Forging a regional
civic vision

By Kathy Hexter

The Levin College of Urban Affairs was pleased to host the Sustainable Communities Symposium 2000 through our new forum program. Since its founding in 1978, the college has been a neutral convenor for public discussion of key issues confronting the city and the region. This role has been formalized and expanded through a new forum program, which is both a physical space at the heart of our new building on Euclid Avenue (opening later in 2000) and a series of programs much like SCS 2000 that will bring together all sectors of our region to talk through ideas and take action.

We believe that forums such as this can indeed lead to action. For example, in 1982 the Levin College
convened the "Cities Congress on Roads to Recovery." Representatives were invited from major cities in the U.S. with populations over 150,000 that had lost population from 1970 to 1980 to share success stories for addressing urban decline. James Rouse, the keynote speaker, advised Cleveland to create a civic vision a plan for the city's downtown and neighborhoods.

Cleveland followed his advice, and as you drive through the city and its neighborhoods the concrete outcomes of that vision are evident in new investment downtown, new housing in the neighborhoods, and a renewed civic vitality.

Yet, 18 years later, as Cleveland enters its third century as a city, its fate is now more than ever intertwined with that of the region. The challenge of SCS 2000 is to engage the community in looking beyond political boundaries and creating a regional vision.

Northeast Ohio has not succeeded in addressing the underlying issues that impact on our competitiveness as a region. We remain politically fragmented and racially divided. We have growing income and education differentials between the inner core and the outer ring. And we have intense inter-jurisdictional competition for tax dollars. Even if we wanted to collaborate, these barriers at every level make it difficult.

Northeast Ohio can no longer confront local problems with local solutions. David Rusk, urban expert and consultant, compares this misguided strategy to running up an increasingly faster down escalator. At the Bicentennial Symposium hosted by the Levin College in 1996, he advised that the entire region must be engaged in planning for our future.

SCS 2000 was the beginning of an exciting process to jump-start this planning process. The event brought together over 350 planners, architects, urban designers, engineers, appointed and elected federal, state and local government officials, federal and state agencies, business leaders, neighborhood leaders, environmentalists, and others to talk about strategies to create a common, regional vision from the bottom up, from the grassroots, to make Northeast Ohio competitive in an increasingly global economy and a model for sustainable development and livable communities.

Participants in the working groups and at the symposium worked hard to begin to transform the concepts of sustainability into concrete reality. The challenge now is to keep the momentum going and to encourage others to join. Please visit the SCS2000 website to keep apprised of ongoing activities and to let us know how you would like to participate.

We look forward to working together on a regional vision.

Kathy Hexter directs the Urban University Program at Cleveland State University's Levin College of Urban Affairs and helped to staff SCS 2000.


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Proceedings of Sustainable Communities Symposium 2000
Three days in May 2000
Symposium agenda
The thought and practice of sustainability
Themes of the discussion
Agenda for architecture/urban design
Agenda for business/economics
Agenda for infrastructure
Agenda for political/legal issues
Agenda for health
Forging a regional civic vision
Committed to people and place
Sustainability pledge
Quotes from speakers
Resources for sustainability

Download publication of SCS 2000 proceedings

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