Bob Geary, resident of District D, delivered the following remarks at the January 4, 2022 Raleigh City Council meeting:
Good evening, Mayor and Council.
“The Rise of the Creative Class” is a book I know that most of you, or maybe all of you, are familiar with.
Richard Florida wrote it back in 2002 – 20 years ago now – and it made him famous for his insights about cities and the way that creative people–whether scientists or artists, engineers or any profession, really–that creative people were driving economic growth in the information age.
He said cities, if they nurtured creativity and invention, would emerge as centers of growth in the 21 st century, reversing the decline that characterized American cities for so many years before.
Some of us in Raleigh embraced Florida’s thesis, and we envisioned Raleigh, and the Triangle, as the “Creative Hub of the South.” You may remember, that’s how Sparkcon got started, to celebrate and “spark” Raleigh’s creative juices.
Today, Raleigh can legitimately claim to be the South’s creative hub in many fields. Our economy is booming. Innovation is flourishing all around us.
There is one field, however, where Raleigh’s creativity is lagging. Sadly, that area is city government. Specifically, it’s in our failure to manage the growth and development we’re experiencing.
The challenge for you in city government is to shape that development so it serves, not just the developers, and not just their bankers, but everyone in the community.
It is a creative challenge. Can we grow and develop without choking on automobile traffic? Without flooding from stormwater runoff? Can we make room in our growing city for people of modest means as well as for the wealthy?
We want to grow. We want development. But we also want our city officials to engage with developers and with community leaders, to use creativity and the power you hold over rezoning approvals, to negotiate creative projects that make Raleigh better for everyone.
Instead, however, we see our City Council sit back, even throw up your hands, and let developers build whatever they want wherever they want, regardless of the traffic impacts, regardless of the flooding that results, regardless of the fact that there is no room in the luxury high-rise developments for low-income folks who are literally being pushed out of our town.
The tools to do better do exist. Creative leaders would use them to obtain community benefits where development occurs, and push back against developers who insist that all the benefits, all the profits, belong to them.
Yes, they invest the money, or someone else’s money. But the place they’re profiting from is our city, and we should be sharing in their bounty.
Developers should be expected to offer benefits to us the same as we offer our city to them.
We should not be saddled with all the downside impacts of what they do, while they collect all the profits. That’s not the way a creative city works, and it’s not how cities sustain growth into the future.