I learned recently that there’s a “gang tag recognition” app that can take a picture of graffiti and automatically recognize what gang it’s from. Well we don’t have a tag sign, but we did get these sweet red helmets, courtesy of the Fresno Fire Department to go along with the bikes we got, courtesy of the bike shop currently incubating inside of the Fresno Brewing Company. So we’ve taken to riding our bikes around downtown, to restaurants and shopping and meetings and sometimes just to see neighborhoods. We look like a parade – people stop and stare. One of our first times out, we ran into a tough looking crew hanging out by a building and they yelled “Look Out! It’s the Red Helmet Gang!” and then ran away in mock terror. I tell ya, friends, we felt pretty tough that day. Not as tough as when we rode past the biker bar and saw the burly biker-dudes pointing at us and laughing, but still pretty tough. So you just keep your distance from the Red Helmet Gang, or we’re likely to shake you down for details on the keys to downtown revitalization in a respectful, but still incredibly intimidating interview. (I hear that’s what all the other street gangs are doing these days.)
So when we’re not riding around town striking fear into the hearts of bikers and evil-doers, we’re spending a lot of time in a room set aside for us in city hall where we get to talk to tons of people all about downtown, and Fresno, and the region, and agriculture, and broadband, and technology, and education, and all the myriad insights that are helping us to get to our final recommendation (remember we’ve got to hand in a report to the Mayor by the end of week three). One of the cool things that happens is how our discussions lead to new people and new insights. We were, for instance, talking with Glenda and Robert over at USDA who have tons and tons of data. Glenda told us about the 59 Days of Code people, and then we got to meet them later that afternoon to hear about their project. In talking with Jake and Irma there, we learned about The Hashtag, who happened to be having – that very night – a meeting about downtown revitalization – specifically about plans for the mall.
What could be more perfect? These are the kind of folks – creative, technology types – who we’d love to see opening business in Fresno and specifically opening business downtown. We had to go. So we fired up the Red Helmet Gang and peddled on over to meet with everybody there. Very cool scene – makes me wonder if something like this would work back in my hometown of Lancaster, PA.