Last night at the third New West tweetup (soon to be blogged by @punkvspunk, I hope!), the idea of celebrating New Westminster’s future resurfaced. It’s no wonder it came up, given that we were twelve under-35’s, 6 iPhones, and one twitter hashtag (#newwest), meeting at a locale quoted by one tweeter as “the closest thing New West has to hip.”
It was roundly agreed that New Westminster as a city government and as a citizenry does a marvellous job of celebrating the past – from ragtime festivals to classic car show-n-shines, period costume days and the 140-year-old May Day celebration. We even do a fairly smashing job at celebrating the timeless and perennial – such as the Oolichan festival and FraserFest – perhaps this fits with New Westminster’s long identification with history and “golden years” habitats, but it has left us a bit lacking in our sense of “future.”
Why does “future” matter to a city at all, especially to a city like New Westminster which may not be marketing itself to attract hi-tech companies for its tax base or knowledge workers for it’s economy – however, as a small city that is home to a community college, a call centre, a large high school and a burgeoning population of young families, a sense of “future identity” is vitally important. It goes beyond teens and young families feeling that there is potential for their own future here in the Royal City, it has to do with how people view the potential of their community. Humanity has always associated “the future” with a sense of optimism and possibility, and without those sentiments being demonstrated in a community, where is the motivation to stay, to invest, to participate and enjoy?
I work for a research group which recently concluded a project about the role of maternity care services (family doctors practicing obstetrical care, midwives, and surgical backup services) in the sustainability of rural communities in BC. Not surprisingly, we found that the loss of maternity care services threatened the viability of rural communities. Without maternity care services, employers couldn’t attract workers with families, and families already living in these communities often left because they felt that their own family’s future and the future of the community were incompatible. What a good example of how vital a sense of community “future” is to viability of that community long-term… The key being that if people don’t see their own futures in the future of their own community, they are less likely to move there, stay there, or invest themselves in that community. In a city with such reverence for history but no real “future identity” we risk giving the impression we are simply treading water, dwelling on the past in an age when the future seems to arrive faster than we expected.
Envisioning a city’s future is not solely the domain of younger generations – if you are among our city’s elders, your contributions and service to this city are the seeds which will grow the city’s future. It’s your investment. How will it be used? It seems that New West has always had a devoted following of citizens who’ve loved and served the community, and worked to preserve it’s beauty and history… isn’t it the perfect time now, during the 150th Anniversary celebrations, to ensure that New Westminster’s role in the future, and the hard work of many people to get us there, is imagined, honored, and celebrated.
Last night we talked about how we might celebrate New Westminster’s future, looking ahead from our 150th Anniversary celebrations to the years to come – at Tenth to the Fraser, we invite you to join us in envisioning the future of New Westminster and dreaming up ways to celebrate it in our community. It would be easy to assume that celebrating “future” involves throwing a couple hundred dollars at the local high school student council and telling them to make it very “internet-y” (although we ARE VERY excited about the upcoming public civic wi-fi!), but it’s more than that. What do we want/expect/imagine New Westminster will look like years down the road… and how do YOU think we should celebrate it on this important year?
(Perhaps we’ll host a”Twonsultation” on the matter – but for now, we’d love to hear your input in the comments below!)