It seems everyone who’s interested in cities has an opinion about Richard Florida.
I’ve always had it in for him, since he wrote, “Who’s Your City?,” a book which instructed readers which city they should live in based on personal characteristics, as if that was a rational way to choose a place to live.
When I was working at a newspaper in Toledo a coworker of mine began researching “Who’s Your City” for an article because Toledo was listed as the 12th (13th, 14th?) best mid-sized city to be a committed gay couple. The story had to be killed midway through, however, because the margin of error on the statistic was approximately 50 percent.
Well, Florida is gearing to go to the presses again in April with, “The Great Reset,” in which he argues that the recession has fundamentally reshaped the economic landscape. This tome may be more controversial because of its premise that the new economy will divide the country into geographic winners and losers.
It also happens that many of these “losers” paid Florida a hefty fee to explain how their cities could be made Meccas for the hip, highly-educated population that is so essential to prosperity, according to Florida’s teachings.
In an article in the American Prospect titled “The Ruse of the Creative Class,” Washington Post writer Alec Macgillis takes Florida to task for his assertion that “ultimately, we can’t stop the decline of some places, and that we would be foolish to try.”
Florida, who is arguably the country’s best known urban thinker, made a name for himself with his 2004 book “The Rise of the Creative Class,” in which he argued that highly mobile, “creative workers” in growth industries would determine the economic prosperity of cities by congregating and developing knowledge clusters.
The book was so popular, the cities of Cleveland, Toledo, Baltimore, Rochester, Green Bay, Des Moines, Elmira, New York, and others lined up to pay Florida a $35,000 speaking fee to share his insights on how to improve their attractiveness to young professionals.
His ideas inspired Elmira to install “Poetry Posts” around town in hopes of developing retail to serve the creative class. It also inspired the state of Michigan to launch its “Cool Cities” initiative, an ambarrassing failure.
In the AP article, Florida denies any wrongdoing.
“I’ve never tried to sugarcoat the message to any of them,” he says. “I’ve given them the facts … about what they were up against. I never tried to give them false hope. I encouraged them to work on their assets, but I tried to be honest and objective in helping them engage their problems. I hope they don’t feel let down.”
This is directly from the article: In February 2008 he told the residents of Sackville, New Brunswick, population 5,000, that they were in a “cosmopolitan country town” with obvious advantages over Toronto. In Louisville, Florida held up the Louisville Slugger museum as a potential creative-class magnet.
I’m not going to rewrite the article in it’s entirety, you should read it. Here’s the link again.
I just pulled this one little golden nugget out for you to chew on till then. It’s a quote from Eric Cedo, director of Create Detroit.
“I believe Richard has a real strong pulse on a certain segment of the population that can move freely around … but I’m staying. I’m not going. He keeps missing one of the most fundamental points, which is that there is a remnant of people who aren’t going to leave — and it’s because of the struggle that we’re going to stay.”