Ex-mayor Dave Cieslewicz's latest blog post at The Daily Page reaffirms my decision of not having voted for him in the previous two mayoral elections. In his homily entitled "Idea of the week... use Madison College culinary school as catalyst for a public market"
, he once again channels Richard Florida:My point is that progressive cities do certain things to stay competitive in the game to attract the creative talent that builds jobs in the new economy. They ban smoking in bars and restaurants. (We have.) They have bike sharing systems and aggressive bike commuting programs. (We do.) And they have public markets. (We don't and so we're falling behind.)
I get the feeling that Cieslewicz would rather that poverty and crime balloon than countenance no new bike trails be built. And what's with his hard-on for public markets? (He also mentioned them
less than two weeks ago.) Where's the data showing that they're imperative to attract creative talent? Or any of his trifecta of progressiveness? (And what's "creative talent" anyway?) Milwaukee has a public market as do other Rust Belt cities like Cleveland and Cincinnati. Is creative talent flocking to these cities? Or perhaps they're just not progressive. Who knows. Perhaps if Cieslewicz would stop bandying about Floridian terms and pieties without defining them and actually demonstrate their efficacy, we could have a better conversation. But since he's content to merely assert, I can only assume that the kind of people Cieslewicz wants to recruit to populate his bikes paths and buy $6/pound asparagus at a public market don't care about crime, quality of schools, or taxes.
While I share an enthusiasm for cities with Ex-Mayor Dave, I find all this talk of creative talent and the Creative Class to be demeaning. You're not a thespian? You don't write code for a social networking site in your cubicle next to an indoor basketball court and company tattoo parlor while clad in shorts and barefoot? You simply wash dishes in those restaurants frequented by creative types? Well, sorry to inform you of this but you're just a pilgarlic. There doesn't seem to be much qualitative difference between Ayn Rand's fetishization of entrepreneurs and Cieslewicz's fetishization of "creative talent". I understand that what used to be called "skilled workers" are good for Madison. But do they only want public markets and to be able to rent a bicycle? Do their employers only choose cities that are hip enough for employees? Both Microsoft and Google opened offices here in Madison a few years ago despite an accursed lack of a public market. Perhaps the UW computer science department had something to do with this.
I welcome creative talent to Madison but this city can't survive on them alone. People who bus tables, plow streets, make salami at Oscar Meyer, and so on may not be creative in the sense that Cieslewicz fetishizes, but they pay taxes, they consume the products of the creative types, and they contribute to the ortgeist of Madison.
Cieslewicz was right when he wrote that cities matter but he seems to have this lilywhite vision of a Madison that is all about creative types. Well, non-creative types matter too. As poverty increases here Cieslewicz can seemingly only find it in himself to lobby for more bike paths and a public market.