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Re: SG-W:/ Ann Arbor Cool Cities Follow-up
I'd like to encourage Irena, Steve, and anybody who's reading their
e-mails saying, "Yeah!" to take a look at what the Cool City commission
is working on, and to look at the ideas of Richard Florida, whose book
"Rise of the Creative Class" is, of course, where Granholm got the
ideas for the "cool cities" program. You'll find that both the guiding
ideas and the local implementation are keeping in mind exactly those
concerns that you bring up.
Irena, you mention cost of living. Housing costs are among the highest
priorities of Ann Arbor's Cool Cities commission--one of the original
members of the commission actually resigned because he felt the rest of
the members were "too concerned" about housing prices. The rest of
them have held fast to their convictions that the availability of
housing is one of the most important issues facing Ann Arbor.
You call for a "warm" city that is inclusive and tolerant. Richard
Florida, speaking at the Max Fischer center in Detroit last week,
talked about how those cities with the strongest and most visible gay
communities are the same cities that are most attractive to the people
he considers "creative". This isn't a causal link, but simply a
recognition that a visible gay community requires a city that is open
to and tolerant of a diversity of ideas, and this openmindedness and
tolerance is what attracts "creative" people and their "creative"
ideas, and allows them to be heard.
"Not controllable by government", you say? They agree. The members of
the A2 Cool Cities commission (and their counterparts in Ypsilanti)
that I've talked to seem to feel that the government's role in "cool"
is in getting out of the way, or, at most active, in providing the
infrastructure that can support individuals in doing their thing.
They're here to support, not to hand down mandates of cool.
Steve speaks of cultivating the creativity in the area's existing
residents, and Irena speaks of creative communities attracting people
on their own--agreed and agreed. Florida explicitly states that
attracting outside creativity is an uphill battle, and that the proper
approach is to bring out the creativity in the people you already have.
Only when the local creativity is being expressed will outside
creativity start to notice. Granholm's goal is not, you'll recall, to
pull creativity to Michigan, but to hold it here. Ann Arbor takes in
the state's best 18-year-olds, gives them an education on the
taxpayers' dime, and then ships them off to San Francisco, New York,
Boston, Seattle, Chicago, and Portland, where they devote their
energies to making their new homes into better places. Detroit has the
highest proportion of under-18-year-olds of the 26 largest cities in
America; we raise them, and then they leave. It's not harvesting North
Carolina's "creative class" that Granholm is focused on, but on keeping
our own talent from running away. (I say this as a Michigan-born
24-year-old graduate student who plans to stick around, but who sees
all of his friends looking to the coasts.)
Finally, to address Steve's concerns with the usefulness of youngsters
in a sustainable community, I urge you to look at Florida's definition
of the "creative class", which includes not only musicians, actors, and
sculptors, but also inventors, engineers, and entrepreneurs--the kinds
of people who are likely to be interested in creating new insulatory
materials, the kinds of people who have the adventurousness to start a
cooperative and the business skills to keep it afloat, and the kinds of
people who would have the awareness, concern, and skill to have yards
full of native plant species or vegetable gardens rather than
overwatered lawns of shimmering emerald genetically engineering grass.
20-somethings also tend to be the folks who don't have kids to raise
yet or careers to preserve--they can afford to throw a year into
working a hundred hours a week to create a cooperative business from
the ground up, undistracted by concerns about getting the kids fed and
off to school.
So, yes, the original goals may be obscured in the publicity, and
that's really a shame, but the original goals *are* things worthy of
support, and *are* goals which support everything you're both saying.
I encourage you to look beyond what the press and the politicians are
saying and see what the people on the ground are working on. They're
good folks, they care about the community, and they will listen to what
you have to say.
On Mar 15, 2004, at 11:46 AM, barbara nagler wrote:
> I have a similar reaction to Steve's on this. The concept of a
> "class" is disturbing in itself.
> IMO, people of all ages whose topmost priorities are highly creative in
> any nontraditional sense are increasingly unable to afford to live in
> Arbor-- but that applies to young people in general, too.
> Because of the presence of the University Ann Arbor
> already has a high level of youthful presence and energy, even if most
> the students are only temporary residents.
> But more to the point I would like to see us think less in
> terms of such categories, or attempts to control demographics, and more
> in terms of real creativity: individuals of all ages in a community
> creating from the ground up. Really creative communities have a life
> their own and people are attracted to them naturally-- it's not
> controllable by government or as a strategy on paper. But the trend
> seems to be to to fear and distrust this kind of vitality because it's
> perceived as disorderly and dangerous.
> How about a "warm city" instead of a "cool" one? Warm and inclusive of
> the creativity of all kinds of people of all ages, and both grounded
> spiritual in its relationship with nature.
> I won't be able to attend either-- (I will be meeting with a terribly
> cool group of highly creative writers and dancers, age nine to fifty,
> can barely afford to live in Ann Arbor, but do attract a number of
> out-of-towners to help support local studios and restaurants.)
// Richard Murphy <email@example.com>
// 1st Year Master of Urban Planning Student, University of Michigan
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