I thought, if that were in Norristown, everyone would point to it and scream "urban blight," and say "Only in Norristown." But out in East Norriton, no one thinks anything of it.
|Empty stores in King of Prussia|
What's the difference be us and them? Our speed limit, for one thing, plus our buildings are closer together and closer to the road. Unless you're stopped at a light in the surrounding 'burbs, you might drive right past vacant buildings and not notice them.
We have a higher population. A vacant house on a block full of row homes seems to be more noticeable than a vacant farmhouse that's falling apart up in Worcester. A dilapidated old house there has an aura of romance about it. Still, a house like that, off by itself, doesn't pose a health hazard to its neighbors. But if that's a concern, why is Norristown approving every high-density development to come along? And why aren't the neighbors effected banding together to protest those developments?
Crime? Norristown has an annual crime rate of about 38 crimes per 1000 residents. Ardmore's rate is 30. King of Prussia's is . . . 53!
The most obvious difference, I think, is income. Rich suburbanites versus low-income townies. Lots of people in the suburbs think they're somehow better than us, even if their roots are here in Norristown. They've got it in their heads that they or their parents before them struggled up out of their immigrant or whatever statuses and managed to escape Norristown, therefore whoever is left here are the losers. They can't fathom someone like me who stays in town by choice.
When I hear an out-of-towner dissing us, I stop them--I tell them Norristown is turning around. I tell them about our festivals, our arts scene, our restaurants, our architecture, our gardens, etc. I tell them crime is down. I point out to them that I don't say bad things about where they live and I'd appreciate it if they'd show the same regard. (Actually, they usually change their minds after hearing about the restaurants and festivals).
The sad thing is, too many N-towners--maybe the majority--also buy into the whole myth about the suburbs being superior. Our population has a horrible self-image. None of my friends from the surrounding 'burbs regularly talk about how bad their communities are on Facebook, but I read comments like that from N-town residents every day. Imagine you were going into a job interview and had to take 34,000 people in with you, all of whom would rather talk about your failings rather than your strong points. That's us. No matter how much I try to talk about the good going on in town, my work and the work of dozens of other N-towners who are giving their all to move this community forward is being sabotaged by the rest of you.
I'm not saying we don't have work to do in this town, but it's hard enough without pushing back against the bad attitudes all around us. We don't need to make it worse from within.