Zari Santner, director of Portland Parks and Recreation, says she wants communities of color to take their seats at the table. Can we take her up on this? Could you?
What makes a city prosper? How can a city promote the prosperity of its citizens?
That's what Atlanta Mayor Shirley Franklin asked herself when she was elected to office. She knew that jobs – family wage jobs – would be a key piece of the puzzle. No surprise here. Yet how she decided to go after those jobs may surprise you.
Mayor Franklin decided that in order to attract the kinds of investment that builds urban prosperity, Atlanta would need parks.
Why parks? Because economic research tells us that parks are economic drivers. They pull wealth into a city by making it more attractive to investors.
Trees clean the air. They help keep us cool in summer, warm in winter. Parks give us places for play, exercise, sports and picnics; places to walk our dogs and romance our sweethearts. Park programs support our health and happiness like no other city amenity. People and wealth flow into cities with well-maintained parks.
Mayor Franklin was in Portland on July 8 to talk about her program to double the size of public parks in Atlanta. Currently, less than half of the city's residents are within walking distance of a park. Franklin will detail her plans to change this statistic and in the process put Atlanta on the map as one of the most forward thinking and livable cities in the United States.
How about you? How close is your nearest park? Where can your children go to play outdoors?
Since former City Commissioner Charles Jordan expanded Portland's Park system in the 1980s, Portland's urban green spaces have become this city's signature. Yet this doesn't mean every Portland resident has equal access to parks.
A detailed neighborhood mapping of city amenities, by The Coalition for a Livable Future – check it out at www.clfuture.org — shows many areas of Portland, especially in low-income neighborhoods, remain park-deficient.
That's one reason why we made Green Urban Spaces the theme of our 2008 Martin Luther King Jr. breakfast. And that's why we are now asking you to think about how you can make sure Portland's communities of color are included whenever green development is under consideration.
Rev. T. Allen Bethel soon will be leaving his seat on the Parks and Recreation board, where he has been a valuable advocate. Who will step up to champion green development by and for African Americans?
Zari Santner, director of Portland Parks and Recreation under City Commissioner Dan Saltzman, says she wants communities of color to take their seats at the table. Can we take her up on this? Could you?
What do you think?