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BoBo is a French expression, short for Bourgeois Bohème, and it pretty much describes who we are.

Bobo Feed will be sharing things that inspire us or please us-
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Wednesday, September 7, 2011

In Support of Bread AND Circuses...

Even in these very challenging times of municipal fiscal restraint we continue to believe that for any city to thrive, the arts and culture must also flourish. This is why our collective hearts burst with pride at the beauty that is the latest to open in the new East Bayfront area.

After the success, albeit a somewhat misunderstood and under-appreciated one, of the "Wave Decks" east of Spadina on Queen's Quay....
...what a breath of fresh air it was to find this glorious little "Beach" on a bright sunny week-day morning.

In two great examples of combining public infrastructure with enlightened design, Torontonians are now benefiting from improvements to waterfront public spaces and cleaner waste water entering the harbour while simultaneously enjoying a couple of additional parks.

"Sugar Beach" and the new beautifully finished Sherbourne Commons (also known less poetically as the  Sherbourne Storm Water Treatment Facility) have been a joy to discover. Combining function and beauty has never looked so effortless. And as they say, that is a very good thing...

Of course, there are the naysayers: "What good is that? We can't swim there, why do they call it a beach?", "How much did that cost? Couldn't we have used that money to combat the variety of ills this city already has?" "What are they actually doing down there on the waterfront? So much money, and nothing's happening"...

Some of these questions are worthy of discussion, and in fact it can be demonstrated that the works will pay for themselves in added value, but in its "nickel and dime" mentality all of this misses the bigger point:

A city is more than cheque books and balance sheets. In order to thrive it has to engage, support, and foster pride of place within it's citizens. Although a balanced city budget is commendable, it alone will not contribute to residents' quality of life, nor attract the bright minds and 21st Century employers that will power the city's economy into the future.

Cities are not bucolic landscapes. They are creations of human expedience. People gather because doing so is mutually beneficial.  And yet we are all genetically programmed to appreciate nature and beauty. So over the centuries mankind has developed ways to make their communal living spaces more beautiful, from parks to boulevards to the buildings that provide our shelter. Human beings are also inherently curious & creative, so naturally there are those among us who seek to express new ideas, including new ideas about what is beautiful.

The R.O.M. Chin Crystal is the perfect example of a new idea that, so far, few of us appreciate or understand. What it has brought us, though, is discussion and engagement, and this is what ultimately powers cities. IDEAS! The Chin Crystal is good for Toronto, even if we all have agreed to disagree.

Currently Winnipeg is going through what one might call somewhat of a civic renaissance. Why? They have just gotten their beloved NHL franchise back and The Bombers are super hot this season. There's a flurry of new construction, including the new Canadian Museum for Human Rights All this brings smiles and pride to the city, and when you feel good it's not long before those around you feel it as well. When you feel good you also feel more confidant, which if our friends in Winnipeg will forgive the winter analogy, "has a snowball effect. Pride equals confidence. Confidence equals investment. What every city needs!

Remember when our beloved Jays won the World series? TWICE!! What a feeling!! It's not all about sports teams, though that seems to reach the most people, but architecture, design, art or an incredible stage production can have just as much, if not more, "thrill factor".
Because cities are the centres of expedience that they are, the instillation of civic pride usually requires a little additional investment. Could we imagine that iconic symbol of Toronto, new City Hall, ever being built in these current tumultuous financial times? Not to mention it's green roof! Or Ontario Place, once a symbol of hope in the dreary "waspishness" that Toronto was in the early 70's? There was vision then. Civic Pride. Yes we paid a little more for it, but we also saw beauty flourish for all to enjoy, and these civic works helped us in becoming the great metropolis we are today.
...Or going even further back, how about the Harris water filtration plant in The Beaches? Or the Prince Edward Viaduct over the Don Valley? Had civic leaders of the past not seen the merit in investing a little more up front in major (& even minor) public works, so that they would become sources of civic pride, we would certainly not have any more money in our pockets today, but we would all be poorer for the short- sightedness.

Some time ago our forefathers agreed that by taxing ourselves and pooling the resources we could advance society for the benefit of all. Today we take for granted all that taxes do for us. We all want to pay less of them, but the reality is we must sacrifice (read pay taxes) for the things we want and continue to demand more of. Roads, bridges, social housing, libraries, public transit...the list goes on and on. The infrastructure of our cities is in need of a major overhaul, but since the mantra of lower taxes became the norm, we've even stopped maintaining what we have, let alone creating new!
We don't have answers as to how to solve all of our fiscal woes (OK, we have a few ideas, but...). We're simply here to argue that continued public investment in our communities is necessary, in many cases urgently so, and that a little more up front today will pay off in spades down the road. We're not even sure that the beautiful new waterfront infrastructure cost any more than rock bottom basic engineering would have, but we are sure that there was an added investment in nourishment of the human spirit, and for that we are grateful.

The Roman Emperors did it out of self preservation, but they were smart enough to realize that grouping a lot of people together in a city, if efficient, was stressful, and that the citizens needed to have their minds stimulated. In our cheek to jowl urban existence we not only need to be fed, but to be entertained. We're arguing for a higher form of mental engagement than gladiator rings (some of our current city councilors may disagree, however!), but we nonetheless firmly believe that we need investment in both bread AND circuses.

What do you think?

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