Monday, June 22, 2009

Stop Waiting For It , DO IT

I read Miss Sekela's op-ed piece in the Sunday Herald Leader and wondered how these young people can come up with the ideas that they do.

She started out with the idea that Lexington has a serious problem with retaining young professionals. Is it really a serious situation? Are we losing the young people between 20-29 or 30-39? In sheer numbers, we are increasing and by percentage of total population they still comprise the largest of all age groups, so is this a serious problem?

Ms. Sekela then points out the main complaint of the these young professionals, the supposed lack of wanted amenities. Lexington is not a full bore, 24 hour city with something to do every hour of the day. For them to attract more young professionals, she says that we need to change our image. We need to update our traditional image, not do away with the tradition, just update it.

She claims that today's young professional is not that impressed with horses or the Wildcats, yet the still show up in force for the football, basketball and Keeneland meets. These are the young people who crowd the in restaurants and bar after work and weekends. They also get up and go to work every morning.

She is correct in that Lexington does need to broaden the focus and support the arts, but so far the monetary support still come primarily from the wealthy older patrons and not the young edgy plays and gallery showing of our young artists. Funding for the arts has been declining for several years as the older generation passes away and new sources need to be located. Will these young professionals step up to the plate? That remains to be seen.

Many people have said that things like Amtrak, Lextran and regional rail need to be self-supporting, yet the arts and humanities along with highways still take massive government support payments. Are they more necessary than the arts? If they cannot be supported without government help, are they really needed?

I cannot believe that "creative cities" like Dallas and Chapel hill have more government funding for the arts per capita than Lexington. Or that the governments of the cities have mandated the development of venues specifically for the young professionals there.
Lexington's downtown area must be developed to attract young adults, many of whom are interested in a thriving night life. Not only is there a deficit of live music venues in the Lexington area, but also an inadequate variety of entertainment options.
Here we see the meat of her argument. The downtown area. There is a very vocal contingent of young professionals who think that downtown is where its at. Many of these are newly married or couples without children and many are life partners(though they rarely stay that way for life), who like the downtown area for its traditional architecture and neighborhoods. These are the one who want the greater diversity downtown, and they are a small percentage of the whole. Those young professionals in the suburban neighborhoods(outside New Circle Rd) rarely get back downtown at night, if they even got there during the day. In reality, large numbers of working people never get downtown but once or twice a year. When they do it is for some special event.

Ms. Sekela cites a lack of venues for the diverse interests that she perceives to exist. This may be true, but these places operate on an economic principle of support thresholds. There have to be enough patrons to support the venues. If she and her peers believe that there is sufficient need for such places, then by all means , start one. The businesses that are currently thriving, both downtown and in the subdivisions, did not beat the people out there. The people followed the business.

So far the tone of Ms. Sekela's comments sound like the whine of children of entitlement, children who have been given most of what they have had in life. A phrase that I heard growing up, went something like this " the helping hand that you are looking for is at the end of your own arm".

If this is the real "creative class", then stop waiting for someone else to to something for you, get creative and build something for the rest of you. Stop waiting for it , DO IT.

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