Do We Want Diversity?

In an effort to improve our chances of recouping through tax revenue the $10 million taxpayers invested in infrastructure in the area now known as Blue Hill, Town Council members considered options for increasing the amount of commercial space in the district. At our June 27 council meeting, we talked about changing the form-based code to require some or all of any redevelopment to be office, hotel or retail.

During the discussion, a community member expressed concern that demand for office and retail stores may be declining and that requiring a certain amount of square footage as commercial would result in chronically vacant storefronts.

Hongbin Gu countered that her research, which included phone calls to the Charlotte Urban Institute and the National Retail Federation, showed retail to be doing just fine.

Her intel agrees with the information I hear from business analysts who explain that the retail is going through a transformation to make the most of online technology. The retail pie is getting bigger, they say. More online sales does not mean less in-store sales. Shopping is still entertainment and a tourism draw. Retail stores often boost online sales and build consumer confidence in a brand.

I’m going into some detail on this not to say that Hongbin and I are right and everyone else on council is wrong. My point is that in that discussion, Hongbin and I knew things that others on council did not.

That applies to any issue that comes before council. Each of us on the dais has information, expertise and experiences that shape our individual viewpoints and, ultimately, the way we vote. We make better decisions as a council if we open ourselves to learn from one another rather than having “our side” “win.”

We have such diversity on council that our official group photo could double as a Benetton ad. But does that diversity do any good if we don’t open ourselves to one another’s different ideas and ways of thinking?

The changes to form-based code we approved last month are worthy of clipping out and posting on our refrigerators as a continual reminder of what we end up with when we ignore our diversity. We could have done better for the community as a whole had we been willing to learn from one another.
— Nancy Oates

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1 Comment

  1. Plurimus

     /  July 9, 2018

    Nancy. The idea that ethnicity=diversity is only what the advertisers are selling us. In my experience it is entirely possible to have group think among an ethnically diverse group of people.

    The electoral process in Town and in the County is one sided and incestuous. The truth is you only have a visual diversity on the council. More important to real diversity of opinion are such things as discipline, focus, ability, philosophy, and perspective.