Friday, February 10, 2017

Global Cities 2016 reminded me of Places Rated 1986

Does anyone else remember the Places Rated Almanac that was published annually starting in the 80s? The Kearney data for global cities reminded me of that straight away, not only with the rankings, but the ways in which the cities were ranked beyond mere nuts-and-bolts data such as crime, cost of living, or transportation, jobs, and services available to the factors of "cultural experience" and "political engagement."

Back in the 80s, as the Boomers started to crave garages and sidewalks, hallmarks of the romanticized view of the 1950s nice neighborhood (for more on this concept and what is wrong with it, let's watch Pleasantville in the Hollins Screening Room and discuss over popcorn and ginger ale), the nation's most mobile generation to date wanted roots more than anything.Twenty years after deciding that society was going to hell in a handbasket so to hell with it all, living in the "best" neighborhood became a status symbol right along with the "right" car and an expensive pen. The NIMBY (Not In My Back Yard) movement enjoyed enough prominence to get an acronym, and the idea that living in a good neighborhood ensured a high quality of life became entrenched in the American mindset and can be found at the roots (along with other factors) of the place-making movements of today.

I found it fascinating then, and continue to find it fascinating now that we believe and act as though our contentment with where we are can be purchased as a complete set: Foursquare/Loft-Furninshings-Friends-Fashion

The elements of the cities ranking really does make sense when viewed as a Colleges Rated almanac, given that city planning is central to keeping cities from abject neglect and decay in the United States, especially. Globalization has made nomads of us all, and with the information highway, we can be nomadic without leaving our seats. In light of this, inclusion, engagement and identity are hard won concepts, slippery to define and just as hard to hold.

Global cities require the idea of a citizen more than ever to survive. The international scope of commerce means all transactions are being competed for worldwide, a climate in which it is more difficult than ever to stand out. Companies looking for places to locate not only want good workers and good tax breaks, but they also want great places, with art, independent breweries, outdoor recreation and good schools before they choose where to break ground. These companies hold the keys to the globalized village, and cities court them in an intricate dance reminiscent of renaissance matrimony machinations.

Global cities have a perspective of themselves as what they offer their residents, understanding that people are both entirely able to migrate and that residents are a critically important factor for entry into the Elite Cities ranks globally. No longer seen as the burden of the medieval village and the lord to which they were tied, residents have become reborn as citizens, a concept that is both urban and urbane in equal measure, where cities are chosen as home bases as part of one's identity, no differently than the vetting process by which one chose one's university, and where the team spirit aspect of the local community is not far removed from the pep rally of decades ago.