Mark Peres of Charlotte Viewpoint online magazine calls it "A call to redefine the city." It's a paper, available here, looking at whether Charlotte can change its self-image from "a can-do city that gets things done through
public-private partnerships” to “a smart city that learns.” It's a call to invert the city's top-down model into a bottom-up one that engages a broad base of citizens in the city's success.
The paper is an outgrowth of an event Peres and Civic By Design's Tom Low put together in October to explore how Charlotte might "create greater capacity in the region to address existing and future systemic issues." Peres took the conversations that night and distilled them into some key findings (the following is his words, not mine):
• The narrative that Charlotte is “a can-do city that gets things done through public-private partnerships” is code for many for top-down-driven initiatives. The topdown nature of the city has led to great civic successes, but an unintended consequence is passivity in the general populace and distrust among many.The paper ends on an optimistic note, logging in some of the many community conversations and cross-boundary initiatives going on. "In a fundamental way, community creation is the work of the 21st century," Peres concludes.
• The city rewards social conformity. There is a perceived divide between corporate executives and non-conformist creative citizens.
• We are consumers of received culture – not producers of original work. Our investments – theaters, museums, arenas – reinforce consumption. We have not similarly invested in assets that lead to innovation: e.g., medical and law schools, interdisciplinary education, an MFA program in fine art or design, artist incubators.
• There is not a shared vision of the region. Citizens in different neighborhoods and municipalities are not well-connected to each other – let alone to the world. There is not a regional identity or a cosmopolitan character. Racial, ethnic, and immigrant populations tends to self-segregate.
• Charlotte is often described as a young city, but it was settled in the late 1700s. It is only young in that it has just recently become nationally recognized as a banking center, and its skyline and suburbs have recently been built. It is immature in its development of economic diversification, social capital, urban design, transit, and ecological sensitivity.