Riff Raff: Observations, stuff that ain’t right, artful momentum, and remaining together

by Michael Tilley (mtilley@talkbusiness.net) 960 views 

Based on them fancy history books and reports from the fake news media, when Katrina hit New Orleans the president was NOT Obama. He may have lost his birth certificate in that terrible storm, but he was not yet bringing his muslim ways to the Oval Office. The president then was Lyndon Johnson, who was famous for daring Katrina to “tear down this sea wall.” When’s that medical marijuana become available?

Speaking of stuff that ain’t right, how about that Joel Osteen fella? Considering he built a career on stringing together pleasant vagaries and motivational-poster platitudes for his shallow sermons and his stuff-you-should-already-know-about-being-a-decent-human-being books, one might think he would have picked up a thing or two on how to not be an assbag.

Jesus take the wheel … and drive this loaded Denali to the bank for another big tax-free deposit.

• Speaking of stuff that ain’t right, let’s head over to Fort Smith. There in the state’s second largest city they’ve again run into a problem with Arkansas’ Freedom of Information Act. No problem with the Act, just in the ability of the city’s elected officials to follow what are relatively simple rules.

Because what should be an inveterate law and practice is considered by some an option, Sebastian County’s prosecuting attorney decided to not prosecute members of the Fort Smith Board of Directors who talked policy via e-mail and outside the public purview. Instead, they talked about having sessions where the board is educated about Freedom of Information Act rules.

That’s cute. It’s a little like asking for training on how to not go over the speed limit. Or how to not rob a bank. Just don’t do it.

• Cat is out of the bag. Ain’t putting the paste back in the tube. Beans have been spilled. Investment in the almost limitless forms of art, and private and public support of cultural amenities ranging from hundreds of miles of bike and walking trails to live music venues are changing the notion of what passes for economic development. There is a growing, if not broad, acceptance that people-focused infrastructure and incentives are no less important than big business focused infrastructure and incentives.

Art, to be sure, has long been valued. But its value was not fully appreciated beyond a few large U.S. metro areas and a certain demographic class. One might argue it was the late 1990s when the idea began to emerge in the U.S. that art and cultural development could and should have a bigger role in economic growth policies.

Will let others argue about how and where the momentum began in Arkansas, but it’s here. Finally. Thankfully. Crystal Bridges, The Unexpected Project, the Murphy Arts District, projects supported by the Windgate Foundation, the expanded Robinson Auditorium, the newly announced $120 million school of art at the University of Arkansas, and coordination between the state’s tourism and economic development agencies are just a few of the many Arkansas developments in the past decade that fueled the momentum. We at Talk Business & Politics have noticed in the past few years more activity at the intersection of business, politics and art/cultural amenities. We are confident more activity will be part of our reporting efforts. Stay tuned.

• The first memory of a Texas connection was Uncle Ernest. Saw him drinking a milky fluid through a tube in his throat. The tube was there because of the cancer. That’s all I knew, and we then were at a family reunion where young cousins play hard and adults talk soft. The world then was bounded by Granma Tilley’s lemon meringue pie, hay forts in Granpa Tilley’s barn and all the candy we could buy at Crutchfield’s Grocery for 50 cents.

Uncle Ernest was a whiz who worked for Texas Instruments. He was smart and funny. There was no way that tube was something about which we should worry.

The cancer won in 1977. The soul of a child first lost his innocence when the shoulders of Granma Tilley, the family’s strong matriarch, shook with sobs in that small Methodist Church. Uncle Ernest’s coffin was my first taste of mortality. After the funeral we gathered again to eat and visit. Us cousins played. The adults talked and laughed and cried. We were sad, but together.

The mother of seven finding herself at a Houston shelter told a reporter her children were sad. She told her children they were safe and all together and they shouldn’t be sad. But they are sad, she noted, because they lost their home and all that was in it. Their future was uncertain.

“We’re together. But we’re sad,” the mother concluded.

It’s a shame such a terrible event displacing hundreds of thousands of families is necessary to counter the angry politics of those who favor oppression based on race, gender, sexual orientation and other aspects of human diversity that in fact make us stronger. The amazing generosity of citizens – ranging from CEOs of large corporations to the young man with a simple flat-bottom boat – on display after Harvey is clear proof we are better together.

The collective “We” have lost family members. We hurt. We have wounds that need to heal; wounds that heal best without the germs of partisan politics. Maybe when the immediate danger and damage is over and addressed, respectively, we might symbolically gather again to eat and visit and cry and laugh.

When we’re no longer sad, let’s hope we remain together.