Beneath the Rust: Part 1

Some weeks go by where my life syncs.  What I read, what I see on TV, what I see online, all of it meshes.

The topic last week revolved around the idea of the city.  Not necessarily Cleveland, but of struggling cities looking to move forward.  Or the argument over what the problem is.

It started Tuesday when I read comments on the CPD Facebook page regarding an incident on St. Pat’s.  Some of the comments closed-minded, others downright racist. Seeing, “That’s why I avoid Downtown,” repeated, I could only shake my head.  So it started.

Wednesday night, I read this Joel Kotkin article regarding Richard Florida’s idea of the Creative Class.  I agreed with parts and disagreed with others.  Then I made the mistake of reading the comments section.  Name-calling and blaming based on political beliefs.  And I fumed with disgust.

Side rant…is there a tool with such potential that is as poorly used as an Internet comments section?  Opportunities for solution-searching debate wasted by absurd political sniping.

Thursday came, packed with inspiration for thought.  First up, this post from Richey Piiparinen.  Later, the episode of No Reservations focusing on the Rust Belt, specifically Baltimore, Detroit and Buffalo.  Finally, Twitter updates from the TEDxCLE event.

Coming with the varied views and ideas is an overlap; themes and issues mentioned across sources.  Repeated, they fire thought to what the problems really are, and what is needed in the solutions.

Urbanists, journalists, and academics—not to mention big-city developers— were easily persuaded that shelling out to court “the hip and cool” would benefit everyone else, too. -Joel Kotkin

What is lost, either in the Kotkin article or Florida’s concept of Creative Class, is one idea will not resolve all the problems that any city faces.

And while a creative class alone will not make a city prosper, aren’t there gains made by encouraging a creative culture? Are the ideas at the heart of the debate (from Kotkin: “encouraging the arts and entertainment, building bike paths, welcoming minorities and gays”) not worth pursuing?

In Cleveland, as more people move back to the old neighborhoods and search for alternative transportation options, the popularity of cycling has increased.  With it, the push for bike lanes.

In contrast to the build to attract model of Richard Florida, the young were already attracted and now they are pushing to build.  Similar grassroots campaigns can be seen across the city, many with positive buzz.

At this point of political incompatibility, or political timidity as I see it, it falls to the people to get projects done.  We need creative solutions to our problems.  Creativity is and will always be the powering force in innovation and progress.  Why shouldn’t it be supported?

As they enter the city, creatives push up rents, displacing local stores and residents. -Joel Kotkin

But focusing on creating artsy hubs or fashionable districts isn’t a silver bullet, and there are risks with it.  The threat of gentrification looms.

A No Reservations quote that stuck came from Jay Landsman, actor and retired Baltimore detective.  He said, “If the citizens are not part of the deal, it’s not going to work.”  I see that meaning all the citizens, from all backgrounds.

We cannot push out the local residents in the name of revitalizing an area.  At some point, there is nowhere else to push them.  We need to work with the locals and find an answer best for all.

I don’t agree fully with either Kotkin or Florida.  The solution is more complex and will come from a combination of solutions to the many problems.  Sounds tough, but there should be no discouragement…


One thought on “Beneath the Rust: Part 1

  1. Pingback: Beneath the Rust: Part 2 |

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