Live Well, Do Good

Brandon: What Kind of a City Do We Want?  (1)

Brandon Sun, September 15, 2005 - David McConkey

Part One of Two

What kind of a city do we want Brandon to be, anyway? Recent discussion in the media, events reported in the news, and the Brandon Community Strategic Plan have people in the city thinking and talking. A downturn in the participation in our recycling program adds to the reflections for me.  
Different groups may want different things in their city. Often young adults are looking for something different than families with younger kids. “A great place to raise a family” may not be a great place for young adults to have a good time. Noisy nightlife may be attractive to one group, but not to another.

Teens may look for activities which others find annoying. Expect the issue of a skateboard park to come up again.

Brandon cannot be everything that larger centres are. Tenth Street will never be Yonge Street. Rosser Avenue will never be Corydon Avenue. At the same time, couldn’t we have some of the flavour of Yonge Street and Corydon Avenue in Brandon?

Corydon Avenue, for example, was not always hip. My wife and I lived in that area of Winnipeg when we were first married in the 1970s. Sure, there was the odd sign in Italian, but the lively street life came years later. It would be great to have even a bit of that outdoor vibrancy in Brandon.

Perhaps there is enough of a market in Brandon for more outdoor patio / sidewalk cafĂ© type venues. The appeal could include young adults, older adults whose children have grown, and sometimes the “raising the family” types who are looking for a night out without their kids.

Small outdoor space heaters can extend the season. If these devices can be used in warmer climates such as Vancouver, why can’t they be more widely used in Brandon?

Safety, of course, trumps cultural life. Brandon is in a bit of a funk right now because of crime. Regardless of the actual statistics which show crime is declining in Brandon, there is certainly the perception that crime is increasing.

Speaking personally, I can confirm this perception during just this past year in Brandon. Our vehicle was vandalized one early evening on the street in front of our home. A member of our family was robbed at gunpoint. An employee from our workplace was murdered.

In relation to crime, the self-named “Indian Posse” can only aggravate racial tensions in Brandon. I see this situation, however, improving in the future.

I have worked with hundreds of young people of all backgrounds who participated in the Fine Option and Community Service programs with the John Howard Society. My own sense is that the younger generation is much less racist than their elders. The young are much more open and ready to be inclusive. I attribute this mainly to the media. Looking ahead, I am very hopeful.

But we need to do all we can to deal with racial and class issues in Brandon now. The anarchy, violence, and looting in New Orleans shows what can happen to a city. New Orleans had a rich culture which celebrated music, outdoor fun, and a spirited street life. But when members of one racial group have been marginalized and forced into an underclass, without the resources to properly look after themselves, nobody benefits.

Let’s hope that Brandon can be a lively city, attractive to young and old. But let’s pay special attention to the young.

* * * 

See also:

Brandon: What Kind Of A City Do We Want?   (Part 2 of 2)

Despite the Disconnects, I'll Vote 'Yes'

Who Could Be Brandon’s Most Famous?

Take a Brandon Ghost Walking Tour

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