Buzzworm news briefs

Water you doing on Saturday?

Rivers are only as clean as the myriad creeks that feed them. But how do you take care of a creek?

Sounds like a job for creek keepers (trained volunteers who do just that).

French Broad Riverkeeper Phillip Gibson wants to deputize a boatload of such folks to help him protect our watershed — and that’s where you come in. Volunteers will be asked to attend free classes on three successive Saturdays covering assorted water-quality topics. Upon completing the classes and an exam, the creek keepers will be asked to commit to working 10 hours a month for at least six months.

This is a chance to learn about water issues firsthand from the experts. The teachers will be folks from RiverLink, UNCA, the N.C. Wildlife Resources Commission, the N.C. Division of Wastewater Discharge Elimination, the Southern Environmental Law Center, N.C. State University and a retired U.S. Forest Service hydrologist. Registration (required) is limited to the first 40 respondents; volunteers must be at least18 years of age (or youth with an adult supervisor). Classes will take place on Jan. 24 and 31 and Feb. 7, 2004.

[To register or for more information, contact Phillip Gibson at 252-8474, ext. 114.]

— Cecil Bothwell

Keeping it green

When it comes to land-management issues in Buncombe County, a yawning chasm often separates the folks who want more government control from those who want less.

But at least one topic seems to unite both growth-management proponents and property-rights advocates: the need to conserve undeveloped land in the unincorporated parts of the county.

To that end, a group of county residents known as the Land Use Forum asked the Buncombe County commissioners to create an official board to pursue that goal. On Dec. 2, the commissioners did just that, establishing the Land Conservation Advisory Board.

The new 13-member board will inventory the land in the county that’s protected by conservation easements; develop a list of high-priority sites for voluntary conservation efforts; and both promote and raise money for land conservation, according to the resolution adopted by the commissioners.

“We need to get the word out that people can apply” for a seat on the board, says Land Use Forum spokeswoman/facilitator Bette Jackson.

But time is short; applications are due by Monday, Dec. 29.

“The idea of using conservation easements is something there’s strong consensus for — and a lot of enthusiasm,” notes Jackson.

She should know. The Land Use Forum draws representatives from about 10 local groups, including Smart Growth Partners of Western North Carolina and the Council of Independent Business Owners.

The forum was formed almost immediately after the county’s nonbinding zoning referendum four years ago, though it didn’t give itself a name until last spring. In November 1999, voters were asked to weigh in on the idea of countywide zoning. Only 33 percent of the registered voters actually recorded an opinion that day, but about 56 percent of those who did vote turned thumbs down on the concept.

Although forum members still don’t see eye to eye on zoning, they do agree on the desirability of conserving green space.

“I think that’s something a lot of people care about,” Jackson observes.

[For more info, call the Buncombe County clerk to the board at 250-4105. Nomination forms can be downloaded from the county’s Web site (buncombecounty.org — follow the “citizen participation links”). Forms are also available at 205 College St., Suite 300 in downtown Asheville or in the Commissioners’ Office (Room 206 of the Buncombe County Courthouse).]

— Tracy Rose

The fuel of creativity

The Asheville Film Festival wasn’t the only chance for locals to catch the first showing of a new movie. On Thursday, Dec. 18 at 6 p.m., the documentary film The Rise of the Creative Class, directed by Giuli Dummit, will have its premiere screening at the Orange Peel (101 Biltmore Ave. in downtown Asheville). Dummit will be on hand to discuss her film.

The documentary spotlights best-selling author/consultant Richard Florida and his recent world tour to promote his theories. Florida’s book The Rise of the Creative Class: And How It’s Transforming Work, Leisure, Community and Everyday Life (Basic Books, 2002) has caused quite a stir in economic-development circles.

“He’s got kind of a rock-star, groupie-type following among economic developers,” notes Executive Director Jim Roberts of the Blue Ridge Entrepreneurial Council, an arm of regional economic-development agency AdvantageWest. “And arts councils and nonprofits are really gathering steam behind [his ideas].”

The book discusses the rise of a new social class whose members include artists, writers, scientists, engineers, architects and educators. Their economic function, says Florida, is to create new ideas, new technologies and new creative content. These people, the author maintains, account for a sizable percentage of the U.S. work force and exert profound influence on many work-related issues.

The key to economic growth, argues Florida, is not merely attracting the creative class but translating that underlying advantage into creative economic outcomes in the form of new ideas, new high-tech businesses and regional growth. To help gauge a community’s or a region’s ability to do this, Florida has devised the “creativity index,” based on four equally weighted factors: technology, talent, tolerance (diversity) and territorial assets.

“Asheville and Western North Carolina really score well on three out of the four” — talent, tolerance and territorial assets — says Roberts. “The one we’re working hardest [to catch up] on is the technology piece. According to U.S. Bureau of Labor predictions, 95 percent of the jobs created in the next 10 years are going to be in health care and technology. So we’re really trying to bolster our technology infrastructure, so that companies that will create jobs can exist in WNC.

Asheville, notes Roberts, is in a different position than most communities trying to apply Florida’s ideas. “Most cities, like a Winston-Salem or a Charlotte, hire him to talk about the arts,” says Roberts. “Well, Asheville already does that really well — it kind of is an artists’ colony. We need the other side of it, which is the business infrastructure. That’s why it’s so important that we bring these concepts to WNC.”

The screening of The Rise of the Creative Class is part of the second annual Holiday Social sponsored by the Blue Ridge Entrepreneurial Council and the Asheville Area Information Technology Council. The latter group was formed by the Asheville Area Chamber of Commerce to promote the growth of knowledge-based companies. The event is a chance for entrepreneurial, technical and creative folks to come together for fun, inspiration and networking. Refreshments will be served; reservations are required.

“This is an opportunity to stimulate our own creative class,” notes Sharon Willen, director of business-and-industry services at the Asheville Area Chamber of Commerce, stressing that designers and people working in multimedia, digital and film are especially encouraged to attend.

[Xpress has just learned that this event has sold out; those with reservations are encouraged to bring their e-mail confirmation with them to the screening. To learn more about Florida’s ideas, visit www.creativeclass.org or www.memphismanifesto.com.]

— Lisa Watters

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