Mayor Coleman Calls for an Urban Agenda

As reported by the Columbus Dispatch, Mayor Coleman of Columbus gave the following remarks at the Restoring Neighborhoods, Strengthening Economies Summit on June 9th:

“We need a state legislature that understands cities are economic engines, not economic drains,” Coleman said during his keynote speech at the Greater Ohio Policy Center’s summit on urban innovation and sustainable growth.

Coleman wants to see better public transit — both within cities and connecting Ohio’s urban areas. He wants the state help to create more-walkable neighborhoods and fight blight, and he wants the legislature to renew a state fund to clean up polluted industrial sites so they can be redeveloped.

“We’ve come to the point where we need a statewide urban agenda,” he said at the Westin Columbus hotel Downtown.

The Summit also included a plenary panel of leading mayors from across the state: Mayor Nan Whaley of Dayton, Mayor Paula Hicks-Hudson of Toledo, Mayor Randy Riley of Wilmington, and Mayor John McNally of Youngstown. Highlighting recent successes in their cities, the mayors struck an optimistic tone on the future of cities in Ohio and each noted the unique relationship their city had with its surrounding region and the state. Discussing challenges facing their cities—including the difficulty of blight and connecting workers to jobs and opportunity—the mayors cautioned that the state of Ohio could do more to support cities.

An urban agenda would support the revitalization of neighborhoods and cities throughout the state, help connect workers to employment centers, create vibrant communities of choice, and strengthen Ohio’s economy.

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Ohio Cities: Stabilize the Population Outflux by Attracting & Retaining the Millennial Generation

Between the years 1970 and 2013, the city of Cleveland lost almost half of its population. In fact, most cities in the region have also witnessed a decline in population. However, this recent trend seems to have less to do with the location and more to do with the layout of these cities. The most evident reason for this rapid decline may point to the fact that young, educated Millennials favor core cities, as opposed to sprawling communities.

According to research conducted by the Pew Institute and Urban Land Institute, Millennials are driving less than previous generations. However, the Millennials are not alone in this recent trend, as the Baby Boomers are also eager to take advantage of urban amenities and walkable communities. A key component to attracting Millennials to cities is the availability and quality of transportation options. According to a recent survey, “55% of Millennials have a preference to live close to transit” (Yung). With more than half of those polled in favor of such an option, it is obvious that the demand for a multimodal city is real.

One of the most compelling arguments supporting this growing rejection of a car-dependent society points heavily at the financial strain induced by the costly upkeep of a car. With gas prices rising and car loans becoming harder to obtain, and as Millennials find themselves buried in a heap of college debt, owning a car no longer seems to be practical. For this reason, many are shifting to urban areas, where there are multiple transportation options and where almost everything that could be wanted or needed is only a short distance away.

Ohio City Populations

Millennials

Millennial Percentage

In Ohio, we need to do more to take advantage of these trends and to continue attracting and retaining populations that are interested in urban living in order to strengthen the economies of these cities and their surrounding regions. Some of Ohio’s cities are seeing more positive trends–attracting a greater percentage of Millennials–but in the context of ongoing population shrinkage in all of our major cities except Columbus, it is clear that Ohio’s work is not done. The state’s ability to leverage market demand for inner city living and further incentivize—and remove legislative barriers to—infill development within its cities will help determine Ohio’s future prosperity.

Where Ohio is Sprawling and What It Means

Some areas in Ohio are sprawling, some are building in compact, connected ways, and the difference between the two strategies has implications for millions of Ohioans’ day-to-day lives.

Measuring Sprawl 2014

Measuring Sprawl 2014, released today by national advocacy group Smart Growth America, ranks the most sprawling and most compact areas of the country. The new report evaluates development patterns in 221 major metropolitan areas and their counties based on four factors: density, land use mix, street connectivity and activity centering. Each metro area received a Sprawl Index score based on these factors.*

Here is how regions in Ohio ranked:

Metropolitan Statistical Area National Rank Composite (total) score
Canton-Massillon, Ohio 93 106.99
Akron, Ohio 111 103.15
Dayton, Ohio 116 101.48
Toledo, Ohio 117 100.90
Columbus, Ohio 138 93.00
Cleveland-Elyria-Mentor, Ohio 153 85.62
Cincinnati-Middletown, OH-KY-IN 166 80.75
Youngstown-Warren-Boardman, OH-PA 175 78.08

* The four factors were combined in equal weight to calculate each area’s Sprawl Index score. The average Index is 100, meaning areas with scores above 100 tend to be more compact and connected, and areas with scores below 100 are more sprawling. Visit Smart Growth America to view the full rankings >>

The new report also examines how different development patterns relate to the quality of life in these areas—and the differences are startling. People in compact, connected areas have greater upward economic mobility than their peers in sprawling areas. That is, a child born in the bottom 20% of the income scale has a better chance of rising to the top 20% of the income scale by age 30.

People in compact, connected metro areas spend less on the combined expenses of housing and transportation. Housing costs are higher in compact, connected areas, but these higher costs are more than offset by lower transportation costs. People in compact, connected metro areas also have more transportation options. People in these areas tend to walk more, take transit more, own fewer cars and spend less time driving than their peers in sprawling areas.

Finally, people in compact, connected areas have longer, healthier, safer lives. Life expectancy is greater in compact, connected areas, and driving rates (and their associated risk of a fatal collision), body mass index, air quality and violent crime all contribute to this difference.

Outcomes like this are why Greater Ohio Policy Center is dedicated to helping Ohio’s regions develop in a more sustainable way. Helping people in Ohio live healthier, wealthier, happier lives is why we do the work we do, and smarter development is a key part of making that happen.

Read the full findings of Measuring Sprawl 2014 and see how every major metro area in the country compares when it comes to sprawl atwww.smartgrowthamerica.org/measuring-sprawl.

Rust Belt Renaissance

Click the above image to be re-directed to MSNBC’s video clip.

In this segment of MSNBC’s Morning Joe, Details magazine’s Jesse Ashlock discusses ways in which young entrepreneurs are creating a “Rust Belt Renaissance.” In a clip from his article in Details, Ashlock states:

“The Motor City is just like the buckle on the Rust Belt, an entire region whose very name speaks of decline and decay but which is now determinedly–and definitively–finding its way forward. In fact, while the rest of America has staggered under the weight of the Great Recession, the innovators, entrepreneurs, thinkers and doers in cities like Pittsburgh, Cleveland, Buffalo and Youngstown have raced out ahead, leading a Heartland renaissance whose effects are being felt from coast to coast.”

A few of the organizations that they mention include A Piece of Cleveland, Slow’s BBQ in Detroit (just went there this past weekend!), and the LaunchHouse in Shaker Heights.

The Northeast Ohio Sustainable Communities Consortium

The twelve counties that make up Northeast Ohio are home to a community that prides itself on its public art, theaters, parks and hiking trails, and home-grown businesses. Now, a new vanguard of engaged residents are working with a local organization to make Northeast Ohio even better.

The first step in this process is to examine what’s working in Northeast Ohio’s communities, and a new survey from the Northeast Ohio Sustainable Communities Consortium (NEOSCC) does just that. NEOSCC released its Conditions & Trends platform on Tuesday, during the Consortium’s monthly meeting in Youngstown. The extensive inventory of Northeast Ohio’s assets, challenges and year-over-year trends provides a comprehensive assessment of how the region could improve.

Prominent among the findings is the fact that Northeast Ohio has spread out over the past several decades, and that this trend is damaging the region’s economy. Between 1979 and 2006, the average number of people per acre of developed land in Northeast Ohio declined by 22.96%with population shifting from urban areas like Cleveland and Akron to more sparsely populated ones. Continue reading

The Launch of the Northeast Ohio Green Map

When I arrived at my desk after the launch party for the Northeast Ohio Green Map, there was a letter waiting for me. I opened it with some degree of excitement (my name and address were handwritten – always a good sign) and found inside a thank you note from one of the attendees of the event that attracted dozens interested in mapping the region’s sustainability assets online.

The note, the turnout and the feedback at the launch party made me feel as though what we are working on here is, in fact, needed and rejoiced as a tool for community asset mapping in Northeast Ohio. What an extraordinary feeling to have after working on something that you believe in.

During the event, the back room of the Treehouse shrank as people continued to pour in during the presentation, and I was relieved that the bar didn’t have as limited a supply of beer as we had of Edison’s pizza.

Click to view the presentation

Continue reading

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.