Mount Pleasant Don Thurston

The Confluence of Art, Technology and Organization

Mount Pleasant’s leaders are engaged in far reaching conversations about the future of their city. Dr. Helen Ng, Professor of Urban Affairs at FDC University led a discussion about the character of cities. She quoted from Peter Hall’s book, Cities in Civilization. (1)

“Cities can be places of stress, conflicts and sometimes misery. Those who find them distasteful or disagreeable – can will – get out of them, to arcadian suburbs and garden cities; and policies should help them do so, if, they want. Cities were and are quite different places, places for people who can stand the heat of the kitchen: places where the adrenalin pumps through the bodies of the people and through the streets on which they walk; messy places, sordid places sometimes, but places nevertheless superbly worth living in, long to be remembered and long to be celebrated”.

None of the city fathers ever imagined such a description for any city, let alone their own Mount Pleasant.  Initially discussions were heated, focusing on how anyone could imply that their fair city could attract such a characterization. City leaders rained scorn on words such as stress, misery, heat of the kitchen, messy place and sordid places.   Dr. Ng persevered, observing that this forum was not authoring a statement to be issued by the Board of Trade as part their economic development mandate. Rather the intention is to gain full appreciation of the nature of cities and how Mount Pleasant fits into the mosaic. He invited assembled members for their comments.

First up, Stanley Epp, Director of City Planning, voiced his concerns about policies which encourage movement to the suburbs.  Mount Pleasant has strategies for increasing inner city density, otherwise an ever widening footprint results, disdainfully referred to as urban sprawl. He allowed that choices are vital to building a city loved by all.

As to places of stress, conflicts and sometimes misery, the Chief of Police, Orest Melanchuk acknowledged such characteristics are part  the city’s nature, citing home-grown examples.  The recent flood, ethnically inspired disagreements, crime and homelessness are illustrations. He added “Mount Pleasant deals with structural, pressing and spontaneous issues very well and better than most metropolitan centers”.

The Director of Cultural Development, Ms Rosemary Devonshire, firmly believes that cities can be places superbly worth living in, long to be remembered and long to be celebrated.  Rosemary sited wonderful reasons for Mount Pleasantites to be revered including arts, recreational, educational and cultural facilities. Many more centers of this nature are on the drawing board.

The City Solicitor, Raymond Cavalier, spoke about messy places and sordid places sometimes. Clearly events of a sordid nature happen. Messes can be a problem as well. Law suits exemplify the extent to which cities and their citizens slip into disarray. He joined Orest Malanchuk, applauding Mount Pleasant’s concentrated efforts, working to resolve messes and reduce the influence of sordid events.

Mayor Sing Pamir agreed that cities are places for people who can stand the heat of the kitchen: places where the adrenalin pumps through the bodies of the people and through the streets on which they walk. The Mayor went on to say every day brings new challenges.  Stimulating, provocative, interesting and very difficult issues are part of Mount Pleasant.  Civic strength comes from how these are addressed and solved.  He added “Citizens of our great city solve problems for the benefit of all”.

Dr. Ng added to the conversation. Cities are happening places, sometimes good, sometimes bad, always challenging, and always interesting.  She wants this journey through Mount Pleasant’s montage to be a worthy exercise for learning, planning  and discovering what it means for the city to be at the confluence of technology, art and organization.

(1) Hall, Peter: Cities in Civilization, Weidenfeld & Nicolson, 1998