A DECLARATION OF INTERDEPENDENCE: a manifesto for reno and northern nevada
Imagine if you will a way to turn a liability into a advantage, an advantage that requires nothing besides a different way of looking at a problem. Would you be open to that? I think you would be. I have great faith in you. And what if i told you,that in the process of allowing this to happen you would not need to become something that was foreign to yourself but to simply embrace a slightly different vision and spirit that was arguably there from the start. What if i told you that despite the apparent simplicity of this act of magic, it would require a way of thinking intrinsically foreign to yourself and might constitute the most difficult thing you have ever done?
Do i have your attention? Good.Now let us replace a personal perspective with that of a place,in time and geography and history that many of us call home:RenoN. Let us see our future through the eyes of a community.
Before we can formulate a vision of where we wish to go,we must be brutally honest about where we have come from and where we are in the present. Reno and Nevada in general have existed to serve the dark side of human longings, from divorce to prostitution,from gambling to drinking.And who can blame us? We needed a reason to exist,a way to grow, a path to survive.And we did it well, maybe too well. We made a model so successful,so attractive and so alluring that eventually we sowed the seeds of our own destruction.nevada made gambling seem cleaner,easier and more respectable to the rest of the nation and in doing that, exported it as a way for other states and communities to pay their bills. our bill is now coming due.Theirs will come later.
Our problem of course is the same one faced by cities across the country, a weakening economy and job market, budget shortfalls that will continue to lead to diminished services and amenities provided by the city. With an economy that has been based largely on tourism fueled by gambling and large scale events, we have additional problems that need to be addressed and questions that need to be asked. Do we believe we will continue to keep the lights on here in the same way we have in the past? If not, do our leaders in both the business and political world have a long term plan for managing our descent from our primary source of revenue,gaming? Wishing for something will not make it happen. Our future has little to do with bringing retirees on tour buses from california and the northwest to spend their meagre social security checks on games of chance. We need to replace this picture with a new one.We need to dream big.
Richard Florida,an author of books like "The rise of the creative class" and "Who's my city" speaks about the increasing competition between cities and regions for the types of people who are an asset to any place they choose to live in: artists,inventors,entrepreneurs,techies,visionaries and dreamers. These places are where the lions share of americas future will coalesce, as they create a magnetic pull for the best and brightest to live in close proximity to each other to network and share ideas.We all know some of these places: San francisco, Austin,New York city,Portland,Boston and more.
Perhaps it is just a coincident that the one city that experiences the largest number of these creative types traveling through is beautiful, Reno Nevada. In the weeks before and after labor day weekend, reno is teeming with thousands of amazing people from all over the world. Our unique location sitting between americas most creative metropolitan area, the sf bay area, and americas most creative temporary city, black rock city is a largely untapped source of potential transformative energy that cannot be ignored any longer. Any city in this country would kill for our advantage.remember,its location,location,location. If for a moment, we can deny the coincidental nature and instead perceive it as our destiny as the bay areas closest out of state metropolitan area to enter into a symbiotic relationship with one of the worlds great creative gatherings, burning man,we might be on our way to being mentioned along with the aformentioned places.
I know many will say that in the past few years, reno has embraced burning man. Businesses greatly profit from supplies being bought,trailers rented and rooms occupied by grateful burners. Every year, the various reno newspapers run ads by local businesses soliciting business from the burning man community. And each year,there are more ads. Reno should express its gratitude right back. There are three different levels i think we must move through here in order to create this symbiosis.the first is obviously economic and i see that happening quicker and quicker.I believe at a certain point that it will benefit both the business community and burning man to have some sort of decal that businesses affix to their windows and doors showing their support for the event, basically a welcome decal. Maybe it will simply be a decal of the man.This is a good first step. The second level is artistic and i see that happening,albeit, a little more slowly.Public works of burning man related art are slowly beginning to appear in reno, including the installation at the airport and on the lot next to the riverside artist lofts.There have been displays at renos amazing nevada museum of art as well as at other art galleries. The fire festival during arttown is certainly playa inspired. This level may be a bit slower than the one below since it does take an open-mindedness to display art that some may find a little out of the ordinary. It is absolutely essential that this happens in reno.We are simply blowing a huge opportunity if we think only in dollars and cents here. Public and privates displays of black rock inspired art will signify to travelers all year our openness to change and innovation. I dream of the man being set up and illuminated on the way out to the playa in the mapes plaza for a week in august. The man has certainly stood tall in san franciscos civic center.why not here? What would that say about renos intention to not let fates good fortune slip through its fingers?
And that takes us to the third level, a level that is admittedly a dream but not a delusion, the difference being a dream is possible. This level is philosophical,spiritual, beyond money and art.Its a partnership between two equals who have acknowledged the benefits implicit in a working relationship with the other.our future will always be tied into our massive neighbor to the west. What would renos future look like if our leaders created an atmosphere in the city itself conducive to the experimentation,play and innovation that forms on the playa every year? What if reno became the place where inventors,entrepreneurs,artists and others could work on their dreams and visions unimpeded by the bureaucracy and expense of california? What if 100 of the best and brightest could be encouraged to move here and do their thing? What if our business,university and political leaders committed money and resources to allow this to happen? What if we made sure a percentage of these resources went to the amazing local burning man community?
Nevada needs to reinvent itself and yet despite embracing vices and eccentrics of all sorts for over a century, we cannot seem to wrap our head around the immense possibilities that are right in our lap. It seems we cannot recognize that the other embraces values nevada holds dear. Burning man could not have emerged anywhere else besides san francisco and could have never found a home anywhere else but the the black rock desert. In my eyes,its a perfect,symbiotic match between the bay areas creative energy and nevadas blank canvas of possibility. Let us evolve and prosper and not waste one more moment fearing what is an enormous gift given to northern nevada every year. We cannot afford it.