1) Create a City Benefits Department
Here’s an idea for a new city department in a financially struggling city of 170,000 people. It’s called a City Benefits Department (CBD). Its primary function is the support of programs that added benefit within the citywide community, a neighborhood or other affiliated groups such as: at risk youth, seniors, the unemployed etc… It would be the go to place if you wanted city recognition and support for a project that benefited the city or one of its community groups in some way. General information would be available through the CBD; as well as things like the annual awarding of seed funding for projects ideas that are chosen by the Mayor and City Counsel from the best ideas submitted from the community. Funds applicants would be assisted in putting together their applications and plan outlines that highlighted their programs benefit to the community; how the funding would be spent and a plan of action. Anyone could apply from a group of neighborhood kids wanting to collect paint from local businesses and paint graffiti around town, to an entire neighborhood association wanting to plant trees in their parks or clean their creeks. Even a great new creative idea for getting out the vote citywide could be sponsored as long as it was nonpartisan. Anyone who sees a community need and can put together a clear description with a viable plan of action could apply for the funds. Those who applied would: learn about city government, learn how budgeting works, learn creative problem solving skills, learn about community organizing and start to view their city around them in a new way, while looking for solutions to problems rather than just having to look at them in frustration. This sort of creative social organizing would offer alternatives to more negative acting out that takes place by disenfranchised groups. It just seems to me that the more opportunities that you give your citizens and make them feel apart of the solution; the more productive they will be with their time and learn a thing or two about civic contribution which just might be the start of a whole new group of future politicians.
2) Plant Some Trees
The city I live in is known for its trees. It’s not known for having a lot of trees, which it does; it is known for having the most assortment of different kinds of trees than anywhere else in the world. Now I’m not a scientist or arborist, and I didn’t do very well in my biology classes either but it seems to me that one way we could combat climate change is to start planting more trees as a solution along with the many other ways of combating the causes of global warming.
What made me think about this idea was a friend who told me about his parents who lived in one of the earliest master planned gated communities in Florida. He swears that when he visits them, with their lush landscaping and thick forests of trees throughout their community that the air is cleaner, fresher and cooler than the concrete and asphalt world just outside the gates. It makes him wonder, how such a climate could be so transformed in such a small area. Its not that there are fewer people doing all the usual environmental polluting that they do, (after all this is a community that was built over fifty years ago, before all the green tech and sustainability stuff was in the consciousness of the American people), its just that there are more trees.
Okay, trees can be a problem too because they take time and energy to care for them; but is this a bad thing? Wouldn’t we all benefit from working in our yards with better health and fitness? But what about the added financial cost of having trees in one’s yard? Well what if we gave tax credits to home owners with trees the way we give them to people with children? After all, children contribute to many of the problems associated with the higher costs in society; plus their addition to population growth is damaging to the earth too; while trees do neither. Okay, trees can kill and cause havoc during storms but then you never hear about all the trees that protect and support a community during a storm; you only hear about the few that cause a problem once in awhile. Most trees and storm problems are the fault of people not caring for them properly, more than it is the fault of the trees. Just think of all the workers needed to plant and care for the many new trees which would create new businesses and jobs.
If my city wants to be known as the tree capital of the world and become the center of the green tech revolution than I think they should start by simply planting more trees.
3) Rezone for B Markets
My state now allows the designation of B Corporations (or Benefit Corporations) to incorporating businesses. B Corporations are a new type of corporation that use the power of business to create public benefit, (Think of the guy who makes those awesome new green tennis shoes and sends one pair to a third world country for every pair he sells.) So I was thinking, what if anyone could register their community corner market as a B Corp and then open up shop in an existing home on the corner of every neighborhood. Instead of everyone having to get into their car and drive to the local chain super market, a person could walk to the corner and buy from their neighbor all the basic everyday goods that they need. This gets everyone walking and being healthier; saving on gas and air pollution; opens neighborhoods up to community interaction; and allows small independent shop owners to go into, or stay in business. The city would have to restrict the types of merchandise that could be sold or the times of operation and anything else that comes up, but the benefits would out way the costs to a city, if done right. It would all start with the city loosening up its zoning regulations to allow mixed use B Markets in residential neighborhoods.
4) City Hospital Run Homeless Day Centers
If Obamacare is not repealed, it would be interesting to see what types of new and creative health care and social need based programs could come out of it. What if we have city overseen day centers for the homeless that are managed by medical facilities that receive funding through Obamacare? Nothing too complicated: a hospital could get together with a non-profit and the city and put together a place where the homeless could go to get basic needs met. Things like: take a shower; wash their clothes; get new clothes; pickup their mail; look for employment; get setup for social welfare programs like housing, food stamps or medical; get a checkup and have their meds adjusted; join a self help discussion group; see a therapist; have their pet checked out by a volunteer vet; get some packaged food or just grab a sandwich and some coffee. Just a place where you can find people who know who you are and want to help you get off the street. The program would have to collect data on people for funding purposes but they would be under HIPAA rules to protect their rights and restrict their private information from getting out to anyone who doesn’t have their best interest at heart. It sounds like a lot of money, but if done right it could combine into one convenient place many services already being performed elsewhere while helping people begin to take care of themselves so the public welfare system doesn’t have to.
5) Turn the Libraries of America into Cultural Centers
Lets face it, since the introduction of computers and the internet, libraries are on their way out. People aren’t even buying bookshelves for their homes anymore because they don’t have anything to put on them. Libraries have been the best social service organization devised by the western world since the invention of pasteurized milk. And who doesn’t put a librarian up there on a pedestal with a police officer, firemen, nurses and teachers? They are a part of the glue that solidifies civilization. So instead of closing down these awesome institutions of higher achievement for all, why not re-purpose them to include things such as: continued access to knowledge from computers; basic studies tutoring in all languages; introduction to arts learning and crafts making; music and theater appreciation and training; a place for community volunteer organizing; a political and community learning and activism center and so many other humanistic programs that many people no longer have access to in schools. So, rather than eliminating libraries we could readjust their purpose in order to continue to foster the humanistic growth of our communities. Did I say after school programs and farm to table classes? Or how about…..