15 October, 2012

Does Create WV Really Think They Can Privatize Culture Change And Innovation?

"...but we might be doing all of this just for our kids."

That quote from Jeff James of Create WV are the words with which reporter Bill Lynch of the Charleston Gazette chose to close his recent story about the upcoming Create WV conference.

Bill Lynch is a good reporter but I think he buried the lead.

If the goal of Jeff James and Create WV is to "help West Virginians participate more in the Innovation Economy which thrives on a creative class made up of artists, musicians, technology workers and entrepreneurs" as the article says, we need to start with understanding why our children have left West Virginia and why they continue to leave and how to make West Virginia the kind of place where the creative class wants to buy a house, start a business, invent something and raise a family. It is my contention that until we have that conversation we cannot change the culture that makes West Virginia repel rather than attract the creative class.

As long as West Virginia continues to elect city council members, mayors, state representatives, state senators, governors and other office holders who watched their own children leave the state and didn't try to understand why they left, we will continue to be a state that loses its talent to geographies with a culture that is inviting to the creative class.

Teenagers, twentysomethings and thirtysomethings know and understand why their creative contemporaries leave West Virginia. We need to ask them to explain it to us. Current office holders don’t. Study after study shows that creatives flee monochrome, parochial, insular and misoneist environments for more diverse and stimulating environments. Creatives want to live in places with artsy, independent film theaters and the kinds of “third spaces/third places” where they might engage with other outside-the-box thinkers. Young creatives who might invent something want raise their families in stimulating places. Young creatives tire of trying to explain “the culture thing” to city council members, mayors and other elected officials who think economic development is all about luring companies here with tax breaks or “selling” West Virginia’s natural beauty. Titular leaders who don’t understand why young creatives leave can’t turn on the magnet that makes them stay.

James is right when he says that "most people in the state look toward established businesses, like the mining industry or state government" rather than entrepreneurship or innovation but let us not pretend that the culture change we need can come from the private sector alone. 

If the current elected leaders will not start the conversation about why our kids leave and why they won't be here to benefit from changes Create WV wants to bring then we need to elect people whose own kids haven't left yet, people who will ask their kids how they would change the state to make it the kind of place in which they would like to raise a family, start a business or invent something. Private industry cannot overhaul the culture of West Virginia without the help of government. Until we are electing office holders who want to change the culture of our state, conferences aimed at budding entrepreneurs will be little more than networking events where the same people who have been swapping business cards for 5 years do it yet again.

Yes, Mr. James, what we do we do for our kids but the question is, without the culture change we need to keep them in West Virginia, will our kids be here to benefit from the changes we seek to make? You said in your Gazette interview that in its first 4 years Create Wv sought to engage leaders but now you wish to focus "on the individual level with people who want to be entrepreneurs". Does that mean it's OK with you if elected leaders don't show up for the conference or if elected leaders don't understand why our future leaves the state when they graduate from college? Do you really think West Virginia can privatize the change we need? I know it's fashionable to pretend that we don't need government and that government doesn't create jobs or anything else  but the truth is that government still controls most of the institutions and programs and most of the money and must be part of the solution to West Virginia's brain drain.

07 October, 2012

Why WVPBS' Recent Joe Bonamassa Guitar-A-Palooza Was A Fundraising Failure

WVPBS volunteer, Dan Ringer, admitted on-air during the recent WVPBS fundraising drive that viewer response to the Joe Bonamassa show was disappointing. I know why: An excess of guitar does not compensate for a dearth of good songs nor can instrumental virtuosity turn weak material into strong material.

As much as I admire Joe Bonamassa's talent - he's a fine blues guitar player - his recent PBS show was simply too much guitar and not enough songwriting. I think I heard the same lengthy guitar solo in 4 different songs.

A similar phenomenon took place at the Clay Center recently when Pat Benatar and her guitar-slinging husband, Neal Giraldo, took the stage in Charleston. I'm told by people who were there that an excess of guitar caused audience members to chant "More Pat, less guitar."

Like Bonamassa, Neal Giraldo is a fine guitar player but ticket buyers didn't go to the concert to hear guitar solos, they went there to hear memorable rock songs sung as only Pat Benatar can sing them.

During Dan Ringer's on-air lament that viewers didn't seem to like the Bonamassa concert, he commented that program directors draw conclusions and make future programming choices based on how viewers respond to the programs featured during these membership drives. I just hope program directors draw the right conclusions.

For example, if program directors draw the conclusion that viewers don't like guitars, they'd be wrong. Americans love guitars. The guitar is the most played instrument in America.

And if program directors draw the conclusion that viewers don't like blues-rock, they'd be wrong again. Because of America's appetite for blues-rock there are thousands of blues-rock artists making a good living playing blues-rock music.

Here's the conclusion I hope WVPBS program directors will draw from the failure of the Joe Bonamassa concert during their recent pledge-a-palooza: An abundance of musicianship cannot compensate for an insufficiency of good songwriting.

In future pledge-a-paloozas, give us great songs as well as great performers.

And while I'm on the subject, let me make another point about WVPBS musical programming: Putting on shows that feature a whole hour of O.A.R or Death Cab For Cutie is risky because viewers who don't like the first song tune out for the rest of the hour.

Rumor has it that Liz Phair is planning a "Chickapalooza" music festival featuring a variety of the best female singer-songwriters. Broadcast Liz Phair's Chickapalooza during a future pledge-a-thon and you'll hold more viewers because viewers who can't commit to a whole hour of Radiohead or Arcade Fire will patiently wait through a few songs by an artist they don't know or like to get to an artist they like.

While Higginbotham At Large reads all submitted comments, under no circumstances will Higginbotham At Large PUBLISH anonymous or pseudonymous comments. No Ring of Gyges for you. No exceptions.

03 October, 2012

Saint Albans Ward 4 Neighborhood Crime Watch Meets The First Tuesday of Each Month, 6:30PM, Crossings Church, 2031 Harrison Ave.

St. Albans Ward 4 city council member, Cheryl Thomas, asked me to help publicize Ward 4's neighborhood crime watch. The information I'm providing here is not on the City Website - even though it should be - so please save it for future reference.

Ward 4 Neighborhood Crime Watch meets on the first Tuesday of each month, 6:30PM, at Crossings Church, 2031 Harrison Ave.

The Ward 4 Neighborhood  Watch Coordinator is Brian Kloosterman, (304)881-2270. Brian's email address is promariner65@yahoo.com.

Ward 4's city council member is Cheryl Thomas. Cheryl's phone number is (304) 727-8429. Cheryl's email address is Cheryl.Thomas25177@yahoo.com.

The police contact for Ward 4 is Officer Kenny Davis. Officer Davis' phone number is (304) 543-7257.
Officer Davis' email address is kdavis@saintalbanspolice.com.

Ward 4 residents with internet access are strongly encouraged to join the Saint Albans Neighborhood Crime Watch on Facebook.

Ward 4 also has its own group on NextDoor.com. When you register for your NextDoor.com account and the website has verified your address, you will automatically be added to the Ward 4 group.

If you see a crime taking place, dial 911.

If you have information about suspicious activity in your neighborhood report it to the SAPD at (304) 727-2251.

The next meeting of the Saint Albans Ward 4 Neighborhood Crime Watch is Tuesday 6 November, 2012, 6:30PM at Crossings Church, 2031 Harrison Ave, across from Alban Elementary School.

02 October, 2012

St. Albans Peoples Party In Need Of A Ward 2 Council Rep For The Second Time In Under 2 Years

A few weeks ago St. Albans City Councilman, JD Adkins resigned from his Ward 2 seat because he has moved out of his ward. It was less than 2 years ago when Ward 2 lost their previous council rep, Xris Hess, for the same reason. Hess and Adkins were members of the St. Albans Peoples Party so at last night's (1 October 2012) council meeting Mayor Dick Callaway asked the St. Albans Peoples Party to submit three candidates for the empty seat. City Council will then vote to install one of those three candidates to fill Adkins' unexpired term.

After a September council meeting Adkins told me "some people don't like change". I was dying to know what he meant but he seemed in a hurry to get to his car so I didn't press him. Here's what's interesting about that parting remark: Adkins doesn't know me from Adam. When he made his comment about some people not liking change, he had no idea to whom he was saying it which gave me the impression he has something on his mind that he'd like to talk about. Perhaps he read my 12 April 2011 post in which I called St. Albans a city a "Callagarchy" where apathy is always on the ballot. 

 Perhaps the reporter who covers St. Albans City Council for the Charleston Gazette, Kristin Ledford, will try to get him on the record. 

In other St. Albans City Council news, there will be a public hearing at 7:15 October 15 at which stakeholders can comment on the management-led buyout of Suddenlink and how this sale might affect St. Albans' Suddenlink TV, internet and phone customers.

I have a comment: Since the West Virginia Public Service Commission does not have oversight of cable TV providers, the City of St. Albans and other affected cities should insist that Suddenlink seat a community action panel where Suddenlink customers can interact on a regular basis with Suddenlink management.

Here is the link to my 12 April 2011 post:: http://higginbothamatlarge.blogspot.com/2011/04/new-words-for-old-problems-in-st-albans.html
Higginbotham At Large publishes no pseudonymous or anonymous comments. Comments submitted without proper identification will be read but not published.