2.13.2006

Striking a balance

Joel Kotkin weighs in again against the notion of the Creative Class, this time in a Chicago Sun-Times essay that is a minor rewrite of the one I linked to in October from the Prospect. Here, as there, he writes that the rush to embrace cool and pander to young creatives leads cities to overlook more pressing needs.

Paul O'Conner, executive director of World Business Chicago, rebuts Kotkin in a piece in which he is really rising to Chicago's defense. Kotkin, it seems, only referred to Chicago in the initial piece as one of the "foundries of the industrial age." Chicago has successfully embraced the "cool city" strategy, O'Connor writes, at the same time it has dealt with other issues like crime, good schools, neighborhood development and creating a favorable business climate.

O'Connor makes a good point: it is possible to foster a creative-friendly climate and still focus on more traditional city needs. One need not ignore public safety or potholes to give attention to the need for arts funding or the development of a cultural district. In fact, in order to do the latter well, the former must really be in order first. Those traditional amenities are the baseline; the embrace of culture and the arts is what sets a city apart.

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