Strengthening Regional Cohesion

Strengthening Regional Cohesion

According to a study in Vibrant NEO 2040, 74% of Northeast Ohio residents believe that each community's economic future depends on Northeast Ohio succeeding as a region. At the same time, the region is still divided by cities and counties and their competing interests, real or perceived. Residents also believe that Northeast Ohio needs to strengthen its regional cohesion and focus more on what it means to be a region, not a group of distinct cities or communities.

But, how do we go about doing that? And, how will we know that the region is, in fact, more cohesive?

Joining us for this online forum are:

Hunter Morrison, Director of NEOSCC

Steven Hambley, Medina County Commissioner 

David Abbott, Executive Director of The George Gund Foundation

Jacob VanSickle, Executive Director of Bike Cleveland

Moderators (1)

Participants (18) See All

What do you think?

Anonymous
on 2017-07-24T04:43:20+00:00
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Recent Activity

Tony Kuhel
on Jun 11, 2014
"Just posted a similar question to the civic commons topic on 'opportunity corridor'...but also..."
Lawrence Hall
on May 16, 2014
"Our staggering number of political jurisdictions need revisited.  Arbitrary lines drawn 100+..."
Akshai Singh
on May 01, 2014
"Cleveland Heights has just launched a Transportation Advisory Committee that will be responsible..."
Akshai Singh
on May 01, 2014
"Again, let's go to the figures- Vibrant NEO has shown us that we are collectively losing when we..."
Akshai Singh
on May 01, 2014
"First and foremost, a transit-rich core that is dense enough to support biking and walking..."
Dave Abbott
on May 01, 2014
"Steve is exactly right.  We have to keep talking about it, taking small steps, and jumping on..."
"There are many good exaples of community cohesion at the neighborhood, city and metropolitan..."
Tony Kuhel
on Apr 30, 2014
"A good item, Robert.  Wanted to add some comments to the greater discussion but what struck me in..."
Kevin Cronin
on Apr 30, 2014
"I think a part of the process of building cohesion is investing in widely appreciated assets. For..."
Bill Davis
on Apr 30, 2014
"Good point, and something I have observed in my career as well.  Do you have any thoughts on the..."
Bike Cleveland
on Apr 30, 2014
"One very small example that I often experience working with different communities advocating for..."
Jason Segedy
on Apr 30, 2014
"Being from Northeast Ohio is a deeply personal, but also a deeply collective, question of..."
Steve Hambley
on Apr 30, 2014
"I can't see a groundswell of public support being likely in the near future, for a lot of..."
Kevin Cronin
on Apr 30, 2014
"I think this is an important, but unaddressed point. If our regional population and economy is..."
The Uhl Group
on Apr 30, 2014
"Ditto on the Bruce Katz book.  And from hearing Katz' comments at City CLub last Sept. ... and,..."
Bill Davis
on Apr 30, 2014
"We've spent a good deal of time discussing the need for better regional cohesion and discussed a..."
Bill Davis
on Apr 30, 2014
"Commissioner, A terrific perspective.  When I see other large, sometimes mega cities, I envy that..."
Steve Hambley
on Apr 30, 2014
"I am full agreement with you Dave, that times have changed things since the "Great Recession" and..."
Dave Abbott
on Apr 30, 2014
"That's an excellent reference for people, Grace.  I especially commend the chapter by Margaret..."
Grace Gallucci
on Apr 30, 2014
"A good resource for this conversation is a book titled, Reflections on Regionalism, which is..."
Grace Gallucci
on Apr 29, 2014
"Yes, the concept of "we" is critical. Regional cohesion can only exist when there is a mutual..."
Grace Gallucci
on Apr 29, 2014
"Great insight on reframing the way we think about infrastructure as we plan the future of our..."
Steve Hambley
on Apr 29, 2014
"From my perspective, you cannot build a sense of regional cohesion among elected officials,..."
"The Northeast Ohio Sustainable Communities Consortium recently completed 3-years of conversations..."
Bike Cleveland
on Apr 29, 2014
"Marc, the report from CSU's Center for Population Dynamics is great. I think capitalizing on..."
Bike Cleveland
on Apr 29, 2014
"How do we increase a sense of cohesion in Northeast Ohio? Tough question. I think cohesion among..."
Bill Davis
on Apr 29, 2014
"What does being from northeast Ohio mean to you?  How would you describe your communities..."
Bill Davis
on Apr 29, 2014
"Jacob,  Several commenters have noted a connection between competiveness and regional cohesion. ..."
Dave Abbott
on Apr 29, 2014
"It would probably take the same sort of public information and education that any citizen would..."
Bike Cleveland
on Apr 29, 2014
"Jacob VanSickle here, executive director of Bike Cleveland. For Northeast Ohio to become a..."
Tony Kuhel
on Jun 11, 2014 - 9:32 am

Just posted a similar question to the civic commons topic on 'opportunity corridor'...but also pertinent here.  I see a flurry of discussion on the topic of regional cohesion.  It would seem a project like the corridor is a place where ideas, support, collaboration...all the stuff you would show signs of regional cohesion including a vibrancy to help Cleveland.  What are we seeing (I ask this not to put anyone in a position of defensiveness)...and what would be helpful.  The project is going ahead...how can we leverage it to build the cohesion we want.

Reading books, articles, doing reports...are all good and valuable.  But the cohesion and regional bonds we are looking for come out of working in the mud together.  Here is one large chance.

Also question on how CC can be a part of this effort to support collaboration, ideas, etc.  over even the life of this project...aka, learning experience.

Tony

 

There are many good exaples of community cohesion at the neighborhood, city and metropolitan scale, but fewer examples at the regional level. One exception is the Cuyahoga Towpath Trail which connects communities from Zoar to Cleveland. To become a region, we need to act as a region. Through action and experience, we will learn to trust and collaborate with each other as a region. We need to learn from the Towpath Trail and work together on projeccts that connect our communiteis across Northeast Ohio.

 
Bill Davis
From the Moderator: Bill Davis
on Apr 30, 2014 - 10:19 am

We've spent a good deal of time discussing the need for better regional cohesion and discussed a little about how to get there.  Can our panelists and/or other contributors describe what a cohesive region would look like to them?  How its functioning would differ from the current situation?

Bill

 

Responses(4)

Bike Cleveland
on Apr 30, 2014

One very small example that I often experience working with different communities advocating for safer streets is the lack of communication between municipalities. For example: one community is planning to add bike accomodations to a street and when it gets the next community the bike accomodation is planned for a different street two blocks away. A more cohesive region will have a more unified multi-modal transportation plan and implementation would be coordinated across city borders. This would help to foster better communication and a connected bicycle network across the region. 

 
Bill Davis
on Apr 30, 2014

Good point, and something I have observed in my career as well.  Do you have any thoughts on the best approaches for improving intercommunity coordination on these issues?

 
Akshai Singh
on May 01, 2014

Cleveland Heights has just launched a Transportation Advisory Committee that will be responsible for, among other tasks, calling on our neighbors to sit down and discuss connectivity across borders.

 
Lawrence Hall
on May 16, 2014

Our staggering number of political jurisdictions need revisited.  Arbitrary lines drawn 100+ years ago matter far too much in serving constituents.  I forget the communities, but the Plain Dealer in the past month had an article about some communities that were going to merge a service, but one declined after it looked like the merger would cost it a dozen jobs.  Of course it was!  How else did you think it was going to save money? 

The sad truth is that some services can be handled at a ratio of one government employee to 50,000 residents rather than 1 for every 10,000.  So it all comes down to priorities.  Are community residents willing to pay higher taxes knowing that this money is going toward employing a fellow citizen, or would you prefer lower taxes and a resident losing his/her job?  The hope would be lower taxes allow everyone to spend more money, which would stimulate private sector job creation that could hopefully employ this ex-goverment worker. 

These political boundaries also create too many zero-sum games.  How many Westlake residents used to live in Parma?  How many Avon residents used to live in Elyria?  A better functioning system would emphasize infrastructure and economic development activities that actually create and grow wealth, not just move it around.

 
Expand This Thread
Grace Gallucci
on Apr 30, 2014 - 1:30 am

A good resource for this conversation is a book titled, Reflections on Regionalism, which is actually a collection of essays edited by Bruce Katz of the Brookings Institution. Even the book jacket description provides insight to advance the discussion:

Academics, community activists, and politicians have rediscovered regionalism, insisting that regions are critical functional units in a world-wide economy and, just as important, critical functional units in individual American lives. More and more of us travel across city, county, even state borders every morning on our way to work. Our television, radio, and print media rely on a regional marketplace. Our businesses, large and small, depend on suppliers, workers, and customers who rarely reside in a single jurisdiction. The parks, riverfronts, stadiums, and museums we visit draw from, and provide an identity to, an area much larger than a single city. The fumes, gases, chemicals, and run-off that pollute our air and water have no regard for municipal boundaries.

This book lays out a variety of opinions on regionalism, its history and its future. While the essays do not comprise a debate, pro and con, about regionalism, they do provide a wide array of perspectives, based on the authors' diverse backgrounds and experience. Some contributors have made close academic studies of how regional action occurs, in various states like Minnesota, California, and Oregon; others give an historical account of a particular region like that surrounding New York City; and yet others point out aspects of regionalism--race, especially-- that should not be ignored.

Why did past efforts at regional collaboration fall apart? What did regionalist efforts of decades ago leave undone, and what new goals should regionalists set? Without an understanding of these questions, policymakers and advocates may find themselves "reinventing the region." This book provides an important understanding of how regionalism has played out in the past, how policies shape places, and the possibilities and limits of regional action.

 

 

Responses(5)

Dave Abbott
on Apr 30, 2014

That's an excellent reference for people, Grace.  I especially commend the chapter by Margaret Weir on coalition building.  We have to find ways to build a coalition in Northeast Ohio that recognizes our own enlightened self-interest in behaving differently.  I think it's harder today than it was when Katz's book was published because of the increasingly toxic and hyperpartisan nature of politics.  But I also think that we are more pragmatic on a local and regional level because we actually see each other and work together on real issues that demand real solutions.  We have to take advantage of that.

 
Steve Hambley
on Apr 30, 2014

I am full agreement with you Dave, that times have changed things since the "Great Recession" and politics has become seemingly more parochial and partisan.  Review recent observations of the Plain Dealer editorial board regarding state house and senatorial races for at least anecdotal support of the toxicity and localism trends.  Likewise, I support your conclusion that a more pragmatic approach is not only possible but I would add also likely.  Katz references searching for cross-cutting issues (i.e., common ground) that combine with incremental development of social capital, institutions and ad hoc partnerships. I can see those necessary elements of regionalism in Northeast Ohio.  The NEOSCC project at least revealed what was already happening, as well as enlightening and building upon that development. 

 
The Uhl Group
on Apr 30, 2014

Ditto on the Bruce Katz book.  And from hearing Katz' comments at City CLub last Sept. ... and, frankly, Dave's comments at the City Club last week ... this IS an achieveable  goal.  And i think the leadership is in place to make it happen.  Seems to me tho, there is no public groundswell to make it move forward.  so what do we need to do?

 
Steve Hambley
on Apr 30, 2014

I can't see a groundswell of public support being likely in the near future, for a lot of reasons. As the saying goes, however, fortune favors the prepared mind.  We need to continue to enlighten and lead the discussion, explore options and opportunites, and act decisively when those opportunities become more manifest.

 

 
Dave Abbott
on May 01, 2014

Steve is exactly right.  We have to keep talking about it, taking small steps, and jumping on bigger opportunities as they arise.  In the "talking" phase, however, there are also organizing opportunities.  Every organization has the potential to discuss these issues and to become a building block in a larger movement.  

 
Expand This Thread

The Northeast Ohio Sustainable Communities Consortium recently completed 3-years of conversations and visioning across a 12-county region with a population of almost 4 million people and a geography the size of Connecticut. Northeast Ohio, as a region, is large!

And it is fragmented! Our region is made up of four metropolitan areas (metros), 12 counties and 400 individual jurisdictions.  At the center of each metro are our "Legacy Cities--Cleveland, Akron, Canton, Lorain/Elyria and Youngstown/Warren--that are the historic hearts of our region. I say "hearts" because Northeast Ohio has not one but five hearts! Traditionally we in Northast Ohioans have defined ourselves as being from one of these cities and not from the larger region. Unlike the people of Chicago and its suburban counties, we do not talk about being from "Chicagoland." Instead we say emphatically that we are from Cleveland, Akron, Canton, Lorain (County) or the (Mahoning) Valley.

Our mental map of the region reflects historic economic patterns. In the days before the freeways, people lived and worked in a single metropoliant area and rarely ventured out to the next city over. They saw no need to. Each metro had its own department stores, hospitals, universities, theaters, metroparks, transit systems--and jobs. No need to wander too far afield. Everything was close at hand.

But no more. Daily we commute across county lines to work, shop, seek education and medical care and find new opportunities. While we still think of ourselves as being from our individual community, we, in fact, live in and daily share a larger region.

And we share the same concerns. We all want a high quality of life for ourselves and our families. We are concerned with the health of our established communities and with the cost of maintaining these communities while we continue to expand our developed land. We are concerned with the quality of our enviroment, the loss of prime farmland, the success of our schools, and the health of our economy. We value our traditions of local decisionmaking but are frustrated with the complexity and expense of our local government structures.  We want our local governments to be transparent, cost-efficient and effective. 

Vibrant NEO 2040 grew out of these conversations. It is a Vision for our shared future and a Framework for making more infomed and effective decisions--as individuals and as communities. It seeks to advance regional cohesiveness and competitiveness by encouaging communities to align resources and pull together as members of the same team. And it offers over 40 initiatives which we in Northeast Ohio can pursue to build a more vibrant, resilient, sustainable region that can compete successfully in the gloval arena. 

 
Bill Davis
From the Moderator: Bill Davis
on Apr 29, 2014 - 1:35 pm

What does being from northeast Ohio mean to you?  How would you describe your communities relation to the whole?

Bill

 

Responses(3)

Steve Hambley
on Apr 29, 2014

From my perspective, you cannot build a sense of regional cohesion among elected officials, citizens and businesses on the ashes of community identity and an inherent desire that individuals have to belong. Leaders and citizens within our own communities have to be able to recognize the value and benefits of their own community identity; before they will be able to appreciate the value and benefits of those that they are connected socially, economically and geographically.  Unfortunately, communities dispersed throughout Northeast Ohio have great variations in the very conditions that equate to quality of life measures – environment, economic, social, and cultural.  Families living in communities that have massive legacy costs and dismal prospects for economic opportunities would be hard pressed to feel that a Northeast Ohio Community is real or even relevant to their lives.  Elected officials representing those families would likewise be hard pressed to justify anything short of ameliorating the plight of their constituents.

Peter Block’s book, “Community: Creating a Structure of Belonging” talks about transforming our sense of belonging and community building.  I would argue that for many, belonging to a "community" is a core value which has been imbedded in many families over generations. However, in the modern era the sense of community has met with some challenges due to our transitory culture, technological transformations and economic development.  I believe any movement toward regional cohesion would require a similar transformation into a sense of “regional belonging” and “big community” building steps that are directed toward mutual benefits and concerns.  Community offers a sense of belonging but also compels people to acknowledge our interdependence.  Building an effective, efficient and competitive regional community – if that is our goal - would likewise require both.  The geography is there, the economic linkages are there, and the regional history is there – we just need to mentally transform our thinking to realize that we are there – Northeast Ohio is our community and we can work together to make it even better.

 
Bill Davis
on Apr 30, 2014

Commissioner, A terrific perspective.  When I see other large, sometimes mega cities, I envy that they have distinct neighborhoods with their own identies that still feel part of the whole.  Do you believe that there is a path that could lead to our region's many civil divisions feeling a similar sense of linkage while maintaining their unique identities?

 
Jason Segedy
on Apr 30, 2014

Being from Northeast Ohio is a deeply personal, but also a deeply collective, question of identity, and within that identity, the concepts of “place” and “region” are inextricably linked.

 

Place, for example, is a concept that operates on many levels.  Personally, I feel the greatest degree of kinship with a cluster of several adjacent neighborhoods on the west side of Akron – West Akron, Wallhaven, and Highland Square – which is the place that I grew up, and where I live today.  But I also feel a strong connection with downtown Akron, where I work; and with the City of Akron, the community in which I live. 

 

However, my concept of “place” doesn’t end there.  I feel a strong connection with lots of places throughout our region – whether that means a night out in downtown Kent, riding the Towpath Trail through Barberton, going to the Apple Butter festival in Burton, spending time prowling the used  record shops in Lakewood, or going to see a show at the Beachland Ballroom in Collinwood.  This kaleidoscope of places reflects back to me the colorful mosaic that is our region.

 

Region is a fuzzier, more nebulous, concept than place, but we all know what it means for each of us.  Northeast Ohio happens to be a more complicated (and wonderfully diverse) region than most. 

 

There are not many places in America where you can find four central cities, each with their own unique metropolitan culture, in such close proximity to one another.  In 1920, Cleveland was the 5th largest city in America; Akron ranked 32nd; Youngstown ranked 50th; and Canton ranked 82nd.  That sense of individual identity and that legacy of central place remains with us today. 

 

These four cities are not suburbs of one another.  Nor are they separate islands in an isolated archipelago in the South Pacific, with a dragon and a clipper ship along the border representing the edge of the world.  The same goes for their surrounding suburbs, and all of the towns in between.  The reality of our region is extremely complicated.  Those of us that are trying to strengthen our region ignore this reality at our peril.

 

The complexity of our cultural geography involves three components – place, space, and people.  And it is people – real actual people – that too often get lost in the shuffle, as we sit around with our maps, and our data, and our statistical models, and our plans. 

 

In the end, all efforts to foster regional cohesion hinge upon our views on people, space, and place, and on this thing we call “society”.  

 

What is society?  

 

Well, for one, “society” really just means “other people”.  The term itself is a tacit acknowledgement of the truth that we are all connected to one another, whether we want to be or not.  No one is an island.

 

It is actual individual human people with names and families (and not abstractions like “society”) that are important.  But actual human people are inextricably linked to one another in physical space, and through thought, word, and deed.  The word “society” reminds us of this reality.

 

And what is place?

 

Are the things that are associated with place (like tradition, identity, stability, and community) objective values that are intrinsically important? Or are they just subjective and arbitrary?  Are they really just subordinate means to (more important?) ends such as economic development and personal profit?

 

Are places really nothing more than engines for economic growth that, like machines, can be discarded as obsolete when they are no longer “useful” in the most reductive, narrowly-defined sense of that word?  Or do places have an emotional and spiritual significance that we ignore at our peril?

 

And what about the people themselves?  Where do they fit into the equation? Where do they stack up on the balance sheet, and in the benefit/cost calculations?  Who is measuring the true human cost of abandoning entire neighborhoods, entire communities, and entire ways of life?  Is it even possible to truly understand the social, economic, and spiritual impact of our collective decisions on where and how to build our communities?

 

These questions are seldom considered in conversations about regional economic growth and development. But they should be.

 

David Giffels’ new book, The Hard Way on Purpose, is a title that perfectly captures the spirit of the people that could have left, but have chosen to stay, and not just in the region, but in the perennially-shrinking central city of Akron itself:  how they exorcise the ghosts that haunt this place, and how they are building something new out of the rubble of the past.  

 

Our generation serves as a bridge between the one-for-the-history books past and the yet-to-be-determined future of a region that is, at-turns, both manifest and enigmatic.

Those of us that have no memory of a prosperous economy, of a growing population, or of a championship-winning sports team, but chose to stay anyway - we know who we are and we know where we came from. We stay here for the sheer love of this place. We stay here because we recognize that love is a choice; an act of the will; a verb.

It’s not completely altruistic.  Love is meant to be given, and it is meant to be received.  We stay because this place needs us, and we stay because we need it.  We love it because of what it’s been, what it is, and what we want to see it become.

Our wonderful region is a great place to live for many of us, but it is facing some very real, intractable social and economic challenges, which disproportionately affect our most vulnerable residents.  These problems must be addressed, but we have to put time and effort into understanding how to collectively solve them in a way that avoids trying to place a very ineffective square peg into a very politically infeasible round hole.

So, how do we get it right?  How can we knit our core cities, their surrounding suburbs, and all of the towns in between together to create effective, politically feasible, governing frameworks that work for all of our residents, rich and poor, black and white, urban and suburban? 

 

Like most people, I have more questions than answers, but part of the answer has to do with starting small, working on fundamentals, building trust, inspiring hope, and building authentic relationships between real people and their social networks.  I’m not just talking about transactional relationships between the rich and powerful, but empathetic human relationships between people from all walks of life; relationships that transcend place, and race, and occupation, and socioeconomic status. 

As an urban planner, I like to think that "good planning” is an important part of the answer, but I think we need to redefine what we mean by “good planning”.  Fetishizing Daniel Burnham’s famous “Make no little plans…” quote has done us much harm.  Sometimes “little plans” are exactly what we need, because they often involve fundamentals, are easier to pull-off, and more readily establish trust, inspire hope, and build human relationships.

In the end, it is about the people.  They are what make our region a great place.  As a public servant, I remind myself of this every single day.

 
Expand This Thread
Bike Cleveland
on Apr 29, 2014 - 12:32 pm

Jacob VanSickle here, executive director of Bike Cleveland.

For Northeast Ohio to become a cohesive region we need to collectively become more competitive. To be more competitive we need to change the mindset in our region from the "us" -vs- "them" to the "we." The idea that as a team our region as a whole is stronger than the indivudal players alone. 

From my perspective, as an advocate for improved multi-modal transportation, I often see cities vying for limited dollars for an un-prioritized set of transportation projects. Many of the projects cost millions and do very little to boost our regions competiveness (by drawing people to our region, serving the transportation needs of people where they live, or building on connections). 

Vibrant NEO 2040 does a great job laying out the framework for building a more cohesive region, but how do we as a region buy-in to the vision so that our limited dollars are prioritized better to ensure we are competitive?

 

 

 

Responses(5)

Bill Davis
on Apr 29, 2014

Jacob,  Several commenters have noted a connection between competiveness and regional cohesion.  If cohesion would make us more competitive, how do we accomplish the increase in a sense of cohesion in northeast Ohio?  In general, competition here occurs intraregionally, with individual communities vying for economic development.  So how do we create the sense that we all gain or lose as the region does?

 
Bike Cleveland
on Apr 29, 2014

How do we increase a sense of cohesion in Northeast Ohio? Tough question. I think cohesion among competing communities will take time, but we need to capitalize on small opportunities that bring us closer as a region and build common pride in our regions assets.

 
Grace Gallucci
on Apr 29, 2014

Yes, the concept of "we" is critical. Regional cohesion can only exist when there is a mutual respect and understanding of the interconnectedness between the various entities that make up the region, which means recognizing and validating the value of each other. 

 
Kevin Cronin
on Apr 30, 2014

I think a part of the process of building cohesion is investing in widely appreciated assets. For instance, we do not check your county of residence when you enjoy the parks that ring the county. Similarly, more than 50% of people enjoying sporting or entertainment events at the baseball, football or basketball arenas are visitors from outside Cuyahoga. The ports support workers beyond Cuyahoga County. Jointly investing in these sorts of shared assets seems like a way to knit us more closely together. Should their be a wider, multi-county umbrella to suport these assets?

 
Akshai Singh
on May 01, 2014

Again, let's go to the figures- Vibrant NEO has shown us that we are collectively losing when we keep building out further and further from the core, and with 'planning' for car-only communities. Amanda Woodrum at Policy Matters Ohio has done a great job of calculating the amount of money that Ohio loses at the gas pump alone.

 
Expand This Thread
Marc Lefkowitz
on Apr 29, 2014 - 12:02 pm

Relevant to this topic, I'm reading the new report from Richey Piiparinen at CSU Center for Population Dynamics and he has found some interesting micro trends with the in-migration or brain gain happening in Cuyahoga County. It has some implications for a First Suburbs and central cities, like Cleveland and Akron, collaboration. When we rethink the frame based on what are the common traits that we share it gives a fuller picture of the region and where we have the opportunities to collaborate.

  •  The landing spots for young and educated migrants, termed “Global Neighborhoods,” included parts of Downtown, Ohio City, Tremont, and Edgewater, as well as inner-ring suburbs of Lakewood and Cleveland Hts. Parts of outer-ring suburbs are also represented, including Westlake, Mayfield Hts., Beachwood, and Olmsted Township.
  • The parts of Cleveland experiencing the greatest brain gain are also where the greatest wage increases are happening...

 

 

Responses(2)

Bike Cleveland
on Apr 29, 2014

Marc, the report from CSU's Center for Population Dynamics is great. I think capitalizing on those micro-trends is essential to building strong cohesion in our region. What do you see as the contributing factors to the trend of in-migration found in the report?

 
Akshai Singh
on May 01, 2014

First and foremost, a transit-rich core that is dense enough to support biking and walking between destination locations. Young people want real city life, but at affordable Cleveland prices. We're seeing such in-migration despite ODOT's best efforts to limit local mobility and expand car-only infrastructre.

 
Expand This Thread
Bill Davis
From the Moderator: Bill Davis
on Apr 29, 2014 - 10:21 am

Good Morning!  Bill Davis here.  I'm Associate Director of Operations Management at NOACA and will be moderating this forum on strengthening regional cohesion.  To start us off, perhaps our panelists could introduce themselves and  tell us what the term regional cohesion means to them? 

Bill

 
Dave Abbott
on Apr 29, 2014 - 8:00 am

While there are many connections among Northeast Ohioans that are worth noting, the one that most urgently compels us to think and act more cohesively is our shared ecnomic future.  The globalized economy consists of regions competing against each other.  That's simply the way the world works and there is nothing we can do about it.  But what we can do and must do is assess how effectively we are competing.  The data show that we are underperforming compared to national economic averages.  But why?  We obviously are going through a long and sometimes painful transition from the old economy to a new one.  But the speed of that transition is impeded by the many divisions that beset Northeast Ohio.  Race, class and social divisions.  Bewilderingly fragmented government. The sheer physical separation and costs that sprawl imposes.  Education that is delivered in a 19th century framework.  And on and on.  

We are all on the same economic team whether we like it or not.  Our current and future jobs -- indeed, our very future -- depend on whether we can act more effectively as a team.  Many of our competitors do much better than we do.  We're in a race and we're behind.

Many more altruistic arguments could be mustered to support a call for greater regional cohesion.  But it seems to me that enlightened self-interest is the best motivator.  

 

Responses(6)

Jason Segedy
on Apr 29, 2014

These are important points, David. The fragmentation of government is a challenge for our region. The big question is "How do we address it in a way that is both effective and politically feasible?"

I think it is the urban policy question of the 21st century in our region, and in the Rust Belt, in general.

If you have time, I address the issue of local government fragmentation, with some comparisons between the Rust Belt and the Sunbelt, here:

http://thestile1972.tumblr.com/post/82706606733/a-tale-of-273-cities

 

Dave,  I think you summarize the issues well.  Given that these issues have plagued northeast Ohio for quite a few decades, do you believe there is a way to communicate to the public here that our municipal corporate boundaries and county boundaries are creating a misperception of separateness?

Bill

 
Dave Abbott
on Apr 29, 2014

Honestly, Bill, I think our best bet is to take the issue outside of the usual parameters of government boundaries, regional government, etc.  My experience is that people automatically find that traditional discussion threatening.  Just look at the reaction to the suggestion of merging East Cleveland with Cleveland.  And that's an exceedingly small potato!  So, I think we have to frame the conversation differently and the frame that I think is most accurate and also most persuasive is economic competitiveness.  If we can get more and more people to recognize that they can contribute to our team's ability to compete -- which has personal financial benefit for them -- then more and more they will be comfortable looking at issues through the lens of competitiveness.  Through that lens all of the behaviors that Vibrant NEO 2040 describes look insane.  I think it's our best chance to get people to see the need for change because they see their own self-interest being positively -- instead of negatively -- affected.

 
Dave Abbott
on Apr 29, 2014

Jason, I love your blog post about the sunbelt.  A couple of points in particular:  that city boundaries (and cities themselves) matter a great deal within a region and also that place matters.  There are many reasons for this but since I've been beating the drum of economic competitiveness, let me use tha lens again.  

As we in Northeast Ohio compete in the world, what is it that the world sees?  First and foremost it is Cleveland.  And in many respects it is downtown Cleveland.  That is our first face to the world.  For reasons that all of us can undertand, the ability to keep that a competitive face is highly contingent on the ability of the city government to provide services, sustain development, etc.  And that is contingent on tax revenue, which, in turn is affected directly by the borders of the city.  

Global economic competition is, to a great extent, a competition for talent.  Where does talent migrate?  Increasingly and disproportionately to vibrant, diverse, urban places -- not the bland suburban or exurban developments.  Place matters greatly to talent as both a lifestyle choice and as a lubricant for innovation and creativity.  The whole region has a direct economic stake in the success of vibrant neighborhoods in Cleveland and Akron and elsewhere because they attract and retain talent.  That talent, in turn, grows the economy that sustains us all.

 
Bill Davis
on Apr 29, 2014

Dave, I agree that people find the traditional arguments threatening and concur that our economic competiveness is compromised by our region's fractured psyche.  You discuss changing the framework for the discussion: do you have thoughts on how to make an employee at a suburban retail outlet feel/understand that they are in fact part of a much larger economic unit?

Bill

 
Dave Abbott
on Apr 29, 2014

It would probably take the same sort of public information and education that any citizen would require.  And I'm hopeful that organizations like NOACA will help to spearhead that.  It would, of course, be very helpful if employers would help to educate their employees to these realities.  Some of those employers might feel that they are being targeted as being part of the problem -- the suburban retail outlets you mention, for instance.  And in a narrow, short-term sense that might be true.  But retailers follow markets.  Helping people understand that denser spatial development is a key way for us to compete and grow the region's economy -- not just to avoid costs -- must be a part of our strategy.  Smart employers and smart people in any domain will "get it" and see it as a way to succeed economically.  Not to mention, of course, the many other benefits that it would generate.

 
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Jason Segedy
on Apr 28, 2014 - 4:13 pm

This is a great topic to discuss (and act upon) as a region. As a prelude, I would like to share three blog posts of mine.

Here is why I think this issue is absolutely critical to our future:

http://thestile1972.tumblr.com/post/71691657173/today-is-yesterdays-tomorrow

Here is how I think we begin to change things:

http://thestile1972.tumblr.com/post/58143335240/how-to-transform-a-culture

And here is what personally animates me, and why I love this place:

http://thestile1972.tumblr.com/post/65760080867/confessions-of-a-rust-belt-orphan-how-i-learned-to

 

 
Lev Gonick
on Apr 28, 2014 - 10:33 am

In every major historical era from the 'discovery' of the Ohio Valley to the present day, we have leveraged our geography and infrastructure. The Vibrant NEO 2040 survey outlines many exciting and aspirational outcomes that represent a mosaic and even the makings of a shared vision. Missing from that survey and much of the regional conversation is what infrastructure choices do we need to leverage as we move into the 21st century. 

OneCommunity is a national model for regional engagement in the development of 21st century digital infrastructure. With more than 2500 route miles of next generation fiber optic infrastructure, our digital 'platform' is the digital, 21st century analog to the 'river', the 'lake', the 'canal', the 'airport', and the 'inter-state highway'. How we leverage that infrastructure to catalyze economic growth, 21st century education, health, wellness, and neighborhood and public safety is worthy of the planning insights and convening capacity of NOACA. 

Whatever our region's future, it is hard to imagine a coherent set of insights without conversation and debate about the underlying infrastructure that connects and enables our collective hopes and aspirations. OneCommunity welcomes the opportunity to be part of the effort to power connections that will inspire the region to go big with a bold and ambitious ambition for 2040.

 

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Grace Gallucci
on Apr 29, 2014

Great insight on reframing the way we think about infrastructure as we plan the future of our region. We have a trmendous opportunity to leverage assets such as One Community. 

 
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Akshai Singh
on Apr 27, 2014 - 11:22 pm

Vibrant NEO has found that building further and further out will lead to increasingly unaffordable infrastructure costs for both capital and operation and maintenance. Furthermore, with the pressing issues of climate change impacting us now- and making life more costly for those who can least afford additional stress- the impetus to form a regional approach to development is stronger than ever. We need to work on building connections between regional hubs in a sustainable and inclusive fashion. This means focusing on core communities with spines that can support population growth without breaking the bank. It also means maintaining the infrastructure we have, and letting go of 'dream projects' for development, rather than keying into long-term maintenance-based solutions like 'Complete Streets' policies.

 

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Sam Bell
on Apr 27, 2014

"It also means maintaining the infrastructure we have, and letting go of 'dream projects' for development, rather than keying into long-term maintenance-based solutions like 'Complete Streets' policies."  Please elaborate on the percieved opposition between the two.  I don't get it, particularly since the "complete streets" policy is not, as such, maintenance-based, but rather, construction-based.

 

Sam, the complete streets movement is in many respects a retro movement.  Old urban cores were initially built as complete, many not only supporting transit but also street cars.  They also included sidewalks.  So maintaining existing infrastructure in the urban core is essentially promoting complete streets as long as the focus is on maintaining/restoring more than a surface for automobile use.

Bill

 
Kevin Cronin
on Apr 30, 2014

I think this is an important, but unaddressed point. If our regional population and economy is not growing, we are only spreading out more thinly, creating more public spending obligations (roads, utilities etc) as we go. In a word, SPRAWL. How does regional collaboration address this point, providing opportunities without the massive, physical infrastructure investment that have historically gone with it? What's the answer, other than move back closer to the core city (a decision many are making on their own)? Can telecom infrasrtucture play a role here?

 
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Keith Benjamin
on Apr 23, 2014 - 12:44 am

For 23 years I have worked for Northeast Ohio's First Suburbs and was the first coordinator of the First Suburbs Consortium - the first Council of Governments in the nation to address issues of urban sprawl and suburban disinvestment. We are the more mature, diverse and middle class communities.  We are older and aging places in need of revenue to drive redevelopment, renewal and revitalization.  We are the places with 100 years old leaking water lines, broken curbs and sidewalks. We are the places with obsolete commercial and industrial areas and aging schools and we are the places that are carrying the ever increasing burdens of providing social and human service needs of our diverse socio-economic populations. We are the places in the middle – between the urban core and the rural areas. We are the places that look most like America and we are the swing-districts that play a major role in electing our state and federal leaders.

But we are also the places where the policy deck is stacked against us. And instead of being rewarded for being the diverse places that represent the best of what is America, we are being ignored and punished by continuing cuts in State and Federal funding, unfunded federal mandates and outdated policies that fund transportation, housing and development policies.

Too often, these entrenched policies and practices ignore our diverse middle class suburbs or promote programs and funding that pit communities against each other, rather than promoting regional planning and cooperation. We need to build strong and unified voices for inclusion, sustainability and regional cooperation and change policies and practices that continue to promote the erosion of our tax base and disinvestment in our diverse, older built-out suburbs.

 

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Keith, your points are well stated for the first suburbs, but the same points could be made for Cleveland as the first suburbs were forming.  What is their role in supporting Cleveland's revival?

Bill

 
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Robert Rose
on Apr 22, 2014 - 4:06 pm

The work has been done for you, follow what has been a proven model. http://www.briem.com/files/LucchinoDisincorporate1.pdf

 

You just saved $50 million dollars, spend the money leveraging the urban core. Regionalism is the very idea that a "rising tide lifts all boats", and that starts at the heart of it. Even tiertiary cities (those other than CLE/AK) in the framework of regionalism should have the urban centers as first in the list of civic priorities.

 

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Tony Kuhel
on Apr 30, 2014

A good item, Robert.  Wanted to add some comments to the greater discussion but what struck me in your item is the fact that collectively I suspect we have the answer.  And we can have access to alot of learning that moves us forward as well.  But talk and action, education and learning are not the same...and here we sit.

 
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