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Mayors
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amw
I'm sure most of my American friends have heard this already, but for those of you that haven't, this is a real eye-opener: http://stream.2003.02.garnierprojects.com/geenstijl/majornagin.wma A radio interview with the mayor of New Orleans getting very emotional and direct about the kind of help they need there right now.

This is another one of those disasters that seems to be a cable exclusive for us. The Australian news barely showed any of it till a couple days in, and even now we're only getting five minute snippets. I wonder how many people who don't have CNN and Fox are grasping the scale of the situation. Man it sucks bad :(

Speaking of mayors, last week i attended a city planning conference at the town hall. I had chats to this bigwig city planner from Vancouver and to our very own mayor. It was interesting seeing what people considered to be key issues in urban development, but a little frustrating seeing the demographic that rocked up (middle-class, middle-aged, white home-owners). I had hoped we'd see more young people, more indigenous people and people from more diverse cultural and socio-economic backgrounds.

The mayor himself seems to have his infrastructure head screwed on and the hell with the whiney homeowners who don't want new tunnels and expressways, but he's lacking on the cultural front, and that also wasn't pushed by the conference delegates. I'd like to see stronger entertainment precincts in Brisbane, less noise controls for nightclubs and live music venues, 24-hour services like public transport, promotion of local talent, skate parks and youth centers, more inner city parks, denser zoning so people can walk safely to restaurants and bars and cafes... Most of the people in our workgroup backed up my ideas in theory, but their main issues were worries about their house losing value, losing native bushland and losing those skanky old pre-war houses "that define Brisbane". I guess all i can say is that at least i was there and made my voice heard and maybe some of the things i said will stick in some of those city planners' minds in the next few years.

This is the second big political contribution of my life, the first being signing the petition against the 3am lockout at nightclubs and bars. This is the stuff that really motivates me, stuff that's happening in my city to places i frequent on a regular basis. I've always been fascinated by politics on a wider scale - international politics in particular - but i've never had the urge to vote or contribute in any way. The 3am lockout smackdown of a few months back was really the last straw. Now it's fucking personal, you know? I'm keen on becoming an Australian citizen now solely so i can make a protest vote against our backward state government for implementing such draconian measures. I don't know if wanting to become a citizen and vote means i'm getting old or if it just means the government has finally done something that really pisses me off. It feels weird, but. Like i'm getting settled. I've never been settled anywhere.

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hehe Vancouver as in Vancouver, B.C.? Like where I live?

Yes! Apparently about 10 years ago you guys went through a really big city redevelopment project. They showed us a presentation about how the city changed, how they tried to develop denser urban living so that the city wouldn't turn into a big sprawl like LA, upgrading public transport, promoting walking and cycling etc. It was pretty cool, made the place out to be really sexy :-)

One thing i asked the guy was how they dealt with homeless people and low-income earners who couldn't afford to live in all the snazzy new apartments and row houses they built. We did have a decent chat about it, and i guess that's not the stuff they want to show on the big success story presentation but it sounded like they'd taken that into account too, so that was good. Our city planners have implemented a similar redevelopment approach in an innercity suburb here called West End and i think they want to try that across the whole city - nice highrises mixed with parks and stores all walking distance from each other etc. Sounds cool.

So what's the real story? Does Vancouver actually have a seedy underbelly and ghettos they weren't showing us? ;-)

For a slightly different angle on this concept, check out the town where I live... It was planned from the beginning with housing and retail areas more densely clustered than normal, and with a wide range of housing options - ranging from subsidized apartments, through million-dollar high-rise condos. Some background:

http://www.reston.org/reston/r_history.html
http://www.restonmuseum.org/historyAndPhilosophy.html

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