Saturday, April 11, 2015

The Dream is Bigger than You Think

People in this town are inordinately fond of taking James Rouse's name in vain, that is, "this is what Rouse intended" or "that's not the Columbia of Jim Rouse." In fact, this has happened with so much regularity that it has almost become a stick to shake at people you don't like. And I fear that its overuse renders Mr. Rouse less meaningful to 21st century residents, not moreso.

An eye opener to me was this sentence, which I heard for the first time at the100th Birthday Celebration held last year at Merriweather.

If you work in Columbia, you should be able to live in Columbia.

-- James Rouse

The context in which this was raised at the birthday event was racial equality in housing. But it was also noted that Rouse's dream was bigger than that. It's clear by the groundwork he laid that economic opportunity was a priority as well. This appears to be less widely known by the folks who are trying get rid of affordable housing as a method of neighborhood "reinvention."

The sad truth is that people who say that they have the right to know better than the rest of us about Columbia are attempting to eviscerate the dream of Mr. Rouse because it doesn't suit their current world view. Not so fast, folks. If there were a bible of Columbia, this would be in it:

If you work in Columbia, you should be able to live in Columbia.

And don't say, "Well yes, but not in my neighborhood." I hear that Mr. Rouse didn't have much patience with that old excuse.

So look around you and see who works in Columbia--everyone who works in Columbia. There should be housing that they can afford. And they should be welcome in our community. Their children should be in our schools. Their needs should be addressed in our village board meetings. Executives, professors, entrepreneurs, government workers, doctors, teachers, police and firefighters, social workers, plumbers, retail workers, waitresses, groundskeepers, cooks, janitors, childcare workers, mechanics, crossing guards. Everyone.

A big shoutout today to the Howard County Housing folks, who are holding their Housing Fair today From 10-2 at Wilde Lake High School. They work year round to help people find affordable opportunities to "come home to Howard County". I got a wonderful note from them this year in preparation for this event. In part,

I know that you mostly talk about personal reflections in your blog but we do share the same feeling that Howard County is a great place to raise a family...We all know that many would love to live in Howard County but may feel they cannot afford it. The fair can help families get answers to their questions about buying and renting there.

So, let's make Rouse's dream a bit bigger. All the truly great dreams stretch us to include more of what it is truly right. They challenge us.

If you work in Howard County, you should be able to live in Howard County. -- Me

If you work in Howard County with someone who wishes they could live here, pick up the phone or shoot them a message to get over to Wilde Lake H.S. today. Do you love living in Columbia? In Howard County? They will, too.




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