The events in Charlottesville on Saturday have been cause for pause on many levels, but in particular the idea of how our cities present to all people and what it means to inclusive comes to the forefront. It seems timely and necessary to examine our own city and piggy back on a critical concept that writer Teresa Matthew from City Lab explored in depth earlier this week— Can a City Be Compassionate?
In her article, she interviewed Mayor Greg Fischer of Louisville about his efforts to make Louisville a “compassionate city.”
So what does it mean to Mayor Fischer to be a compassionate city?
“I define compassion as respect for each and every citizen so that their human potential is flourishing. It’s integrating compassion and equity into everything we do. Compassion is an action word for us, it’s not just, Oh I feel for you. Leaders should be reminding us of these human values, and you can see how that’s missing from our dialogue.
You’re not going to be great if you don’t have all these practices going on. We’re a large, pluralistic, diverse city—like we are as a country. That’s not going to change. We’re going to be a majority country of color in 2040. It’s amazing what we do already as a country with all this strife going. Imagine what we could do in one where people embraced inclusion.”
The article went on to thoughtfully explore infrastructure projects, initiatives that local city government may need to take, or ways that citizens can be more actively engaged in this mission. Also, the topic of protests and rallies as well as the relocation of statues and monuments were explored from the platform of compassion.
As a proud Sanctuary City, Philadelphians may find it interesting that when asked about immigration and Louisville not participating as a Sanctuary City Mayor Fischer shared sentiments that it is a “politically charged” term that lacks true “meaning.” That’s tough food for thought and an opinion with which immigration advocates may take issue.
Still, the concept of a compassionate city as it is represented by Mayor Fischer is not just an abstract term founded on hopeful idealism– the Mayor talks concretely about the need for cities to, “be urban laboratories for innovation of all kinds. It’s critical, and I think the issue of the day is we’ve got to figure out a way to have more middle-income jobs.” The need for apprentice training, minimum wage, and health benefits seen as paramount in these efforts as well.
While at first one may be tempted to leave this concept to social service agencies and non-profits the reality is this cuts through the mission and goals of Raza Properties locally and relates to the hard work of city developers and planners, economists, politicians, and business leaders globally. A keen focus on cultivating community and preserving neighborhood history, local employment opportunity, the interconnectedness of fair wages, jobs, housing access for working families, and advocating for policy that welcomes and celebrates all must be the work of many, not the work of a select few.
We can debate the details and undoubtedly there is a lot to still figure out, what we do know is that these things don’t and won’t happen on accident. This requires intentionality and a mission driven mindset. So as we mourn the losses of the past week we refocus our efforts, reflect on our own city, and in ways big and small renew our promise to be in word and action The City of Brotherly Love.
To read the full article on City Lab referenced here visit: https://www.citylab.com/equity/2017/08/can-a-city-be-compassionate/536841/