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KCLBADave

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I am serving on the Govenor's Cool Cities Advisory Committee. The Committee consists of me and a bunch of Phd's from U of M, M-State, GVSU, and W-Mi. I have no idea why I am on there. I was told that I was to bring balance to the equation...we'll see!?!

At any rate, the Cool Cities initiative operates in the premise that people with T.I.D.E. bring health to a neighborhood. TIDE stands for Talent, Innovation, Diversity, and Environment. The premise is that there needs to be talented, innovative, diverse, and environmentally conscious people in a neighborhood in order for the neighborhood to be healthy.

One of the professors from Mi State did a very interesting study to see if there was quantifiable evidence that TIDE works to bring health to a neighborhood. Here is my paraphrase of her findings:

There was some, albeit very little, evidence that the presence of talented, innovative, and environmentally conscious people bring health to a neighborhood. On the issue of diversity The Cool Cities Initiative, which is based Dr. Richard Florida's book, The Rise of the Creative Class, states, "Research shows that cities with the largest foreign born and gay communities are the most desirable for young families and young professionals and are economically more successful."

In the Cool Cities Initiative diversity is broken down to a gay and lesbian population, the immigrant class (or foreign born), and racial diversity. The professor from Mi-State, in studying these narrowly defined groups as an indicator of neighborhood health, found absolutely no quantifiable evidence that the presence of an increased amount of gays and lesbians, or racial diversity created a healthy neighborhood. The presence of a large immigrant class did in some cases create a large self sustaining ethnic enclave which created economic health, but this was not across the board.

One level of diversity, that is not listed as a pre-requisite in the Cool Cities Initiative, was a huge indicator of a healthy neighborhood...economic diversity. In study after study, neighborhoods that were economically diverse were healthy economically sustainable communities.

In Grand Rapids we have pockets of poverty. Poverty is concentrated in the Central City. In two of Lighthouse Communities 4 target neighborhoods over 78% of the residents earn below 50% of the area median income, over 30% are in extreme poverty. The only way to bring these neighborhoods back to economic and social health is to employ a "re-neighboring" strategy.

In the neighborhoods where Lighthouse is working there are whispers going around, people are talking...saying "they are trying to take over the neighborhood," or "they are moving white people into our neighborhood," and "the church is trying to take over the neighborhood."

To us it is not about race, it is not about religion, it is about economics. If you are middle income and up, no matter what your hue or beliefs, Lighthouse would like you to consider moving into our neighborhoods.

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If you are middle income and up, no matter what your hue or beliefs, Lighthouse would like you to consider moving into our neighborhoods.

First, I look forward to being an active participant in this thread. Second, what do you consider 'lighthouse's' neighborhoods?

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The Committee consists of me and a bunch of Phd's from U of M, M-State, GVSU, and W-Mi. I have no idea why I am on there.

Oh, great. So they have a bunch of people that have spent most of their lives in books and in classrooms trying to define for us what is cool. I am sure that they know exactly what will bring more young people into the state.

Hopefully they do add some normal people to the committee - not that these more than likely elitist lifetime students would even bother to listen to a mere plebe.

Committees like this are the reason why this state is not cool. You so not need to have a committee to help define cool. You cannot make something cool. Cool evolves on its own.

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I think Dave is looking for feedback from this group as to what we think of the entire "Cool Cities" initiative and Richard Florida's book, so that he can go back to the Governor's commission and give the point of view from someone "in the trenches". If you haven't read the book, it's going to be hard to give a proper perspective of what the State of Michigan, and many other states, are trying to accomplish. Here is a great synopsis of the book:

http://www.americancity.org/article.php?id_article=78

I have been a big critic of the program because it leaves it up to the State of Michigan to dole out money to programs or projects it thinks fits the T.I.D.E. criteria (which is very subjective). But then again, doesn't the State weild the same power when determining what tax incetives, brownfield redevelopment sites, and other economic incentives get designated. Is it just me or does it seem way too early to tell whether the program is effective or not?

I would think at this point with so many young people leaving the State, you have to just throw s**t up against the wall and see what sticks, IMO.

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I think that's what is going on, GRdadof3. My only question for those that see this as some kind of sham: what does this hurt? At the very least, this brings more attention to the revitalization of urban areas, and that's a good thing.

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If there is one thing Jennifer Granholm is doing that I agree with, it is this initiative, the cities in this state are dying, or in some cases, dead. We are decades behind our counterparts in other states. I'm very glad someone is tackling the issue, or even proclaiming it as one. For to long the leadership in this state have stood by as the Auto Industry has imploded on itself, and done nothing about the singlesided economy.

It's not about bringing the gays, and the minorities into our cities, I think Dave was right, it's the econimic Diversity in a cities, or states economy, that brings the human diversity to follow. Not the other way around. Of course economic diversity has to start somewhere. I guess that's where entrapreneurship comes in. The brain drain that's happening to us, do you think it would stop, if there were a few more desireable industries in the area, and retail establishment downtown GR that could rival, these already "cool cities". I think this arguement can be made, the thought that the cold weather sucks, is what's driving all of our talented young profesionals away is a mis-nomer. One just has to look at the success and prosperity of the twin cities for that.

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Hello everyone. This is my first post, though I've been reading yours for a few months now. I'm so glad I discovered this forum! So, about this Cool Cities thing. I think that one that makes a neighborhood desirable and vital is not having to leave it to take care of your daily needs. I live in a great neighborhood, Eastown. I hardly ever have to leave to get the things I need from Indian food to hot dogs, blues bands and poetry readings, flower shops, bookstores or the pharmacy. Even the grocery store is only a few blocks away. It reminds me of any of the great neighborhoods I have experienced from New York to Denver and Seattle. Beyond that, GR needs a, or several major attractions that are unique to the city to attract people to it, and give it a solid identity (outside W. Michigan). Even Battle Creek has Cereal City USA. I have my own fantacies about what ours could be, but I think there is another thread in which to voice those ideas. So there are my 2 cents for now. I'm honored to be a part of the forum.

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First, I look forward to being an active participant in this thread. Second, what do you consider 'lighthouse's' neighborhoods?

Right now Lighthouse is working in 4 target neighborhoods: Baxter, Madison Square (basically a half mile radius from the intersection of Madison and Hall), Oakdale Park, and a portion of Garfiled Park (Burton, 131, Hall, & Horton)

Hopefully they do add some normal people to the committee - not that these more than likely elitist lifetime students would even bother to listen to a mere plebe.

Hopefully I am normal, at least I like to think I am :cry:

Actually most of the professors seemed to really respect my thoughts and opinions on many issues

I think that one that makes a neighborhood desirable and vital is not having to leave it to take care of your daily needs.

I think this is right on. This is not only true from the point of view of convenience...it alos builds a strong neighborhood economy. I would love to see a study done of Eastown to see how many times a dollar turns over in this neighborhood. Many folks who live in the neighborhood, work in the neighborhood, and spend their money in the neighborhood. That is real health and economic sustaibability.

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My issue with the program is that it is entirely non-profit based. Street improvements and such are nice and IMO should be included in the program, but if you want economic diversity based on strong and independent neighborhoods why not offer residents money to create these neighborhood businesses themselves? Guarantee their loans or just give the money away to people willing to start a business. IMO that would go a long way further toward accomplishing the actual objective.

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Interesting thread--I've added Florida's book to my reading list--lately I've moved away from reading novels to history, so now I suppose I'll try to add a few urban issues type of reads---believe there's another thread somewhere on a few back pages where some of you folks recommended some books...

The one phrase in an opening post that struck me though was...

"" The premise is that there needs to be talented, innovative, diverse, and environmentally conscious people in a neighborhood in order for the neighborhood to be healthy""

This is true of the suburbs as well as the inner city--it is true everywhere in the world--so what is so earthshaking about this point of view? What is essential is an additional element, that these creative people have the educational and work skills necessary to generate income by being productive members of society. It all goes back to our educational system, and values which instill educational achievement and creative training and job skills which are truly relevant for the future as THE necessary ingredient for a fulfilling life. I certainly don't have the answer for how educationally disadvantaged folks can remedy their situation, but have always favored more welfare monies be allocated to job and business training, and favor all social programs which encourage, require, and demand serious and energetic education and job training...

Much of this country's public educational system is woefully deficient in providing these opportunities, compared to other countries. Nine months of school compared to eleven months in the rest of the civilized world, for example. No serious testing standards for advancement because of misguided concerns for social image and self-esteem. Teacher's unions which protect the status quo rather than favor innovative educational solutions. Administrators who frequently take three hour lunches. Sports achievement excessively glorified as the measure of a student's success rather than academic achievement and advancement.

Sorry this sounds like a bit a a rant, but there it is, and I will try to seek more perspective on some of these issues by increased reading both here and elsewhere

And ps, no I'm not a teacher either, but I do have teacher friends...lol

:)

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I would love to see a study done of Eastown to see how many times a dollar turns over in this neighborhood. Many folks who live in the neighborhood, work in the neighborhood, and spend their money in the neighborhood. That is real health and economic sustainability.

I think that Local First is working on a study to show the "local economic multiplier" impact found in GR's central city neighborhoods. The Andersonville neighborhood in Chicago has a detailed study on local economics and it found that for every $100 spent at a local business, $73 stayed in the local economy and only $27 left the community. Whereas, for every $100 spent at a non-local business, only $43 stayed in the local economy (taxes, wages, & amount employees spend in community) and $57 left the community.

We need to figure out a system to "close the loop" so that more monies stay here in GR.

My issue with the program is that it is entirely non-profit based. Street improvements and such are nice and IMO should be included in the program, but if you want economic diversity based on strong and independent neighborhoods why not offer residents money to create these neighborhood businesses themselves? Guarantee their loans or just give the money away to people willing to start a business. IMO that would go a long way further toward accomplishing the actual objective.

The grantees have the ability to do such that, it all depends on how their project/program is set up. For example, facade monies granted to local business owners.

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My issue with the program is that it is entirely non-profit based. Street improvements and such are nice and IMO should be included in the program, but if you want economic diversity based on strong and independent neighborhoods why not offer residents money to create these neighborhood businesses themselves? Guarantee their loans or just give the money away to people willing to start a business. IMO that would go a long way further toward accomplishing the actual objective.

Gary, I believe some of the recipients included commercial elements, such as market-rate condos in some historic buildings in Battle Creek. Here is a list of the 2004 recipients:

http://www.coolcities.com/pilot/designees/

and the expanded 2005 designees:

http://www.michigan.gov/cis/0,1607,7-154-1...21248--,00.html

Again, look at the millions of dollars in tax incentives thrown at General Motors to get them to build new metal and assembly plants in Delta Township (Lansing SW), just to maintain the status quo. It did nothing to add the vitality of Lansing (just the opposite, it's way out in the country), and did nothing to attract people or other businesses to the area. It just replaced another assembly plant downtown that was moth-balled.

I can't see what's wrong with trying a different approach and investing in neighborhood projects like Avenue of the Arts and Uptown. I agree that some bureaucrats in Lansing are hardly the people to make anything cool, but certainly the neighborhood leaders who are rallying around these programs do. As has been mentioned here before, there are more than 500,000 college students AT ANY GIVEN TIME within a 2-3 hour radius of Grand Rapids. Many of these young bright people are leaving for greener pastures, because they just don't see vitality locally.

In fact, take the survey yourself that thousands of college students around the State have taken, and see what the results are. It's pretty interesting:

http://www.coolcities.com/heard/process/

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Much of this country's public educational system is woefully deficient in providing these opportunities, compared to other countries. Nine months of school compared to eleven months in the rest of the civilized world, for example. No serious testing standards for advancement because of misguided concerns for social image and self-esteem. Teacher's unions which protect the status quo rather than favor innovative educational solutions. Administrators who frequently take three hour lunches. Sports achievement excessively glorified as the measure of a student's success rather than academic achievement and advancement.

Right on, I couldn't agree more. Our politicians think that pouring money into education will fix it.

" The premise is that there needs to be talented, innovative, diverse, and environmentally conscious people in a neighborhood in order for the neighborhood to be healthy"

I agree with you, publius. This statement strikes me as kind of stupid, not because its wrong, but because it sounds ignorant to me, and doesn't do much to add to the solution. Everyone knows that is what you need in terms of people, the real question in my mind is "How do we create conditions to which these people will be attracted and thrive?" I think that having a lot of old, low-rent buildings, density, and mixed uses are what attracts these people to an area. They all work together: Having a bunch of low-rent buildings means that many non-rich people can live there, which, along with high residential density will help support a ever-expanding mix of businesses. There also needs to be an effort made on an neighborhood organization level to get residents to commuicate with one another to root out problems like drugs, because that will destory a good neighborhood in a heartbeat.

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The market rate condo project in Battle Creek was awarded to Battle Creek Unlimited which is a nonprofit corporation.

The grantees have the ability to do such that, it all depends on how their project/program is set up. For example, facade monies granted to local business owners.

You're right, but this doesnt start new businesses either.

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The market rate condo project in Battle Creek was awarded to Battle Creek Unlimited which is a nonprofit corporation.

You're right, but this doesnt start new businesses either.

Central city neighborhoods economic, social and environmental viability are enhanced when established small businesses and property owners invest in their present locations. Vibrant, diverse business districts provide a gathering place for residents, shopping and services, jobs, and entrepreneurial opportunity, an incubator for emerging businesses and a focal point for residential neighborhoods. When one building is improved in a business district, it has a positive impact on the curb appeal and the perception of the entire business district. This creates a domino effect, encouraging other property owners to increase their investment in their own businesses. As the appearance of a business district improves, the area

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Much of this country's public educational system is woefully deficient in providing these opportunities, compared to other countries. Nine months of school compared to eleven months in the rest of the civilized world, for example. No serious testing standards for advancement because of misguided concerns for social image and self-esteem. Teacher's unions which protect the status quo rather than favor innovative educational solutions. Administrators who frequently take three hour lunches. Sports achievement excessively glorified as the measure of a student's success rather than academic achievement and advancement.

You all know I could not let this go by with out some sort of reply. I agree that the country's educational system is woefully deficient. This cannot be emphasized enough. I also agree with the inference that this is one of the major detriments to a City being "healthy" or "Cool." However, there are too many sweeping statemtents that are just not true and enforce some of the stereotypes of the public school system.

I believe it is correct to blame the system. It is antiquated (over 100 years old in most cases)and based on an agrarian society and calendar. Also, there are bad people in the system as there are in all systems. Just be careful about sweeping accusations, because the public schools are also victim of a lot of unfounded bad raps and stereotypes.

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You all know I could not let this go by with out some sort of reply. I agree that the country's educational system is woefully deficient. This cannot be emphasized enough. I also agree with the inference that this is one of the major detriments to a City being "healthy" or "Cool." However, there are too many sweeping statemtents that are just not true and enforce some of the stereotypes of the public school system.

I believe it is correct to blame the system. It is antiquated (over 100 years old in most cases)and based on an agrarian society and calendar. Also, there are bad people in the system as there are in all systems. Just be careful about sweeping accusations, because the public schools are also victim of a lot of unfounded bad raps and stereotypes.

Good point Dave. Some of my bias is not entirely unfounded, however, as the school where I attended high school had a state-of-the-art track, new basketball and football bleachers with press box, and I used books that spoke of President Ronald Reagan, and I graduated in 1999! I think when gazillions of dollars are spent on education that there should be strict oversight so that the money is spent on things that will educate students instead of buying a bunch of frivolous crap.

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Good point Dave. Some of my bias is not entirely unfounded, however, as the school where I attended high school had a state-of-the-art track, new basketball and football bleachers with press box, and I used books that spoke of President Ronald Reagan, and I graduated in 1999! I think when gazillions of dollars are spent on education that there should be strict oversight so that the money is spent on things that will educate students instead of buying a bunch of frivolous crap.

I know of a lot of districts that are completely out of whack when it comes to funding sports related as opposed to educationally related things. It is very screwed up. However, I would dare bet that your former school system got the funds for the state of the art sports venues through a bond issue passed by local voters. Thus this money can only be spent on the bleachers, stadium, whatever. There is almost no way a school system could get a bond issue passed to support new text books or educational upgrades. This is certainly the case in Michigan with Proposal A.

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Central city neighborhoods economic, social and environmental viability are enhanced when established small businesses and property owners invest in their present locations. Vibrant, diverse business districts provide a gathering place for residents, shopping and services, jobs, and entrepreneurial opportunity, an incubator for emerging businesses and a focal point for residential neighborhoods. When one building is improved in a business district, it has a positive impact on the curb appeal and the perception of the entire business district. This creates a domino effect, encouraging other property owners to increase their investment in their own businesses. As the appearance of a business district improves, the area

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Central city neighborhoods economic, social and environmental viability are enhanced when established small businesses and property owners invest in their present locations. Vibrant, diverse business districts provide a gathering place for residents, shopping and services, jobs, and entrepreneurial opportunity, an incubator for emerging businesses and a focal point for residential neighborhoods. When one building is improved in a business district, it has a positive impact on the curb appeal and the perception of the entire business district. This creates a domino effect, encouraging other property owners to increase their investment in their own businesses. As the appearance of a business district improves, the area

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so you are saying that facade improvements do start businesses?

Not directly. I don't think the State should get into the practice of actually STARTING businesses.

I think what they are hoping to do with the program is to create spin-off businesses and "buzz", even if the grants do go mainly to non-profits. Look at all the buzz that has been created around Uptown, Wealthy Street, and the Heartside Area by these programs. And take Google for instance. As they were looking to start up their Googleplex recently, they outright stated that they were not interested in tax breaks. They wanted a vibrant city with a steady supply of college-aged students. Tax breaks after a while become like GM vehicle discounts. Pretty soon, people become numb to them and then start to EXPECT them.

There are so many resources available to help small business already, like the SBA and Brownfield Redevelopment. There is not one answer to anything. It needs to be a multi-pronged approach, and feedback needs to be given to the State government as to what is working and what is not.

BTW: As far as the local education system, why doesn't the entire Kent County system consolidate under one umbrella, similar to Charlotte/Mecklenberg County schools in Charlotte, NC? I think part of the issue with enrollment dropping in the GR school system is the stigma that it has gotten. When people think East Grand Rapids or Forest Hills Schools, they form an impression in their mind (good, bad or indifferent). When people are transferring to this area, I can tell you firsthand that they almost always ask about the school systems, and if it was all under one Grand Rapids/Kent County school system, people might not be so hesitant to move into different areas. I believe a lot of cities are set up that way, like Denver and Colorado Springs as well.

Just a thought.

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BTW: As far as the local education system, why doesn't the entire Kent County system consolidate under one umbrella, similar to Charlotte/Mecklenberg County schools in Charlotte, NC? I think part of the issue with enrollment dropping in the GR school system is the stigma that it has gotten. When people think East Grand Rapids or Forest Hills Schools, they form an impression in their mind (good, bad or indifferent). When people are transferring to this area, I can tell you firsthand that they almost always ask about the school systems, and if it was all under one Grand Rapids/Kent County school system, people might not be so hesitant to move into different areas. I believe a lot of cities are set up that way, like Denver and Colorado Springs as well.

Just a thought.

I could not agree more! There are several problems with this idea, however. The first is a structural/financial issue. The other school districts in the county are funded at a higher per-pupil rate than Grand Rapids. GRPS is funded at $6,700 per student. If there was a merger, say under the KISD, at what rate would the state fund? The current school districts would never accept a lower rate, and GRPS would kill for their rate. If a higher rate was chosen, it would create a mess with the State education budget.

The other issue is a social issue. Here the ugly head of racism and classism raises its head. There is a reason why families move out to the suburbs when their kids reach school age...enough said about that. A county-wide consolidation wouuld take a vote and the county-wide public would NEVER vote for this.

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I could not agree more! There are several problems with this idea, however. The first is a structural/financial issue. The other school districts in the county are funded at a higher per-pupil rate than Grand Rapids. GRPS is funded at $6,700 per student. If there was a merger, say under the KISD, at what rate would the state fund? The current school districts would never accept a lower rate, and GRPS would kill for their rate. If a higher rate was chosen, it would create a mess with the State education budget.

The other issue is a social issue. Here the ugly head of racism and classism raises its head. There is a reason why families move out to the suburbs when their kids reach school age...enough said about that. A county-wide consolidation wouuld take a vote and the county-wide public would NEVER vote for this.

The way the school budget problems are going, they may not have a choice. It certainly seems like it would cut costs to consolidate, and would make the system more equitable. And your statement about the racism issue is correct, and is probably why it needs to be done. I think some of these other rapidly-growing cities do not have that perception of racism because you can't single out certain districts and stigmatize them. The same can be said for all the disjointed government units that we have in Michigan (cities and townships). I read somewhere that we have more governmental units and divisions employing more people than any State in the country. It seems like this should upset people who are for smaller government ;)

So what do you think you are going to report back, Dave?

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