Saturday, April 19, 2008

Diversity Essential to City's Quality of Life

In the classic film, The Wild One, Marlon Brando’s character is asked, “Just what is it you’re rebelling against, Johnny?” His answer, delivered in a slow drawl just dripping with contempt is, “Whadya got?”

The little town Johnny and his “hep cat” bikers rode into was a quiet, comfortable place that only existed in the movies. By today’s gang standards motorcycle thugs were actually pretty mild. But as an alien influence, they really shook up the place.

Sometimes Frisco can feel a little like that mythical town, fittingly named “Wrightsville.” Face it, over the past couple of decades, we’ve been riding the crest of the wave. Some great foresight by our elected officials and city management has positioned Frisco as one of the hottest economic dynamos in Texas, if not the nation. When you look at the list of the top 20 cities in Texas in sales tax revenue, Frisco is one of only 3 with a population below 100,000 (Round Rock and Sugarland are the other two). This economic fuel has allowed us to build top-notch civic facilities, from our award-winning parks, to our unique Safety Town, and even our stately, new city hall.

Just like Wrightsville, Frisco projects an image of the traditional, midwestern home town. Every local politician trumpets our “Family Friendly” qualities. And to be sure, Frisco is a great place to raise the kids. As with many of my neighbors, the quality school system was one of the primary factors I considered when I moved to the area in 1999. Robust youth sports programs and great parks added to the mix.

But not every Frisco resident fits the “mom-pop-and-two-little-kids” mold. Take my friends John and Adele. They moved to Frisco to be near their son and grandkids. But they’re enjoying their retirement, rather than raising a family. Other than watching their granddaughters playing soccer, they’re unlikely to get much use from the acres of sports fields in town. Likewise, most of the neighborhood parks, with their playground fixtures, aren’t going to attract them.

Fortunately, we have built a number of services that are geared toward our older residents. The downtown Senior Center comes to mind. And many of our community parks include ample trails for walking, running and other outdoor activities.

Our younger residents – fresh out of high school or college, just starting their careers – aren’t quite as lucky. They, too, fall outside the bounds of the “family friendly” definition and probably don’t care much about the abundance of youth soccer fields. Some may consider having a family some day, but whether that is in Frisco or not is an open issue. And, of course, there are others who choose not to have a family at all. What services and features do we have in place that caters to these residents?

Virtually every candidate for civic office this year make note of supporting the family-oriented nature of Frisco. And that’s good. It’s certainly been a major factor in shaping our city. As we grow we need to protect those features that have made our city synonymous with quality living. At the same time, we should look for opportunities to create services and facilities that appeal to all members of the population. Yes, we may find ourselves investing in facilities that cater to a minority, or services that are focused on a smaller group. That’s okay, because whether they have kids or not, they’re still tax-paying citizens and deserve to benefit from the abundance that Frisco provides.

We don’t need a wild biker to shake up our little hamlet. But in our zeal to protect the family, let’s not overlook the diversity present in our population and the value that it brings to all of us.

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