“…seek the welfare of the city where I have sent you into exile, and pray to the Lord on its behalf, for in its welfare you will find your welfare.” (Jeremiah 29:7)
After attending a city council meeting last year and hearing a few citizens talk about how our city is too dark and needs more street lights, I had our church buy a bunch of super bright light bulbs and go door to door to brighten up people’s porches. We didn’t have thousands of dollars for street lights, but we did have a few hundred dollars for light bulbs.
A few months later, the city teamed up with Consumer’s Energy to do the same kind of project on a wider scale. And since I had already micro-piloted the idea, I somehow ended up co-chairing this city-wide event we now refer to as Light Up the City. (If you can’t see the video above, WLNS came out to do a segment on us last night which you can watch here.) Yesterday was the kick-off of our second annual summer of walks.
Safety has been a growing concern amidst some of our neighborhoods. During the community workshops the City hosted in 2014, four different groups all voiced safety to be one of their top five priorities in Jackson. While we know that porch lights can only do so much, the City of Jackson is a densely populated community. Therefore, we believe that porch lights have the ability to truly brighten up the neighborhood if we all turn them on together. And since Saginaw has had a 16% decrease in crime since they started their own Light Up the City initiative five years ago, we can only hope for the same.
Our desire for safety continues to grow with the fact that Jackson has experienced a baby boom of sorts. Children under 5 within the city limits make up 9% of the population, which is higher than that of surrounding townships and the national average. With one in ten Jackson citizens being a child living below the federal poverty threshold, we know that safety and concern is all the more important.
On top of all of this, we hope that brightening up the City will help create a more walkable community. Not only will this make evening walks safer, but walkability has been found to make communities grow economically. Each of our Wards perform a bit differently in regards to walkability with Ward 5 being considered a “walker’s paradise.” The city as a whole, however, is characterized as “car-dependent”—a bias that the City hopes to fight in their 2040 Long Range Transportation Plan, which will aim to create more space for safe non-vehicular activity. With all of this in mind, we can only hope that light will encourage people to get around town in all kinds of ways and that porch lights might go so far as to even effect the economy of Jackson, the health of our citizens, and the health of the planet.
On a side note, my wife and I had to laugh when this segment on Light Up the City ended and a new segment on another project I’ve been working on called JXN Harm Reduction immediately aired, which referenced an MLive article about our work that came out yesterday. You can check out the webpages I’ve created for Light Up the City and JXN Harm Reduction for more info.