The room grew quiet. It was a depressed kind of silence, as if no one could think of anything to say that would help or make things better. Finally, someone spoke. "The problem is that we keep hoping for the Great Good Developer who will be to us what we think that Rouse was--and it ain't gonna happen."
He went on, "The County is our Government, and that's where we
need to be going if we want things to change. This kind of magical
thinking isn't going to do anything."
We were talking about the Bridge Columbia Project, an idea which
would benefit Columbia and Howard County alike. But we could have been
talking about any significant challenge that Columbia faces today.
Insomuch as we have to work with HHC or GGP to get something
accomplished, we cannot make them into something that they are not.
They are not like the God-like force protecting the Edo on Star-Trek Generations, looking out for our every need, protecting us.
That's not what developers do. Consider this. What does it mean to you? Now consider this.
The People Tree may have come to represent something inspirational about Columbia, but that doesn't change what it is.
In his blog post, "Identity Crisis", WordBones tells us, "In the early years
of Columbia’s development, the People Tree image was used as a branding
symbol for the new town."
A branding symbol. It's Columbia's Golden Arches, and it doesn't
belong to us. It belongs to the owners of the brand--who, at the
moment, happen to be HHC. To attach such beautiful, lofty ideals to a
branding symbol, and then expect the owners of the branding symbol to
take part in the "Great Good" relationship with us--that is Magical
We need to make the magic. And we need to forge the
relationships that will make that possible. Sitting around waiting for
the "Great Good" someone to make things right with Columbia leaves us
vulnerable to anyone who knows the real rules of the game and can
operate past us in our love affair with Magical Thinking.
We can keep our lofty ideals, and we can fight for the philosophy
upon which Columbia was created. But we need to go where the magic is
made, and be willing to make it for ourselves. And maybe it's time for a
new symbol that Columbia and Howard County can share.