Small Communities and the Bigger Picture

This is my current wallpaper on my laptop:
A few weeks back there was a nice photo on Bing (free to use as wallpaper) of buildings from 1950s New York City, back before it became skyscrapers on steroids. It fits that mid century modern vibe I am interested in, but for a city, not a suburb, which makes it perfect for my purposes.

I decided to download it for the background for my laptop but I didn't like the "fill the whole screen" version. I ended up going with centering it only to find it's surprisingly small and there's a sea of grey around this black and white photo. The upside was that my icons were clearly visible and legible on the grey backdrop but I overall wasn't happy with the result.

I decided it made for a great opportunity to do a collage instead of one photo because I hadn't been sure I wanted to give up my previous background. Now I could have both photos together as inspiration for my work.

My previous laptop background was an image of the Midway Islands clearly showing how small they are and the airstrip that was put there during World War II. So I looked that up again and added that to the bottom corner, covering a chunk of the grey, and then made a black backdrop for the side where my icons are gathered together.

Then I decided to look for something related to Suisun City and added that in the section at the bottom framed by the three existing sections (the two photos and the black area). At that point I ran out of ideas, so I still have room for more photos, but it no longer looks overly empty to me and I'm content with it for the moment.

Suisun City is one of the more famous redevelopment case studies and it's a small city, not that much bigger than Aberdeen, Washington (the town I live in). It's about 27k and Aberdeen is about 17k currently.

I am fortunate to have lived not far from Suisun City at one time while going to college and writing my Solano Rail plan. As part of all that, I was attending local and regional planning meetings and urban planning education events, so I got to see people speak who had been directly involved with Suisun City's redevelopment process not that many years prior to me moving there.

The Midway Islands are a tiny couple of islands that played a pivotal role in World War II. I similarly think of Aberdeen, Washington as a small place that could play a big role in the ongoing battle for the future of our planet.

So those are three touchstones for me for mental models for thinking about development for this area. I'm not just thinking about Aberdeen, Washington. I'm thinking about the entire Coastal Washington region, how Washington's economy interrelates with Alaska's and even sustainability for the planet.

If you are a citizen planner (activist, business person or running a local non-profit) or otherwise do planning work in a small community, I encourage you to think about the bigger picture, including the regional context of where you live and global environmental issues. Revitalizing small communities in the US with mixed-use, walkable development is one of the ways we can help mitigate environmental issues and help ordinary Americans have lives that work.

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