Bridgeport, Bridgeport Connecticut, Kalamazoo discussed on The Tightrope with Dan Smolen


Some of the challenges is the city continues to face for it to again be a thriving and scaling business and residential community. First up we hear from Doug Ross and Morley winning a grad from an interview recorded over skype in September twenty eighteen. Now let's talk about bridgeport because you guys write about bridgeport in your book. What's happening there? That gives you pause for hope but we talked about in the book is this formation of a millennial generation Shen of civic engagement civic leadership. It's out here in San Bernardino California generation. Now it's generation now in Bridgeport Connecticut as well. The two cities couldn't be more different in terms of the external environment but in both cases and we expected many more in the future. Sure you're going to see these kinds of millennial driven civic renewables and the way they're going to do that renewal they even as challenging as it. It might be in. Bridgeport is not by using the old formula. Well let's go ask the federal government to give us money because we don't have any resources it's instead going to say okay. Hey let's start with the resources we have. Why do we live here? What do we like about living here? What are the assets of the place? We're in why do our friends and colleagues in generational interational peers What they do for entertainment and employment? What are they WANNA do? What would they like sea change? How can we create a governing structure? That's it's focused here and not elsewhere or up and therefore they get very civically engaged they get involved in. WHO's on the city console? Who's on the School Board House? The the police department functioning. What are we doing to to you know? Fix The roads and fix our schools. It's all local stuff and by saying saying we can do it ourselves that we don't need helped me off side we will find the resources and the capacity for it here. They begin to transform this old twentieth century. Hope of a place that they inhabit into one that is adapted to twenty first century circumstances. And I'd Dad if you look at a number of the cities that have come back. That's primarily how they've done it sometimes. Federal Resources have been involved. But it's a much more honest answer to a region that has become economically obsolete. Then to somehow promise will rescue from Washington. Nobody really gets. It's rescued from Washington. It's about saying as morally said if we WANNA stay here if we value living here we're going to have to figure out a new path forward. It's been hard for people to say politically because particularly you're running for Congress you want to say I will fix it from there but if you really want to change the community in which you live. We're finding that taking it up yourself as the most promising way forward and you live that every day in Detroit right doug you see down the differences Susan the city that you've lived in all your life. I absolutely well. I hope bridgeport can catch up with Detroit in that respect you know one problem. That Connecticut Has Connecticut is so bifurcated between haves and have nots and bridgeport as a have not place with a very expensive what they call a mill rate. It's the the local tax rate which is very expensive in the cities. And I guess my question is how would a renaissance work in a place like bridgeport. That is so expensive to live in from the standpoint of a homeowner or a city dweller has to pay taxes. Do you have any thoughts on that. Well we I'll go back to the example that Doug gave earlier of a local idea that spread across the country. The reason the Kalamazoo Michigan Civic leadership decided to make college tuition free for anybody who attended Kalamazoo. Public schools was to make that promise the heart of an economic development strategy. The city government as places like bridgeport would do came to those who might influence and have the money to influence influence the outcome of a millage election of you call it a mill rate. They wanted to raise the taxes because they were facing a civic a Governmental Decline in revenues people are abandoning the school district. They weren't getting the money they used to get from the state for each person role because there are fewer you were people enrolled so they were basically downward spiral of central Industri- industries of Kalamazoo having left which were originally a drug companies. And so they came to them and they said you know. Actually that won't work if your solution is to raise taxes. You're only going to celebrate the problem. People will further flee. Leave the city. 'CAUSE it'll be too expensive Even more expensive rather and it'll have even less services and less of a school district. Why don't we find something that would attract people the city instead? And so they came with this up with this idea and they put their money. Where their mouth is these folks funded the I promise program in America on a personal basis just as a philanthropic ventures? It's not the way it's done most of the time now but they basically said anybody who who attends Kalamazoo. Public schools can go to any college in Michigan Intuition. Free and if you go for all twelve years we'll be in fact tuition free and of course what happened was housing started to be built in Kalamazoo. People started coming back to live. There used to drive down the streets and see For Sale sign that said Kalamazoo Promise entitled in which meant that you could could get. You could get the college your kid's college tuition free if you're willing to come in and pay the existing taxes. It's that kind of innovative. Social Innovation Thinking. That's it's going to be required. It didn't depend upon any national resource whatsoever even though you know. There's a dozen states with free college tuition now and over two hundred communities and it's a hot topic even in Connecticut where there's been bills introduced to try and create free college tuition but the idea was. Let's figure out something that would attract people instead of figuring out a new way to pay for what is let's create something new. Now we hear Natalie prices take on bridgeport and it's localism efforts. It's in an excerpt from a full interview. which will stream on the tight rope in? March twenty twenty. We spoke to Natalie from her office via Skype in November Twenty nineteen nineteen. So I get nervous because I understand that we are working with a Lotta case to twelve initiative but I know that there's an immediate generation that needs help now and if we decided to look at this as a whole United States thing we are in a global race for innovation nations and we do not prepare. We can't wait for kids to Graduate High School and College. We need that work now and and it's crate. 'cause I'm I'm really looking at like the new deal and when it was written and what a time it was written it was written during a crisis during the early twentieth century entry. Right we were going to the Great Depression. The economy was at a halt so we needed to do something to to pump the economy. Get it going to get so we did. The new deal came out in phases. The first phase was allowed people to allow but it will dollars they come into communities like bridgeport and fun certain project project and people were able to get work off of that right and if you were skilled worker you got paid a dollar twenty and if you were unscaled to get fifty cents. People came from All over the country to push poor to be able to get work just because of bad news deal. Right the new deal funded trainings. It even funding some housing initiatives so that people can have owning property to drive taxes in certain areas. We need a better deal ever need a new way. We need to do in need a better deal so you talk about bridgeport and the new deal so give you some historical perspective and the listeners listeners. Probably know by now because I talk about it a lot. I'm from New Haven Twenty Miles East up by ninety five from bridgeport so throughout throughout the nineteen hundreds the twentieth century bridgeport was a major manufacturing center. The new deal well actually poured a lot of money into southern Connecticut and in particular places like bridgeport. So that when World War Two broke out there was such a need for talent for people to work in Bridgeport that immigrants came from Puerto Rico and people from the deep south migrated up up to Connecticut to take on these jobs. Well we fast forward from the nineteen forty s to late nineteen sixty s early nineteen seventies and whole blocks of bridgeport. Start shuttering down jobs. Go Away unemployment. goes up that old thing that built bridgeport suddenly really isn't working anymore and the need for Washington to fund. Enterprise wasn't working and places like bridgeport doc which were built to drive. Industry suddenly foundered. So you're in a laboratory right now. Twenty Nineteen Bridgeport bridgeport. Trying to come back and talk about a new kind of new deal. Bridgeport spin illustrated as a place. Where a new kind of new deal called? localism is happening whereby the city is realizing that it needs to bootstrap a little and create innovation from within and not necessarily from Washington. You've had a front row seat to this and I'm wondering if you can describe. How bridgeport is faring? Through all of that so I think that in terms of business and bridge poor. And what's happening. I think that business doesn't drive if there's not enough traffic right so we have a downtown but we don't have enough traffic in the downtown right. There's not a balance. It's not really a good balance of retail and in restaurants. We are just starting to get people moving down here but we would need a lot more people down here to see that bump and Chatfield that we need. No I call it like the New York City few or even the new haven feel at that right but it has to be be that but I also so think that there's there's infrastructure issues that prevent some of that right so we have sidewalks that Kinda be repaired Alley we need better lighting in certain areas not that it's not being worked on but there could be areas improvement. We can open up a business but if there's no when there are two to patronize the business and that's what we're seeing right now I don't know the state of where the direction of bridgeport is going. As a whole I know when Natalie is doing her part to be able to move some initiatives forward but as much as I respect the idea India of localism I do believe that localism work also when leadership is instinct right so and our leadership is just. It's not instinct in and this is what we were going to be dealing with and so that just makes me as an entrepreneur who has put a lot outta skin in the game makes me say okay so all this work I've put into this. How do I still get the benefit out of it and to me I just they committed inconsistent right? That's never fails me. That has never failed me. As long as I am committed inconsistent and committed doesn't mean that I'm giving my office or something committed means means that I'm going to start this project. I'll make sure it has the right support that it needs to be able to look in the way that it needs to work to be effective but in the meanwhile other opportunities opportunities that may not be related said. I'm interested and I think that's the way sometimes that we have to seek. Well you mentioned new haven so the similarities similiarities between new haven and bridgeport is both cities used to have big downtown malls where people congregated. Both cities no longer have malls. The difference is is that in new haven you at Yale University pumping dollars into the city's economy through people and people were there and they want a good place to dine out or buy something interesting..

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