by Daniel Klotz | April 3, 2013
For $25, you can go to an Hourglass Foundation event at the Ware Center this Thursday night to hear a Brookings Institution fellow feed you a line of bull.
What Christopher Leinberger is expected to say, according to Bernie Harris’s Intelligencer article yesterday, is that if Amtrak rolls out high-speed rail service along its Keystone line, Lancaster should have a street-car trolley that runs a loop that connects the train station with downtown.
Given the state of Lancaster city today, this focus on infrastructure is intolerable.
One of the recent great books on urban life and planning is Edward Glaeser’s Triumph of the City: How Our Greatest Invention Makes Us Richer, Smarter, Greener, Healthier, and Happier. It includes these poignant reminders:
Cities are the absence of physical space between people and companies. They are proximity, density, closeness. They enable us to work and play together, and their success depends on the demand for physical connection.…
The folly of building-centric urban renewal reminds us that cities aren’t structures; cities are people.
The downtown convention center has yet to prove that it was anywhere close to worth its expense. Many of the brick-edged sidewalks and street crossings laid downtown four years ago are already cracked and ugly. Tearing down parts of the exterior of the monstrosity of a building at Lancaster Square (across from Binns Park) so far has done nothing to make the property more attractive to private developers.
It is easy and tempting to focus on buildings and infrastructure when focusing on the improvement of a city. I imagine that this is especially true for the people in Lancaster’s city government who need to spend endless hours figuring out how to deal with the city’s aging infrastructure, particularly for public utilities. If I spent all day figuring out how to mend old infrastructure, I’m sure I would dream of going beyond simply fixing what’s there to instead build shiny new buildings and transportation methods.
The problem, however, is that Lancaster isn’t its buildings and infrastructure. Lancaster is its people. And we can and should invest a lot more in them.
There are all sorts of things that deserve more attention, discussion, and funding than infrastructure. Here are a two starting points:
- Despite ongoing valiant efforts of a handful of citizens, Lancaster city still has precious few Latino public figures, especially when you consider that Hispanics will soon be the majority ethnic group in the city.
- Before being unanimously rejected by the city’s school board, the proposal for an Academy of Business and Entrepreneurship Charter School enjoyed far more support than it ever should have. It is going to be a long time before anyone can say that we as a community are doing enough for our school children.
Please chime in below in the comments. Do you agree that attention on infrastructure is misplaced? If so, what do you think is more important for Lancaster city to focus on right now?