Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Untapping kinetic energy - civic potential under the surface

The SPARC Philosophy - Alexandria, LA

When it comes to community development, it's easy to miss the latent capacity under the surface. I call it social kinetic energy and it's visible only for those who look carefully. Or for those special leaders who make it work. I met one this week.

Case in point: Alexandria, Louisiana.

As with many cities, this community has some terrific areas and wonderful downtown architecture. It also has some not-so-terrific challenges. Between those two polarities are anomalies that often arise in the public realm.

A beautiful streetscaped downtown, but no pedestrians

A street sign meant to protect pedestrians, but blocking the sidewalk forcing them onto the street

It's weird what we do in urban places.


After my photo tour of surface issues, I attended Alexandria's SPARC planning and safety summit. There I saw fascinating speakers on thoughtful planning. Later I ran a SafeGrowth session and met engaged, committed participants from the community, city hall, police, and others.

Then I met one of those rare leaders committed to making that kinetic energy work - re-elected Mayor Jaques Roy. He absolutely got what SafeGrowth can mean in his community. He is also just the quality of civic leader to muster the community energy to make it happen.

Watch some clips on YouTube.

This is how positive change happens. We need more civic leaders like Mayor Roy!