I found a recent correspondence to The Red Electric both troubling and encouraging.
The writer was broadly responding to the post “Four Phases for Hillsdale.”
He referred readers to a posting
on his own web site. There he claimed to be familiar with Hillsdale
and wrote with an indignant and hollow authority about the place.
Still, I sensed in his voice a note of caring and passion. That was the encouraging part.
But as I got into his critique of Hillsdale
, it became apparent that he had little understanding of what’s been happening here for the last 15 years.
In essence, he was shooting from the hip, hoping that at least a few shots would find their mark. Or he may have been announcing his Hillsdale
awareness or simply filling space on his blog.
I was tempted to take the writer to task, but then I thought of the times I’ve
written with woefully superficial knowledge. At best I offered a "fresh" perspective, however wrong it might have been.
So I commented on his web site without picking apart the errors the writer made. I said nothing of his ignorance about Hillsdale
and its recent history as a Metro-designated Town Center. He thought that the term “town center” was some journalistic contrivance. Accordingly, he also had no clue about the purpose of the Metro area’s 13 “town centers” — namely to absorb population growth by up-zoning areas well served by mass-transit. If the writer had looked into the matter, he would have agreed with the goal of making us all less dependent on cars by encouraging us to live more compactly near bus and light rail stops. The town centers fight urban sprawl, combat pollution and save precious farm land. They are the urban planners’ answer to smaller carbon footprints.
The writer also seemed unaware of the foibles surrounding the siting and construction of the Hillsdale
Branch Library, which went $3.5 million over budget. County officials wrongly decided to squeeze the new building onto a small site. In the process they demolished the old library, an architectural gem. As attractive as the new building is, it is already too small to meet increasing demand.
The writer also seemed to think that the “open space” many of us would like to see developed in the Sunset Triangle is actually being used for some public purpose. It’s mostly unused backyards invisible to the public.
There’s more, but I’ll stop here. The thrust of my response was to encourage him to get involved. I’m a believer in Daniel Kemmis
’ response to civic criticism: Got a problem? Get involved!
I invited the critic to the next Hillsdale
Neighborhood Association meeting (7 p.m., Wed. Jan 7 at St. Barnabas Church on Vermont Street) or the next Hillsdale
Alliance meeting (7 p.m., Wed, Jan. 14 at RE/MAX, corner of Sunset Boulevard and Capitol Highway).
Through involvement, he’ll discover for himself how he got Hillsdale
wrong and where he might redirect his energies.
As I say, he has my sympathies. I’ve
gotten things wrong too. Often it has been only after years of involvement that I’ve
discovered exactly how wrong I was.
The trick, of course, is to learn from one’s errors and not commit them again. I’ve
found the best way to avoid mistakes is through skepticism (including skepticism about oneself) knowledge (which means asking good questions of informed sources) and humility.
Put all that together and on rare occasions you might come up with something that approaches insight — and even wisdom.
Labels: Daniel Kemmis, Hillsdale, Hillsdale Town Center, planning, Town Centers