There’s lots of definitions for a “good functional town.” A recent book which analyzes good towns that work, "Our Towns: A 100,000-mile Journey into the Heart of America” was written by James and Deborah Fallows and it offers interesting insight into civic success in small towns. They offer a checklist which looks at about 10 different areas.
Let’s take a look at Palmer with their criteria and a few of my own:
Varied and Innovative Educational Facilities—Palmer has this in spades. Charter, Public, Private, Religious, College, Training, Immersion, Farm-school, Camps, Museums and Vocational educational opportunities abound in this greater Palmer area.
Big Plans—Palmer has always dreamed big; remember it was once a tent city. Well, there are still dreams. More industry anchors. A central water feature. A modern hotel. A convention center. A better museum space. An arts and theater center. A market with repurposed historical buildings. An all-season community facility for walking and running and babies crawling. A larger airport. More tech companies. An indoor, modern gun range. A commuter train service.
Open to outsiders—Newcomers, visitors, immigrants, tourists, and military are all welcomed to Palmer. This is one of the clearest signs of a civilized society. Additionally state demographics from the Department of Labor show high in-migration into the valley from both rural villages and Anchorage.
Common Spaces—Palmer has many common gathering spaces including parks, Train Depot, the Green, ballfields, just to name a few. The beautiful Machatanz Theater at the college is one of the biggest and most recent additions to our greater Palmer area. Walkability and sidewalks are a signature of Palmer and a recognized treasure; they should only increase as the city evolves.
Distanced from National Politics—On a normal day National Politics are hardly a big deal in Palmer. Sadly, the omnipresence of National Politics encourage disenfranchisement, discord and dysfunction. We love our post office and federal programs but the underbelly of national political rhetoric isn’t a major part of our daily lives, for the most part. Instead we seem to focus on viable challenges that we can work on at a local, borough or state level.
Public Arts—Music, art, culture, religion and history are cherished in Palmer and a renaissance seems to be in the weather. The Palmer Arts Council is being revived along with other private and public efforts, along with a variety of retail offerings.
Private/public Partnerships—Look at the sponsor page of any of Palmer’s numerous events. Private and public sponsors are easily the biggest benefactors of any event. The Greater Palmer Chamber of Commerce too usually has a hand in any activity. Government and business collaborations foster ownership and progress in our community.
Law Enforcement, Health facilities and Public Safety—These three municipal biggies are the barometer of a good town, in anyone’s book. Look how the Palmer Police are treated with respect and how they treat others with respect. It’s a beautiful thing. Look at response times and look at emergency personnel. We honestly live in a very good place.
Functional Retail—Do we have what we need in Palmer? This is very subjective and deserving of a lot more discussion. We have some fine shops and big stores with long hours. The list of consumer needs is something I am working on; let me know what should be added to the list.
Care of the Graveyard, Collection of litter and Library hours— These have always been three indicators of a good town. Do people honor their dead? Are places kept clean of litter and graffiti? Does the town allow and encourage curiosity of children and poor people? Our graveyard is lovely, our litter little and our library hours are long. Good Job Palmer!
Post Office and Four Way Stop—Do people chat at the post office, while standing in line? In Palmer they do. And they also hold the doors open if your arms are full. Are drivers considerate at the four-way stop? Again, 90% of the time Palmer is full of generous and kind drivers. You rarely hear horns honking from impatient and annoyed drivers. However, pedestrians and crosswalks could use a bit more respect.
Breweries—Okay this is a strange criteria. But according to a nationwide study, beer breweries are THE true indicator of town vitality! If in fact this is true, then Palmer is doing very well. We have good craft beers and there is evidence of a resurgence in economic viability of local product processing.
May is Upon Us—And with May comes the festivals, markets and the celebrations. There are memorial services, family reunions and graduations. It’s difficult to list all the various events but check your newspaper and social media for reminders.
The Palmer Alaska Buzz—The Palmer Buzz tries desperately to keep its finger on the pulse of greater Palmer’s heart and soul. Please feel free to add your good event to the Facebook group, but please read the guidelines first; no politics, religion, insults or snarky stuff allowed.