Saturday, April 25, 2009

Investing in Your Own Backyard

"Where have all the flowers gone?" -- Pete Seeger, Joe Hickerson (or Joan Baez, take your pick)

The following passage was taken from the LDNA blog by way of the CCC blog:

For several years now, the City has paid for installation of hanging flower baskets and their care in the Downtown. The flowers benefit the downtown by adding to the street ambience and help in promoting local business and retail efforts. However, due to budget constraints, the City will no be able to continue this annual $13,600. cost without help. The City will continue its commitment to the installation and removal of the baskets, but the cost of the plants for the 140 baskets, which are installed in early spring, will be difficult to cover. The Center City Committee has agreed to be a $250.00 sponsor, but a lot of other donations are needed as well. Anyone interested in helping is asked to contact Anne Barton or Diane Tradd at the Department of Planning & Development. 978-446-7200.

Businesses can stand to benefit from this because of the publicity and goodwill, but I think private citizens can benefit by donating as well. Think of it this way -- the hanging flowers downtown are a beautiful public good that whoever lives, works in, or even just visits Lowell in the warm-weather months can enjoy. The pocket change you can part with to help support this initiative is an investment in your own community, the same way that your own lawn care purchases would create a positive externality for all your neighbors.

To cite Anne-Marie Page's activism dogma, you need to appeal to hearts, brains, and wallets -- in that order. With that in mind, if it's not in your heart to donate to a cause like this, scratch your brain to think about how something like hanging flowers might benefit stakeholders like yourself, assuming you own or rent a home or business in or near downtown.

Speaking of people helping downtown, I noticed a very healthy complement of volunteers working in and around Mack Plaza this morning as part of the city-wide cleanup. Some areas -- notably the Victorian Gardens and brick archway thing that runs up to Merrimack along Dutton -- were particularly nasty at the beginning, and particularly nicer by noon.

I know "broken windows" has its detractors, but in this case I'll put my own instinct and common sense ahead of their stats -- when litter is left to just pile and pile up, the quick takeaway for any casual observer is that no one cares about the area. Not only is he or she then more likely to add to the problem, but the overall attractiveness of the area takes a wallop.

Kudos to everyone who was out there today -- besides the social capital and trust that activities like that engender among participants, they give the place a great facelift, which comes at a great point in time -- seeing New England "come alive" every time the hibernation season ends is one of the things I missed most when I left here in 2003, and is one of the many reasons I don't ever plan to leave the area. The easily observable, palpable *buzz* seen downtown yesterday and today -- the two first truly nice days of the season -- definitely bodes well for days ahead.


C R Krieger said...

I am thinking that $13,600 is about a third of the cost for running for City Council.

Regards  —  Cliff

The New Englander said...


That's a fair point, and I'm hoping that a downtowner will emerge from this year's field..but in the meantime, it seems easier to convince people to donate something where they can see immediate results/benefits and an aesthetic improvement to the neighborhood than to try to get people to give money to a campaign, where they don't know if the candidate will even win, let alone bring them tangible results as a return on their dollar..