Mr. Natural wants to know

Blooming in El Paso
Blooming in El Paso

In response to The Road to Economic Development, Mr. Natural asks

Right on about promoting cultural and educational values in addition to or instead of just the built environment. What entity would perform that service? EPISD? EPCC? This would be City government sponsored, right? What would be the mechanism?

I think that we need a disruptive entity to forward this agenda. It would need to be supported by the City, the school districts, and the Community College, financially and/or morally, but to be successful, it would have to be outside of their influence. I think if you let any of these bureaucracies control a program like this, it will get bogged down in petty rivalries and bickering about fiefdoms.

Once, when I owned a little dive bar that featured live music, I offered to help the City’s Arts Department set up a web site to promote local bands. At the time, both At the Drive In and Pissing Razors were big in their relative scenes, scoring probably hundreds or thousands of internet search hits a day from all over the world. I figured we could leverage that to promote the local music scene. After about a couple of weeks of getting pinged around various City departments, I finally got to the IT department, who were supposed to help me set up the web site. And the IT guy told me, “Oh, we’ve already got a page like that.” It was buried under several layers of the City’s web site, and never got any hits. So I gave up.

Bureaucracies are too unwieldy to effect major change without a revolution. Bureaucracies hate change. It’s too much work. It’s too easy to fuck up. Administrators, for the most part, don’t rise to the tops of their bureaucracies by breaking molds. Bureaucrats are, by and large, good dogs.

I’d like to see some fairly hands off funding from the City, or a private benefactor. I’d like to see a film school aimed at young talent, and some Writers in Residence. I’d like to see a place where people who understand the business can nurture young musicians, not by teaching them music, but by teaching them the business of music. I’d like to see a live music venue that’s not dependent on local drunks to keep the doors open.

If El Paso were to develop a proactive arts scene like that, we’d have an influx of creative people from, if not all over the world, at least both sides of the border. Young people wouldn’t be leaving El Paso for jobs, they’d be staying in El Paso whether or not they had jobs. When I was living in Austin, back when Austin was still cool, it was common to find PhD’s flipping burgers because no one wanted to leave Austin. That’s what El Paso should be like. But sports arenas and digital walls (whatever they are) aren’t going to get us there.

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