursday, December 2, 2010

More on prioritizing resources

On January 24th, Council will decide whether the issue of legalizing urban chickens is sufficiently high on the priority list to warrant looking at it in more detail.

It's not about whether to legalize them, though if you haven't been following the discussion closely, you might be forgiven for thinking that.

The Commission wrote that:
The issue of backyard chickens....has become a hot topic in municipalities across Canada and the United States....The community needs to consider this issue in an open and transparent manner and allow all interested parties to engage in the discussion.

Nobody is expecting large numbers of Windsorites to go out and acquire coops, so if you are disinterested in the discussion (perhaps having missed the linkage to food sovereignty), you might also be forgiven for thinking the issue is not particularly high up on the priority list.

Except for one thing.

Everybody agrees that Windsor is in a recession.  Attracting well-qualified people to the area is a priority.  Our shortage of doctors has been going on for years.  Stopping the loss of well-qualified professionals and jobs to other areas is a priority.  Keeping graduating students in Windsor is a priority. Attracting new business to Windsor is vitally important - after all, why else did our Mayor travel to South Korea last week?

Each family lost to another city is a loss to our tax base.  That is a loss of resources.  Added up together, the lost resources far exceed the cost of striking a committee, especially if that committee is set up efficiently and gets right on with the job.

And because of this, it's really important to think about what those families would see as attractive in other cities relative to Windsor.

I'll admit urban chickens probably aren't the main issue for the vast majority of them.  But I'm pretty sure they would love a place that is buzzing with organic food, community gardens and farmers' markets.  A place that is making the most of its location, which happens to be the country's southernmost, and warmest, region.

What is also vitally important is that they see Windsor as a city that is open to ideas, discussion, and debate.  That residents can speak up when they want to do something that will improve the quality of life in the city, and that they will be listened to.  That the city is in tune with environmental movements that are sweeping the continent and open to adopting them here.

I really like a lot of what Richard Florida has to say.  His creative class was mentioned quite a lot in the run up to the November election, though I suspect most people used him as a buzzword and probably hadn't actually read his books.  (If you are one of them -  they are available at the Windsor Public Library - I could sum up his premise as follows:  metropolitan areas with blue collar concentrations will continue to lose ground to those with non-transferable skills that are cool places to be.)  His message is quite depressing when you find yourself living in one of the cities losing ground and you don't see it doing absolutely everything it can to position itself to be a creative city, pandering instead to "old guard" constituents who don't know too much about life on the other side of the fence.

The good news is that our economic development strategy includes a piece that sees Windsor becoming a leader in the green energy sector.  That's right up there with the creative cities.  Yesterday's Samsung announcement was a big-picture plus for Windsor.

But an effective creative city goes further.  We need to see evidence of our green strategy in the small stuff.  Plenty of it.  Windsor needs to be an attractive place for the creative class to live.

And that means that we need to be prepared to prioritize ideas that improve our urban sustainability, especially if those ideas are already hot topics in other municipalities across Canada.

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Please keep the Windsor urban chicken discussion going! We love to 'read your constructive comments.