« Parade of Homes: We are in the dark ages of home construction | Main | CBS News: "We've put so much of our national wealth and even identity into the idea of suburbia that we can't imagine having to let go of it or substantially change it." »

August 11, 2008


Terrence Berres

"I don't see people - or businesses - tripping over themselves to move to a community that is so short-sighted."

When you say you don't "see" it do you mean you don't understand it? Franklin has, after all, been one of the state's fastest growing communities for a long time.

John Michlig

If any and all growth is GOOD growth, then you must be a satisfied Franklin citizen. Just don't look too closely and you'll continue to be content.

John Michlig

To expand in anticipation of your possible follow-up: The blind purchasing of McMansion isolation in remote, disconnected subdivisions is coming to an end. People are much more cognizant of the financial and social implications of living in a "cul-de-sac to nowhere" in a way that I certainly wasn't when I moved here 11 years ago. My decision back then, based on no experience whatsoever in living in a sprawled suburb, was house-and-yard centered, and I will NOT repeat that mistake again. My family, and many like us, will work to improve Franklin's outlook or, failing that, move somewhere with a true community vision.

Terrence Berres

Your blog is subtitled "The Search for Community in the American Suburb". In your response to my comment you claim to be working for "true community vision". Yet when your basement flooded you found there was true community here all along. I could have told you that, and I suspect many other Frankliners could have, as well. (In fact I had told you in our earlier Tocqueville exchange.) It's a bit implausible you regard moving to Franklin as so big mistake as you claim yet didn't move away during any real estate sellers' market during the past 11 years.

Liz Stone Abraham

Re: Terrence's comment-
Rather than looking for a well-designed community, people usually move to places that are affordable and close to work. I moved from a major city to a rural suburb nine years ago because it was near my husband's job. This suburb has some of the same issues that John describes here. New commercial and residential development rarely takes the concept of the pedestrian into account when designing their properties. As a result, it's nearly impossible to walk anywhere. But I stay because I have a nice job in town, I've made friends here, and it’s affordable. I should do more to voice my opinions to the town. At least John is letting Franklin know his thoughts. It seems obvious to me that he cares about the place and doesn't want to see it ruined by bad development.

John Michlig

A true community allows for regular and easy contact between otherwise disparate individuals outside of the context of organizations and clubs (which must be joined and can exist only while they have the freedom to exclude) and disasters (which must be, frankly, endured). Among the chief reasons we have become a segmented, "sorted" society that has less and less empathy for those not in our specific demographic is the fact that we live in these isolated car-to-garage-to-work-to-garage enclaves and don't deal with one another - - meaning people who may not be like-minded - - on any regular basis.

I.E. - If my neighbor has a problem, I'll come running and help with all my might. But I probably won't run into him in a typical (disaster-less) day, week, or even month.

Our built environment and designed surroundings either encourage or snuff the ability to experience a DAILY and ACTIVE sense of community. Our built environment determines the pattern of our daily lives.

That same built environment is most often created by persons who seek merely to maximize their financial return; nothing wrong with that, but it's our responsibility to ensure that long-term community sensibilities are incorporated as well. We can't continue to serve automobiles and developers exclusively.

Do certain subdivisions have a community feel? Certainly. IF you live in that subdivision.

(On a side note: Witness the rise of theologically-deficient, nondenominational superchurches that very purposefully "subsort" their membership into homogeneous "people like us" groups - the "cell system." Rick Warren leverages this to great effect. When Billy Graham made his altar calls he made sure each convert was met by someone of their own race, gender and general age group. "People like us" is a powerful, primal comfort that we will generally embrace when given the chance.)

Where is Franklin's useful, vibrant civic space, where I might bump into you for a few minutes conversation with no strings attached? These encounters were possible and frequent in the days before suburban sprawl, and our discourse in general suffers in absence of the ability to informally engage one another without the threat of further entanglement. The rewards of engagement with people "not like us" are lost.

Finally, you overreach in assuming my family (or anyone, frankly) might not have been otherwise engaged - financially and otherwise - during "any real estate sellers' market." There are priorities beyond personal preferences (i.e "Life is what happens to you while you're busy making other plans.")

Terry Chalk

Excellent post as always, but puleeese don't use the term "differently-abled"... good god, that is political correctness from hell. Just my little two cents.

Terrence Berres

Ms. Abraham says "Rather than looking for a well-designed community, people usually move to places that are affordable and close to work." And she goes on "...I stay because I have a nice job in town, I've made friends here, and it’s affordable."

Likewise it appears no discernable number of people moved into Franklin and then left over the issue of "true community vision". Mr. Michlig doesn't actually dispute this. His saying we should assume that anyone who would have moved away for this reason was "otherwise engaged - financially and otherwise" just points out where his idea of "true community vision" ranks in people's priorities.

(On a side note, is a big congregation having, say, a youth group somehow "theologically-deficient" or insidious? Is this vision of community which started "outside of the context of organizations" now also to be applied within them?)


Relative to a comment so obtuse (and meticulous in its avoidance of the issues I raised and discussed), I'm satisfied to simply reiterate what I wrote above without modification.

Liz Stone Abraham

Terrence, I think that you deliberately misunderstood my comment, or at least quoted the part of it that suited your argument. I am very unhappy with the way commercial and residential development continues to harm my town's sense of community. I just haven't done anything proactive about it yet. But your comments may have inspired me to get involved.

Terrence Berres

Ms. Abraham:

To get involved, not move away? I appreciate your understanding an argument some find obtuse. As for your earlier observation that Mr. Michlig cares, I've never raised an issue about that. But, as an example, if I were to have pointed out that I regularly find myself behind people who are obviously confused by the new Drexel Avenue roundabout, past experience indicates he would reiterate his ability to discern the hidden meaning of "confusing".

The comments to this entry are closed.