While sitting, surfing, & sipping a coffee at a certain downtown cafe this evening, I browsed on over to catch the latest post on The Rise and Sprawl, and I have to say, I am a bit disheartened.
While it was my Geography & Urban Geography teacher (and one of my heroes), Fred Headon, who first got me interested in cities and how they worked, it was the Rise and Sprawl's author, Robert Galston, who really got me interested in urbanism. His blog and his affiliation with TRUWinnipeg are what really made me care about this city, its inner workings and petty politics, mass (rapid) transit, and threw fuel on my already-smouldering hatred of surface level parking lots and big box retail.
Despite never having met him, Rob has had a large influence on my attitude toward urban issues, both directly and indirectly (I discovered New Winnipeg and my pal Jim's TRUWinnipeg while looking him up on Google). So to hear him admit that "he doesn't really like Winnipeg" came as a bit of a surprise. Not a huge surprise, mind you - I've always detected a subtle undertone of disgust in his posts, but in my book it was usually a well-founded disgust (half-hearted "renewal" efforts, city hall buffoonery, demolition by neglect, etc).
"So your hero doesn't like your city", you may ask, "Who fucking cares?"
Well, first of all, you're an insensitive little bastard for even asking me that question. Give your fucking head a shake!
Secondly, everyone should care. Unlike some armchair urbanists who probably live in the 'burbs and drive their SUVs to work, Rob actually bought a house in an oft-maligned area of the city (Point Douglas), wrote (writes?) an op-ed column in the more "respectable" daily newspaper (and authors a well-read and respected blog), and even ran for city council. In other words, he has tried to make a difference in this city!
So, when someone who has done all that says something like "I decided that I do not really like Winnipeg", we should all be concerned, and not simply dismiss it as typical Winnipeg whining.
But enough hero worship/the sky is falling reactions for now.
Having thought about it, sometimes I really don't like Winnipeg either, feelings that run deeper than low-IQ/low-sloping-forehead types who cowardly hurl projectiles and insults from the relative safety of their (probably stolen) vehicles.
Well, it's not that I dislike Winnipeg per se, it's more appropriate to say that the "average people" of this city really piss me off. I get tired of hearing about "how much our city sucks", that the crime rate is too high, that we're the auto theft/murder/child poverty/crumbling infrastructure/mosquito capital of the country, etc, and not hearing any constructive solutions for any of these perceived failings.
We seem to be destined to wallow in our own muck, living in a perpetual state of disillusionment and self-pity, with little motivation (and less resolve) to improve ourselves as a city. We elect people who seem to be more interested in giving their pals a piece of the action than effectively running (and fixing) the city. They allow their developer pals to tear down our history in favour of parking lots or buildings that don't fit their architectural surroundings. We allow (even encourage) the city to sprawl outwards instead of renewing its core, shoot down any LRT plans, then complain about traffic being tied up when lanes on our major thoroughfares are closed for construction/repair.
This city really pisses me off.
But it's because I care about it.
And I care enough to do something about it.
Watch this space, you may be in for a surprise.
EDIT: Damn, Mr. Christian beat me to it by a few hours. Curse my lack of home internet! For a well-reasoned and infinitely more focused take on this subject, check out his latest post.