The Seven Pillar Solution-- Conclusions from Richard Florida's new book

Spoiler Alert-- These are "The Seven Pillars" to "put our economy and society back on track" from the final chapter of Richard Florida's new book, "The New Urban Crisis" (Basic Books, 2017):

1) Make Clustering Work For Us And Not Against Us

2) Invest In The Infrastructure For Density And Growth

3) Build More Affordable Rental Housing

4) Turn Low-Wage Service Jobs Into Middle-Class Work

5) Tackle Poverty By Investing In People And Places

6) Lead A Global Effort To Build Prosperous Cities

7) Empower Cities And Communities

And now, as Paul Harvey used to say, "the rest of the story..."

Richard Florida is called the "only urban planner who has a press agent". That might be apocryphal, but he certainly does wield influence, especially here in Ohio City where we are doing everything possible to court "The Creative Class". Personally, I think we might have too much creative finance, creative lawyering, creative doctoring, creative entertainment, etc., for our own good.

Actually, it is no accident that the title Mr. Florida's phenomenal bestseller, "The Rise of the Creative Class", mirrors Michael Young's 1958 classic "The Rise of the Meritocracy", and that Mr. Young's dystopian book today seems eerily prophetic. (Kurt Vonnegut's 1953 "Player Piano" even earlier examines a society where "equality of opportunity" ran amok and created a kafkaesque world of haves and have nots.) But it took the election of Donald Trump to shake Mr. Florida out of his complacency and re-examine his premises. For here the rebels at the gate are not the lumpen proletariat, but the now diminishing middle class, the people who always believed in the system and played by the rules. People much like Mr. Florida's parents who moved to the suburbs to provide him a good education and economic mobility.

It is well known that the city of Cleveland is one of the most economically distressed cities in America (Mr. Florida's book has it listed as number four), but the Cleveland Metro area leads the nation in "economic segregation", which means that the rich and poor literally do live in worlds apart here. And for that reason "The New Urban Crisis" is essential reading.

Given that Mr. Florida is a urban theorist and an urban planner, it is not surprising that his solutions to the problem of "the one percent" versus the other ninety-nine percent are of a social planning, if not a socialist, type.  For example, he states that raising the minimum wage and creating good paying service jobs would do more to support the art community than all grants and subsidies combined. And the public transportation is absolutely necessary to connect people, jobs, and opportunity, and not a welfare program.  And that it is time to re-think the "negative income tax" or a guaranteed wage for all , and also to tax the heck out of dormant, decaying property and punish speculative land ownership.

But the key actor to growth and sustainability is the good city itself, where people meet, mingle and exchange ideas, and don't live in narrow-minded and stultifying isolation, where cultures and subcultures come into contact with each other, and the power of numbers is exponentially greater than their sum. To this end people, cities and mayors need more power and freedom to design their own destinies.

One item that is glaringly lacking from Mr. Florida's list is the need to improve the public school system. Here in Cleveland literally nearly every school is rated "F" by the state of Ohio. You would think that if we had fixed our school system twenty years ago, we really wouldn't have any problems today. And if we fix the school system now, twenty years hence we will have the brains to make Cleveland not a major league city, but a world class city.  The problem here seems to be that the ruling "Creative Class" seems to think of schools as an amenity, and not as a necessity-- that it would be cool,say, to live by a university, and nothing more-- as long as their own children are provided for. But wasn't it universal education that did more for America than all the private schools combined?

I am glad that Mr. Florida continues to grow as a thinker, and is now thinking of "the basic, fundamentals", instead merely thinking in terms of how to make a city a magnet for the advantaged.  In short, how to make the city an engine of sustainable growth for all, instead of a mecca of consumption for the few.

Bruce Grossman

Look me up on LinkedIn, the self-proclaimed guru of Bagwhan Music.

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Volume 2, Issue 2, Posted 11:06 PM, 07.16.2017