When asked, many people will proclaim their love and affection for their cities. Community development specialist and author Peter Kageyama examines that relationship in detail in his book, For the Love of Cities. Kageyama will speak at the 2012 Annual Meeting in June. He will share new ideas and a new approach to thinking about the role of municipal leader.
“For the Love of Cities reminds us of what we value most about our communities beyond just big infrastructure pieces like roads, bridges and stadiums,” said Kageyama. What we engage with on an emotional level are the small and intimate aspects of our cities.
Things such as a favorite place to walk your dog, a spot for people watching, a particular view, a community tradition or event or maybe even a local food. These things tend to get overlooked in the broad conversation of community building because they seem either too small or are “nice to haves” but not “must haves.”
These small things have a disproportionate impact on the way we feel about our cities. Kagyeama describes them as “love notes” in his book and likens them to the handwritten note that accompanies a gift. That note can be more important than the gift because it connects us in an emotional way that the formal gift may not.
Some famous “love notes” include the public art in Chicago’s Millennium Park to the now pedestrian friendly Times Square in New York. These elements, small in the grand scheme of those cities, shape our overall perceptions and feelings toward those places. He notes that every community has its love notes and encourages cities to cherish them and elevate them in their efforts of place making.
There is also data that corroborates what we all anecdotally know – love matters. The Gallup organization conducted the Soul of the Community Survey for the Knight Foundation between 2008-2010. Gallop found that the communities with the highest levels of passion, loyalty and engagement also had the highest levels of local Gross Domestic Product and economic vitality.
Kageyama notes that with municipal budgets being as tight as they are, cities are constrained in what they can do for their constituents. Yet he believes that cities are sitting on a large and mostly untapped resource: the emotionally engaged individuals in their midst. These
are people who “love” their community and who can do extraordinary things for that community if given the opportunity.
He notes that municipal leaders must accept the challenge of how to encourage these actions and still maintain order and procedures to ensure the safe operation of our places.
Kageyama will share examples from around the country where ordinary individuals, often acting without funding, expertise or permission, have had amazing impacts on their cities.