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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


Comments

1debraweaver(30 comments)posted 5 years, 7 months ago

I have often been asked to define sustainable cities and some time ago went in search of a definition. My favorite is that put out by the institute for sustainable Communities. They say, "Sustainable communities are defined as towns and cities that have taken steps to remain healthy over the long term. Sustainable communities have a strong sense of place. They have a vision that is embraced and actively promoted by all the key sectors of society, including businesses, disadvantaged groups, environmentalists, civic associations, government agencies,and religious organizations. They are places that build on their assets and dare to be innovative. These communities value healthy ecosystems, use resources efficiently, and actively seek to retain and enhance a locally based economy. There is a pervasive volunteer spirit that is rewarded by concrete results. Partnerships between and among government, the business sector, and nonprofit organizations are common. Public debate in these communities is engaging, inclusive and constructive. Unlike traditional community development approaches, sustainability strategies emphasize: the whole community (instead of just disadvantaged neighborhoods); ecosystem protection, meaningful and broad based citizen participation, and economic self reliance." Youngstown is headed on the path toward sustainability, although we have a distance to go and obstacles to overcome, we must stay the course and not be deterred by nay-sayers.

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2tylersclark(182 comments)posted 5 years, 7 months ago

Those are great goals, Deb, thanks. As was pointed out last night, we must first create a vision and define who we want to be as we move towards it and hold firm to seeking out compatible sustainable components and economic anchors.

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3lucy(123 comments)posted 5 years, 7 months ago

"inferior, debased, and licentious habits or life" LOL.

You've summed up last night's discussion fairly comprehesively--a great tool for readers who were unable to attend.

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4Bull_Chip(170 comments)posted 5 years, 7 months ago

Read this and shake in fear:

“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'll 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.”

Summary,
you scratch my back and I’ll scratch yours
make sure we have the stories we’re going to foist on the public straight
don’t air our dirty laundry in public.

Please, can someone tell me what would be different above if we were talking about a criminal enterprise instead of local government? Isn’t the primary goal here to separate the taxpayer from his money because they believe they know how to spend it much better than we do?

Take a look at the endless feasibility studies that have been conducted with no measurable outcome. Hey, I want a grant to study the outcome of studies conducted in the Mahoning Valley, like the study for the blimp plant, Lake to River canal, indoor NASCAR race track (oh, that’s right, NASCAR wasn’t interested in using it), Russian commuter aircraft company, dredging the Mahoning River, removing the dams from the Mahoning River, enforcing JEDDs in the valley, ad-infinitum.

NO, A LARGER GOVERNMENT WITH MORE TAX REVENUE IS NOT THE ANSWER, FIXING THE PROBLEMS IN YOUNGSTOWN NOW IS!

from the 2008 Ohio school report card

District Name standards met
Youngstown City 1
Campbell City 14
Sebring Local 16
Jackson-Milton 23
Struthers City 23
Austintown Local 25
Boardman Local 27
Lowellville 27
West Branch 27
Springfield 28
Western Reserve 28
Poland Local 29
South Range 29
Canfield Local 30

and YES, Youngstown has the highest level of per student funding and they are still in a deficit

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5Bull_Chip(170 comments)posted 5 years, 7 months ago

District AVG Teachers salary without benefits

Sebring 43,970
Struthers 45,913
Jackson-Milton 45,968
Western Reserve 45,975
Springfield 48,345
West Branch 49,191
Austintown 49,978
Youngstown 50,729
Lowellville 50,947
South Range 51,551
Campbell 51,690
Boardman 54,065
Poland 55,537
Canfield 57,842

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6Bull_Chip(170 comments)posted 5 years, 7 months ago

FY 07

District--- expenditures per student
Youngstown-- 15,387.93
Campbell-- 9,791.79
South Range-- 9,478.32
Jackson-Milton-- 8,964.78
Boardman-- 8,530.30
Austintown-- 8,503.23
Sebring-- 8,305.80
Poland-- 8,127.83
Canfield-- 7,877.38
Springfield-- 7,728.24
West Branch 7,664.36
Struthers 7,526.97
Western Reserve 7,505.41
Lowellville 7,110.44

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7tylersclark(182 comments)posted 5 years, 7 months ago

Bull_Chip, you completely misunderstood (and or twisted) my comment. I'm saying that before talking to the media, people should talk to each other.

Have you ever heard about something somebody said about you from somebody else? Did it piss you off? What if you had heard it from them... in context. The outcome might have been different.

What is happening is that the media gets wind of a new development and jumps all over their contact list before there's any dialog between the parties themselves. They get their quotes and take them to the next party on the list. "They said what?" and the hackles go up and everybody digs their heels in. I'm saying that we should break this cycle and let government work diplomatically through the appropriate channels.

Once there have been discussions and agreements or disagreements, then they can announce that to the media. But the disagreements and arguments are currently generating FROM the fact that people are talking through the media to each other rather than directly communicating with each other.

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8Bull_Chip(170 comments)posted 5 years, 7 months ago

Tyler,
There is a reason the media is referred to as the “fifth estate”. As an example, look at the work done during the Water Gate investigation. Encouraging politicians to not speak to the media unless it is cleared by all interested parties is a step towards a secretive and controlled government that only releases proscribed and sanitize information.

As I stated in my post “Please, can someone tell me what would be different above if we were talking about a criminal enterprise instead of local government?” If it looks like a duck, walks like a duck and quacks like a duck, chances are it is a duck. If standard procedures from an organized criminal operations are followed, how do you then differentiate that government from the criminal enterprise.

I believe this area is intimately familiar with local government involvement with organized crime. Why promote anti-sunshine practices that will enable establishment of such relationships in the future.

I take great offense at your accusation that I twisted your comment. That is precisely why I posted the salient section in its entirety. That is why I invited anyone to differentiate those procedures from a criminal enterprise.

As far as the taxpayer’s money issue, you are supporting numerous initiatives that will indeed cost taxpayers. Due to specific area problems, namely Youngstown schools abysmal failure to successfully educate the children of the city and the phenomenal murder rate and the personal and property crimes that are spreading to the surrounding areas, these initiatives will have no net positive effect for the Valley. Youngstown schools are again in the bottom 3 public schools in the state, not a big plus to encourage businesses to move in.

Those areas are where the focus needs to be. Everything else is simply diversionary or misguided to helping the Valley. If mayor Jay Williams is successful in his JEDD extortion attempt, those areas also are doomed. A JEDD is meant to spur NEW development, not extract tribute from existing profitable businesses. A business, its owners and employees are suppose to have a say in the taxes they pay, as in NEW DEVELOPMENT.

As to the effect of studies, the ones I sited had only the effect of transferring taxpayer money to others to produce series of reports that had no positive financial or social impact.

No, my statements stand as is until someone can factually challenge them.

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9metz87(884 comments)posted 5 years, 7 months ago

I see Austintow schools is about halfway up there on the cost per student. Not a surpise really and I bet we are higher this year.

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10tylersclark(182 comments)posted 5 years, 7 months ago

Once again you're putting words in my mouth. I'm not suggesting anyone clear anything with anyone, I'm talking about diplomacy.

Merely if the first that an official is hearing about a new issue or sticking point is from the media, before responding with how they're going to handle the issue, the most diplomatic approach is to show courtesy to your partners in the political process by keeping them apprised of the situation first--just as you would someone in a business relationship or a personal relationship--before you'd reveal the workings of that relationship to interested third parties.

It's preposterous how you could make something nefarious out of that. It's pure diplomacy.

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11metz87(884 comments)posted 5 years, 7 months ago

How ofte do people keep their word tohugh no often. They tend to do tihngs then tell others that they did it.

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12Cbarzak(110 comments)posted 5 years, 7 months ago

Pearls before swine, Tyler. The Bible does get some things right. I'm just sayin'. ;-)

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13tylersclark(182 comments)posted 5 years, 7 months ago

That's a completely different issue, though, metz87, isn't it?

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14tylersclark(182 comments)posted 5 years, 7 months ago

Indeed, Chris. But, I'm going to keep putting it out there!

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15tylersclark(182 comments)posted 5 years, 7 months ago

OldManGrump, for once I'm going to agree with you. Parental involvement in children's education is crucial. And from what we saw in Harding it was non-existent. The children were desperate for parental attention. When it comes to children, money isn't everything, but parents are.

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16msweetwood(160 comments)posted 5 years, 7 months ago

"Merely if the first that an official is hearing about a new issue or sticking point is from the media, before responding with how they're going to handle the issue, the most diplomatic approach is to show courtesy to your partners in the political process by keeping them apprised of the situation first--just as you would someone in a business relationship or a personal relationship--before you'd reveal the workings of that relationship to interested third parties."

Tyler, while I appreciate your passion on this subject, this line of thinking is a little complex and somewhat deserving of a little more introspection. The fact is, we're not discussing a private business relationship or a personal relationship; we're discussing public business. Government is the people's business and involves, often, millions of dollars of public funds. To have various political sides hash out some sort of stance or agreement out of earshot of the public is not usually in the public's best interests. When it comes to government, the public is NOT merely an "interested third party" (although many politicians, too, believe in this concept, unfortunately). I understand your goal of better harmony, but allow me to suggest that the public interest is best served when all aspects of important government decisions are made in the sunlight, as messy as democracy and the free press can be, sometimes.

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17George412(161 comments)posted 5 years, 7 months ago

Oh come on! At what point was it suggested that government business be "hashed out...out of earshot of the public?"

It's clear that Tyler is suggesting that Ungaro should have tried to work with Williams before or at the same time that he went to the media about Walmart's problems. He didn't. Williams found out after everyone else, and like it or not, this causes some of us to ask questions.

This is not Watergate. It is not some clandestine, corrupt political maneuvering. It's about leaders from neighboring communities trying to work together as leaders to serve their communities.

Invite the media to the meeting, absolutely, but ALL parties should have been involved at the same time. The media also has a responsibility to the community, and that responsibility includes not creating/perpetuating false crises.

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18tylersclark(182 comments)posted 5 years, 7 months ago

Mark, you, also, have misinterpreted what I'm saying or are simply talking about something else, I'm not sure which.

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19msweetwood(160 comments)posted 5 years, 7 months ago

Tyler: I think the disconnect you are having with the questioning of the logic of "Playing everything out in the media before it's been worked out in person..." and "just as you would someone in a business relationship or a personal relationship" is that government is neither a private enterprise or a private affair. The rules are different. Decisions can't be made without a meeting getting posted and a majority of members present. Taxpayers are not merely some interested third party. When doing the people's business, government has rules to follow and while your appeal to harmony is well-intentioned, in the wrong hands, the result could be a layer of obfuscation that presents an entirely new set of problems. Where do you draw the line between "diplomacy" and "secrecy" and how do we make sure that everyone agrees with/understands/follows your definition? I don't think people are so much misinterpreting your words or putting words in your mouth as they are pointing out unintended consequences. A free press and open government can be messy (and, sometimes, feelings get bruised) but that process is ultimately superior to the alternative.

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20tylersclark(182 comments)posted 5 years, 7 months ago

I'm simply suggesting leaders pick up the phone and call each other to discuss new developments before accepting quotes from reporters as verbatim and responding with their game plan. Shows that local governments are willing to work with each other in good faith rather than posturing through the media, as they've been doing lately. Not sure what's so nefarious about that. I hear what you're saying, but I think you're creating a slippery slope--in this scenario--out of whole cloth.

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