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« Reason

Sprawl is Unsustainable

By Tyler S. Clark (Contact)

Published August 25, 2008

The goal of regionalization is to draw population back to the core. Cities, not suburbs, are best equipped to support masses of people. Look at a map; see the urban core from which satellite suburbs branching out. The very etymology of suburb from seventeenth-century London suggested detached areas of "inferior, debased, and licentious habits or life."

Of course, I'm being needlessly and satirically provocative. I grew up in Plano, Texas, which was once the country's heroin capital. It was neither less nor more virtuous than its urban core of Dallas, but as a matter of sustainability—and particularly in today's energy-starved world—it's critical to the efficiency of the area that its people have access to mass transit and other public services, along with redevelopment of the region's core.

Here in the Mahoning Valley, we have nowhere near the density of the Dallas-Fort Worth metropolitan area. This means our needs for regionalization are far greater, not lesser. We must pool our resources, reduce our overhead, and level the disparities across neighboring localities to revenue generation.

The "Regional Economic Revenue Study" for Northeast Ohio, Phase I, available at http://www.revenuestudy.org, has drawn the following conclusions from its research:

  • "Our current system supports a 'go-it-alone, winner-take-all' mentality and an unhealthy competition between municipalities for job creation. Revenue sharing reduces this mentality and changes the region's outlook of economic development. If Northeast Ohio is to be successful, we must view economic development as a regional focus to bring new jobs from outside the region, state and nation."
  • "Regional planning has been shown to save infrastructure dollars, increase and create high-quality jobs, retain and attract skilled workers, increase household income and ensure communities keep their local identity."
  • "Northeast Ohio's real person income growth and job growth from 1990-2005 was significantly lower than the other nine large Midwest Metropolitan areas. A regional approach could ensure Northeast Ohio saves infrastructure dollars, increases the number of high-quality jobs, preserves and attracts high-quality workers, increases household income and retain communities' local identities."

This does not suggest that existing governments should be consolidated or replaced. The purpose is to "identify a revenue sharing model for Northeast Ohio":

  • "Help foster business growth and development."
  • "Enhance government collaboration and efficiency."
  • "Stimulate regional planning."
  • "Improve equity in the distribution of fiscal resources."

Here are some successful models for regional revenue sharing (from revenuesharing.org):

Twin Cities Fiscal Disparity Program: Minneapolis/St. Paul, Minnesota

  • Most comprehensive, in operation since 1971
  • Program embraces seven counties and many taxing jurisdictions
  • Contributions to revenue pools are based on growth in commercial and industrial property tax
  • Program is credited with creating equality, reducing competition for tax bases and supporting regional land use planning

Allegheny Regional Asset District: Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania Region

  • Promotes economic development and improvement in equity across political jurisdticions with specific attention to core cities
  • Funded  by an additional 1% county sales tax
  • Tax revenues are divided three ways: 50% support regional cultural and recreational assets, 25% goes to county government and 25% is shared with municipal governments

Montgomery County ED/GE Program: Dayton, Ohio Region

  • Program has two components: an economic development component in which 70 percent of the funds are distructed through a grant process back to participating communities and a government equity fund, which uses more sophisticated formulats to distribute funds and ensure greater equity among jurisdictions
  • Funded by a 0.5% increase in the county sales tax to a total of 6.5%

Mayor Williams has openly stated that he's interested in any mechanism that will advance this goal. If it's not JEDD, what is it? But there must be dialog, and there must be a framework in place for the shared prosperity of area by some means.

Here are some resources to use in the pursuit and support of regionalization, as provided on a handout Monday night at the Unitarian Universalist Church's Arts and Lecture Series, where Mayor Jay Williams, Mayor Mike Lyons of the Village of Richfield, Mahoning River Redevelopment Director Dan Mamula, Governor Strickland’s regional representative Arne Clebone and Youngstown's regional revenue sharing director, Sarah Lown spoke:

  1. Read Phase I of the 16-county study on regionalization (cited above) at http://www.revenuestudy.org
  2. Read the Mahoning Valley Metropatterns Study, copy available at Mahoning County and YSU public library or from ACTION (330) 518-6970
  3. Attend the Summit for Restoring Prosperity in Ohio on September 10 in Columbus. Bus seats available for $10. Register at greaterohio.org. For bus info call (330) 618-6971. Read the Restoring Prosperity Study at www.brookings.edu.
  4. Attend the Gray to Green Festival on September 13, 9-5 at historic Wick Park in Youngstown.
  5. Call, write, or e-mail your elected representatives to:
    • Fix it First! Improve and infill in built-up areas that already have water, sewers, and utilities, and is near roads, bridges and folks who want work and nearby stores, not far away shopping malls or big box stores and jobs in former cornfields.
  6. Support the ballot issue to continue funding the Clean Ohio program.
  7. Join the Mahoning River Consortium.
  8. Buy your food at the local farmers market.

One word to local politicians: you are not required to talk to the media about an issue before you've had a chance to speak with other parties involved. This is how misunderstandings take root and issues become intractable. The next time Mayor Williams or Mr. Ungaro gets a call from The Vindicator or other media organization before he's had a chance to speak with each other about the Wal-Mart project, I hope he'll say, "You know, I don't have a comment for you yet, I haven't had a chance to speak with all the parties involved. Once I do, I'll be happy to get you up to speed." Playing everything out in the media before it's been worked out in person is a sure way to bruise egos and entrench stances.


Have a topic you'd like to read about? Or just want to give your feedback? E-mail me at reason -at- tylersclark.com

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