After years describing China to Americans, James Fallows has returned and is now explaining America to Americans. In his most recent feature in The Atlantic “How America Is Putting Itself Back Together” Fallows visits medium-sized cities and finds positive signs that America is not going to hell in a handbasket, despite what you might think looking at the fractious national politics and troubling economic signs. There are signs of success at a smaller, dare I say grassroots, scale.
In a sidebar to the feature, Fallows lists out eleven signs a city will succeed. Kelowna is a mid-tier city in Canada, and right in line with the types of cities Fallows examines in his piece. Let us see how it does on the “Fallows Scale of Municipal Success.”
The first four categories (1. Divisive national politics seem a distant concern; 2. You can pick out the local patriots; 3. “Public-private partnerships” are real; 4. People know the civic story) I have no answers for. Maybe you can supply some answers. But the last seven are easy, and positive.
5. They have a downtown.
“Most of the cities we visited were pouring attention, resources, and creativity into their downtown.”
Yes, in fact the city is now pouring its attention into five downtowns. Now to overcome the negative local attitude towards more dense neighbourhoods.
6. They are near a research university.
As just one example, last year I had a tour of the STAR facility at UBCO, where there is a bunch of advanced R&D happening, and an amazing 3D printer. There is the Fipke Centre for Innovative Research as another example.
7. They have, and care about, a community college.
Okanagan College has a long history delivering education here, but I see their faculty and students active in all sorts of different events and issues in the community.
8. They have unusual schools.
This is kind of a weird one, but the first thing that came to my mind is the Kelowna Waldorf school, which is unusual at least in the architectural sense. As for experimental or unorthodox education, maybe there are some unusual programs at one of our higher ed institutions that I don’t know about.
9. They make themselves open.
“The anti-immigrant passion that has inflamed this election cycle was not something people expressed in most of the cities we visited.”
10. They have big plans.
Take a look at the 2030 Infrastructure Plan.
11. They have craft breweries.
The only category that matters for some!
“A town that has craft breweries also has a certain kind of entrepreneur, and a critical mass of mainly young (except for me) customers.”
Besides the 150+ wineries we have nearby there are a number of craft breweries and even a festival. And speaking of entrepreneurs, we have held a few of our #geekbeers at BNA, so Fallows is bang on about that.
At least in half of the categories we are doing pretty well and I can say over the past few years of living here that I have detected a sense of progress and general excitement for the future in this community. I think the best is yet to come.