On Vicus::

the joys and perils of living in an ever-evolving, information-hyper world.

For Levon and Adam: The Pioneers

In the past three weeks, music has lost two pioneers and innovators of their craft. First, Levon Helm—the iconic drummer of The Band—passed away at 71 from a battle with throat cancer. Yesterday, the world lost another once-in-a-generation talent in one-third of The Beastie Boys—Adam Yauch, aka MCA, at 47. Obviously I know neither of these men personally. But, like millions of others, felt a deep connection to each of them through their music, lyrics, rhythms, and rhymes. In their purest forms, each of these men embodied what myself and so many others love about music—when it takes creative risks.

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Chairman John Mica and the terrible, horrible, no good, very bad transportation bill

This isn’t meant to be a paraody on Judith Viorst’s wonderful book that surely most of you have read. But when did John Mica, chairman of the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee, wake up with a wad of gum in his hair? ANSWER: January 31st, 2012! On the 31st, Mica released his Surface Transportation Reauthorization bill which purportedly “represents a milestone and great step forward in building America’s infrastructure.” Sure, if you’d like to roll back decades of Federal funding mandates for infrastructure, unleash devastating cuts to public transit, encourage “roads only” policy, and leave future funding to likely bitter appropriations battles. The bill also includes opening much of America’s coastal waters to oil and gas drilling under the guise of raising revenue to help make up for shortfalls in transportation financing.

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What’s everyone else saying about this? Nothing good.

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What the Federal Government Can Learn From Metros

Bruce Katz and Judith Rodin conclude with a powerful, albeit short, piece on what’s fundamentally missing from Federal economic development policy. What’s clear is that the top down approach of yesteryear simply does not work. Federal policies need to better understand how organic, community driven development is created at the policy level. Both Katz and Rodin offer a few examples of Federal programs that are trying to do just that.

The post-recession rallying cry to the federal government may be: Do less, better. And, in a period marred by month-to-month extensions of critical federal programs and powers, that may be the most profound consequence of them all.

We certainly will be hearing more of this larger narrative as the Brookings-Rockefeller  program continues into 2012.

Friday evening musical interlude.

Dire Straits - Sultans Of Swing (Alchemy Live) (via DireStraitsVEVO)

From Rolling Stone’s 100 Greatest Guitarists of All Time: One key to Knopfler’s signature style: playing without a pick. “Playing with your fingers,” he has said, “has something to do with immediacy and soul.”

Beauty in development. Fall sunset on the Ohio River in Point Pleasant, WV.

Beauty in development. Fall sunset on the Ohio River in Point Pleasant, WV.

"The Next Metro Economy"

All week Atlantic Cities’ project has pushed out some great work from Bruce Katz (Brookings) and Judith Rodin (Rockefeller Foundation) in "The Next Metro Economy". “The Next Metro Economy” is a special report from the Brookings-Rockefeller Project on State and Metropolitan Innovation looking at state, local, and regional efforts to revitalize our stagnant economy.

Today’s piece on New York and Governor Andrew Cuomo’s program to create competition among regions of NY for development projects is an excellent read. Here’s a brief overview of the competition:

These councils were given just over three months to create strategic plans that articulated a vision for regional economic development, outlined the implementation process, identified available resources, and established performance metrics. These strategic plans were then judged by a panel of experts, who selected the winning plans and determined how much state funding each region would receive.

In fact, my home geographic locale (North Country) was chosen as one of the four winners.

Four regions won the title “best plan” in the competition, which came with a state investment of just over $100 million each… North Country included an emphasis on high-tech and traditional manufacturing and green energy production as well as investments in area railways, broadband access and medical research.

You can read their full proposal here. For a place that has been long propped up by Fort Drum, state prisons, and a small amount of industry that has slowly moved out over the years, this is certainly a big win for the North Country and its constituents.