I'll be the first to admit that I do not attend Hickory Alive. I have been up there a few times in recent years on Friday nights to meet people to eat at the Tap Room while Hickory Alive was going on and I wasn't paying full attention to the happenings on the Square, but I did see the crowd of people attending and yes some were unattended youth, but I have also seen this on a much grander scale during Octoberfest.
Now, don't believe that I am arguing for public youth drunkedness, because if you would want to juxtapose me into that position, then you would be very wrong. It is just that I am 44 years old and I am not all things "Senior" like most of the people in this community. That does not mean that I dislike the older generation. It means that I don't center my life around them and I think we need to be more balanced in how we treat the different generations and generational interests of this community. I believe that doing otherwise is socially and economically harmful.
What I am stating is that young people should be given the same benefit of the doubt that older citizens are given. If they break the law, then they should be punished, but they should not be looked at as guilty before hand. Are we supposed to look at our youth as terrorists? Could we not hold the same wary eye towards any citizen that walks on the streets of Hickory?
The one lady during this show stated that they wouldn't allow her to turn her car and that she was scared. If they were just crossing the street, then they do have the right of way. If they physically stopped her from turning her car that is wrong and yes it is the police's responsibility to stop that behavior. It is up to parents to teach right and wrong, but none of us can ever guarantee 100% that the youth is going to always do what they are supposed to do. If that is the onus then we are all screwed. One thing that I know is that you do have to walk in some way to the event. Should these kids be allowed to walk to a Downtown event? Should they be allowed to walk on the streets of Hickory without adult supervision? Have we really come to that?
When I was a kid my mother used to work downtown. I would walk around by myself down there. I used to go to the Carolina Theater and watch movies with my friends unsupervised. I used to walk through my on Union Square and in my neighborhood with my friends ... unsupervised. You may say that this world has changed, and in ways it has, but what has changed more is people's mindset -- the willingness to use fear to control people.
As part of the Future Economy Council our group has studied the issue of Vibrant Downtowns and we have also studied the mass exodus of young people in this community. This is having a deleterious effect on the future prospects of this community. This is lost on the Mayor, the city council, and many of the older citizens in our community. They argue that they want people from every age group in our community, but when has he gone to bat for the young people of this community? Actions speak louder than words. Tearing up swimming pools speaks volumes! I will argue that Hickory is very hostile towards young people, especially teens and twenty-somethings. This youth is where energy comes from and we are losing it folks. We are losing it.
Below is a discussion that we have had related to the issue of vibrant Downtowns. In an article from Wired magazine entitled The Economic Rebound: It Isn’t What You Think . Here is a quote from the article:
“As you might expect, smart jobs tend to cluster in cities—but not always the cities you’d imagine. The same forces of urban renewal that relaunched New York and Boston and San Francisco as bastions of livability during the 1990s have now taken hold in smaller municipalities. Even former industrial cities, without a big college or university, are finding that revived downtowns can help keep their most creative young people from moving away.”
In our discussion, I addressed the fact that certain members of the city council want to put an end to alcohol sales on Union Square - no mas Hickory Alive, Hickory Hops, or Octoberfest as we know them today. I agree that a vibrant Downtown is important. I told the group that I am ready to throw the towel in on Hickory. We're up to the 8 count and I am worried about the punch-drunk fighter getting killed (metaphorically speaking of course), because I don't see anyone stepping up to the plate to give an alternative viewpoint to the status quo, "business as usual,""All of one mindset crowd." Hickory's Downtown focuses on Rich Housewives as owners and patrons of businesses. That niche is too small to do what the Wired Magazine article and my fellow FEC members are promoting.
One of my fellow members of the FEC stated that the challenge is striking a balance with the needs of older residents as well. Downtown organizations and cities can play a critical role in facilitating discussions with residents (both young and older) and existing businesses around the appropriate mix of residential units vs. late night establishments; noise;cleanliness; parking; events; and the arts which are a critical component of a vibrant downtown.
To this I responded: that the Oldsters aren't going to have to worry (and they won't) about striking a balance. If we look at the census numbers, there won't be enough people under 45 to make a difference in the governance decision making process in another decade (probably sooner). Most of those who will be of the younger demographic will be Latinos willing to do the Fast Food/Lawn service/House Cleaning jobs on the cheap for the Seniors on fixed incomes.
The bottom line is that let's say you get 55 to 65 year olds to move in here. How much time does that buy us? When they move into the assisted living center or retirement village at age 80 who is going to buy their house? The fast food workers? The Lawn guy? The Cleaning lady? No one has answered that question yet. I have been waiting two years to hear the answer to that one.
Harry Hipps stated: How's this for irony. Hickory City Council has gone out of their way to kill nightclubs and establishments for the younger folk we are talking about here. The reasons always cited are alcohol use and noise. Well Hickory is certainly getting quieter. But as a freshman student recently told me: "there's nothing to do around here so that's why kids just go to each others houses and do drugs." I found out years ago that if there is nothing to attract and entertain younger folks they will either leave, or get drugged up for fun. Some of the most boring, small areas are often a hotbed of drug activity.
By running off entertainment venues we are creating the kind of behavior we don't want and keeping a lot of energetic, enthusiastic young people from locating here. Harry also stated, I don't think it necessarily has to be downtown. Some areas have done well by turning an older, run down street into an arts/culture area. Younger folks will like some of the same things as an older crowd, like paintings, crafts, creative food, etc. but there has to be room for garage bands (most of my older friends aren't too fond of indie rock and other genres favored by the younger set), hip comedians and the like. The location isn't specifically the issue, the cultural offerings are. We have to welcome those who are more tattooed, pierced and dyed than the norm. We all have our preferences, but more of a "live and let live" attitude would be a breath of fresh air.
To this another member of our group responded, "Somehow we need to uncinch a hole or two on the bible belt then. I'll be praying about that, quite literally."
Another member who is a nationally established, prominent creative tech guy had a couple of very good points related to this issue and how it related to other areas that he has lived in that have established creative communities:
"Speaking from a computer graphics perspective, the creatives I have gone to school with and incidentally worked with over the years want similar things wherever they choose to live. Mostly, the freedom to be creative. This is often reflected in their opinions, the clothes they wear, the music they prefer, and their personal and / or recreational preferences, such as frisbee golf, surfing, or playing guitar. None of these things make them undesirable people, but mostly exemplify what makes them creative and different in the first place. The West coast has dominated this attraction to the creative set because of it's ability to accept those who were not like them, as well as attract companies and industries that support the skills that young creatives have.
If you want creative people in industries that make a difference in the global economy, then the infrastructure (not simply technologically) has to be in place to support their lifestyle. That includes what they do for work as creatives, recreational needs, living and work space that is affordable, culture, personal freedoms without discrimination. If they have strange clothes, hair, tattoos, whatever. These things are superficial at best anyway, and have little to no influence over what these individuals can produce as professionals.
In short, open up a bit to the fact that not everyone was raised the same way, and may of these people will have to come from other places to change the place we live. Let's open our doors, minds, and communities and focus on building an environment for creative professions to call home. Plan to recruit and focus on what flowers attract the bees we want!"
And as I responded, "To me it isn't even about diversity. It is about freedom, liberty, and being able to express oneself as a human being. It is more about the individuality that makes us unique. The past factory owners in the community wanted this bred out of the workforce. They didn't want people to think. They wanted people to conform. They wanted people to do simple, repetitive tasks consistently and they didn't want their minds wandering. I think people within our group (the FEC) for the most part are what these Old School Factory Bosses would label as "Dreamers." They didn't want dreamers. Many of these people followed generations of generally accepted behavior within their community's caste/social system. If you were in the family of the people who owned this business and you were a male (for the most part) and one of daddy's favorites, then you ended up in a management position for life and if you were from the family that lived in the mill village, then you would work in the mill."The Hound: The Mayor, whose sole focus seems to be upon the people of his generation, fully supports conservative ideals, when it comes to finances. For the most part this prudence should be applauded, but the problem is that socially he wants to impose his mindset and will upon others. This is a problem that pervades this community on many levels.
Not everyone wants to live in a Monastery or in a religious compound and this community should be careful not to enforce those ideals on others. It is a sad state of affairs that this type of "thing" is causing many young people to feel that their community is hostile and intolerant towards them. Young people should not be looked upon as though they are terrorists in waiting. All kids want to do is be able to mature, experience, and enjoy life. It may not be the way that certain people in this community choose, but if we don't allow our young people to have the same access to the community as adults, then why would they want to stay here when they become adults?
Without the young people, this community is on borrowed time and I will argue that that is where we are today. Look at the communities that are experiencing better economic growth. Those communities are the ones that are demographically younger. Those are the communities that invest and promote themselves to the younger generations. Our community is doing the exact opposite. Our public and private investment decisions seem to be totally centered around seniors and it seems that local leaders are obsessed with only attracting seniors to move here. As was pointed out to me the other day, many of the seniors who live in our community are living just above Social Security. Senior's money equals government money. This community pushes a notion that the Federal Government is bad and needs to be made smaller. Carry that to its logical conclusion and you will see that if we become a community that centers around people who derive most of their income from a smaller government, then our local economy is going to implode further.
I have spoken about this subject for almost 4 years now in the public arena. This is not a conviction against the older generations. This is about sowing seeds and laying a foundation for the future existence of Hickory. I am getting older myself. It would be easy to fall in line and only protect the interests of the older citizens. They will be gone to the great beyond by the time all of this plays out -- so no worries. As a person who represents these Senior Interests stated at a meeting I attended last week, "We need the younger people, because they will be the worker bees of the community."
Those younger people should not be looked upon as worker bees. They aren't supposed to be indentured servants for those winding down in life. They are the seeds that should be sown towards growth. That is what the generations of Earth's human life cycle have done. They pass along the earth to their progeny. The issue with me is that 20 years from now what impact are all of these decisions going to have on the viability of this community? And do people not worry about the legacy they are leaving behind to future generations?