July 2010


Liberalism as a threat to American Midwestern cities.

One of my friends posted a Tweet pointing to a fascinating op-ed piece, Liberalism Threatens Evansville, by Audrey Andress at the Independence Times, a blog that is “your source for news in Evansville and the surrounding area.” For those of you unfamiliar with Evansville, it is in the southwestern corner of Indiana and is the state’s third largest city.

The piece makes the usual interesting claims about liberals and consultants and the people who bring them in: “Liberals believe our city needs to change and look to out-of-state experts from California, Wisconsin, Illinois, Canada and even Europe to study and recommend strategies for us to adopt.”

The funny thing is that I will agree that all too often cities and communities bring in consultants from the outside; consultants often bring cookie cutter solutions that are not really well shaped for the city and community in question.

However instead of trying to identify flaws in the solutions, and suggesting appropriate alternatives, it is the background of the consultants at issue. For example the author is concerned that one of the consultants attended Karl Marx University of Economic Sciences – except she didn’t: Rebecca Ryan attended the Budapest University of Economic Sciences. Karl Marx University of Economic Sciences was its old name.

I could have left a comment on any number of points, but this is what I decided to comment about on the blog—but my comment is awaiting moderation and since it runs counter to everything the blog is about, I’m not sure it will ever get posted. So I’m posting it below.

You’ll notice that I didn’t bother mentioning that the Budapest University of Economic Sciences has undergone yet another name change and is now the Corvinus University of Budapest.

tqe | Adam
Your comment is awaiting moderation.
Posted July 17, 2010 at 7:22 AM

I’m curious why you care that the Budapest University of Economic Sciences was once known as the Karl Marx University of Economic Sciences. Given that the name was changed by the Soviet/Communist rulers to become the Karl Marx University of Economic Sciences, I would think that the school’s renaming to the Budapest University of Economic Sciences in 1990, after the communists were thrown out, is a pretty clear rejection of the old regime.

I saw a picture of Rebecca Ryan and unless she’s aged remarkably well, I don’t think she attended the Budapest University of Economic Sciences while it was called the Karl Marx University of Economic Sciences.

As it happens I have visited both Portland, Oregon, and Evansville, Indiana, and honestly, I like Evansville for my friends, but if I had to choose between one of the two as a place to live, I would choose Portland: it has a decent public transportation system that means I don’t need to own a car (or if I do, I don’t have to drive everywhere); it has a vibrant night life; and it has multiple movie theaters that play not just main stream films but also art films–just to name three advantages that Portland, Oregon, has over Evansville.

Perhaps instead of dismissing what these speakers have to say out of hand perhaps you should consider their message and pick what you think would help improve Evansville.

For starters, I think that Evansville has torn down way too many buildings to put up parking lots. I walked around downtown Evansville hoping to find shops to explore, cafes to sit in, and see what people were like. What I found instead were blocks and blocks of parking lots — mostly empty parking lots. It gave off the impression that Evansville is a city mired in the economic doldrums. After making a similar walk around Portland I can only tell you that there was parking, but not as much of the surface area consisted solely of parking lots — there were plazas for people to sit in, lots of shops, lots of residential areas, and free public transit to help me get around once my arms were full of things that I had bought.

I didn’t buy anything in downtown Evansville.

9 comments to Liberalism as a threat to American Midwestern cities.

  • Well done! I posted the link for that story on Facebook and let me tell you, it’s starting to make the rounds. I’ll agree that cookie cutter solutions are bad – lord knows, the ideas taken from Paducah for our “Arts District” certainly haven’t panned out. However, I just don’t understand what seems to be a rant against change. Bike paths are a good thing — fat Americans (and yes, I’m one of them) should probably get out of their cars more. It might also help if we had some walkable, shopable neighborhoods downtown; bike racks on the buses; fewer chain restaurants and more local food providers (even our farmer’s market ships food in from miles and miles away).

    The most telling comment I’ve received? One of my more conservative friends who asked “When did liberal become a dirty word?” Really, when a conservative points this out, then you know we liberals are not paranoid.

  • As a liberal from the Midwest, this irks me no end. Something about the current state of urban design in the vast majority of Midwestern cities DOES NOT WORK. You just have to live in one of those places for a while to see it. And if you don’t, you’re an ostrich.

    There’s a quote I heard once that I will now butcher while trying to get the spirit across: There are two types of people that say they ‘love America.’ There are those who love it like a four-year-old loves Mommy – everything Mommy does is awesome and everyone Mommy doesn’t like is bad. And there are those whole love it like an adult, who wants it to grow and change and improve, to do things that will pay off in the long run and stop doing things that will damage it in the future.

    I think this dipshit is one of the former.

  • Ted

    The few times I’ve been to Evansville I found it to be difficult to drive in and most of its stores are cookie cutter chain stores with no character. I prefer a city such as Bloomington or even Terre Haute. I’ve never been outside of the midwest so I can’t comment on Portland but it sounds delightful. Ted

  • I’ve never been to Evansville (and most likely will never visit there) but any article that starts with that headline would indicate to me, that it will be greatly biased. Your reply is excellent.

  • Not all of Evansville residents are this conservative. There are some hidden gems in the city — the Penny Lane; the nice walkable Riverfront; the cool, old houses in the historic district. That said, anything “different” has a hard time making it here. For example, the funky wine/dessert bar is closing down, people are rude to bikers, etc.

    If only people could get out of their old skool mindset (downtown bad, suburbs good), I think this could be a nice river town. It won’t happen, though, because we *do* have a brain drain and because our local government appears to be captured by good ol’ boys. Sigh.

  • CN – Thanks!

    MT – I can’t help wonder why people think cars are the solution when there are so many forms of alternative transportation. I know how to drive but I rarely need to drive with my current life in Germany. I always need a car in the US.

    Sarah – your thought about Mommy versus Adult love is on target, a great metaphor. In some ways I wonder if that reflects Weimar as well–it’s loved by its people like a 4 year loves Mommy. Anything suggesting change is hated.

    Ted- I’m not a fan of big box stores and the parking lots generated by them. I would suggest a holiday in Portland. It has an amazing bookstore: Powell’s — it’s the largest new and used bookstore in America. One could spend days in there and never get bored.

    starman1695 – Thanks!

  • Audrey Andress

    Hi Adam!
    First I want to convey my sadness for the loss of your friend.
    I was a hospice nurse and it is heartbreaking.

    Regarding Rebecca Ryan, I wrote in the article that it was formerly known as Karl Marx university. It has been notorious for name changes and I doubt very seriously if the “teachings” changed much.

    Portland, Oregon- I have been there and I am all for the good things they have to offer. Powells is an awesome book store and so much more in that city with lots of character. Went to the Hawthorne District and had great fish and chips, the best vintage clothes shops, and of course, fun people watching;-)

    I love any city that has the arts and variety of things to do. I always try to support events that are coordinated and brought to a city to help it grow.

    example- when I lived in Wichita Falls Texas I was one of a few folks who got excited and went to the Independent Film Festival event- I loved going to the obscure movies and I could appreciate the work that went into bringing it to our texas city.
    Here in Eville, I took my son and fiance to last years Art, Jazz and Wine festival and that has been a success downtown.
    Henderson, Ky (close by) has a great Bluegrass festival—- I love it all!!

    I know what you mean about out downtown being a disappointment and I support developing into a city that would attract others to live here or visit.
    lots of potential!

    My point in the article was not intended to dismiss the consultants, their tactics or their objectives. In fact, I am fascinated with their creativity and ability to take their ideas and capitalize on their passions.

    My point was to bring to light that these consultants are selling more than ideas to improve our city~ By that I mean:
    ~ ~ Going green is paramount to all other issues
    ~ ~ The only way to attract talent is to is to score on the diversity index (look up Prof. Florida Urban Institute)
    ~ ~ We need to elect Democrats to ensure that these ideas are fully embraced or we are doomed

    Mr. MT- Liberalism became a dirty word (to me) when Obama and his administration came into power and I saw the relationship between liberalism and socialism. still learning…

    Sarah, I feel there as many ways to say “I love America” as there are number of people who love America, including those who don’t live here or who live here illegally.

    Ted, Starman and anyone else who comes to Indiana- Visit Newburgh! it is on Eville’s east side. very cute river town whose sister city is Newburgh England. businesses are growing and there is a historic district- neat place.

    Thanks for taking the time to read this-

    • Hi Audrey,

      Thank you for your thoughtful comment–I’ve read it and I would like to respond in long form but I have both work commitments and a guest in town, so my free time is limited.

      From a debate stand point, if your three main points were

      My point was to bring to light that these consultants are selling more than ideas to improve our city~ By that I mean:
      ~ ~ Going green is paramount to all other issues
      ~ ~ The only way to attract talent is to is to score on the diversity index (look up Prof. Florida Urban Institute)
      ~ ~ We need to elect Democrats to ensure that these ideas are fully embraced or we are doomed

      Then focusing on the educational background of Rebecca Ryan is a distraction.

      As for your three points, I can understand where you are coming from on these three points and with respect to going green — I think that cities should strive to be as green as possible, however it’s impossible for cities in the US to be completely green. Secondly, you accidentally imply that diversity is bad–Richard Florida actually states that the creative class values tolerance of diversity, for example that an individual member of the creative class might not be gay, but that they find comfort in knowing that the city has a gay bar. As for the third point I’m not convinced that that is the message, but we will have to agree to disagree on that point.

      It’s strange I am reminded of something my mother would do when we were on vacation–from when I was a kid. We would get into the motel and she would pull out the local phone book to see if there was a Jewish Temple or Synagogue, and if there was one she would say, “I could live here.” She’s not Jewish, but for her the presence of something for Jews meant that the community would tolerate her religious non-beliefs.