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Monday, April 18th, 2011

This Is Why We’re Broke

I part ways with many urbanists in that I don’t hate suburbs. In fact, I think we need to start with a basic acknowledgment of the fact that most people like owning single family homes and like living in the suburbs. I might live in the city and not own a car, but that doesn’t mean other people necessarily do. Did subsidies and public policy contribute to sprawl? Of course, as we’ve recently been examining here. But I do believe there’s a legitimate consumer preference for the suburbs.

I do think we should invest in cities and can build urban environments that attract a lot more people. But equally if not more important is to build better suburbs. What we see in America today is a suburban form that is unsustainable. I don’t mean that in the traditional sense of the word when it comes to the environment. I mean that it is simply financially unsustainable. Unlike urban environments, all too many suburbs have proven tragically unable to reinvent themselves. Thus as soon as they get old and lose the advantages of greenfield economics, they are abandoned in favor of new edge development. Plenty of these places are going to be in big trouble when their aging in place residents pass on with no next generation in the wings. The vast tracts of decaying inner ring suburbs across America may prove to be our most vexing “urban” problem of the next few decades.

The current development poses less of a problem in places that are growing strongly like Houston. There we really do need to built a lot of stuff to accommodate the million+ new residents that move there every decade. They are seeing new blood fill in the gaps even as other folks move to the edge. Even in a place like Indianapolis, the region added 230,000 people. Their core is still too weak, but only lost 25,000 people. Thus their suburban “sprawl” cannot be driven primarily by outmigration.

But this is a huge problem in places that are growing slowly or shrinking. Think Chicago (where the region only gained 362,000 people and the city lost 200,000), or Detroit or Cleveland. In these places sprawl is simply sucking the life out of the heart of the region. This was perhaps best shown in Buffalo, which Chuck Banas described as an example of “sprawl in its purest form.” Between 1950 and 2000, the Buffalo region tripled its urban footprint, but added effectively no population.

Plain and simple, this is why we’re broke. As Banas put it, “same number of people, three times as much stuff” (to pay for).

Wonder why Illinois and Chicago are in such a horrible fiscal crisis? Yes, Springfield is dysfunctional. Yes, there are sweetheart union deals. This is all true. But the massive exurbanization of the region while the core (excepting the “core of the core”) declines is a massive drain on the treasury. Huge sums of money are being pumped into serving these areas, whether that be a Metra line extension to Elburn or brand new Ogden Ave. in Oswego. This investment is being made at a time when the existing infrastructure cannot be maintained. And that new urbanized footprint has to be maintained itself and operated in perpetuity. Plus, the rump suburbs and neighborhoods being left behind get turned into de facto wards of the state or federal government, a costly enterprise in its own right. It should be totally unsurprising that we’re in a fiscal mess here.

Michigan and Ohio are even worse. Michigan as a whole lost population. The Detroit region did as well, yet there are still all sorts of highway expansion projects on the books there. In Ohio, the state is widening roads in Cleveland while the population on a regional basis dropped. As Ed Glaeser noted, the problem with shrinking cities is that they have too much infrastructure relative to population, so why build even more infrastructure you have to maintain? During the stimulus, Ohio’s #1 highway project was a $150 million bypass around a town of 5,000. With decisions like these, it is any wonder these states are in trouble?

I guess if we want to pay people to just move around in an area, we can keep doing that. It doesn’t seem very wise to me though. I’m not saying we should ban people from moving to the exurbs in stagnant or declining regions, but at a minimum it should be made very clear to those who do that they have to pay 100% of the freight on their own, and that no state or federal funds are going to be expended in support of that.

This might seem like a political pipe dream, and maybe that’s right. But the fiscal inevitable end result of the current ways of doing business will ultimately force some change. I just hope some things happen before a lot places end up going bust.

35 Comments
Topics: Public Policy, Sustainability

35 Responses to “This Is Why We’re Broke”

  1. Jonathan R says:

    As the illuminating book “Building Suburbia” by Dolores Hayden points out, developers throughout American history have built suburbs without enough money for adequate infrastructure. Hayden’s best example is Levittown, NY, which was built without a sewer system to save money for the developer.

    The policy of government encouragement of suburban homeownership on the grounds that it’s good for the economy goes back to the Hoover Administration, which is about the time that my great-grandfather was moving to the Philadelphia suburbs.

    It’s a little hard, therefore, to take you seriously, Aaron, when you propose that we are now, today, Monday, at some kind of inflection point in suburban development, facing as you say, the “fiscal inevitable.”

  2. Curt Ailes says:

    Perhaps you are right Jonathan and we are not at the infelction point. Dicing apart Aaron’s argument word by word isn’t helping anything though.

    At the core, he presents some reasonable and logical conclusions. Some would blame central government planning for this mistake and further try and privative it out of existence. However, as with all things, getting the details right may be the key. Somewhere in the middle lie some regulatory changes that could aid in turning around the mess that we are in. What about credits for rebuilding neghborhoods? What about trying to encourage those developers building on green fields to instead, invest in an old urban core neighborhood?

  3. LincolnKennedy says:

    Shouldn’t “consumer preference” but pretty easily quantifiable? As in, the homes that are most expensive o live in are the most preferred? Perhaps I’m wrong on that, but if you think about it, handcrafted shoes or clothing is consumer preferred because it is built to spec and of the highest quality. Industrially manufactured shoes are supplier preferred because they do a decent job and can be sold to the exponentially more people. Seems like the analogy hold for sprawl as well.

  4. Nathaniel says:

    First of all, great post!

    “Fiscal sustainability” is an often overlooked aspect of suburban-style development. The infrastructure costs simply costs more than what is gained in revenue in return. Furthermore, I feel this decline will continue with higher gasoline prices and we are likely to see a further disinvestment in exurban communities.

  5. the urban politician says:

    Johnathan,

    “Throughout history”, at least industrial history, cities and suburbs have grown, often at explosive rates.

    I think Aaron is saying that, for a place like Cleveland, is building more infrastructure despite a stagnant population really a smart idea?

  6. Ben H says:

    Interesting that you point out, Jonathan, that this has been proliferated since the days of Hoover. The growth of the automobile culture and, recently, the cheap cost of fueling those vehicles. The true inflection point of any of this comes when it makes more fiscal sense for both the buyer and developer to re-build instead of build new. Have we reached that point? Perhaps in a few areas of the country, but there is little to no municipal support for redevelopment when there should be – even if it’s a passive policy. I agree with Aaron – let people have their single family homes and acre lots – as long as they pay their share of the roads to get there and the services they enjoy.

  7. Scott says:

    I have to disagree with one of your early points, Aaron.

    I think it is dangerous – and disingenuous – to make market-based claim of “a legitimate consumer preference for the suburbs” while admitting (in the same paragraph!) that they were created in – and continue to exist in – a distorted market. That’s like saying there is a “legitimate preference for the exponential stock appreciation associated with Ponzi schemes.” Well, yes, but that doesn’t mean they’re not illegal and inherently destined to fail miserably.

    When you imply that suburban development patterns are somehow less of a problem in places that are growing strongly versus places that have shrinking cores, you sound like Bernie Madoff explaining how a Ponzi scheme is “not so much a problem as long as it’s growing.” A lot of the places that are now shrinking were once growing – and now, as you say, are “unable to reinvent themselves.”

    The solution is not “building better suburbs.” An unsustainable model cannot be fixed with a few tweaks. You’ve got to stop hiding behind your “I don’t hate the suburbs” mantra that gets you so many gigs in the Midwest. It’s not helping anyone but you. If you want some guidance in how you can be helping the conversation along by talking about the truly difficult choices our region needs to make, you can visit http://www.strongtowns.org/

  8. Paul W says:

    Interesting viewpoint. I think today we can agree that exurbia is bad for most post-industrial, midwestern cities, particularly like the one I’m from (Cleveland.) The expansion of infrastructure, the waste of energy, strain on the environment, strain on social fabric, etc. I think even Houston and DFW will have high prices to pay in the future if energy trends continue.

    There are ways that core cities can and should fight back:
    1. Control the environment, literally, by controlling the water supply and sewer systems. Expansion and distribution of these resources must be paid for by a simple equation of distance from the treatment plant. Enforce EPA laws on septic systems. Strong EPA guidelines will demand a centralized water and sewer system, most burbs can’t get the tax money to do it themselves.
    2. Enforce environmental regulations by demanding clean water (burbs are bad for storm water runoff) and demanding clean air. Back it up with strong state EPA guidelines.
    3. Consider toll roads, most states have a precedence here already. Toll commuter routes….sounds harsh but why should inner city dwellers have to pay for 8-laners out to the hinterlands? Consider leasing toll roads to private industry in order to balance state budgets.
    4. Under the guise of saving tax money, develop laws at the state level that require cooperation amongst the suburbs and core city. All MSAs over 500,000 should be required to have regional planning commissions and milestones to hit for cooperation.

    Regional planning commissions must work hand in hand with the state and federal EPA to achieve the goals of either organization.

    Thanks for an interesting article.

  9. M1EK says:

    “You’ve got to stop hiding behind your “I don’t hate the suburbs” mantra that gets you so many gigs in the Midwest. It’s not helping anyone but you.”

    Amen. The ‘consumer preference’ expressed in a market where one alternative is heavily subsidized, and the other is heavily taxed AND regulated to death, is no such thing.

  10. Jarrett says:

    The borderline-incivility of this exchange is evidence enough of how emotional this issue is. Personally I see no conflict between the Strong Towns movement and the reality that suburbs need reinvestment and reinvention on their town terms. I would expect that reinvestment and reinvention to be led by people who like suburbs and want them to continue to satisfy some desires that will still exist in the society. Some people value the opportunity for a detached house and some place for the kids to play, for the many who want that. I would rather that urbanists be part of that suburban conversation rather than excluded from it, and for that reason I don’t engage in gratuitous bashing of existing suburbs, and I wouldn’t expect Aaron to.

    There is, however, an underlying problem with greenfield development. Agricultural land next to cities will always be worth more if zoned for development. The illusory cheapness of greenfields, as distinct from brownfields or infill, generates a preference for infrastructure-intensive growth that overburdens the government’s resources, as Aaron notes. If greenfield sites were more accurately priced to reflect all these impacts, less of it would be developed.

    So government controls on greenfield development are needed as a basic act of fiscal self preservation. That’s the core message of Aaron’s post to me. Growth management should be a conservative project.

  11. Paul W says:

    Comment to Ben H: I think we found the inflection point back in the 60s. The government artificially subsidizes gasoline, highways, and new home construction. Without these subsidies, the inflection point is somewhere around 1960. This is when outlying communities started to extract from the inner ring suburbs with the advent of the highway system and cheap gas.

    We should also consider the other needs of the individual beyond ones own house. We need to factor in parkland, clean water, clean air, access to good schools, access to healthcare, access to jobs.

  12. Lynn Stevens says:

    In the Chicago region we have all the points you raise Paul W (except for perhaps a part or your intent of #4 – requiring cooperation) and we still have sprawl.

    E.g., Chicago controls its water and sewers and happily charges other munis that tap into water. Other munis control their own water supply and happily charge other munis too. EPA is getting more stringent, but the unintended consequence can be larger lots to create the required separation between septic. We have toll roads and we have regional planning (albeit without much tooth).

    Without regional cooperation with tooth, munis compete against each other for development and revenue.

    And one thing I think Aaron omits is how we think (at least right now) of our tax expenditures in terms of short-term jobs programs rather than investments in the future.

  13. Lynn Stevens says:

    “We should also consider the other needs of the individual beyond ones own house. We need to factor in parkland, clean water, clean air, access to good schools, access to healthcare, access to jobs.”

    This is where the lack of fiscal responsibility gets amplified. Each muni creates/requires parkland contributions, schools contributions, wants the hospital development (there’s a competition of sorts going on right now in McHenry County), wants the new interchange….

  14. Scott says:

    In the greater Detroit area, the movement to the suburbs was unfortunately driven by the white flight of the 60’s and solidified by the race riots of 1967. Still today our area is listed near the top of the segregation charts.

    Our population has decreased each year, yet we are an evergrowing doughnut with an even larger hole in the middle. The Arsenal of Democracy was the 5th largest city in 1950 but not has not declined to 715,000 people while the regions still boasts more than 4.3M people. Clearly urban sprawl incrases the cost of government… duplication of services seems obvious.

    As for myself, I live in a city directly adjacent to Detroit. I could live in the city but I would have poor services, terrible schools, and would fear for the safety of my family. My generation did not abandon the cities, but we also have not reclaimed them. I know that I contribute to the problem because I am unwilling to invest in the solution. The best that I am willing do is to rehab a 1920’s house to its former glory. My heart loves the idea of doing more, but my mind and pocket book get the better of me.

    I just wonder if future generations are going to regards us as well as we regard ourselves.

  15. Scott 1 says:

    For the record, the “Scott” at 4:09pm and “Scott” at 7:04pm are different people.

  16. Paul Wittibschlager says:

    Lynn:
    It is all about the “teeth” of the law or program.

    Chicago has toll roads, thats great, but do they effect most commuters? Is the price fair?

    Is the air quality and water quality meeting EPA standards? Check out “Our Toxic Air” from the Chicago Tribune 9/29/08.

    Put costs on storm water runoff. Evaluate the costs of solid waste removal.

    Are the suburbs paying their fair share for the water and sewer distribution system? I bet the price has nothing to do with how far away a given customer is from the treatment plant.

    You do make a point though, Chicago has significant instruments in place to effect the suburbs. Perhaps teeth are needed to get the money. It is all about pay to play these days…

  17. JRM says:

    As far as I know, there are no highway expansion projects in the pipeline for the Detroit area. The big one that you may be referring to is the expansion of I-75, but I don’t believe that’s going to happen.

  18. Patrick M says:

    This discussion is getting hung up on words. The “suburbs” are hardly monolithic,
    and the prewar suburban towns on the East Coast (and other places) more often than not have good urban design.

    Aaron’s key point is sound, which is that if Glaeser is correct that we have too much infrastructure per capita in our sprawling metroburbs, then we need to stop expanding the scale of the problem. Unfortunately, federal, state, and metropolitan transportation are primarily wired to do just that-expand out.

    What I think some here would like to see Aaron acknowledge is that if we’re “broke,” so to speak, than we will not be able to repair significant portions of our metropolitan fabric. Acknowledging this requires that we choose declining places in which to reinvest while letting others atrophy. There’s plenty of sf detached housing in inner ring burbs that fits the spatial needs of those who want key elements of that housing type. Maybe it’s time to focus on those places in our slower growth regions and stop pumping temporary value into the next greenfield economics subdivision.

    More succinctly, not all suburbs are created equal, and the newest foreclosure-laden exurbs are the ones I’d let go if forced to choose.

  19. OhioDwight says:

    In this post, Urbanophile said: “During the stimulus, Ohio’s #1 highway project was a $150 million bypass around a town of 5,000. With decisions like these, is it any wonder these states are in trouble?”

    In a previous “Ohio’s Geographic Advantages” post Urbanophile said, regarding Ohio’s geographic advantages, “One of them is that Ohio is on the trade routes. Many major transcontinental interstates pass through the place, along with tons of rail lines.” US routes should have mentioned as well.

    US 33 is one of the trade routes in Ohio and the decades-long upgrade of the highway from West Virginia to Indiana as an interstate-class state highway in no way represents why Ohio is in financial trouble. The bypass around Nelsonville (population ~5,000) was also part of the long-term infrastructure project. The project was shovel ready when the ARRA was available and the state took advantage of the funds.

    Much earlier Ohio prioritized highway funds to upgrade US 33 from Columbus to northwest of Bellefontaine in order to help bring Honda to Marysville.

    When completed, regional US 33 will be an interstate-class highway improving Ohio’s “trade routes.”

  20. DGM says:

    It’s too bad we couldn’t all be clones, liking the same things, dressing, walking, eating the same, working where we are told, living where we are told. Life would be so much easier, and affordable for the government trying to maintain infrastructure. But wait, here’s a thought that might help. How about government cutting back on it’s billions of wasted dollars and channel it over to infrastructure? Then maybe we would not need to come up with creative, persuasive arguments to convince individuals to give up their personal preference of life style.

  21. Greg says:

    DGM: Even better, stop all the infrastructure welfare for the suburbs.

    I’m afraid that financial reality is about to make this entire discussion moot anyway. Our government is broke at every level – national, state and local. There isn’t going to be significant funding for redevelopment schemes anytime in the near future.

    For the few true urban areas, the best response to the fiscally restrained future is probably just to focus on inexpensive “tactical urbanism” improvements to make the most of their inherent livability advantages.

  22. Benny Lava says:

    “Wonder why Illinois and Chicago are in such a horrible fiscal crisis?”

    I don’t wonder because I know. It’s healthcare costs, silly. Medicare, Medicaid, and state employee healthcare costs are over a third of Illinois’ budget. As much as I think sprawl is wasteful sometimes you should do a little research before you post and check the numbers first.

  23. Alon Levy says:

    At least to some extent, high health costs come from high obesity rate, which is a consequence of sprawl. (No, that’s not the primary reason US health care is so expensive, and sprawl is not the only reason for high obesity rates. Still.)

  24. Nathaniel says:

    “As much as I think sprawl is wasteful sometimes you should do a little research before you post and check the numbers first.”

    I’m sure the Urbanophile wouldn’t disagree that direct healthcare-related costs are more of an annual taxpayer burden than those of suburbanization. However, Aaron concentrates his writings primarily on improving urbanism – not on healthcare related topics.

  25. Lance says:

    Good article…. I could support the fact that maybe too much tax dollars are spent on supporting the infrastructure required to support suburbia but, when all my tax money from gas purchases is not put back into the road infrastructure but used for non-vehicle expenses, then I have a problem with those who say roads cost too much. Developers (and thus new homebuyers) should pay the freight for new development but, free up my gas taxes to pay for my roads (my as in car owner and those who advocate bikes don’t pay anything to ride them on the roads). If my gas taxes can’t pay for it, then come and talk to me about cost to the taxpayer.

  26. George Mattei says:

    I totally agree on a few points:

    1) Our development patterns to 2008 or so were unsustainable long-term.
    2) We would have reached the inflection point long ago without massive subsidies, despite a clear market preference for single-family homes and suburban style development.
    3) The 33 Nelsonville Bypass was not a waste as OhioDwight indicates. US 33 is THE major route from the Mid-Atlantic and the “shallow” (vs. deep) south to the urbanized areas of Ohio, Michigan and beyond. Without it folkls from those areas would need to go up I-77 to Cleveland to get to Michigan, for example. That’s not to say Ohio doesn’t spend on frivilous infrastructure, because we definitely do, but that’s not one of them.

    I believe we HAVE reached an inflection point, where the cost, even with subsidies, to maintain the built environment we have is just too great. I would not look for much new development growth in the near future.

  27. Marty says:

    This is very simplistic.

    While the Chiago area’s population has only grown moderately, household size has shrunk and the number of households (and workers) has grown dramatically. Yes, there are some areas of Chicago and some of the inner ring suburbs that have emptied out but in the larger scheme of things the financial impact is pretty marginal. Your post doesn’t even attempt to make the quantitative argument, it just runs with a narrative that you find attractive. And, for the most part when people talk about government agencies in chronic deficit they are talking about operating costs, since government capital depreciation costs are poorly accounted for and quite obscure.

    The much bigger problem is the Baumol effect (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Baumol's_cost_disease) on public sector labor costs, compounded by unionization and the alliance of the unions and the politicians against the taxpayers, and a more general long-standing willingness of our political leadership to say “yes” or “partly” to every stupid, unworkable but expensive idea that comes down the pike. But, mostly just the Baumol effect.

  28. rivardau says:

    many of you talk about consumer preferences for suburbs. that may be, but in normal economics, consumer preferences are balanced with consumer’s finances. when we provide subsidization such as freeways, water/sewage below costs, and lack of parks or sidewalks in neighbourhoods, then we are distorting consumer actions. that is not fair to the general taxpayers, nor to existing regions or the environment.

    my consumer preferences are that i want to have a big victorian style house, a BMW car, not to work, take 2-week trips to europe or asia every month, free basic medical care for myself and my neighbours (to prevent spreading of infectious diseases to me), a new computer, an ipad, new shoes, and a free gym membership.

    so are yous going to help subsidise my consumer preferences?

    in the same way, anyone’s consumer preference to live in the suburbs SHOULD include all the costs thereof – roads and traffic signals should be tolled, parking should be charged (yes even at walmarts or the malls), utility rates should be higher, gasoline tax needs to be much more than the 18 cents federal tax currently charged (and unchanged since early 1990s, not keeping up with inflation).

    some people will not be able to afford to live in the suburbs. but having all your consumer preferences met is NOT a constitutional right. you get your preferences when you get enough money to afford it. and in the meantime, you have to make a tradeoff of buying 1 thing instead of another, or saving up money to purchase an item, or to forego buying something at all.

    in the same way – i think governments need to make a decision to only take on new streets and their perpetual maintenance only when the developers and purchasers can pay for it. we cant afford to even maintain current infrastructure, let alone add new. we need to make the choice to use scarce dollars to serve existing infrastructure first.

  29. The law of unintended consequences: subsidize this, subsidize that, those that know better should control, where it ends (nobody knows?): How about when the upside down pyramid falls flat, lets right side it from the ground up. Can we all get along – one neighbor at a time – its that association that builds a cul-de-sac or a high rise condo.

    However, our highly specialized (limited and unique) workforce economy is beginning to conflict with our historic values of wealth creation through home ownership. Communities that adapt and change with these UNCONTROLLABLE forces will profit from their more efficient allocation of resources.

  30. Nice, thought provoking article. The staff at Belles Architecture, Rockford, IL-just 90 miles west of Chicago, would like to clarify a few issues.
    1) Yes, the population of Chicago declined by 200,000 people, but…. they demolished Cabrini Green. We think in the long run Chicago dumped its urban poor on neighboring communities, reduced its stock of low valued buildings, and is working on replacing them with ultra-high value buildings. This will have a positive impact in the end.
    2) When you talk of Cities, you really must focus on MSA’s (Metropolitan Statistical Areas). The large “cities” at the core of MSA’s are suffering, and suffering bad. We see this fight between municipalities in our own Rockford/Loves Park/Machesney Park/Winnebago County area. Each municipality lures business and upper-income residential away from the others. Great in the short-term. Lousy for the central city, and really lousy in the end. They are just creating a sprawl of EMPTY buildings.
    3) It is not just the growth of infrastructure that is not sustainable, it is also the growth of the bureaucracy associated with the urban areas. Again, here in Rockford from 1992 to 2002 we quadrupled the size of our building department – we did NOT quadruple the quantity of buildings or building permits.
    Again, great thoughts and debates.
    http://www.bellesarchitecture.com

  31. Bob says:

    Since the poster mentioned Houston, I’d like to encourage readers to have a look at Texas’ rapidly urbanizing largest city. Much of Houston’s growth is now urban, rather than suburban as has traditionally been the case. A significant percentage of the influx is international. I believe most are drawn by a unique combination of opportunity and affordability. Houston salaries are competitive, but the cost of living is dirt cheap. Houston has its share of problems, to be sure, but it seems that at a time when so many are worried about the future, the city is moving forward and in dramatic fashion. If interested, the Center for Houston’s Future website (http://www.centerforhoustonsfuture.org/) is a great place to learn more. Thank you.

  32. Judith Hainaut says:

    One thing that I never hear mentioned is our worship of home ownership in this country. Not that that is completely bad but I think that it has led to a lot of the suburbanization you are discussing. I rented most of my adult life and was very invested in the homes I rented. I landscaped, painted interiors and kept the homes in very good condition and my landlords were very willing to do the things necessary to keep my home in good repair and to do things like painting the outside, etc., because I was such a good renter. There is nothing immoral or low class about renting but I think that we make renters feel like they are less than people who are buying their homes. We could do a lot for our cities by creating incentive programs for renters to keep their properties in good condition and to feel pride in the places where they live. We used to have a Pride and Beautification Program here in Pontiac that I thought was wonderful. We need more programs like that with perhaps a category for renters. It looks as though we’re going to have a lot more renters than before because of all the foreclosures happening now. They shouldn’t be made to feel like second class citizens just because they aren’t buying a home.

  33. Caroline says:

    I agree with everything, except: the article implies that the Nelsonville bypass on Ohio Rte 33 is part of a suburban/exurban sprawl pattern. However, as someone from the region, I can tell you that it is actually an incredibly economically depressed, rural, isolated part of Appalachian Ohio. Not exactly McMansion central at all. While I generally oppose highway construction, I think this one actually makes sense because it puts poor Appalachian Ohio cities and small towns on a major trade route, allowing this historically infrastructure-poor area a chance to participate in the greater regional economy.

  34. #7, Scott — thanks for that simple, understandable and ingenious explanation. I’ve long been searching for the words to express that thought.

  35. Paul Wittibschlager says:

    Just a follow up to my previous post (#8). A NE Ohio judge ruled in favor of the NE Ohio Regional Sewer District plan for storm water runoff. This effects over 60 suburbs in NE OH. The plan addresses the problems of storm water runoff, how to pay for it, and jurisdiction.

    http://blog.cleveland.com/metro/2011/04/northeast_ohio_judge_says_regi.html

    There are similar plans being proposed or in place that will increase the water and sewer rates in the region. These deal with cleaning river water and cleaning lake water. We’re not talking about small increases either, 2x or 3x current payments.

    This is an example of how a strong, regional, pseudo-governmental agency can exert strong control across a region. The next step would be to form stronger ties with the regional planning commission to effect regional development. The goal being to reduce the water/sewer bills and still have clean water.

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