March 17, 2004

This Week's Meeting

Thanks to everyone who attended the Town Hall Meeting this week!

I think I can say that the Task Force Members present were happily surprised with the size and diversity of the crowd we attracted - and I think that there were a lot of ideas and energy in the room. The meeting even attracted a couple surprise visitors, including the mayor John Hieftje, a member of the school board (whose name I forgot!) and local developer Peter Allen, who will be breaking ground on his Lower Town Project this summer.

At least a couple Ann Arbor bloggers posted about the meeting, click on the read more link to see excerpts from their posts.

Here's from Ann Arbor Is Overrated's post:

"The turnout at the Cool Cities meeting tonight (Tuesday night) was impressive, and many ideas were shared. With participants that fell well outside the 20-35-year-old demographic the governor is trying to attract, including a landlord and at least one couch-porch-ban supporter, it was a diverse crowd. But it wasn't hard to come away discouraged. Sometimes, agreeing on certain core ideas, without falling into monolithic groupthink, is necessary to make progress. Monolitihic groupthink was not a problem tonight. ...

The Cool Cities task force members are enthusiastic and hard-working, and they seem to have a real shot at making some good changes. But when one of the suggestions is harnessing the cool power of undergrads who were in their high school orchestras, you know it's going to be an uphill battle. .. "

Brandon Z had this to say:

"In my mind I had sort of envisioned all the musicians and artists and hipsters and poets getting together to take back the city from the yuppies and Bobos. Instead, it was a lot of planning geeks (I'm raising my hand) and techie types, with a hearty sprinkling of venture capitalists, developers, mayors, and well-meaning but clueless old farts who were completely missing the point and dominated our table's discussion with neb

There were definitely a lot of useful suggestions voiced, though, including my usual favorite grab-bag of density, mixture of uses, afforable housing, and the like. ...

On the whole, though, I left feeling a little disillusioned. I think what many of us think of as "cool" is not what this city has in mind or is destined for. I think a lot of Ann Arborites equate "cool" with "upscale" in their heads, and think that scented candle boutiques, Whole Foods, Cosi, Potbelly, Starbucks, art-on-a-stick, and other boring-ass yuppie mainstays are "cool." This is the same crap you can find in Bloomfield Hills or any yupscale burg. The places left in this town that are truly cool are those that are unique and full of character-- the Encores, Wazoos, Ambrosias, Rendez-vous, Fleetwoods, 8 Balls, and even some cleaner places like Leopold Brothers. Ann Arbor doesn't really want to even attract young people like me, with my pathetic History BA, or even artists and musicians (unless their presence is a means to attract those with real skills). They want the software designers and engineers-- those that they think will make them money. The city and most residents don't actually want Ann Arbor to be "cool"-- they want it to be swank and trendy. ... "

Richard Murphy posted this:

" ... If you read the accounts that Brandon or AAIO give, you may catch a somewhat negative mood about the whole thing. I'm interested to see what kind of impression Rob has of the outcome, but I was personally very happy to see so many people show up, and to see that a decent number of them were *not* older moneyed types. Brandon comments on small, independant, distinctive, and quite possibly grungy businesses being far more important for "coolness" than upscale chains were really quite well-received, I felt. Lots of people spoke well of density, and while AAIO might see the strategic reasoning behind specific suggestions as depressing, I'm glad to see that people are thinking strategically. I don't spend enough time around the Mayor to be able to read his facial expressions, but I think he probably saw some strong support for positions that don't normally reach him. Even if several of the people there were passionate in some fairly ridiculous directions, I think that there was enough energy in good directions to get attention. ... "

Posted by robg3 at 11:01 PM

March 14, 2004

"Want to lure creative folks to Michigan? Try tolerance"

Rick Haglund has an interesting article in today's Ann Arbor News. Here's the full text:

"Could an effort by state lawmakers to enact a constitutional ban on gay marriage hurt Michigan's economy?

I didn't get a chance to ask him, but after listening to "The Rise of the Creative Class" author Richard Florida recently, my guess is that his answer would be a resounding "Yes."

Florida criss-crosses the country telling community groups, business organizations and government officials that the key to success in their cities is capturing the young artists, bohemians, entrepreneurs and professionals - the creative class - who will be driving the 21st century's knowledge-based economy."

" Lately, he's taken some flak from the political right, which disputes his notion that there is a strong correlation between a city's ability to attract the creative class and its economic vitality.

But cities that Florida considers the best in attracting the creative class, such as Boston, Minneapolis, San Diego and Austin, Texas, also tend to do well in economic rankings by most mainstream business publications.

One of the things that makes some suspicious of Florida's work is his controversial view that homosexuals are an integral part of the creative class. He's even created a gay index that gauges how welcoming cities and regions are of gays and lesbians.

In a recent talk to the community group Create Detroit, Florida noted that his views on the value of gays in the creative class have been less than welcome to some.

"Everyone puts me in a box and says I have a gay agenda," Florida said. Many people he comes across think he's gay, although he's a heterosexual.

Many are uneasy with the idea of gay unions, and some find it morally repugnant. But Florida says the creative class, which economic development leaders around the country are wooing, doesn't much care.

They want to live in vibrant cities and larger regions full of people from diverse backgrounds and demographic slices - even 1950s-style nuclear families.

"People in the creative class say they want a town that's good for everybody," Florida told the Create Detroit crowd, which included artists, gay activists and mainstream business leaders.

While some may see cities that welcome gays as being bad for families, Florida says that's far from the case. The top three places in his ranking of child-friendly cities - Portland, Ore., Seattle and Minneapolis - also rank near the top in his gay index.

Florida said cities and regions need three ingredients to be economically successful: Talent, technology and tolerance. The toughest to achieve could be tolerance of gays, which he sees as the major civil rights issue of this century.

Gays and lesbians face a particularly difficult battle because some of the most ardent religious and political supporters of civil rights for women and African-Americans are opposed to any expansion of rights for homosexuals.

But Florida says gays will eventually win all the rights that heterosexuals enjoy. And the quicker communities accept that, the better off they'll be, he said.

States and cities competing for young talent that aren't tolerant of gays might as well "hang a giant banner in the window, saying 'gay people go somewhere else,' " he said.

They may as well go to cities such as Seattle, where Mayor Greg Nickels announced Monday that the city would recognize the marriages of gay city employees who tie the knot elsewhere.

Nickels, who doesn't have the power to marry people, said he was opposed to gay marriage just a few years ago. But he told the Associated Press that he's changed his view and that he believes gay marriage is a matter of fairness.

"(P)eople who are willing to make a commitment to one another, who love one another, and who are willing to take on the responsibilities of marriage ought to be able to, regardless of their gender," Nickels said.

His move will likely be good for Seattle's economy, as well. According to Florida's index, the city ranks third among 331 metropolitan areas in its attractiveness to the creative class.

Go to www.mlive.com/business/ for audio interviews with Rick Haglund. Contact him at (248) 540-7311 or e-mail him at rhaglund at boothnewspapers.com. "

What do you think? Is Ann Arbor "tolerant" of all people? Is Ann Arbor tolerant of students?

Posted by robg3 at 05:55 PM

March 13, 2004

“Cool Cities” Talk Promises Next Generation Insights

It starts with the standard recipe for cool: good people, good music, beer . . . but Tuesday night’s gathering hosted by the Ann Arbor Cool Cities Task Force will add an unusual ingredient: public policy.

Charged with identifying ways to attract and retain 21-35 year-olds to the city, the group is inviting community members to come talk about the values and issues that should be prioritized by city officials when making decisions about affordable housing, support for the arts and economic vitality.

“We have to hold on to the creative edge,” said Conan Smith, chair of the task force. “The vibrancy of our city depends on remaining a supportive place for the next Charlotte Owen, Bob Seger or Bill Hewlett.”

The feedback from the gathering will by used by the Cool Cities Task Force to create value guidelines and policy recommendations for the City Council and various city agencies.

What: Ann Arbor’s Cool Cities Task Force Public Dialogue

Where: The Tap Room at Arbor Brewing Company, 114 E. Washington

When: Tuesday, March 16 from 6:00 – 8:00 p.m.

Format: Informal discussions in small groups; Facilitated prioritization of values/issue

Posted by robg3 at 10:09 AM

March 11, 2004

Why "Cool Cities"?

AP: "Census: Residents Moving Out Of Michigan In Droves
Governor Hopes For Change By Pushing Cool Cities Initiative

Many Michigan residents are opting for what they see as greener pastures elsewhere. And that's bad news for state officials trying to attract businesses to Michigan.

A new United States Census report indicates young people are still leaving the state by the thousands.

More than 41,000 people between 15 and 44 years old left Michigan during the past three years, according to the Census Bureau. That's about one person every 40 minutes.

The issue is troubling to experts because Michigan's older population is edging closer to retirement.

Gov. Jennifer Granholm has been pushing her Cool Cities Initiative to find ways to encourage young people to live, work and shop in Michigan cities."

> See this story on the Channel 4 website

Posted by robg3 at 01:29 PM

March 02, 2004

Cool Cities Town Hall Meeting


Are you concerned about the future of Ann Arbor?

We need your input!


Join the Ann Arbor Cool Cities Task Force for a Town Hall Happy Hour

When?
6-8pm, Tuesday, March 16, 2004

Where?
Arbor Brewing Co.
114 E. Washington

For more info visit www.michigancoolcities.com
Questions? Coolcities at ci.ann-arbor.mi.us

Posted by robg3 at 11:12 PM