Angie, do you really think growth in Brunswick and Richfield is the direct cause of population loss in Cleveland? The two are related, but only tangentially. You are taking an incredibly complicated dynamic and oversimplifying it. Every metro area in the country has many growing suburbs, regardless of whether the central city is growing or not. You will find new suburban growth in greater New York, Washington, and (yes) even in Minneapolis and Portland. And these are all regions with healthy economies and growing central cities. Our economy isn't healthy. And while sprawl (and high infrastructure costs) are exacerbating the situation, the loss of tens of thousands of jobs in the Steel and Rubber industries, resulting from global economic restructuring is a much bigger culprit. And, yes, poor leadership, and racism, and a complacent attitude in the 1970s and 80s didn't help. But C'est la vie. . .
I would argue that Cleveland would be losing population (due to shrinking household size alone) regardless of whether Brunswick or Richfield even existed. Cleveland cannot attract middle class families in large numbers, because it has terrible public schools (one can argue about why that is, but the fact remains) and it does not have a large enough stock of marketable housing. Change these two dynamics, and even with fears about crime (founded or not) and latent racism, Cleveland starts to grow again. Without fixing these two things, it doesn't. But to imply that limiting growth in the suburbs is automatically good for Cleveland, is quite a leap of faith. A strategy like you are proposing will just backfire and be even worse for the region. We need a new way forward.
Sprawl is more than a simple relocation of homes and businesses from one central place to many others. It is an entire set of inextricably connected social and economic linkages all centered around housing preference, school quality, and usage of the automobile.
Other American cities have growing suburbs and the results aren't "devastating" for the entire region. Or are they? And what is the plan in those regions for dealing with peak oil?
Do you see where I am going with this? Yes, we need leadership, and yes sprawl is a bad idea in my opinion, and, yes, I appreciate your idealism, but in your admirable zeal for revitalizing our cities (something we share), you are mis-portraying something incredibly complicated, and gray, and difficult, as something simple, black-and-white, and easy.
True leadership means acknowledging these facts, winning the battles you can, persuasion (rather than demagoguery), consensus-building, and true openness and transparency, which considers all points of view, and makes compromises which are likely to anger those on both the far left and far right. A good leader is not afraid to make hard choices, but is also wise enough to know their own limitations.
You too easily dismiss the challenges that an organization like NOACA faces. You are, on the one hand, criticizing it for being ineffective, and then, on the other hand, implying that it has God-like powers to influence the real estate market, public education system, etc., if only it chose to do so. NOACA's power is the power to control federal transportation funds, and it could invest every dime that it has in public transit and bike lanes, and our region would still continue to sprawl.
Posted Jun 28, 2011