On October 11, Lansing is hosting its third annual Creative Placemaking Summit. I’m honored to be one of the presenters and will be sharing the stage with two of my favorite creative placemakers, Rebekah Kik and Danielle Lewinski. Our assignment is to tackle a tough topic: the cultural conflict between the anything-goes experimentation at the heart of the placemaking movement and the sometimes stifling, but usually well-intentioned bureaucracies of private and public landowners that often have to approve or enable placemaking projects. Put more simply, what happens when a wild & crazy idea runs into the “culture of no”?

Danielle, Rebekah and I have experienced this issue from many perspectives, so we hope to share our experiences with the Summit attendees and identify opportunities for empathy and problem-solving. But this is a tricky and evolving issue, so I’d love to hear from you about how you’ve addressed it. Email me or tweet at me with bright ideas. Better yet, join me at the Summit and we can discuss in person. Conference organizers have lined up an impressive group of leaders from around the country as presenters.

 

ashleyMarch is Arts Advocacy Month, and Creative Many Michigan is encouraging people to help “create the spark” for arts.  The organization is celebrating “the impact of arts and creativity in Michigan,” and highlighting the “critical importance of the arts, not only on individual lives, but on the quality of life, growth, and economic prosperity of our communities and the state as a whole.”

Over the last decade, the Michigan Municipal League has been working with our members to learn about, and adopt community placemaking strategies that improve the economic and social well-being of our state.  Recognizing that old tools and approaches for economic success are not as applicable in the 21st century, the League has been focusing on how places – specifically high quality, authentic places – drive prosperity.  In our research on placemaking, we identified eight assets of successful 21st Century communities, including strong arts/cultural amenities.

The arts help define a community’s sense of place, and enrich the quality of life for residents and visitors alike.  A healthy creative sector also attracts and retains residents and businesses, and produces significant economic benefits including jobs, a stronger tax base, downtown revitalization, and tourism (arts and culture tourism, in fact, generates more than the combined tourism revenue of golf, boating, hunting, hiking, biking, fishing & sporting events).

In 2014, the creative industries in Michigan put nearly 89,000 people to work in over ten thousand businesses – generating nearly $5 billion in wages in leading core industries such as advertising, architecture, design, film/media and broadcasting, and the publishing and printing industry (http://www.creativemany.org/research/2016-creative-industries-report/).  And research from Michigan State University found that those who receive formal or informal education in the arts – particularly those with lifelong participation – are more like to start a business. (http://ippsr.msu.edu/publications/ARArtSmarts.pdf). This is strong evidence that art and culture are important elements of thriving communities.

So at a time when funding for federal cultural agencies like the National Endowment for the Arts is under fire, and state and local budgets remain tight, we need to remember that public investment in the arts is one that pays important dividends to all of us, everyday.

If you’re interested in getting involved in Arts Advocacy Month, check out Creative Many Michigan’s website for ideas.

 

mlppOn October 10, the Michigan League for Public Policy hosted a half-day forum, Race, Poverty & Policy: Creating an Equitable Michigan. We were blown away by many of the speakers and resources so we wanted to share a few with our members:

  • What is racial justice? – Keynote speaker and Race Forward President and Executive Director Rinku Sen defines racial justice as the “systematic fair treatment of people of all races that results in equitable opportunities and outcomes for everyone.” She also gave some great pointers on how to talk about race by shifting the focus from an individual’s prejudice or intentions to the bigger question of what’s causing inequality and how are people impacted? Learn more from her presentation.
  • What’s the government’s role in achieving race & equity? – MLPP hosted an entire breakout session on this question and there’s still way more to talk about. The entire presentation was impactful, but we were most excited to share the work Ottawa County Administrator Al Vanderberg is doing in his community with Lakeshore Ethnic Diversity Alliance and the Government Alliance on Race & Equity. LEDA is leading an organizational system review of equity in Ottawa County’s HR policies and practices, as well as getting all 900 employees trained in cultural intelligence. View the session’s Powerpoint slides here and see Vanderberg’s portion towards the end.
  • Racial Equity Impact Assessment – Sen shared this important equity tool communities across the country are using to evaluate how government decisions and actions will impact racial and ethnic groups. For example, the Minnesota School Board requires an equity impact assessment to be performed before every policy and program is implemented. Similarly, the Oregon State Senate passed legislation in 2013 requiring the Criminal Justice Commission to issue a racial impact assessment when requested by a state legislator.

There’s so much more to say, and equity and inclusion is an area in which we should all be focusing our attention. Here at the League, we plan on bringing you more tools, speakers, discussion groups, and resources on this topic in the coming months and at future events. For now, check out our Review issue on equity from late 2015. Please also let us know what tools you’re looking for, topics you want help exploring, or discussions you want to host in your community. Feel free to comment below or email me directly at scraft@mml.org.

Calumet residents, supporters and business leaders participate in a successful visioning session in the village Monday.

Calumet residents, supporters and business leaders participate in a successful visioning session in the village Monday.

Two Upper Michigan communities are in the early planning stages of potential revitalization.

Scott MacInnes

Scott MacInnes

The Villages of Calumet and Baraga are each having public meetings this week as key first steps in forming new village master plans. The work is being supported by Michigan Municipal League Northern Michigan field consultant Scott MacInnes. Upward of 40 people attended a public visioning session in Calumet on Monday and Baraga’s event is tonight.

“I’ve been working closely with villages of Baraga and Calumet as both have relatively new management and no master plan or they haven’t had one in long long time,” said MacInnes, who is the former, long-time Houghton city manager. “We’re trying to get these communities to focus on what they want to be in the next 20 years. Both are losing population and need to turn their communities around.”

MacInnes was pleased with Monday’s turnout in Calumet and said people in both communities are excited about the visioning work, that started last fall with Michigan Technological University students conducting community surveys in both villages.

Calumet supporters share their ideas on ways to improve the Upper Peninsula community.

Calumet supporters share their ideas on ways to improve the Upper Peninsula community.

 

“We got a lot of good input from them,” MacInnes said of those attending Monday’s visioning session. “People are pretty excited about this planning.”

He said both communities are situated in the UP’s Keweenaw Peninsula near areas that are experiencing economic success, such as Houghton, Hancock and Copper Harbor. So it’s possible for Calumet and Baraga to also see a turnaround, but it starts with having a plan.

“There’s been nothing like this for quite a number of years and they’ve really been operating on a day-to-day basis. We got to figure out how to control the blight and start fixing up homes and encourage small businesses to move back in. Now hopefully we can turn this around.”

Calumet Village Administrator Rob Tarvis told the area’s Mining Gazette newspaper that he also was pleased with Monday’s event and said it will go a long way in improving the village for years to come.

The two meetings are being facilitated by Brad Neuman, educator with Michigan State University Extension, and he had attendees give comments at three stations – a map of assets in the village, a chart showing survey results of issues important to residents and a three-question survey asking residents, business owners and supporters for their visions for the village’s future. The questions were, “What are you really proud of about the community?”, What are you sorry or not so proud of about the community?”, and “Imagine you’ve come back to the community after 20 years away; What do you see and experience that has changed for the better?”

Matt Bach is director of media relations for the Michigan Municipal League. He can be reached at mbach@mml.org and (734) 669-6317.