Sunday, August 26, 2007

The Polls of the Sphinx

A typical London Free Press poll, like the one above, elicits a meaningless response by posing an indigestible and ambiguous question.

Does the paltry 8% support for the proposal that the City of London pay for downtown renewal indicate a proper and sensible disinclination among the public to squander even more of their taxes into bureaucratic schemes for renewal, as has been the City's failed strategy for the past decade?

Or, does positing "Developers" as the only alternative invite respondents instead to the punitive prospect of gassing someone else, especially an apparently monolithic cabal of "others" whose interests, in the popular myth of the Free Press and some politicians, are in opposition to the City's? It's easy to see how the City of London can be soaked for downtown renewal, but if we're going to soak the Developers instead, how are we going to do it and whose renewal will it be?

Does the option of "Both" allow respondents to park vague, muddled or uncertain feelings as something to be taken as an opinion?

Of course, every answer can only affirm the premises of the question, which is that downtown renewal is some sort of bill of goods that can be drawn up and invoiced to someone, and that the problems of what to draw up and who to present the invoice can and must only be decided democratically, which is to say politically. Well, of course it cannot renew itself!

If the city were to resign its self-appointed mission of engineering miniature Shangri-Las, and failing miserably in the process, a corresponding reduction in taxes and abolition of burdensome regulation would allow the downtown to actually thrive in some form or fashion… it just wouldn't necessarily be in the way of the rosy vision of bygone days to which the city's fathers would have everyone be sold on. And what's wrong with that? Times change, whatever the appeal of retrograde civic puritanism to that minority of constituents who actually vote. It's not your father's downtown anymore, and it never will be again. At least let it be something else…
See also: City core worth leaving alone