Thursday, September 09, 2010

The (Other) Tragedy of the Commons (8/30)

I wouldn't count on this becoming a weeklong theme, but I thought this was worth posting on its own anyway.

As a relatively new import to Halifax, I feel a little bit awkward making pronouncements about municipal politics here...but there is a clear and present danger to a longstanding Haligonian institution - the North Commons - and I feel compelled to speak out! Unlike all too many cities, Halifax has got this wonderful stretch of common land right in the middle. Anyone can walk, run, bike, etc. as well as hold events/get-togethers, play sports...basically it's a big flat park that nobody really manages. Sort of. Of late, the city has started allowing for-profit concerts into the commons. Never mind that Halifax has at least three suitable buildings for ticketed events (The Metro Center, The Forum, Dalhousie's Rebecca Cohen auditorium)...the very spirit of a commons is stretched to the breaking point by fences and guards and price tags. It's not like you can play a concert in the Black Eyed Peas' backyard on a whim and charge admission. It's not like they can do the same in yours. That's how property works. Common land...well, I personally can't kick the BEP out of the commmons...but I wasn't even consulted. I suppose I can't suggest that we have a referendum every time someone wants to have a concert in the Commons, but whoever gave the BEP the go-ahead...I'm not sure they should have the authority to do that. Yes, there needs to be some measure of order even on common land. The police obviously still have juristiction. But there should be no one who wields a power of ownership over the Commons, and yet someone is behaving as if they do. This is troublesome.

Fortunately, I'm not the only one to see things this way. Tomorrow there is to be a "Take back the commons" dance party in the North Commons. I think I will probably go check it out. It's at 9 near the fountain if you're in Halifax and want to see what's up. I think this kind of event is exactly what SHOULD be happening in the commons: free, grassroots, and leaving little mark behind. This in contrast to the private, top-down, ground-pounding shows we've had come through here. If we want to preserve the freedom of a community resource like the commons, it is essential to lead by example. I can't imagine anyone living in Halifax being unaware of the Commons, but there are likely many who do not consider its true potential. By holding events like an outdoor dance party, these people can be shown precisely what is at stake. And, with any luck, they will join us in defending it.


PS: I recently found out that Clive Doucet is running for mayor of Ottawa. I met him once when he was adjudicating a provincial all-candidates meeting (I blogged about it way back), and he was very well spoken and I think I agree with a lot of his positions (I'll double check this against his current platform and give you an update). Until then, consider him possessed of a full, unreserved LOUD endorsement. If you live in Ottawa, please vote for this man so that there is hope for our moronic city bureacracy to get its shit together and start making my hometown a better place to live!

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