'For the Love of Cities' author gives community building advice

Getting citizens to love their city doesn't seem so hard when you listen to Peter Kageyama.

The author of "For the Love of Cities" offered vibrant examples of successful civic engagement strategies during a speech Thursday at the Cedar Rapids Area Convention & Visitors Bureau's annual meeting luncheon.

Kageyama, of St. Petersburg, Fla., was a technology and marketing consultant who shifted to economic development after being inspired a decade ago by author Richard Florida's writings on the creative class and creative economy. Kageyama's interests focused on "bottom-up community development" in cities. He founded the Creative Cities Summit, which has been held once each in St. Petersburg, Fla., Detroit, Mich. and Lexington, Ky.

Kageyama said most cities try to respond to their citizens by answering their complaints, but a Gallup survey of community attitudes toward cities found that 40 percent of city residents consider themselves "unattached" to their community. Another 35 percent of city residents view themselves as neutral, and 24 percent consider themselves attached.

"We've sort of reduced our civic engagement down to pothole-filling," said Kageyama, of St. Petersburg, Fla. "You get no love for filling potholes."

Kageyama delivered a rundown of public art projects, public events, and even guerrilla civic improvement campaigns that put cities in the headlines and closer to the hearts of their residents.

The examples were almost universally fun. They included artist Candy Wong's use of sidewalk messages like "It's Good to be Here" and sticker boards that said "I Wish This Was ..." to inspire New Orleans residents during the recovery from Hurricane Katrina.

Kageyama was inspired by a Detroit resident who launched a social media campaign that raised money for the city ton install a "RoboCop" sculpture to commemorate the city's role in the film of the same name

"We've got to let our hair down and be willing to play with our cities," he said.

The role of "creatives" in civic engagement should be fostered and encouraged, Kageyama said. He compared creatively inspired citizens to the 1 percent of Wikipedia users who actually contribute content to the free online reference site, and suggested that cities could boost civic engagement by boosting the number of creative contributors by even a modest amount.

"They're the people who are in love with these cities," he said.

Civic engagement improves when cities are more walkable, bikable, and dog-friendly, Kageyama said. Farmers markets like the one St. Petersburg are one of the other things that make people feel more attached and connected to their city.

"I always say, this is where St. Petersburg meets itself," Kageyama said of the St. Petersburg farmers market.

Kageyama will speakFriday, Nov. 11,atTEDx Iowa City. He has been impressed by the engagement of Cedar Rapids residents during the recovery from the record flooding of June 2008, he said, and will share what he's seen with other cities.

"Almost to a person, everybody has said the flood actually did something amazing for us we're doing things now we never would have dreamed of doing before," Kageyama said. "Everybody is so forward-looking and so energized."

He told the audience, "you guys are part of the narrative now of "Loving Cities."

Kageyama has long been friends with Cedar Rapidians Andy Stoll and Amanda Styron of SEED HERE, whom he offered as examples of creative civic contributors. He described Stoll as "my brother from another mother."While he been busy promoting his book, but may convene one more Creative Cities summit, on a smaller scale than the previous three.

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