How place-making can help fight opioid addiction

How place-making can help fight opioid addiction

Gazette Column
Six people in Council Bluffs were taken, unresponsive, to the hospital this month, apparent victims of painkillers so powerful that first-responders have been warned about touching them, but otherwise legally and easily obtained over the internet. The culprit is a synthetic opioid called fentanyl, a substance that already has decimated communities throughout the country that are battling opioid addiction. Forensic chemist Christine Gabig with the Douglas County Forensic Services Division told The Nonpareil that many synthetic variants of fentanyl have made their way onto local streets. Because the chemical compounds differ, the substances are not “true” fentanyl, commonly used in surgical procedures, and not illegal. Such synthetic varieties can easily be purchased online without a prescription. In some instances, these potentially deadly synthetics are mixed with other illicit drugs to produce more…
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Rural Iowans eager to engage art in their communities

Rural Iowans eager to engage art in their communities

Gazette Column
Cold temperatures and snow showers didn’t keep rural community leaders off the roads Thursday. Opportunities to learn firsthand about grant funds linking art projects and revitalization don’t happen every day. About 100 people, at least half from smaller communities, traveled to Iowa City for the last of four Iowa meetings hosted by ArtPlace America. a New York-based organization that issues grant money through the National Creative Placemaking Fund. [caption id="attachment_335" align="alignright" width="640"] Cat Nelson, facility manager at the Washington Community Center, and Kadie Dennison, development and marketing manager at the Fairfield Arts & Convention Center, were among the roughly 100 people who traveled to Iowa City to learn more about grant money that helps infuse the arts in community development projects. ArtPlace America hosted the Iowa City meeting on Dec.…
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Learn how to put art to work

Learn how to put art to work

Gazette Column
People want to live in communities that make them feel connected to one another, neighborhoods and towns that are diverse, vibrant and inviting. If Iowans can cultivate and nurture those types of spaces, cultural and economic stability will follow. It’s what community leaders instinctively understand, but sometimes have difficulty initiating. Development of inviting and welcoming spaces can’t be accomplished by one group working alone. It needs the voices and shared vision of local residents, government leaders, business owners and the nonprofit sector. Four gatherings will take place next week that can help build the understanding and collaboration necessary for these types of community changes and enhancements. Just as important, attendees will learn what it takes to compete for a pool of project funding through the National Creative Placemaking Fund. The…
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Appreciating the triangulation of Pokemon Go

Appreciating the triangulation of Pokemon Go

Gazette Column
A mighty battle took place in uptown Marion a few nights ago. A local father and his two young sons stood at the edge of City Square Park, iPhones in hand. For this family, the visit was one of purpose and excitement. After playing the augmented reality game Pokemon Go for a couple of weeks, they had finally reached a high enough level to attempt takeover of a virtual gym and place their mark, however digital and temporary, on the local landscape. Their target was the Marion Heritage Center, controlled at that time by Team Valor, otherwise known as the “red” team. The boys and their father were Team Instinct, or the “yellow” team. I was walking loops around the park, catching wild pokemon and gathering supplies while trying to…
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Time to rethink Cedar Rapids public golf

Time to rethink Cedar Rapids public golf

Gazette Column
It should come down the basic economic principle of supply and demand. People are simply no longer playing golf at the rate they once were. That’s true in Cedar Rapids as it is throughout the country. Municipal courses — many the result of residential developer deals during the 1990s that gifted courses to municipalities — have relied more and more heavily on taxpayer subsidies. Supply has outpaced demand, resulting in deficits. That’s a problem when a community has a single public golf course. It’s a disaster when a community operates four — more than any other community in Iowa — that compete against a dozen privately run courses and country clubs. Des Moines has three municipal courses, as does Waterloo and Davenport. In some cities, like Des Moines, local officials…
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Moving beyond projects to philosophy

Moving beyond projects to philosophy

Gazette Column
Since returning from the National Rural Assembly I’ve been reaching out to small town leaders and advocates with a question: “Why does so little of the federal grant money set aside for creative placemaking flow into Iowa?” The National Endowment for the Arts set up the Our Town grant program for creative placemaking and began issuing grants in 2011. Since that time, only two Iowa applications have been successful. Of all the money issued by the NEA for this purpose, less than 1 percent has flowed into Iowa communities. Responses to my question have been as varied as the backgrounds and experiences of the people I’ve asked. Some feel the national application process favors states on the coasts. Others lament a lack of the local partnerships required for such grants.…
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Placemaking: Seeking our place to belong

Placemaking: Seeking our place to belong

Gazette Column
Pause for a moment and consider your community or neighborhood. Do you thrive there? Are you attached to it? Do you belong? Those are questions I’ve contemplated since returning from the National Rural Assembly, where I took part in placemaking discussions. While talks there focused on creative planning for rural spaces, I was offered a more urban perspective this week at a Cedar Rapids forum, hosted by the Employee Resource Group Consortium. The event, a diversity forum, featured Katherine Loflin, an internationally known placemaking expert. And, since we’ve been interviewing city council candidates, I’ve been able to add some hyperlocal thoughts to the placemaking mix too. Placemaking involves personal attachment to a place, and strategic leveraging of those attachments. For example, increasing or driving attachment to build shared wealth. [caption…
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Iowa Culture app needs our help

Iowa Culture app needs our help

Gazette Column
As a lover of historical markers and roadside oddities, I gleefully downloaded the new Iowa Culture app, but quickly learned what was and wasn’t included. The app itself is terrific and, at least for those of us with iPhones, it performs beautifully. Users can see a multitude of interesting sites around their current location, even placing those sites on a map and using GPS to route directly to a selection. There are options to filter results by type, many with photos and brief descriptions. Navigating the Iowa Culture app is easy and intuitive for anyone tacitly familiar with such things. No section of the state has been neglected. State officials boasted during official launch at the Iowa State Fair that more than 3,500 sites are a part of the database.…
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