July 3, 2022

Heroes of the Ohio River Valley

MARIETTA, OHIO – My definition of a hero is someone who defies convention, dares to challenge the powerful, does well by the public good, and deepens their own sense of purpose. I’ve crossed the paths of a number of these select individuals over the years, written about quite a few of them, and earned sufficient trust to call a handful of them my friends. Stewart Udall, Secretary of the Interior in the 1960s — one …

The Ohio River Again At Center of Seminal Industrial Transition

SOMERSET, KY — Ever since I reported and completed a project to suggest a new development strategy for Owensboro, KY. — and met and married one of the city’s great and beautiful civic leaders –I’ve been fascinated by the evolution of the Ohio River Valley. See a ModeShift archive here. Every economic era in American history opened along the river’s banks. Most of those that closed also weakened and died on a river that stretches …

Earth Day At 47: Lessons For Sound Development

OWENSBORO, KY — By now, the 47th observance of Earth Day, the point of summoning people to protect Mother Nature is clear. What started in 1970 as a call to action from the youthful wing of American society has matured into mainstream global operating principles for assuring that human life thrives in the 21st century. Essentially, that is what the founders of Earth Day anticipated. Earth Day was never just about preventing pollution or conserving …

Celebrating My 60th

OWENSBORO, KY— I made it. Tomorrow, April 19, 2016 is my 60th birthday. It feels great. Purposeful. Definitive. Fully engaged. Fun. Turning 60 means you’ve been around for awhile. If I were a kitchen I’d have been remodeled at least three times. If I were a maple tree I’d be 80 feet tall. If I were a blue whale, I’d weigh 150 tons. Turning 60 means that you’ve learned a few things. You learn that …

Gabrielle Gray’s Last ROMP

OWENSBORO, KY. — Around noon on the last Saturday of Gabrielle Gray’s long run as the founder and director of ROMP, this Ohio River City’s signature bluegrass music festival, a moment of pure love and remembrance unfolded unexpectedly. Standing alone on the festival stage with her fiddle, Phoebe Hunt, one of the singularly great young artists that ROMP has featured in the last several years, prepared to open her set as a solo. A striking …

Gabrielle Gray Shifts Over to Weave A New Story in American Bluegrass Music

OWENSBORO, KY — There was a big change today in American bluegrass music here in this Ohio River city, which over the last decade has established itself as a global center of the quintessential American music born in western Kentucky. The board of trustees of the International Bluegrass Music Museum announced that Gabrielle M. Gray,  the museum’s chief executive, ends her exceptional 12-year tenure as the museum’s capable and creative leader and steps down as …

Dream Big — Why Ohio River Valley Resurgence is Nationally and Globally Significant

OWENSBORO, KY — More than three years ago, while writing a study that suggested several new 21st century development ideas for this old river city, I discovered the mysteries of the Ohio River Valley. The region’s natural beauty is immediately striking. The recovering economies of cities and counties, once described as the Rust Belt, impress me. The unexpected governing approaches — cities passing new taxes as a development tool, and seeking consolidation with their surrounding …

Surrounded By Water, Ohio River Valley Experiences Economic Resurgence

OWENSBORO, KY. — Randy Simes, an urban planner in Cincinnati with a keen sense of observation, founded UrbanCincy.com in 2007 to report on the transitional neighborhoods, evolving culture, and reviving post-industrial economy of his native Queen City of nearly 300,000 residents. But it wasn’t until he posted before-and-after-pictures from Google Street View last May, comparing changes in well-known Cincinnati street corners from 2007 to 2013, that Simes’ neighbors and colleagues embraced his boosterish view that …

Louisville and Carmel in New York Times Articles That Confirm First Principle of U.S. Economic Development

CARMEL, Ind. – James Brainard, the 60-year-old mayor of Carmel, Indiana, is not the kind of public official who deplores change. He’s just the opposite, in fact. In 1994, this prosperous suburb just north of Indianapolis held a planning workshop, inviting its 31,000 residents to consider ideas to redevelop Carmel’s crossroads downtown, parts of which date to the city’s founding in 1830. The next year Mr. Brainard, a moderate Republican, was elected to the first …

ROMP Bluegrass Festival Honors The Masters and Advances Compelling New Artists

OWENSBORO, KY — Bill Monroe, a virtuoso mandolin player and the father of bluegrass music, was born in 1911 and raised on a ridgetop near Rosine, Kentucky about 40 miles south of the bluff on the Ohio River where Owensboro is located. With every passing year the connection between Monroe, his birthplace, and this river city gets closer. That’s never more true than during the last weekend in June when Owensboro hosts ROMP, the River …