Tom Palmer on Enrique Penalosa

Tom Palmer writes today about the recent visit to Boston by Enrique Penalosa, the former mayor of Bogota, Colombia. Penalosa's ideas about urban quality of life resonate for me and present important questions and goals for the future of our neighborhood and the impact of development by Harvard, Charlesview, and others:
Western civilization prevailed because of its emphasis on equality, Penalosa said. But what constitutes equality in today market economy?
Two things:
-- Public good prevails over private interest.
-- Equality of quality of life (as opposed to income equality).
Among his principles to achieve those goals, "if you really have democracy at work":
-- Waterfronts should never be private.
-- Road space should go first to public transport, and if any space is left over to private cars.

A good city is "where people want to be out of their homes," in public space. And shopping malls don't qualify under Penalosa's definition of happiness, though he suggested they're better than no public space at all.

Penalosa said that beyond food and sleep and security -- the basics -- people need: to walk, be with people, have contact with nature, to play, and "not to feel inferior."

His vision of an advanced society, as opposed to a backward society, is one where high- and low-income people meet in all kinds of circumstances. Where the physical space is good for children, the elderly, and handicapped. (More than 200,000 children a year are killed by cars worldwide, he said.)

"A good city is not one with great highways, but one where a child on a bicycle can go safely everywhere."


  1. Anonymous11:33 AM

    Reading that bit of Communism just made me thrown up in my mouth a little bit.

  2. Doesn't even resemble Communism! He's not talking monetary equality! Spiritual equality IS the basis of a good Democray. I could go on, but why? CommOn sense is not always so commOn. No wonder the U.S. economy is in the state that it is. Best advice give to our people by the President after 911 was to CONSUME? Oh please. Thanks for posting Harry. Penalosa's vision is much more inline with our original forefather's visions (based on other great ancient civilizations) than our most recent past administration.

  3. Can we please retire the "throw up in my mouth a little bit" phrase? It's so played not even Ben Stiller thinks it's funny any more.

  4. Anonymous9:17 PM

    The only people that want that kind of society are the poors. Why is that?

    - Because they're the only ones who benefit from denying individuals the right to own waterfront property (denial of property ownership - communism in it's purist form).

    - Because they're the only ones who benefit from denying individuals equal access to public roads versus giving their buses right of way. (punishing wealth, communism yet again)

    - Because quality of life is tied directly to finance. Most areas of life can be enjoyed at a higher level with $. Education, healthcare, recreation. You only level that by stealing from the successful in society with taxes to subsidize the poors access to these services. I'm fine with giving poors some basic services, but equalizing them at a level that successful people enjoy is communism.

  5. Good luck finding any other people who oppose public beaches.

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