24 May 2009

I love sunday mornings. Sunday mornings are the times I do some of my best thinking. I dream about what I could do. I see the world as it could be, as I want it to be. I’m going to try to discipline myself to blog every sunday morning because that’s the time I can let me mind go and imagine a better world. It is into this mood that I got a call from my friend Mary Mulhern who is currently elected to the Tampa City Council, District 2. She’s bringing some more team members in to help beef up her web presence because (i’m inferring) she’s going to run for some other elected office this fall. I’m so proud of the work that she does and I was proud to be a part of her campaign. Her big passion is urban gardening. She’s involved with the urban gardening movement in Tampa and is a big proponent of neighborhood associations. I was discussing the idea of urban gardening to some of my die-hard conservative friends and their response was something to the effect of “Well, why don’t they just garden in their back yard?” I didn’t have an immediate answer for that response but after careful consideration I’ve come to my opinion. If you’re someone who believes that people should “just garden on their own land” then you’re probably someone who sees a city as a collection of privately owned spaces in a single location. During the 70’s, real estate developers all over Florida and across the US built out suburbia with collections of homes and shopping centers and sold the idea that everyone deserved their own plot of land. The more of that land you have, the logic goes, the better off you were. The bigger the house on that land, the better you were situated to provide for your children and, ergo, the better life you’d have. This altered the prevailing view of what a city is and what it does. The view of a city became about location. These houses and this business in this location equals this city. A very simply formula and what is more, easy to sell.?They had the blessing of local, state and federal governments because they contributed to politicians election campaigns and after all, what was more American than to own your own home? I’d like to say, once and for all, that that marketing campaign is bullshit. Yea, I said it. Bullshit. A city is not a collection of houses in one location. A city is two things: it’s people and it’s public spaces. ?And who owns what piece of land is completely irrelevant to both.?What I believe is ultimately more valuable than owning land is being part of a community, in my case, the city of St.Petersburg. This view also speaks to the continued ongoing battle between Tampa and St. Pete and among the 27 different municipalities in Pinellas County. It’s a turf war of THOSE HOUSES OVER THERE verses THESE HOUSES OVER HERE. The reality of the situation is, we’re part of a larger metroplex and we need to incorporate as a city everything west of I-75 and join together to further the people and public spaces that make Tampa Bay a great place to live, work and raise a family. Why have an urban garden when people can just “garden in their back yard”? Well, by that logic why have city parks? Why have dog parks? Dogs can run around in people’s back yard. If they don’t have space for it, maybe people just shouldn’t have that big dog in their apartment, or so the logic goes. Why have national parks? Why have courts? Home and business owners should just shoot people that commit crimes on their land. It’s more immediate and much more efficient. Cities are their public spaces and the people that fill them. Public spaces to relax after work. Public spaces to seek justice in a disput. Public spaces to prosecute those who have wronged the people of the city. Public spaces to connect and bind you together. Urban gardens are about creating public spaces where people of like minds can convene to?pursue?a community purpose of creating food. It’s not that you can’t buy a house in the city, but so many people who choose homes in the burgs argue that buying a house in St. Pete or greater Pinellas is so much more expensive than places like Brandon or Pasco County. Well, there’s a reason for that. And the reason is, that in St. Pete, you’re part of a city… you’re part of a community.?A set of shared ideas that you may not always agree with, but which have a distinct personality. Ideas which you can ultimately call “home.” You get a better home in Brandon, but in St. Pete, you’ll have a better life.