Kotkin in Sacramento

In a great piece of news, our favorite urban planner and historian, Joel Kotkin, professor of Urban Development at Chapman University will be the keynote speaker at the State of the County Luncheon Friday, November 15, 11:30 AM- 1:30 PM at the Sheraton Grand Hotel in Sacramento.

The theme this year is “Popular or Politically Incorrect?  The Importance of having Prosperous and Livable Suburban Communities”

Tickets are available and for more information, you can call the Metro Chamber at 319-4261 or go online go to the “Events” tab at the Sacramento Metro Chamber website.

We have been admirers of the work of Professor Kotkin for many years, which we have followed through his books and his blog site, New Geography,

His seminal book, The City: A Global History is extraordinary, and the review by Alan Ehrenhalt in Governing Magazine first introduced me to Professor Kotkin’s work.

An excerpt.

When I was a kid in Chicago, my dad used to take us for rides along the Lake Michigan shore line, from Hyde Park on the South Side, past Soldier Field and the great lakeside museums in Grant Park, around the twists and turns east of Michigan Avenue, and then down by the Near North beaches crowded with bathers in the summertime. Every once in a while, he would gesture toward the lake itself and utter what he considered a timeless truth. “You can’t find a city anywhere with a lakefront as magnificent as this.”

I didn’t have any standards of comparison at the time, but I couldn’t help wondering if I was mostly just listening to one man’s exuberant but eccentric personal chauvinism.

Years later, I noticed that quite a few other residents of my father’s city felt the same way he did. A much more famous one, the newspaper columnist Jack Mabley, wrote something even more hyperbolic. “You ride the length of Chicago’s magnificent shore line,” Mabley proclaimed in the Daily News, “and think that other cities, corruption or no, should have been able to produce something as beautiful.”

The more I thought about Mabley’s assertion, the sillier it seemed. Cities don’t “produce” shorelines the way they produce convention centers. Nature produces them. The best that civic leaders can do is try to avoid messing them up.

But there’s another way to look at this issue: For urbanites in the generation of my father and Jack Mabley, there was a bigger-than-life quality to aspects of the physical environment that surrounded them. Something capable of inspiring awe within them virtually anytime they glanced upon it. Something–one might even venture to say–that possessed a touch of the sacred.

I admit to feeling a little tentative about bringing up ideas like that. Joel Kotkin, on the other hand, delivers them with utter confidence. In his new book, “The City: A Global History,” Kotkin declares simply and forcefully that there are three basic elements to a superior urban experience. One is economic power. A second is personal security. And the third is sacredness–which he relates to a capacity for awe on the part of the citizens. “Cities can thrive,”Kotkin warns, “only by occupying a sacred place.”

About David H Lukenbill

I am a native of Sacramento, as are my wife and daughter. I am a consultant to nonprofit organizations, and have a Bachelor of Science degree in Organizational Behavior and a Master of Public Administration degree, both from the University of San Francisco. We live along the American River with two cats and all the wild critters we can feed. I am the founding president of the American River Parkway Preservation Society and currently serve as the CFO and Senior Policy Director. I also volunteer as the President of The Lampstand Foundation, a nonprofit organization I founded in 2003.
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