When Isthmus publisher Vince O'Hern interviewed me a couple of weeks ago for his column, I said that I was "happy as a clam" these days.
I have no idea where that expression comes from. I don't know why clams should be more cheerful than other species of crustacean much less mammals altogether, especially when they consider the prospect of ending up as guests at a "clam bake."
In any event, I told the truth. While I loved being mayor and badly wanted a third term, I've recovered from the blow of my defeat almost a year ago. That's because I'm spending more time with Dianne and living a much healthier lifestyle these days. I miss the job and the people, but I don't miss the cold pizza dinners, the marathon council meetings, or the stress of being responsible for a city of nearly a quarter million people.
But I'm also feeling pretty good because I'm doing stuff that I really enjoy. And what I really enjoy, my passion in life, is cities.
I feel like the 19th century reformer Frederick Howe, who wrote:
I studied cities as one might study art. I was interested in curbs, in sewers, in skylines. I wrote about cities... I dreamed about them. The city was the enthusiasm of my life. And I saw cities as social agencies that would make life easier for people, full of pleasure, beauty and opportunity.
My three jobs are all related to exactly that vocation. This blog is subtitled "thoughts and ideas about city building," though I do stray a lot into other areas. Then I get to teach two city-related courses at the UW this semester: "Introduction to the City in Geography" and "Politics & Policy of Green Urbanism in Political Science." These things give me the chance to study, talk and write about cities at a theoretical and global level.
But then, I'm also fortunate to be the director of a joint project between Meriter, St. Mary's, the UW, Park Bank, and MG&E to redevelop and reinvigorate the neighborhoods around the hospitals. We see a great opportunity for new and rehabbed housing in the area, as well as an even more vibrant commercial district. As broad as my teaching and writing are about cities, this project gives me a chance to help improve city neighborhoods in a very nuts and bolts tangible way.
Which brings me to an opportunity to combine both the theoretical and the practical in one moment. The Wisconsin chapter of the Congress for New Urbanism is sponsoring a talk about new urbanism and the Greenbush-Vilas Project by Cuningham Group architect Andrew Dresdner and myself at 7 p.m. this evening, Monday, March 12, at the Pyle Center. It's open to the public.
You can get more information here. Hope to see you tonight.