Restoring Prosperity: Transforming Ohio’s Communities for the Next Economy

If you haven’t yet read the Restoring Prosperity Report produced by the Greater Ohio Policy Center and the Brookings Institution Metropolitan Policy Program, I highly recommend that you do.

Photo from the Restoring Prosperity Report

It provides, based on a massive community engagement campaign that I was lucky enough to take part in, policy recommendations to transform Ohio’s economy in a way that is both environmentally and socially just.

The short-, medium-, and long-term recommendations cover innovation, human capital, infrastructure, quality places, educational spending, local government collaboration, state programs and investments, and competition for Federal funding.

But how do we go from holding a report of quality policy recommendations to catalyzing implementation?

We might learn from what Pennsylvania has accomplished since the publishing of their “Back to Prosperity” Report (also done in collaboration with Brookings).

At the recent Rebuilding the Cities that Built America conference in Youngstown, Joanne Denworth of Gov. Edward Rendell’s Office of Policy in Pennsylvania noted that although they have made great progress in PA since the publishing of their smart growth report, there were also set-backs.

Of them, she recalled the push-back from rural communities that made policy implementation on behalf of city improvement difficult.  She also informed conference-goers that PA now faces the impending environmental degradation associated with the exploration of oil sands, which could set them back significantly from environmental progress made since the height of industry in the area.

These are not easy issues to solve.  But by exploring them and thinking through potential solutions, we may come closer to successful implementation of necessary policies in order to make our region more socially, environmentally, and economically sustainable.

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Majora Carter on “Greening the Ghetto”

On March 30, Majora Carter, founder of Sustainable South Bronx, came to Cleveland to talk about her work to “green the ghetto” in South Bronx.  Watch the video below to learn about how she and her community have tackled social and environmental injustices, while simultaneously creating economic development opportunities for their neighborhood.

How can we bring some of these tactics to places like East Cleveland, East Liberty and pretty much anywhere in Detroit?

Urban Renewal Does Not Have to Mean Gentrification

This Tuesday and Wednesday I went to a conference for Smart Growth in Pittsburgh.  At the conference, a local documentary filmmaker – Chris Ivey – presented a few clips of his documentary series: East of Liberty

East of Liberty covers some raw topics that developers interested in urban renewal don’t like to talk about much: gentrification and low-income residents.  As plenty of post-industrial Great Lakes cities (not just Pittsburgh – where East of Liberty was shot) draw up plans for revitalizing their urban cores, we must take into account the current residents of those spaces.

Here’s a promo for the film:

Why does gentrification hurt communities? 

While it may seem that bringing in new businesses and nicer apartment buildings is good for these cities, they often raise realty prices and property taxes, pushing low- and moderate-income residents out of the newly developed spaces.  Often, no alternatives or quality low-income housing arrangments are made for these urban refugees.

What are solutions?

Urban renewal does not have to mean gentrification.  Low- and moderate-income people deserve safe and family-friendly neighborhoods as much as anyone else.  If we want to re-develop existing communities, then we should engage the people who live there in the planning process and offer low-income housing options in those developments.

In areas where developers work on integrating housing of different price ranges (think of the west side of Cleveland), there can be a rich diversity that renders vibrant neighborhoods.

And if you’re worried about safety, then invest in a quality police force that will protect all of the residents who live there.

Rust to Renewal – Pittsburgh’s Green Economy

Pittsburgh is doing some innovative things in terms of attracting the renewable energy sector to fill in the holes left behind by the steel industry (holes that still exist in Cleveland).  Cleveland has ideas to similarly bring wind turbine manufacturing into our old industrial sites, but we could learn from what Pittsburgh has done in its turnaround.

I was excited to find this video on ChelseaGREEN (one of my favorite blogs about sustainability).  The film, which has obvious connections to what I write about here, was produced by the US State Department to demonstrate how Pittsburgh is following Obama’s campaign to build the renewable energy grid while creating new “green” jobs.

Also, watch this video about how Braddock, PA is becoming more sustainable because of key leadership decisions.  Couldn’t help but notice that Braddock’s “GTECH” group is a lot like the Cleveland Botanical Garden’s Green Corp program that pays inner city kids to work and learn in urban gardens.  More on that later.