“A public space or a public place is a place where anyone has a right to come without being excluded because of economic or social conditions.” [Wikipedia] That last part is important, “without being excluded because of economic or social conditions”. The economic part means that a public place ideally should not charge anything, money or services, in return for the use of the space. No entrance fees, no minimum purchase, no reservation fee, etc. The social conditions part encompasses a lot. Mainly it stipulates that no one can be barred from entering or using a public space because of their race, appearance, movements, gender, political affiliation, loudness, hair color, clothing choices, etc. All of these things are part of an open society.
The debate on the importance of public space is one of the oldest in the history of politics. Working for the public good embodies the very core of the Liberal ideal. The origins of which come from a desire for public to prosper equally. Not some people but all people. Reserving a place for every person is part of being Liberal.
Why wouldn’t someone pay a relatively small fee to reserve a public park? In our capitalist society it appears fair. But the very idea of ANY fee being associated with what is advertised and promoted as public is contradictory to the above definition. Some fees are not affordable to all people. People should not have to beg or borrow money to pay these fees. If a fee isn’t affordable to EVERYONE there should be no fee.
It is possible to work within a capitalistic system while honestly working to change it. There are means with which we can change the funding model of public parks, such as the Carrboro Town Commons, without charging the people who use it. Such as using Town funds, non-profit funds, private donations, etc.. I understand where most of these fees come from. So lets use our imagination and not fall back on the old canard that “Nothing is truly free.” There are really really free gifts given every day.
I see a great value in our discussion of the definition of public space. Especially among people who consider themselves on the left side of the American dualistic political spectrum. Its here we may strive to better understand one another. Its here we empower one another to work against extreme corporate privatization. What is your definition of Public Space?
*** I originally wrote this post for Orange Politics. This version is bit different.