I was a teenager the first time I made a pilgrimage to what many have long considered the crowned head of U.S. metropolises, New York City. I went at the urging of a girl, of course.
You just have to go to New York, she said often and with the fervor of someone who’d probably read too much Hemingway, if you want to be “a true writer.”
So I took my paperback copy of “The Sun Also Rises” and went, by overnight bus. I don’t recall much about my intentions of becoming a writer, but I instantly adored Manhattan. (Cue Gershwin rhapsody.)
I was smitten by its 24-hour pace, its countless used bookstores and inexpensive but still excellent restaurants, its eclectic soaring architecture and live theater — Broadway, off-Broadway, off-off-Broadway and small rooms in church basements where they paid you to show up, watch and, at the end, applaud.
Another woman whom I dated for five years once accused me of spending time with her only because her parents lived on Long Island, so I had a free place to spend the night after a day in the city. She claimed I loved New York more than I loved her.
In the long run, it turned out she was right ….
I mention all this because New York City, with its bursting-at-the-seams five boroughs, a population of more than 8 million and its endless accompanying challenges, would seem an unmanageable place. Yet it has overcome an out-of-date reputation for crime-drenched streets, smelly trash-collection strikes and the most horrific terrorist attack on American shores in history.
The city still works.
So why can’t we learn from that? Back in March, Cedar Rapids Mayor Ron Corbett pointed out to The Gazette’s editorial board his frustration with a segment of our community that disputes just about every decision he and city council make to move this city forward.
These folk, he argued, view disagreement as dishonesty. If the elected officials propose spending money on a project, there’s invariably a cry of some intention to misuse public money — especially, it seems, if the money could benefit downtown.
And Cedar Rapids isn’t alone. Some Iowa City residents clamored for a public vote after its city council decided in June to establish a TIF for Marc Moen’s building project on the Ped Mall.
Yes, we need public discourse, and certainly we need to keep an eye on elected officials, no matter who they are. I’m not saying we all should just learn to get along.
But persistent, ongoing squabbling doesn’t make for progressive economic development. It doesn’t entice businesses to locate here.
It doesn’t generate a healthy tax base to pay for city services and maintain infrastructure.
Look, we’re coming to the end of a summer chock full of yet more economic squabbling on a global scale. It’s time to get our own house in order.
We’ve got to get on with the business of finding common ground and revitalizing the city’s business core. (Oh, yes, we really do.) We’ve got to get on with moving forward.
I mean, for goodness sakes, we could be living in Detroit.