Monday, March 1, 2010

Where is our public square in Silver Spring?

We pride ourselves here in our community on being engaged with community issues, progressive on social issues, and participatory on getting things done… Yet, when it comes to innovative civic discourse, we oftentimes are confined by the structures of the past, the boxes of the present, and self-imposed limitations for the future. We’ve certainly experimented – and successfully at that - with the likes of ‘living room chats’, ‘cafĂ© conversations’, and ‘study circles’. (Indeed, some of these experiments continue to this day!)

All our success stories notwithstanding, public discourse is most often constrained to the venues of the board rooms, conference rooms, and formal hearings. (More recently, we’ve plunged into the virtual world of blogs where lively discussions take a life of their own and become increasingly meaningful to the traditional discourse. And, that is a good thing!)

This summer we will have – thanks in large part to the embedded yearning for activism of Silver Spring residents and businesses – our new Veterans Plaza. This gem of a space has been in the makings for over a decade now. Countless community members have graciously given of their time to make this space become a reality… It will truly be quite a space!

We have the opportunity here to make Veterans Plaza what we want to make it. It is certainly a beautiful design; an honorable homage to our veterans; and, an obvious gathering place. Together we’ll program it wisely to ensure the space is activated.

Yet, the most exciting potential for this public square is what could happen organically and unstructured.

How will this new public square – our Veterans Plaza – serve our community’s enthusiasm for civic discourse? How will it evolve to be a meaningful addition to what is working in Silver Spring when it comes to community engagement? Will it be the place for constructive exchange of ideas – or just a plain vanilla plaza? How can we work together to make sure Veterans Plaza becomes a lively, happening, and vibrant gathering place?

Certainly, Veterans Plaza will not the only ‘public space’ in Silver Spring… There are many others…

How we know about these spaces, how we access them, use them; and, how we responsibly carry their cost and recoup related expenses are real questions that merit deep community conversations.

To this end, we are getting together this Wednesday evening (March 3rd) at 7 p.m. at the Crown Plaza. Come join the Regional Services Center and Silver Spring Town Center, Inc., as we – under the leadership of IMPACT Silver Spring - continue tackling this evolving issue.

See you there!... In the meantime, chime in with your thoughts here on this blog.



tony hausner said...

this is a good way to generate comments as is the impact meeting. hope there are other ways to get input from a wide array of possible users. perhaps have planned and unplanned time. perhaps use survey monkey to get wide range of opinions.

Tony Hausner

Claire Snyder-Hall said...

It's great to see someone talking about civic discourse and public space in an actual community!

Anonymous said...

Silver Spring is graced with many public spaces even before the Veterans Plaza becomes available. How we use our public spaces should educate us about how we will use the Veterans Plaza. The public streets: do some of us assert themselves agressively; do some of us wave a finger in appreciation? The public sidewalks: do some of us gather and linger and nearly block the sidewalk; yell, threaten and curse among ourselves; do the nimble and quick use the sidewalk for a half pipe to practice skate moves? And do any of us leave litter, trash, wrappers or cups in the grass or shrubs? The public library: ??? By the nature of a space being 'public' it is not simply ours to enjoy personally, but ours to enjoy with others. I suggest that our own behaviors and the consideration we show for others in the public space will determine the success of the space as much as the fine ideas we share and discuss there. Now, can we get there from here?

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