From Paducah to Saginaw, Cities Embrace Arts as Economic Engine; Are Suburbs Dead?

August 9, 2013 | In their crusade to attract jobs, goose economic development while transforming the city into a destination city,...


August 9, 2013 |

In their crusade to attract jobs, goose economic development while transforming the city into a destination city, the Elk Grove City Council may want to take a look at two other cities who are using arts not only for revitalizing efforts, but as a crime deterrent and get a grasp how suburbs are now home to more impoverished people than inner-cities.

On NPR's Morning Edition program today there was a report on the western Kentucky city of Paducah efforts to redevelop their struggling formerly blighted Lowertown area. The effort, which started over 10 years ago has resulted in a thriving art colony know as the Lowertown Arts District that has received mostly positive reviews from several out-of-town visitors, one of which is from Citrus Heights. (This same site also list two attractions for Elk Grove - Surf Extreme and Healthy Sole Reflexology.) 

Further north, the severely blighted and troubled city of Saginaw, Mich. has stumbled into a sort of art movement that has earned across-the-board praise from visitors to the police officers. As reported yesterday on PRI's Here and Now program, local artist has Eric Schantz has used the city's vast empty spaces to create murals that have become a destination of sorts.  

While the challenges and issues facing Elk Grove are quite different from both Paducah and Saginaw, there are take away lessons on support and development of the arts for the Elk Grove City Council - arts matter! Not only can they be used as a potential crime deterrent in the case of Saginaw, they can be used to transform Elk Grove into a true destination city at a cost likely to be lower to taxpayers than developing a soccer stadium for some out-of-town millionaire and former politician.   

Conversely, we hope the city council is also keeping pace on changing demographic trends and how members of the so-called millennial generation view the suburbs. One book recently published on the subject has gained attention. 

The her book, The End of the Suburbs: Where the American Dream Is Moving, author Leigh Gallagher  argues the suburb as we once knew is gone and there is a need to evolve and acknowledge a new set of realities (read excerpt here). The realities range from people across the age spectrum who desire to live and work in walkable communities to dead malls.  

Coincidentally there is also a growing body of evidence showing that teenagers for a variety or reasons are not as car crazy as their parents. This report out of Modesto shows that the city immortalized in American Graffiti that kids there are not like their predecessors portrayed in that iconic movie.

Cars have been at the heart of the growth of the suburb in the post World War II era but as people show less interest in driving, what implications does this have for where today's youth will live and what they will expect from public transit?    

In the next few years the Elk Grove City Council will make some crucial decisions on how the city should develop. As we have seen, at least one council member has strongly advocated that economic development will follow rooftops.

Of course the other 800-pound gorilla in the room are campaign financiers. In Elk Grove that gorilla is the collective group of real estate developers and construction trade unions who are more than happy to fund the hat-in-hand Democratic and Republican city council members who in turn are more than happy to oblige their demands.    

Elk Grove is entering a crucial stage in its development and our city council will decide whether we become just another poverty-ridden suburb or a vibrant community embracing arts and the true needs of coming generations.


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3 comments

Sr. Simone Campbell said...

Thank your for posting the link to the Economist story about poverty in the suburbs.

All we have to do to see Elk Grove's growing poverty is the demand of services at the Elk Grove Food Bank. According to several accounts, the food bank has seen an increase in demand for food and services in each of the last several years.

Meanwhile, our city is "laser focused" on bringing jobs here by building a soccer stadium that will offer part-time benefit-less jobs; an ill-conceived aquatics center that will maybe provide more minimum wage jobs. Along this same vein they just can't build enough fast food outlets that provide yet more low wage jobs.

The direction the city council has led the city one is morally vacant and repugnant. They are all about helping the very rich on the backs of the people they are suppose to serve.

Sadly, in the race to the bottom, Elk Grove is "laser focused."

Maggie Smith said...

The Elk Grove City Council has continuing proven my quote as Violet, the Dowager Countess in Downton Abbey, very true, “It always happens when you give these little people power, it goes to their heads like strong drink.”

Anonymous said...

Elk Grove will be like the Titanic if they build the soccer stadium.

This is an amateur hour city run by a bunch of amateurs.

More fast food joints? More strip retail? More low income housing projects?

Elk Grove Thriving!

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