Dear Mayor Campbell:
As you begin your work, I urge you to think about Cleveland's place in the larger metropolitan region and how innovative environmental programs can benefit the city as it moves into the 21st Century.
Regarding the region, consider this paradox: You can be a great mayor of Cleveland but still fail to improve quality of life in the city. That is because many of the most important forces affecting the city, such as the economy and housing market, are regional in scope. You may do an effective job managing city services, but all your hard work can be undermined by regional development patternsthe outmigration of tax base and middle-class households that relentlessly drains wealth and resources from the city.
As mayor of Cleveland, you cannot counter these forces alone but you can in collaboration with mayors of older communities throughout the metropolitan area and the rest of the state. The shared goal should be to change state policies that now favor new growth at the edges of metropolitan areas while neglecting the redevelopment of older communities.
The State of Maryland, for example, has enacted "smart growth" programs that require state investments supporting development to be made in existing cities and towns. Developers may still be able to build out in the countryside, but they will not receive state aid for transportation improvements, water and sewer infrastructure, or economic development grants and loans. Instead, Maryland has chosen to support job growth in town centers, walkable city streets, the rehabilitation of existing schools, and the preservation of rural lands. This is the way to create a higher quality of life for the majority of residents of the state. And, by reducing urban sprawl, this is the way to reduce long-term costs to taxpayers.
You can help lead the movement for smart growth in Ohio. Other elected officials, such as the leaders of the inner-ring suburbs in the First Suburbs Consortium of Northeast Ohio, are already advancing the issue and hope you will continue the support you gave while county commissioner. With you and other big city mayors on board, a new redevelopment agenda can be created in Ohio.
While Cleveland can't succeed alone as one player in a complex metropolitan region, there are many things the city can do by itself to improve its chances. Of course, you must deliver on the basicsimproved public schools, safe streets, a streamlined city hall bureaucracy that promotes sound development. But you should also consider ways that Cleveland can shed its tired, Rust Belt image and join the ranks of innovative cities that are moving ahead aggressively into the 21st Century.
This means a greater focus on the environment and the quality of place. Cleveland should become an ecological city on a Great Lake, a city of the Water Belt instead of the Rust Belt.
What changes would be required? Consider the recent initiatives from these leading cities:
Portland: Already recognized for its promotion of walkable neighborhoods around transit corridors, Portland, OR, has created an Office of Sustainable Development to help residents and businesses conserve energy; reduce global warming and solid waste; develop clean, renewable power; and build healthier, resource-efficient buildings. The Portland transportation department coordinates programs that develop traffic calming, bicycling, and pedestrian facilities.
Chicago: As part of efforts to become the nation's center for green technology and manufacturing, Chicago has committed to buy at least 20 percent of the electricity it uses from renewable sources like wind and solar power. (Why can't Cleveland Public Power do that?) It also has installed a rooftop garden on city hall as part of a "green roof" program to provide natural cooling in the urban area.
Austin: The city's Green Building Program is a national leader in promoting environmentally-friendly building practices.
These cities are promoting technologies and practices that are environmentally responsible, while supporting new industries and jobs. The emphasis on environmental quality is also helping these cities create the kinds of places that attract an educated workforce, which provides an additional competitive edge. They are investing in bike trails and greenways, providing access to lakes and rivers, protecting historic neighborhoods, and creating streets that work as pedestrian-friendly public spaces.
Such amenitiesaccess to nature and vibrant neighborhood settingsare not just for young knowledge workers. They are democratic, public amenities that improve the daily quality of life for all city residents.
To help focus the city on these issues, an Office of Sustainability should be created to be an advocate within City Hall. If Cleveland can become a more environmentally friendly city, while working collaboratively for balanced development across the region, it will increase its prospects of being a healthy, prosperous city in the coming years.
If Cleveland can become a more environmentally friendly city, while working collaboratively for balanced development across the region, it will increase its prospects of being a healthy, prosperous city in the coming years.