Archive for January, 2010

Martin Kenney
by Martin Kenney
Sun Jan 31st 2010 at 2:10pm UTC

Pollyanna Rides the Rails

Sunday, January 31st, 2010

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Last week President Obama announced that he would provide $8 billion of funds to study and plan high-speed rail systems in the U.S. My state of California received $2 billion to study a high-speed train link between San Francisco and Los Angeles. This is to go with a $10 billion bond issue that state voters approved for feasibility studies and right-of-way acquisition. As an aside, California voters have been approving bond issues for anything and everything for the last two decades, but never considering how the bonds will be paid. Now the state is bankrupt and we are studying and planning a high-speed rail system, while squeezing our universities, releasing criminals (not such a bad idea for those convicted of victimless crimes), chopping existing mass transit, and firing teachers. Go figure.

But this is not what worries me the most. We are studying a high-speed intercity rail system, when all over California and the nation, while dramatically increasing fares and cutting back mass transit service. The Bay Area BART is laying off workers, increasing fares, and will probably have to cut services. The Sacramento area transit system is laying off workers, cutting service, and raising fares. Atlanta’s MARTA is raising fares, curtailing service, and laying off workers. The New York MTA is increasing commuter fares and cutting service. You get the picture.

The bullet trains in Japan are so convenient because of the excellent mass transit when you get to your destination. Mass transit is what makes the northeast corridor trains work.

Does it make sense to pay to plan and study high-speed train lines while the existing energy saver and public amenity that makes cities more livable — mass transit — is being dismantled? Why not support and improve existing mass transit first? How are we going to have great cities without a functional mass transit system?

Michael Wells
by Michael Wells
Thu Jan 28th 2010 at 2:37pm UTC

Do Kids Sit Still Without a Screen?

Thursday, January 28th, 2010

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Last weekend, we went to a benefit for Mercy Corps relief work in Haiti in a small theater. It was an eclectic all-star cast – Thomas Lauderdale and China Forbes from Pink Martini, singer/actress Storm Large, the hip hop/rapper Cool Nutz, jazz artists Janice Scroggins and Linda Hornbuckle, and others. It was impromptu, put together in six days but sold out. We sat toward the back and when I looked out what I saw were grey and bald heads, the average age was probably 50+. But in other venues, all of these performers draw big young crowds. Tickets were $30, so price wasn’t a major barrier.

It made me remember that the previous weekend we went to a staged reading of a play by a small, semi-experimental theater company and again the audience was geezers (me included).

So I’m wondering, is there an age cultural divide in venues? It doesn’t surprise me to see mostly older folks at classical events, but these are the kind of things I went to in my 20’s. Richard wrote in Rise about the creative class’ move toward experiential entertainment. If the benefit had been in a dance venue would the crowd have been different? And if there were a DVD made of the play or it were posted on YouTube, would it get a younger audience?

I’m curious what you do when you go out, or for that matter do at home for entertainment with your computer. Do younger folks need to either experience things only virtually or viscerally? Is theater seating going the way of the print media? What does this mean for American culture?

CCE Editor
by CCE Editor
Mon Jan 25th 2010 at 10:34am UTC

Who’s Following @Richard_Florida?

Monday, January 25th, 2010

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The one and only Yoko Ono (@yokoono) is now following Richard on Twitter.

Become privy to Richard’s thought-provoking Tweets today: @Richard_Florida.

Who are your favorite folks to follow on Twitter?

Martin Kenney
by Martin Kenney
Sat Jan 23rd 2010 at 9:18pm UTC

Pollyanna Revisited

Saturday, January 23rd, 2010

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On July 13, 2009, I wrote this comment Pollyanna Has All the Friends…. Here we are exactly six months later and my premonitions have been born out. The Senatorial election in Massachusetts was an earthquake – make no mistake about it – and unless there is change there will be many more. Massachusetts was not just tea-baggers or the health care debacle — the level of anger on Main Street is rising. This can be seen in the Bernanke renomination fight, which, though likely to be approved, is probably the last stand for what I believe is a Chicago School of Economics-driven flawed analysis of the current crisis. The anger will dramatically grow if, as I expect, the market takes another terrible fall during 2010.

The Obama victory was as fundamental as that of Franklin Roosevelt. Roosevelt’s victory heralded the appearance of the mass production industrial working class on the political scene. He galvanized their demands into the New Deal. The result, after World War II, was U.S. global leadership. I suggest everyone read Roosevelt’s first Inaugural Address. It is a statement of vision, leadership, commitment to change, and a recognition that a new order was in birth.

Many of us, me skeptically included, saw Obama as the harbinger of a different sector of the U.S. economy and polity, what Rich has called a “creative class,” moving into power. We all know what has happened since. Essentially, Obama felt it necessary to succor the old order, while not clearing the way for a new sensibility.

In my estimation, President Obama has about one month to dramatically change course or I fear his presidency will, for all intents and purposes, be finished and the nation will have three years of dangerous drift, while a hurricane rages around us. These are the things I think he must do now:

  1. Military spending must be cut massively and the two wars in Central Asia must be rapidly wound down. Iraq appears quiet, but Afghanistan is ramping up and will be far more costly than Iraq ever was. As an example, it costs $400 to deliver a gallon of gasoline to our troops there, and $1 million per year for every soldier there! This is unsustainable.
  2. Money must be withdrawn from bailouts, maintaining unsustainably low interest rates, and subsidizing mortgages in a vain effort to keep home prices high.
  3. The funds saved must be redirected toward jobs programs of all sorts, a Greentech roll-out, the arts, infrastructure renewal, education, and research. Most of these are low-cost, high labor-intensity.

Do you think my July premonitions are that far off where we are today? What is it that will be required to create a transition to a new order?

CCE Editor
by CCE Editor
Fri Jan 22nd 2010 at 9:23pm UTC

SAS and Twitter Today

Friday, January 22nd, 2010

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Check out today’s Tweets focusing on SAS, one of the largest software companies in the world:

  • Video of Goodnight and me on SAS model

Not following Richard on Twitter? Join the club: @Richard_Florida

Steven Pedigo
by Steven Pedigo
Fri Jan 22nd 2010 at 8:31pm UTC

World’s Smartest Cities

Friday, January 22nd, 2010

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This week, Forbes and Joel Kotkin released a  list of the “world’s smartest cities.”

“In today’s parlance a “smart” city often refers to a place with a “green” sustainable agenda. Yet this narrow definition of intelligence ignores many other factors–notably upward mobility and economic progress–that have characterized successful cities in the past.

The green-only litmus test dictates cities should emulate either places with less-than-dynamic economies, like Portland, Ore., or Honolulu, or one of the rather homogeneous and staid Scandinavian capitals. In contrast, I have determined my “smartest” cities not only by looking at infrastructure and livability, but also economic fundamentals.”

The list included:

1. Singapore
2. Hong Kong
3. Curitiba, Brazil
4. Monterrey, Mexico
5. Amsterdam
6. Seattle, Washington
7. Houston, Texas
8. Charleston, South Carolina
9. Huntsville, Alabama
10. Calgary, Alberta

Are these really the “smartest cities?

Steven Pedigo
by Steven Pedigo
Fri Jan 22nd 2010 at 8:04pm UTC

Thinking Big: How the Creative Class Is Changing Business

Friday, January 22nd, 2010

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Richard recently appeared on Big Think to share his ideas on how the Creative Class is impacting the way businesses think.

Now more than ever, companies need unconventional thinking to work within the new rules set by the economic recession. Richard Florida has persuasively demonstrated how artists, scientists, engineers, writers, musicians and more can revitalize an entire city from urban decay. With today’s companies dealing with a deep recession, what can members of the Creative Class do for businesses?”

Check out the interview here.


CCE Editor
by CCE Editor
Fri Jan 22nd 2010 at 11:14am UTC

Keynote at the MMA in Boston

Friday, January 22nd, 2010

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Richard Florida is in Boston today at the Massachusetts Municipal Association, serving as the keynote speaker for their annual meeting. From their website:

The MMA Annual Meeting and Trade Show is the largest regular gathering of Massachusetts local government officials. The two-day event features educational workshops, nationally recognized speakers, awards programs, a large trade show, and an opportunity to network with municipal officials from across the state.

The MMA’s Annual Meeting is your best single opportunity to:

• Learn about solutions to problems facing your community
• Meet people who can assist you with resources and ideas
• Learn about valuable products and services for cities and towns
• Attend programs that will strengthen your ability to lead and serve your community

What opportunities does your community offer to engage with other residents and incite change?

Zoltan Acs
by Zoltan Acs
Wed Jan 20th 2010 at 10:05pm UTC

Global Entrepreneurship Research Association

Wednesday, January 20th, 2010

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Last week the Global Entrepreneurship Research Association (GERA) had its annual meeting in Santiago, Chile and launched the 2010 Global Entrepreneurship Monitor (GEM) executive report. The annual meeting was held in a developing country for the first time. The meeting is a mixture of media events, planning meetings, and strategic decision-making. In addition, social events make this a welcome activity.

The 2010 GEM executive report, in addition to reporting on the state of entrepreneurship in the world, had sections on the economic crisis and social entrepreneurship. The main finding was that entrepreneurial activity had declined in the developed countries but not in the developing countries. In other words, do not look to Europe to lead the world in the future. As a founder of the Hungarian team, the so-called transition countries are not going to lead either. The labor force of Europe is in decline and, therefore, Europe and Japan are in no position to provide entrepreneurial leadership in the future as they age.

By the year 2050, most of the labor force in Europe will be aging and the under 40 labor force will be in the developing world according to my colleague Jack Goldstone at George Mason University. In other words, the creative, innovative and entrepreneurial talent will be in Brazil, Chile, India, China, and Indonesia. The developing world will have to provide the economic leadership for the market. While the world will be flat, hot, and crowded, the creative talent will also be in these places. GERA is uniquely positioned to measure and track the progress that the world is making in shifting the creative epicenter from Europe to Asia and South America.

This seminal meeting of the GERA represents the first step of the association in this transition. After spending the first 10 years of this decade trying to figure out if Denmark is more entrepreneurial than the United States, we are now shifting to measuring the entrepreneurial progress of the developing countries. As Richard Florida said to me a few years ago, the young are the same all over the world. If that is the case they will surely be the leaders in the future.

Kwende Kefentse
by Kwende Kefentse
Wed Jan 20th 2010 at 12:35pm UTC

Opening Up the Creative Class

Wednesday, January 20th, 2010

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So last Wednesday I was invited to York University to come do a little guest lecture in a class called Creativity and Cities in Urban Politics and Planning 4800. Heather McLean, the courses professor, is a PhD candidate and member of the City Institute at York University but I first heard about her in an article entitled “Why Richard Florida’s Honeymoon is Over.” She teaches a cool course, with a cooler M.O: Subject the creativity discourse that is leading much of contemporary urban policy to some intelligent criticism.

By looking at an old Wall Street Journal article and two very different conversations that emerged about it here on the Creative Class Exchange – one that is perhaps more celebratory of how the creative class theory is attributed to this situation, and one that I wrote that is perhaps a bit more critical of the role creative class theory might be playing – I tried to impart on them that it’s really important that they bring their content to the table when looking at dominant theories, and to sift these theories through that content to see if they pan out.  That content could be their cultural leaning, their ethnicity, age, political leaning, or whatever lens that they are most invested in, but it’s important that they understand that they’re empowered by that lens to see things that others who aren’t as invested as they are don’t see.  They should ask questions about what they see. Or moreover, what they don’t. Prepping to do that lecture brought me back to when I first met Richard, which is kind of an interesting story about the value of critique and about the mettle of Richard Florida as well I guess.

So before all of this DJ/bureaucrat business I was a young(er) DJ/student/journalist writing for the Ottawa Xpress. In school I was studying cities, and for the paper I was writing music and reviewing books. Richard Florida was coming to town for the Tulip Festival, and his then new book Who’s Your City? had come into the office to be reviewed. I’d just been into a lot of Richard’s research journals, and the Elizabeth Currid stuff was just coming out too, so this was an interesting time to be talking. In all of the reading that I had done I really didn’t see myself represented in the creative class – either as a Hiphopper, or as a North American Black person. So in our interview I respectfully stepped to him on those issues.

From my article/review of Who’s Your City?:

“I am a rock-ist,” he admits, “and my students have informed me of this, but I’m learning.” As it turns out, Florida reveals that one of his future projects will look at the relationship between music and the city, and that he was already taking that opportunity to look at hip-hop culture…

and then on race…

How is the movement of the creative class affecting these [racial] communities? “Probably the reason I don’t write about it [race] is that when I wrote about gay issues, I had a gay collaborator. So I felt, as a straight person, that I could then work on gay issues. It’s probably a part of my age, I’m very sensitive when trying to weigh in on those issues.”

And while I’m the first to recognize that this isn’t him leaping to engage that problematic, you ask him a direct question, you get a direct answer. At the end of the interview we kept talking about where I saw room for engagement within his theory, and eventually we started doing this thing that you’re reading right now.

Recently there has been a lot of good critique of the Creative Class and Creative City theories. Here in Ottawa at Carleton, Sarah Brouillette  is studying the Commodification of Creativity. Profs like Heather and groups like the the Creative Class Struggle are keeping a critical voice in the discourse.  And as much as there are things that I think it would be interesting to see Richard address, one thing I can say about him is that he’s always willing to host me to address those things, and likewise with other critics. A good example is Ian David Moss’ incredibly fine grained and detailed deconstruction of the creative class over at Createquity.com, and Richard’s response to that criticism. Or while I was in Toronto visiting the MPI a few months ago I met Philipp Oehmke who had just spent time doing the interview that leads the article he wrote about the Hamburg squatters in Das Spiegel which captures the nuance of the situation really well.

In this discourse the traditional skirmish lines seem to be skewed. All of the ire from the left seem to evaporate into a vacuum of hugs from what we thought was the right. In Hamburg the artists occupy, and the city sends talkers and crews to make sure the building is safe. In my interview, I ask this guy tough questions about the exclusion of race and Hiphop from his ideas and he invites me to answer them myself on his site. Coming from the “Fight the Power” generation, this is certainly not what I expected when challenging a dominant ideological discourse. Sometimes I don’t know what the hell is going on myself. All I can say is that, for now at least, it seems to be as broad a conversation as you want to have. Yes there are still barriers but, surprisingly, listening seems to be an emerging trend. I think people are still correct to question the root of that  - why are people listening? – but in my opinion, it’s more important that people like those students are taking the time to grow and use their critical skills to make this discourse broad enough that their content and concerns can either find their place within this discourse or expose where improvement of it is necessary. That’s a creative class if I’ve ever seen one.

Music.