TED Conversations

Ziska Childs

Freelancer, united scenic artists


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How do we get back the neighborhood?

Of course I'm referencing the 2012 TED prize The talk which inspired this question has been posted: Jen Pahlka talking about "Peace Corps for Geeks" aka- coding for government. One of the ideas in that talk which resonated for me was it's not about making the bureaucracy easier- it's about solving the problems. More often than not that means getting the bureaucracy out of the way and letting people be neighborly. "Adopt a fire hydrant"- shovel it out when there's a snow storm. That's pretty simple stuff and it promotes Community - with an upper case "C".

I've seen my own home town go from a place where I could walk to everything (the butcher the baker the candlestick maker) to one where there are 30,000 vehicle round trips a day. This is for a town of 6000 residents. The service providers drive in and out for work. The residents drive out and in to go to school, the hospital, the rec center and to find lower priced goods. Employee housing (also out of town-but closer) has resulted in a boost for the construction industry which increases the service trips in and out. Placing a transfer tax on real estate has favored flipping and cowboy development. I only mention this to emphasize that treating the symptom doesn't work and the unintended consequences can be devastating.

So, how do we get back the neighborhood? How do we get back the Community?


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    Mar 30 2012: (This is meant to respond to comments below by Ziska Childs and Pat Gilbert.)

    Well, our Guidance Committee, and the organization in general, is non-partisan, comprised of a couple of labor activists, a GOP Central Committee Member, an attorney, a former professor of Public Administration, a mother of four whom she home-schooled, a real-estate agent/local business owner, a 90-something former machinist with a Simon for Governor bumper sticker still on his pick-up truck, and me, a former budget director of the County of Orange, CA. So, no "bent;" we try to keep focused on our mission.

    We have gatherings, not meetings and our organization chart is three concentric circles, each becoming increasingly porous as you approach the outer ring.

    Though this may sound a bit "California Woo Woo," we are actually pretty pragmatic, and like the "does it work" criterion. The model is pretty well thought-out, based on a lot of research and experience in community organizing here and abroad. And we're having fun!

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