What Makes a Community Great?


[This is the first in a series of posts about community “greatness”.]

A couple of months back I saw a Facebook (FB) group created that boldly declared – “Let’s Make (insert hometown name) Great Again”!  Needless to say, I could not resist.  After years of work in local government the one “absolute truth” I have learned is that community quality is subjective.

Another truth is that no two (2) communities are the same.  Rather there is a wide range of characteristics that defines each and every community.  I think we would all agree that a community is not “great” if it has extreme poverty, high crime, underfunded schools and absent local leadership.

What is Great?

But let’s look at what makes a community “Great”, “Awesome”, (“insert your own adjective”).  Different age, income and yes (I dare say it) political perspective affects how a person views their community.  For example, a young couple with family plans will most likely put a premium on school and education quality.  Retirees and seniors, who are most likely on some level of “fixed” income, will be concerned about how much it will “cost” to live in their community of choice.  Since, here in Illinois, most of your property tax dollar go to schools (approximately 60 to 80 percent depending upon where you live), retirees and seniors may not be as concerned about funding “excellent” schools.  Not that they don’t value them it is just a practical matter of financial concern.  I realize I am painting with a “broad” brush, and there are exceptions to my generalization.  But I am describing observations I have made over the years which are general in nature.

As I stated above political perspective plays a role as well.  What do I mean by this?  What I have seen is that some citizens want varying degrees of governmental intervention in their community.  For example, in some communities elected officials, residents and businesses support the idea of strict property maintenance codes and aggressive enforcement of those codes.

The conflict is that it costs tax dollars to enforce aggressively codes.  Some folks don’t want the government telling them how to maintain their property.  Others feel that if you don’t keep the community and its neighborhoods looking nice and well-kept it will diminish their property values and ultimately drive families and “invested” folks away.  Ultimately I think there needs to be a balance in this area.  What I mean is that code enforcement is important to maintain a certain base level of community appearance.  Care needs to be given as to how much enforcement costs and some effort to measure the effectiveness of enforcement is needed as well.  Equally important, in my mind, is that compassion needs to be given to those who cannot afford to “wholesale” property improvements.

Next Time: “Community Feel”.


[The opinions expressed in this post are those of the author and the author solely and not those of others or organizations that may be stated or inferred in the posting.]
© Ronald R. Searl. 2016

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