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Public Place: Citizen Participation in the Neighbourhood and the City

james hörner

this book is a collection of articles originally printed in the Place Publique community newspaper between 1994 and 1999. although the articles often make reference to specific social or political situations in Montréal, where the paper was based, the lessons to be learned from the examples are invaluable to any community.

Public Place book cover by understanding the way Place Publique approached local issues we can glean ideas about what we should focus on in our own communities, and how we should approach making change. in this regard it acts as a manual of sorts, guiding communities by the principals of social ecology.

Public Place is broken down into four main sections: Politics, Economics, Community, and Environment. from here there are a variety of short essays which cover a great range of topics under each section.

for instance, under 'Politics' Roussopoulos looks at the role of education, the need for public transportation, and the importance of public consultation and involvement in the political process. with the example of Montréal's Mayor Bourque, Roussopoulos guides us through the political process at a municipal level and points out many of its flaws and inadequacies.

under 'Economics' he examines the mega-store phenomenon, and considers the issue of urban poverty. through the 'Community' section he writes about the role of neighbourhoods, the concept of interculturalism, and briefly looks at the impact of the ice storm from a community perspective.

finally, under the umbrella of 'Environment' he covers several issues that were raised earlier, but in more depth. by looking at cars, consumption, and recycling he focuses attention on how we can change our habits in order to 'think globally, act locally', as the motto of the Green movement goes.

these are but a few of the many topics he covers, each section weaving in with the others effectively. the topics were well chosen to be representative of the publication as a whole (i assume).

what is a book which simply points out the problems without offering solutions, though? Roussopoulos does not present us with direct answers or magic pills which will fix all societies ills. however, through the promotion of heavy citizen involvement, he is encouraging people of all communities to go forth and make their own solutions based on their specific, local needs. i think Public Place succeeds in making citizens conscious of their role in the community, and how they too can make significant change by their very presence at meetings and community oriented activities. it is this involvement which will wake people up and incite them to demand change within their community.

published by black rose books
ISBN 1-55164-156-9

james hörner edits canadian content.

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