Archive for August, 2010

Of young professionals and cool cities…

Posted in Uncategorized on August 28, 2010 by Jim Rosenberg

I was adding some thoughts on another site and the response became wordy enough to represent a blog post, so here it is. The discussion was about an effort to attract young professionals in a community and what that might mean for everyone else.  To me, it only means good things.  The reason is that “young professionals” isn’t really all just about young professionals. In many ways, it is a proxy for a whole bunch of different things in a community that, when taken together, add up to a place that is either more likely to be advancing or more likely to be declining in coming years, based on the factors in play.

Because some of these factors can be influenced, it’s important for communities to learn about them and take stock of where they are.  A community that is attractive to this group tends to have an array of entertainment options, educational opportunities, employment opportunities, housing options, recreational facilities, infrastructure, diversity and cultural assets. It often has an “attitude” to go along with it, in terms of proactive leadership. In short, it is a collection of attractive attributes.

It doesn’t mean that a place that is more attractive to this group is likely to be less attractive to others. In fact, the contrary is true because diversity is frequently cited. Communities that are attractive to young professionals also tend to be especially attractive to women, minorities, gays and many others of all ages. (Think: we can stereotype the typical Starbucks customer, but I guarantee you that they would be far less successful if those were the only people going there. Moreover, it doesn’t necessarily match up with who you are likely to see there at any given moment – and nobody is any less of a human being if they never go at all.)

There is a lot of study behind the discussions of “young professionals” and “cool cities” – both of which seem like fairly lame terms for some fairly significant trends that can and do impact significantly on comparative success or failure in the area of having a vibrant economy. Richard Florida’s work is often cited and it’s a great start, but it is far from the only thing to take a look at.  What’s important is for people to get past those imperfect terms and the individual, disparate factors to see what is really at work on the whole. It’s not all theory. There are many case studies and plenty of data to support the points being made.

And if you want to see the discussion that I was responding to, it’s here: 


The way they lie to you…

Posted in Uncategorized on August 23, 2010 by Jim Rosenberg

I was amazed at the large share of the U.S. population that wrongly believes President Obama is a Muslim, as revealed in a recent Pew poll.  It’s so demonstrably untrue, but yet it persists — just like the birther argument.  How does that happen? 

Well, it’s kept alive by people who have a stake in trying to keep people confused to try to advance their own political agenda.  Here’s the current title of right-winger eddobloggo’s blog on the Wausau Daily Herald and other sites right now:  “Has the truth about Obama’s religion been told?” 

Here’s Pat Snyder’s pitch for his guest this morning on WSAU radio: 

‘The second hour begins at 10:05 with Christian theologian and expert on Islamic Law, Usama Dakdok, will examine the question, “Is President Obama Christian or Muslim?”‘

It doesn’t take a theologian to answer questions about President Obama’s religion any more than it takes one to answer questions about yours, unless he’s a mind-reader.  Even then, there’s the record to deal with which doesn’t support the argument at all.

So, do you think it’s just a coincidence that these same “questions” come up at exactly the same time from people who are constantly carrying water for the right wing?  If you do, then that’s one of us.  They like to pretend there is an issue and frame things with “When did you stop beating your wife” questions addressed to people who have no idea.  They would be dismissed more quickly if they made flat statements where people could just come to the simple conclusion that these folks are passing rumors and lying as they attempt to erode confidence in the President (and presumably make their own people and policy alternatives look better by comparison.)  See, it can’t be a lie if there’s a question mark behind it and you don’t have to take responsibility for just asking something, now do you?  But a lie is as a lie does, momma always said. 

If you want to know the truth about Obama’s religion, it’s no mystery.  Here’s an interview in which he responds to direct questions about it (yet AGAIN.)  You may as well read it, because you’re not going to hear these answers on 55 Feedback or in right wing blogs: 

And if you somehow come to the conclusion that the people you’re listening to on talk radio, FOX and elsewhere are being just a tad disingenuous, then maybe you won’t be one of the totally ignorant when Pew comes calling.  The truth is that President Obama is not a Muslim, but if he was, it wouldn’t really matter because this is a secular state and that is correctly the way we expect our leaders to lead. 


The Quest for Cool…

Posted in Uncategorized on August 16, 2010 by Jim Rosenberg

Instead of putting together a long entry on economic development and the importance of being open to diversity and new ideas, I think I’ll refer you to a couple of stories in today’s Wausau Daily Herald.  The links have enough of the titles in them to let you know what you’ll be reading about: 


Being successful isn’t all about bricks and mortar.  A lot of it is about attitude.  Believe it or not, there was a time when a lot of the signage that you see in downtown Wausau and all of the tables, chairs and umbrellas on the sidewalks were against the law.  It must have seemed like a good idea at the time and it was very uncool.

While cool might be hard for some people to define, a lot of people know it when they see and experience it.  (I’ve found State Street in Madison to be pretty cool and that’s the reason for the picture.  It’s not all about new things, but also about old things and traditions that are kept alive, improved and preserved.)  Now let’s talk about “uncool.”  UNCOOL is telling people strolling between shops downtown twice a year for Exhibitour that because you can’t wrap your head around carrying a glass of wine outside, you’re going to ban it — even though there’s never been a problem. 


Um, not exactly…

Posted in Uncategorized on August 8, 2010 by Jim Rosenberg

“Who is this that darkens counsel by words without knowledge?” Job 38:2

The folks raising $1 million to put a nice finish on the 400 block in downtown Wausau are closing in on their goal.  The project is going to happen and that’s a good thing.  It will be a legacy from the people of our community today to the people of tomorrow.  There were some heavy lifters involved and others who made small donations to advance the vision.  I’m grateful for all of them.  It wasn’t necessarily the most fair way to do things, but it certainly knocked down the biggest objection to the project. 

I always enjoy a good debate because everyone is entitled to their own opinion.  What they’re not entitled to is their own facts.  Here’s a discussion on the WSAU Radio news blog: 

First, the fountain won’t look anything like the picture in the blog.   As you can read in the comments, one of the participants states that the photo was lifted from “Fun Outdoor Living” and the blog writer admits he doesn’t know what the fountain will look like in the course of the discussion.  Just in case the photo magically changes or disappears at some point, here’s what they’re talking about in the orginal post:

What’s actually being planned is a flush-to-the-ground fountain that is more like the one that I’m showing you here.  Far be it from me to suggest that if you’ve been reporting the news for years and you want to comment about it, you might want to have some understanding of what you’re talking about.  But it doesn’t seem like a lot to expect, at this late date.

So when you want to use the space for something like an event on the square, it’s all pretty simple.  You turn the fountain off. 

The blog writer also presumes to speak for the majority, who don’t want the project.  The fountain should be eliminated (in honor of all the people who are against it, I guess.)  Well, the writer doesn’t speak for the majority.  He speaks for himself.  The money for the fountain arises from a gift made specifically for that purpose. 

And then there’s discussion that follows, in which a regular fantastic claimer makes another fantastic claim: that the city has pumped more than $200 million into the downtown.  Well, the entire property tax levy for city purposes over the last decade isn’t much more than $200 million in total.  The share of city tax dollars going to debt service is lower today than it was 10 years ago.  Around $100 million of development has occurred downtown in that time, but here’s a really important fact: most of it was private money, not taxpayer dollars.  And much of that development occurred as a direct or indirect result of a parking ramp project that the comment writer decries as some kind of waste of money.  

In short, the discussion, at times, is as distorted as the image of the fountain that leads it off.  

These are tough times.  But the revitalization that has already occurred in Wausau puts our community in a far better position to capture new opportunities going forward, as elusive as they are at the present time.  We didn’t squander the good times. 

For now, I’m very grateful to the private sector in this community.  They’ve put up the great majority of the money for the 400 block project — fountain and all — just like they’ve put up the majority of the money for the tremendous improvements downtown and elsewhere in our community.