Who’s running the show?
Let us give some thought to the idea of how a city gets built. And who has the power to shape how that city gets built. Sometimes it is possible to discover some of the steps that lead to something like the “Missing Middle”—where the idea came from, who managed the “citizen workshops” But you may not necessarily be able to put your finger on who had power to envision and create those results and get all those people to become cheerleaders for the idea.
It’s not the city council or mayor. Their job comes after the fact. The deed’s already done when it comes before the council—who will invariably vote “aye.” There is someone behind the facade of democracy, who is wielding power and brokering how these deals get done.
Robert Caro tells a story about a bridge being considered in New York State. Every elected official (including Rockefeller and Albany) thought this bridge was a very bad idea. Caro went and interviewed all these people as a reporter for Newsday in his early days. All of them thought it was a bad idea and so Caro wrote that in his piece. He thought the bridge was a dead issue.
A couple of weeks later someone called him from Albany. They said he’d better come up there. All of a sudden everyone was behind this bridge. Everyone said what a great idea it was. The state was even going to fund its construction. Eventually, Caro learned that Robert Moses had visited Rockefeller and many others. Caro saw that this was someone who was not elected to any office, yet was able to change minds to turn this bad idea of a bridge into a good idea that people could support and build.
Caro said that this experience was the seed that grew into his book on Moses: The Power Broker.
In Olympia we have to think harder and dig deeper to understand who is shaping our city and to what purpose. Anyone?
The City of Olympia has for several years invited artists from Washington and Oregon to loan original outdoor sculptures for display for one year in the area of Percival Landing. At some point, the public is invited to cast votes for one of the sculptures which the city then may display in front of City Hall. Just now, the pig shown in this photograph is on display. Although the pig is wearing a ruffle reminiscent of someone who might be in or serve as a comment on, government, surely that’s not the intent. – Photo by Scott Peck
September theme: What future are we creating? We hope for your experiences, reportage, art and more, focused on areas where the future is at stake: education, healthcare, the air we breathe, the water we drink, the rewards to work, the resilience of families, microbes, antibiotics… Let us hear from you. Deadline for submissions: August 18. Attach a word document and send it to email@example.com.
October: The rest of the world. Deadline: September 22.
November: Winning and losing
On the Cover
Cover art by Asa Benson-Core