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TheGerbil

Richard Florida

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There was an article in this Sunday's PG about Richard Florida. For those who don't know, he is a former CMU professor (now at George Mason University) who is well-known for championing the "creative class." His theory is that for a city to grow it must do things to attract the "creative class" (which includes artists, computer programmers, and the like).

He left for George Mason because they, apparently, will let him be himself. In the article I mentioned above, he was quoted as saying that Pittsburgh wouldn't let him be himself. He also seems to generally think that this city doesn't respect him or his ideas enough. That's what I'd like to discuss....

I think that what he doesn't realize is that many people in Pittsburgh do like him, and his ideas. But there is a lot of resentment too, because he pointed out some of the city's shortcomings in his nationally-published book. He's said many times that he likes Pittsburgh, but the fact is that he made us look bad in front of a national audience, and of course some people will be angry about that.

I also think that he has failed to notice how much really is going on here that would fit his vision. Most of it is grass-roots stuff, as opposed to the city or county government doing it, and maybe that is why he overlooks it. But as far as I can see the arts is really burgeoning here. Not only does CAPA have a great new facility, but there are things like the Pittsburgh Glass Center, unprecedented cooperation between arts organizations here (which won us a big arts convention), new art galleries opening around town, etc. Does Florida notice those things?

Also, there was an interesting quote in the article criticizing Florida for not actually getting involved while he was here. He spent a lot of time preaching and criticizing, but did he join an organization or do anything at all to help the city? The quote implied tht he did not - and as far as I ever saw, that is true. I wish I could remember who they were quoting, but I can't find the article now. At any rate, it's an excellent point. He spent the 17 years he was here up on a soap box, then criticized the city as a whole because he didn't see enough open support for what he said. But he never actually did much to help the city.

I also think there is an inherent flaw in his theory. He says that if you attract people to a city, jobs will follow. But what he's missing is that it's very hard to attract new people if they think they won't find work! He also puts too much emphasis on attracting the creative class instead of doing things like trying to attract companies, building convention centers, etc. I think all of those things are important in their own way - and I also think that it isn't the city government's job to open jazz clubs and art galleries. Those are things the citizens must do.

In addition, it's very easy for cities like Denver or Seattle to embrace his ideas. They already have the jobs, and don't need to work very hard to attract more! It's much different for cities like Pittsburgh, where we need to work extra hard to get companies to even look at us.

On the bright side, he hasn't forgotten Pittsbugh just because he left. He plans to create an organization to push his ideas - sort of a creative class think-tank I guess - and he intends for it to be affiliated with George Mason and with CMU.

Does anyone else have thought or insights? I'm sorry I rambled so, but I had a lot of things I wanted to bring up :)

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great insight gerbil, thanks for the RF update, I concur that with all that boundless intellect he alone should have attracted many more to Pittsburgh, why even leave when Pittsburgh--according to him--is the case study of what improvements into creative classism can be made in post-industrial western cities.

When it all boils down to it though its all about Madison Avenue Branding, sleek advertising and the big media's impression of your town, sad to say the average american gets 99.9% of their views from wether or not Dan Rather or an MTV VJ said it or not. You tell people like that that Christina Augillera and Sharon Stone, Dennis Miller, Joe Montana all call Pittsburgh a home, and they look at you like your from Mars, NOOOOOO thats not possible those are cool people. I told one co-worker one time when we were discussing foreign born actors in the USA that Pam Anderson is one too, they all looked at me like I got off the stupid bus, then asked where would the "California Bubbly Blonde" be from, if not California Bubbly Blonde Valleytalk town? I told them shes Canadien, from Vancouver, what, no Canadiens dont have tans they're all pale, Molson drinking rednecks. Just goes to show what the mass media does, thats why views of Mt. Washington, and the West End Overlook and Grant Street and PPG Plaza should be splashed everywhere when it comes to Pittsburgh, too often people base their decisions on no information except that MTV didnt include it in the "cool places" talk. Think about it Austin, San Fran, Miami, LA, I've been to all of them they all are $hitholes if you take the wrong turn, they are all grimy dirty, improvrished, armpits of towns if you go to those quadrants of them, Paris is nothing more then a dirty old river town, yet every new bride has to visit Paris, while Parisians came here in the 1700s and exclaimed that the Point in Pittsburgh was the "most beautiful river the world has ever seen" Belle Riveire was the French name for the Ohio River in Pennsylvania, yet new brides want to see the river that those same Frenchmen saw as dingy compared to Pittsburgh!

The Creative Class is a joke, its young people mostly that wont believe one word of anything unless some pierced tattoed VJ on MTV says it first. They dont think critically and they wont do their own homework on how Pittsburgh in many aspects is just as good as Paris, Austin and San Fran!

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Yes, you are very right - it's all about perception. There are some people who actually try to judge Pittsburgh for themselves and not be influenced by image. Those people seem to absolutely love it. But most people would rather believe what they are told than make their own judgements.

That's why we need someone with some clout to start telling people that Pittsburgh is a great place. I'm convinced that all we need is for the right person or group to "discover" the city, and our fortunes will change very quickly.

In the meantime, most attempts to improve our image seem to backfire. If it isn't the right person saying it, it looks like some sort of joke. If only some of the "cool" natives - like Christina Aguilera - would start talking us up. But for whatever reason, they tend not to. Maybe they have fallen for the negative messages too, and they believe they are too cool for this city. Sigh.

I know it is possible for a city with a bad image to turn around. Seattle used to be "dying" before Microsoft came around. Now it's seen as a very hip and successful place. And really the turn-around didn't take all that long.

Austin used to be just some cow-town. But people decided it was cool, decided they wanted to be there.. and voila! If those places can do it, so can Pittsburgh. We just need one or two lucky breaks to create some momentum. And we need less bad press, such as Richard Florida's criticism.

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Like I've been saying all along: The "creative class" are nothing but a bunch of poseurs.

Hell; now that all the poseurs have saturated Atlanta, Austin, Denver, San Francisco, let's invite all those who really are creative to Pittsburgh! Besides, in that blog entry, most truly creative individuals generally want to be left alone. Considering all the poseurs are leaving Pittsburgh in droves, they can find safe haven here. It's a win-win situation; we shed the fakes, and those who want to be left alone can be left alone here in Pittsburgh!

:ph34r:

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I totally agree, DBR. It really does seem like it's the poseurs who don't like it here, while most of the truly creative people love it.

I'm not sure what - if anything - could be done to speed up the process of bringing more creative people here. But I do think a lot of good stuff is going on in neighborhoods around the city, which shows that maybe we don't have to do anything but sit back and wait. Just look at Lawrenceville and the Penn Avenue corridor to see examples of creative people making their mark on the city.

Let the poseurs leave. They aren't the ones who open nice art galleries and cafes. :)

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Florida's book, we must remember, was only a hypothesis. Is it actually true -- that the creative class drives economic growth -- I don't think that there is good empirical evidence either way. The Cultural Policy Center at the University of Chicago is actually conducting a three year research project testing the Florida claim of the creative class impact on economy.

Actually, I was told from a outspoken politician that business is continually leaving this country because it is cheaper and easier to HQ in other countries and the problem is only going to get worse. This is not to say that other countries have nearly the good labor conditions that the US has, but big companies are finding it cheaper and easier to work abroard. The production is higher, the labor and taxes are lower, and the service improves. Think about what my Gov. (IL) is now doing (and I support) -- trying to pass legislation to allow IL to buy prescription drugs in Canada and Europe.

The creative class concept is too simplistic for my tastes -- What about Bill Gates - who is the quintessential creative class member who never finished college! I find that the *true* creative class are the ones that never finished higher education -- the classroom wasn't creative enough for them. I would also argue that the creative class needs more than a *cool* city to attract them --- maybe a few, but it's just too general and simplistic of a hypothesis for me buy.

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That's a good point about the poseurs leaving Pittsburgh while the truly creative are attracted to it. Those that worry about trying to be "cool" and "trendy" can't stand Pittsburgh because it doesn't have all the latest upscale suburban chain stores and isn't featured on MTV. There seems to be this pervading attitude that you aren't cool if you love Pittsburgh... that Pittsburgh is some place you were unfortunate enough to be born in and you must escape in order to fulfill your dreams. My dream is Pittsburgh... and I hope I get to live there soon and add a bit of my creativity.

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I don't think it's fair to generalize on all of the "posers" that migrate to cities like Atlanta and Austin. regardless of who they are, they are young, some start business, many have valuable degrees etc and for a growing city to continue to grow, there must be an influx of this demo.

As for Florida, it's too bad he left, since he used Pgh as a casy study and great example of a problem child, it would have been great to see him apply his knowledge and document the improvements.

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it would have been great to see him apply his knowledge and document the improvements.

Unfortunately, like most other Pittsburghers under the age of 40, he didn't have the desire to.

Whenever people between the ages of 18 and 39 make up 34% of Allegheny County's total population, but only 9% of Allegheny County's total voting population, then something's wrong, not with the county, but with its residents. Once I found those numbers, I was disgusted. I've since grown more and more intolerant of listening to people's horsesh*t "hostile to young people" claims. Why should anyone listen to you if you don't even care enough to f*cking vote! You get exactly what you put in: NOTHING! :angry:

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...You get exactly what you put in...

Exactly! Way too many people (espeically young people) don't want to do any work. They want the city to already be what they consider "cool" - and if it isn't, they move to a city that does meet that expectation. It doesn't occur to them that they could stay here and actually do something to make the city more like what they want it to be. In addition, they tend to overlook all the great things the city already has.

There are exceptions to this though. There are young people who are active, and they make the city a better place. I just wish there were more of them, and less of the lazy complainers.

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