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Speaker cites successes of regional cooperation



Published: Sat, September 22, 2001 @ 12:00 a.m.



The Mall of America was the result of regional cooperation and tax sharing.

By ROGER G. SMITH

VINDICATOR STAFF WRITER

YOUNGSTOWN -- Politicians need to get elected.

Low taxes and good services do that.

Regional tax sharing accomplishes all three, says Myron Orfield, a Minnesota state senator.

It comes at a cost: political ego.

Those who can persuade voters to back them and who can endure the inevitable catcalls about communism, however, are rewarded with stronger communities and re-election, Orfield told Mahoning Valley leaders Friday.

"The people who bite the bullet are the ones who are growing," he said. "The places that succeed are working together."

"If they want to, they can do a lot," he said of political leaders.

Orfield explained a study he did of the region's slipping future and his solution to more than 100 state, township, city and school officials from across Mahoning, Trumbull and Columbiana counties.

The event was part of a two-day economic development summit organized by ACTION, the Alliance for Congregational Transformation Influencing Our Neighborhoods. The group is a coalition of 25 churches and groups representing more than 45,000 Mahoning County residents. On Thursday, Orfield spoke to ACTION members.

Minnesota region: Seven counties, 49 school districts and 187 cities and towns work together in Orfield's region. Forty percent of taxes collected on new business development are pooled and redistributed to poorer areas.

A tangible example of the results: the Mall of America in Bloomington, Minn.

The mall has a $1.2 billion assessed property value, which means it pays a ton of taxes. Denver, Seattle and Vancouver, British Columbia, wanted the mall, too.

The Minnesota group didn't quibble over the location since tax revenue would be shared. It now sits in an older suburb, two miles outside the Twin Cities of Minneapolis and St. Paul.

Cooperation allowed Minnesota to offer $51 million for highways within days. Developers took the deal before the other cities even had a chance.

Forecast for Valley: Nearly 70 percent of local governments would get more money to stabilize and rebuild if the Mahoning Valley counties were to adopt Minnesota's 40 percent sharing plan, Orfield said.

That revenue eventually would mean lower taxes and better services. That would help anybody get elected, he said.

Without cooperation, Youngstown and its older suburbs -- Liberty, Boardman and Austintown -- will continue to decline, Orfield said.

"Older suburbs only go down. When things happen there, they happen faster and faster," he said.

Orfield was asked about what regions comparable to this one are doing. The answer: Nothing, which is why they remain comparable cities.

John Reardon, an ACTION official and Mahoning County treasurer, challenged leaders to create an economy that gives the area's youth a chance to stay and succeed.

"Why don't we start today?" Reardon asked.

rgsmith@vindy.com




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