What can Terrace learn from New York City?

The question posed above might seem a bit preposterous. Terrace is less than a century old; NYC is about to enter its fifth century

The question posed by the title above might seem a bit preposterous. Terrace is less than a century old; NYC is about to enter its fifth century.

Terrace is comparatively tiny with a few barely distinguishable neighbourhoods; NYC’s five boroughs distribute a population of nearly eight and a half million over a 300 square mile area (its greater metropolitan area contains nearly 24 million people).

Terrace offers one small community college and a branch of UNBC; NYC has a network of 120 colleges and universities.

Terrace still struggles to diversify its economic base; NYC has a diverse economy producing a ‘gross metropolitan product’ of nearly $1.4 trillion.

Terrace citizens speak a smattering of languages dominated by a civic shell of English; nearly 800 languages can be heard spoken in NYC.

Despite extraordinary differences in scale, the two communities have a lot in common. Both face the ongoing challenge of reconciling the extravagances of private ambition to the necessities of broad public benefit, opportunity and regulation. Both must navigate into the future by integrating responsible and responsive citizenship.

Under Mayor Bill de Blasio, New York City has recently published One New York: the Plan for a Strong and Just City.

This plan, based on ideas solicited from thousands of New Yorkers at meetings, through polls and surveys, and on consultations with city agencies and regional partners, is over 300 pages long.

It has four general thrusts: support innovation and what is probably inevitable growth through creating and maintaining affordable housing, investing in high-growth industries, developing improved transportation infrastructure, and offering skills training programs; improve justice and equitability through raising the minimum wage, expanding family centers to provide physical and healthcare services and access to legal aid; make the city sustainable by reducing greenhouse gases by 80 per cent by 2050 and committing to zero waste landfills by 2030; reinforce resiliency to be prepared for climate-related shocks like Hurricane Sandy by upgrading private and public buildings and strengthening coastal defenses against severe weather and predicted sea level rise. Ambitious!

It is all too easy to fall under the spell of idealistic imaginings and optimistic dreams. As the joke observes, the way to make God laugh is to tell Him your plans. Nonetheless, as New York Yankee Yogi Berra remarked, “If you don’t know where you’re going you might end up someplace else.”

Terrace, too, is seeking input from its citizens. On the City of Terrace website, posted on April 23, 2015, is the call, “We want your feedback!” requesting citizen input into an update of the Official Community Plan. How might our priorities compare to New York’s?

Economic development, long an uneven and uncertain process here in the Northwest, now threatens to overwhelm the community with changes too rapid to keep track of.

Nonetheless, councillors and concerned citizens from all walks of life (business organizations, environmental organizations, unions, etc.) are actively investigating opportunities and planning various responses. We are making ongoing efforts to improve affordable housing (a social justice issue) and to monitor local healthcare options that are managed through the Northern Health Authority. We’re addressing sustainability through improved recycling and more efficient handling of waste.

Perhaps our most notable weakness is our approach (or lack thereof) to resiliency, although many citizens and groups (including the late Jack Talstra) have talked of the need for improved flood preparation, especially after the high water scare of 2007, and of plans for better local food sufficiency.

We’re making progress, and we’re working on virtually all the same challenges as our giant cousin New York City. Check out their report, and think about adding your voice to the Terrace survey. It’s our common future at stake.

Retired English teacher Al Lehmann lives in Terrace, B.C.