Monday, March 18, 2013

My Norfolk Top 10

Suggested listening, in reverse chronological order: This, that, or this.

As my time winds down as a (somewhat obsessive) community activist in sleepy ole Norfolk, Virginia, I've been struck with this near-past nostalgia. It's like the way you take a picture and then add a filter and it immediately looks old. I've only been here 4 years----but oh, they've been some years.
The Roma would hit high voltage lines at Norfolk's Army Supply Base while on a trial run and crash on 2/21/1922.

Here's my top 10 things I've been involved with in NFK I'm most proud of, in an order only understood by the owlish innkeeper of my brain. Hyperlinks are to media coverage because lists like this have a way of sounding like they should include inventing the piano key necktie. 

1. The City Council informal sessions are taped, aired, and put online because Ethan and I did it ourselves and the next week the city manager said the city should be doing it. This made our city government more transparent in a really important way.
2. Street performance (busking if you're British) is legal because Jesio and I pushed it on AltDaily but more importantly directly to City Council members and in the informal work group set up by the city manager. (City Council passed with unanimous vote.)
3. Two years of Art | Everywhere, which filled the empty storefronts on Granby with lovely art--an idea conceptualized by Hannah and I, and we brought together Grow, the Downtown Norfolk Council, and Re:Vision Norfolk to make it happen. Ultimately got written up in Fast Company Magazine and was part of the Virginia Arts Festival calendar.
4. When Whitney realized the first Survive Norfolk was going to be much more than just she and her friends running around the neighborhood, she called Hannah and I, and AltDaily came on as a fundraising, logistical, and promotional partner. Huge success, with press as big as USA Today, and virtually nothing negative happened.
5. Running for City Council I got the endorsements of the teachers, city employees, and local unions. If you look at the spending per vote, I won that side race in a complete landslide. This as an absolute nobody in this town, with an absurdly small budget.
6. After my election loss it was time to either slink away or rise up with vigor. Hannah and I chose the latter, devoting ourselves to making an arts district a reality. The Norfolk Arts District is happening. Backed by a coalition that includes the City Council, city planner, manager's office, local university art departments, neighborhood property and business owners, this has huge potential--all manifested without a budget or an institution behind us.
7. The largest gay pride event in Hampton Roads, Out in the Park, used to take place hidden away in Chesapeake. The lobbying of myself and Patrick Mullins got it moved to the region's premier park, Town Point Park in Downtown Norfolk.
8. The Naro movies have mostly been big successes. It's been so cool to see a bunch of people drinking beer in the theater and laughing at Bill Murray movies.
9. A few things I helped launch that weren't quite home runs, but were independent successes, and certainly added a ton of vitality, fun, and newness to the local culture: Chalking of Ghent, Hampton Roads the Canvas (paved the way for the Arts District), the Norfology campaign (paved the way for Hatch and Start Norfolk), RedRail, which brought performances onto The Tide, and The Rise Up concert. I'm also proud to say that I am a founding member of Re:Vision Norfolk and Bike Norfolk, and helped to launch Generation Norfolk.
10. Unless something has changed and nobody told me, this Spring the city will be launching the employee bike share program I pitched.

1945. VE Day Granby Street. | Norfolk Public Library
I've given a few shout-outs here, but all of these have been team efforts. Hannah's been my partner from day 1, Jesio is the all-time #3, Jenn Mackey on the Naro movies, Max Shapiro on the Council run, Elyse Lovelace and all the artists on the Canvas project, James and Cindy and everyone else at Pride who worked their butts off to make that happen, Bonnie and Careyann were the soul of Art | Everywhere... some of the most good hearted and talented people I know came together to make all this happen.

The core of it all has been AltDaily in general. All of those articles that have promoted artists, musicians, small businesses, grass roots causes (including food trucks). 3-5 new stories every day since I came on, almost all somehow Norfolk/Virginia Beach-focused. There are almost 500 pages of posts with me as the author alone. Crazzzzy. As the college boys say, I have fought the good fight, I have finished my work. So stoked for the next chapter and challenge, whatever it may be.