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Creativity, Omaha, and Florida
$amazon="0465024777";?>My mother recently sent me an article from the February 4th Omaha World Herald entitled Omaha: Creative, but intolerant. Richard Florida, author of The Rise of the Creative Class, and other related books was the keynote speaker at Omaha’s first Young Professionals Summit. It turns out that while Omaha ranks 11th on the midsize city Creativity Index, and has a “strong technology base” (what?), Omaha ranks 155th on the tolerance scale of midsize cities. Florida(the author)’s research indicates that cities that rank high in technology, talent, and tolerance lead in innovation, and Nebraska’s being the first state to ban gay marriage doesn’t help Omaha out with that third “T.” Business leaders present and future gathered to hear what they could do about this problem.
I found this article amusing for the following reasons:
- I remember Florida’s “Creative Capital” being a hot topic about four years ago. This talk strikes me as coming a little late.
- I find it hard to believe that a city that can barely tolerate a straight white male in his mid-20’s being happily single stands a chance at becoming reasonably “tolerant.”
- The inclusion of City Councilman Dan Welch’s cookie-cutter token statements, such as “we want to attract all the talented people we can…if they are gay and lesbian, fine; white male, fine; black female, fine.” He later goes on to disagree with the notion that the Defense of Marriage Act is an economic handicap for Omaha.
- The fact that the event was sponsored by the most creativity quashing employers in Omaha.
When I went to the Young Professionals Council events, I kept hearing the same things about why Omaha was so great: “it’s a great place to raise a family,” was the statement I heard most. Generally, people who get married and start a family straight out of college are not the most innovative members of society. Innovative people don’t want security – they want experiences: energy, culture, and adventure.
I think Omaha should be happy with what it is: a place that is cheap to live in, easy to get around (if you have a car), and that will remain one of the safer places to live when economic bubbles burst. There is no shortage of creative people from Omaha – some even stay there – but the experiences of creative minds struggling for stimulation in a conservative cultural vacuum are what make Conor Oberst‘s lyrics unique, and Alexander Payne‘s stories and characters richly relatable. Any forced attempts to become a creativity-friendly city will be insincere, and thus, doomed to failure.
If Omaha insists upon revolutionizing the culture of its citizens, then I offer the following suggestions:
- Cancel the West Dodge Expressway Project. Allow residents living east of 72nd street to tear it down by whatever means they see fit.
- Use the rubble from the destruction of the West Dodge Expressway to build a wall isolating Omaha residents living West of 90th street. If the expressway has been reduced to dust, exile those residents to a special reservation along with all other residents of Jesusland. My parents can stay, though. Joe, you might want to move East about 100 blocks.
- Construct the best light rail system, ever. If you build it, they will stay.
- WiFi the whole town. If Omaha has any hope to retain creative people, it will be the accessibility of geographically unavailable cultural stimuli – from anywhere in town.
- Hire me as “Director of Creative Capital” for the whole city. Do what I say.
Voilá, you have yourself a dangerous creative hotbed that will remain competitive for years to come.
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