Welcoming Creativity

What should Greater Cincinnati do to encourage the growth of the "creative class?" Dave Schaff, President, Hamilton County Young Democrats The recent "urbanist" buzz has been about Richard Flori

What should Greater Cincinnati do to encourage the growth of the "creative class?"
Dave Schaff, President, Hamilton County Young Democrats

The recent "urbanist" buzz has been about Richard Florida's "creative class" theory, which suggests that creative people choose places to live based on how tolerant a city is, the cultural scene and job opportunities. The problem in Cincinnati is that we lack tolerance, "social capital" and civic participation, which makes the challenge of growing our "creative class" even greater.

As the only U.S. city that prohibits gays and lesbians from the same legal protections it offers minorities and disabled people, we've shown our true colors on tolerance. It's fine to have street banners downtown stating, "We're glad you're here"; but until we repeal Article 12, the city charter amendment that allows this gross inequity, our welcome mats should move over to Newport, along with everything else.

Today's generation of young professionals has become increasingly disconnected from one another and the social structures that were once prominent (church, political parties, PTA). Our "social capital" has dropped rapidly as our connections with each other decline and our networks shrink.

Florida's diagnosis of the creative class is groundbreaking. However, the broken bonds that have occurred through a lack of communication with each other further complicate our ailing civic health.

In terms of civic participation, which at minimum requires the simple act of voting, the majority of young professionals have simply relegated to spectators, if even that. Those who do vote are typically fans who sit in their seats and only watch the star players.

We need to focus on restoring electoral turnout to that of the 1960s.

Our primary challenge in advancing a "creative class" is to re-create structures and policies, both public and private, that facilitate renewed civic engagement. We must do this both collectively and individually and not expect changes to occur overnight. In the meantime, why not start by becoming a grassroots gladiator and volunteer for a political campaign, attend a community council meeting or even start a new club.

Charles Tassell, Past president, Blue Chip Young Republicans

There is not enough time to discuss the myriad of logical fallacies presented by Mr. Florida and the theory of the "creative class." The idea that "suits and ties" would deny a sound business plan is absurd: Venture capitalists are interested in making money. It is equally ridiculous that people "don't work for money." Show me a person who eats; I'll show you a person who works for money!

The real problem is the fallacy of trying to link the starving artist and vice-ridden bohemian side of creativity to the software engineers and MBAs of modern business. His theory is an agenda to advance a minimal constituency that has been losing ground since the realization of the Kinsey report over-counts.

It is actually quite amusing to find the self-proclaimed "sophisticated elites" tying themselves to the previously derided MBA class. These are the same capitalist pigs whom elitists cannot stand — until they need to expand their political clout by claiming all "creatives" are more interested in sodomy than their own paycheck. The real reason people were switching jobs in the '90s: They followed the money.

In contrast, local companies like P&G have succeeded at making many employees very rich through "white picket fence" creativity: local long term MBA talent. All those patents did not come from drugged out, "musically profound" residents of Sodom and Gomorrah. Where do creative people come from? Well, as for novelists, look to rural towns. Business start-ups look where venture capitalists are.

But what about Cincinnati? Even people who claim it's "so intolerant" rave about the wonderful arts support and start businesses trying to recruit others to move here. It sure beats most places on the planet, where even disagreeing can still get you flogged, jailed or eliminated. As for tolerance — sure, each citizen, as a citizen, none more or less than any other. Tolerance for everything supports the very vices that prohibit economic growth.

Vibrancy and downtown living are essential. So, too, are cyber-commuting and high educational levels. Creativity is crucial for a strong economy, but vice is not.

Michael McCleese, Co-Chair of Stonewall Cincinnati

Richard Florida's book, The Rise of the Creative Class, brings to mind an interesting question: "How will Cincinnati build a just and livable community for all its citizens?"

The term "creative class" implies that a select group of individuals, mostly from other cities, might be the key to help us build a culturally diverse, fun, hip Cincinnati. Why must we first look to others to solve our problems? Cincinnati's problems will not be solved by a "creative class." In fact, class is the problem.

It is true that many talented, beautiful people have left Cincinnati because of rigid mores, suppression of artistic freedom and flagrant discrimination against African Americans and the lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender community. It is also true that artists, engineers, scientists, business leaders and other creative people will not solve our problems here in the "Nati."

Cincinnatians should not want to attract more creative people to Cincinnati for the sake of money or influence or image. Lots of creative, talented, passionate people already live here, but laws like Article 12, the anti-gay city charter amendment, police brutality, racism, severe economic disparity and classism keep many of these people busy in the struggle for basic human rights instead of building a fun, culturally diverse community.

Instead of trying to lure the "creative class" to Cincinnati, we should first be concerned with doing the right thing by all the people all the time.

Doing the right thing means connecting the dots when we look at ourselves and our neighborhoods. Why is it that we accept second-class citizenship for the LGBT community? What person of conscience — gay or straight — would want to move to Cincinnati or stay here knowing he or she does not have equal protection under the law when it comes to housing or employment discrimination? Why do many of us support a police department that kills young African-American males? Why do we accept poverty, racism and sexism in our city? Why do we try to separate these cancerous social problems as distinct, isolated phenomena when in fact they are as connected as the quills on a porcupine's back?

A "creative class" is not the answer to our problems. But looking at class and class division might provide a few clues about possible solutions. Getting rid of Article 12 is another good starting place so creative (and non-creative) folk alike can get on with the work of co-creating a fun, just and loving Cincinnati.

Each month, CityBeat poses a question to young leaders in the local Democrat and Republican parties as well as a selected third party or independent activist.