Wednesday, June 26, 2013

Money does not solve some problems


I was talking to some people in Dorchester, the poorer parts of Boston, and many were complaining about the "clean up" of the area. I was initially puzzled by their anger after talking to them about social innovation, many claimed that the city (Boston) actually did more harm than help.

The area was cleaned up, some of the sidewalks were widened, street parking removed. Seems nice and new, so what can be wrong with that?

I was looking at the areas near Uphams Corner and Dudley, and speaking to some Police Officers, I could not believe that building more housing (lower cost) and clearing up some stores could do harm. However, when I walked around the area, I realized that most of the people were from out of state (or recent immigrants) and they were not working. And after talking to some of them, this is what I came out with.

1) Lack of Public Transportation Infrastructure. The population density of the area was increased by the taller and more densely packed public housing, but the number of buses passing through the area was the same. The trains serving there was pretty much the commuter rail which cost significantly more than subway, and the wait is longer as well. The buses were very packed as that is pretty much the way to get in and out of the area besides driving.

2) Lack of convenience stores and supermarket. Perhaps I'm not from the area, however, I do not see a lot of supermarkets and convenience stores or simply shops in the area. Business owners say that the area was dangerous and parking was hard as the city just removed street parking. (seems to have negative effect to businesses) Most of the buildings in the area were non-profits and community centers.

3) Lack of jobs. Yes, there are a lot of low income housing there, but if there are no jobs, and you need to travel far to get to your job, many people with jobs will probably find a better place to stay. However, people from out of state do come and most of them are home at 3pm in the afternoon, on welfare. There may be jobs in other parts of Dorchester, but the area that was cleaned, most shops are closed.

4) Many people were unhappy because the money from the urban renewal, went to union workers from out of state. No local workers were used, and in a time when these people needed jobs, there was none.

5) People from not around the area find it almost impossible to park, just in the corner of Hancock and Dorchester Ave, more than 10 parking lots were removed, and parking was hard to come by, there was a wide walkway, however, no buses run around that corner and surrounding the area was the "projects" and some people did not feel safe walking past to the corner. The people who previously drive there avoid the area now, and business was bad.

Without engaging the business owners, and the local residents to hear about their needs, best intentions may have adverse effects. With millions spent, there are now less businesses and possibly higher crime.

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Similarly, I just read a post on Facebook on Jazz and music artists.

Yes, there can be $$$ and funding for more art and music schools.

Yes the government can bring in more art shows, musicians to inspire our young about the arts.

Yes money can be poured in and some of the artists can gain local exposure from shows.

But the fact is still, Singapore is getting too expensive to live in. Many bars now do not even have a stage for performances, and people in Singapore do not support their local talents. There is a lot of support on Facebook, lots of talks about it, but when it comes to paying a cover charge to see a gig, many don't shell out the money.

As a photographer and and artist, I realize that no matter how much the government spends on art and music, it is hard to be a full time artist or photographer. People do not want to pay for images, and even Samsung and other organizations takes free images and pretend its theirs (until they are caught)

For artists, no one buying art in Singapore understand that it takes a long time in creating a complex art. There is also raw materials cost and various costs. Print a large Canvas photo can cost more than $500 and camera equipment do need maintenance or replacement.

Musicians need time to practice and their equipment is subjected to wear and tear as well. Performing a gig, preparing the stage, costumes, all of which are not free as well. Going to a Jazz Bar, or any other live performances, paying a cover which the venue probably gets most of the money, part of which goes to the musicians and performers.

If artists cannot make a living, it will be hard and almost impossible to have a vibrant local arts scene. Many people forget that the government can charge ERP, GST, COE, and Singaporeans will pay half a million or more to lease an apartment for 99 years, but when it comes to paying for live music, many will shun and not go.

So next time when you support the arts, PAY FULL PRICE for art, pay cover charge to see your favorite local bands. Don't just Like their Facebook Page and posts.

The government can spend $$$$$ to bring in world renounced artists, however, with an occupation (musician or artist) that does not pay enough for the bills, it will be hard to attract new local talents.

-- Iron Bowl

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