Tonight (Monday, April 7), the Fairbanks City Council will have a public hearing on the Vision Fairbanks plan for downtown’s revitalization. Resolution No. 4318 is not binding, but it is an important show of support that will influence the actions of the Borough Assembly. Below is my prepared testimony.
Good City Council Members,
My wife and I have two daughters, one a toddler and one who’s not quite five. I think a lot about their future.
Some time in the next few years, they’ll be old enough to leave the house by themselves: to go on errands or social trips without their parents’ company. I look forward to that — and not just because it frees up my time, but because it expands their independence and enriches their chances for growth.
Good cities meet many of young people’s needs:
- They need to hone their social skills and their awareness of cultural differences. The best way for them to do that is to come into frequent contact with many people of widely varied backgrounds.
- They need to learn money management. To that end, they need a variety of places where they can spend their money, sometimes wisely and sometimes poorly, so they can learn from their successes and their mistakes.
- They need social lives that are not dependent on their parents’ ability to ferry them from one location to another. For this they need public spaces and other neutral meeting grounds in easy reach.
- They need to contribute meaningfully to the life of the family. This may mean doing more of their own errands, or it may mean shopping for groceries, picking up books from the library, making a bank deposit, paying a bill to the city clerk, or bringing home some Thai food for dinner.
Young people need a host of chances for growth into adults — chances that are not offered in school and that certainly aren’t available by staying at home. They need participation in the real world — and they need it without constantly leaning on adults.
Our city planning to date has largely denied them these chances. While shops, cafés, theaters, parks, government offices, grocery stores, Thai restaurants, and areas of cultural diversity all exist within the Borough, there is no place where they all exist together. There is no one-stop destination where a young person (or any person) may come — by foot, by bike, by bus, or by taxi — to meet this variety of life’s needs. So, because they can’t drive, those under sixteen are necessarily cut off from the richness of civic life and the adult world.
I have already e-mailed you with my written testimony about the “Fairbanks Citizenship Tax“: the cost of automobile ownership, which every adult here must pay to participate in civic life. For most of the young, there is no tax, but an outright condemnation, a banishment from the public sphere. We take away their civic life and instead give them the suburban curse: solitude, parental dependence, increased television viewing, higher rates of obesity, and a greater likelihood of drug abuse.
I’m not suggesting you endorse Vision Fairbanks so that we can turn downtown into a children’s playground. There are ample other reasons to support it, just for adult interests. But I am suggesting that how we plan our city has major repercussions on a cherished part of our community — one with the least privileges and the most to learn.
Vision Fairbanks is a plan for a true city center: walkable, attractive, human-scaled, pedestrian-friendly, and rich with a variety of meaningful destinations. It will offer greater access to civic life and our cultural wealth to everyone — including the least privileged among us, who need their community’s teaching the most.
Please lend your support to this important plan by voting “Yes” on Resolution No. 4318.
Thank you for your time.