Last year I put out a study called “Merger May Rescue Declining Suburbs.” One of the ten specific places I highlighted was Norwood, Ohio, about which I wrote:
Norwood is entirely surrounded by the city of Cincinnati. Enclave suburbs such as Norwood may prove especially politically challenging to merge, as their identity in part comes from having resisted historical annexation attempts. Norwood is losing population (down 8.3% since 2000, to 19,876) and its poverty rate, 22%, is up 9.1 percentage points. Inflation-adjusted median household income ($27,270) has declined by 15.4% since 2000. Last year, the state auditor declared a state of fiscal emergency in Norwood, after 12 years on fiscal watch. The tax base was once supported by a General Motors plant, with payroll tax revenues providing 28% of Norwood’s budget in 1987, the year the plant closed. Since then, the city has struggled. The city’s financial condition is not dire, but it is finding it hard to provide services.
Last week WCPO-TV in Cincinnati ran an interesting story about a street on the Cincinnati-Norwood line that was half-paved. Here’s a screen cap from that:
The report says:
The road sits on the Cincinnati-Norwood city line. A year later, the half of the road owned by Norwood remains bumpy, cracked and uneven. “It’s definitely uncomfortable,” Ryall said. “And your kids, if they’re asleep, they’re waking up for sure.”
Norwood Mayor Thomas Williams said it’s the result of a fiscal emergency and the city having no funds to spare. “Ask them, ‘How are you going to pay for that?’ Where are you going to get the millions of dollars?” Williams said.
Last week, a similar issue popped up on Section Avenue. City of Cincinnati contractors repaved the Rhode Island Avenue side of the street. Norwood’s side remains worn down.
Click over to watch/read the whole thing.
The mayor of Norwood reacted badly to my merger proposal when it was released:
77-year-old Norwood Mayor Thomas Williams has lived in the city his entire life and says he won’t be the one to tell residents that Norwood isn’t Norwood anymore.
“We’ve always been independent,” Willams said. “It’s not going to happen.”
He scoffed at the idea of a New York think tank telling Norwood what it should do.
“Any time you hear the word think tank, that should discourage you right there,” he said. “Tell them to think on something else.”
Nobody should compel Norwood to merge, but the city can’t provide basic services because of fiscal problems. Might the citizens of Norwood feel differently about merger if they received a major infusion of capital spending, upgraded services, and some type of legal assurances about representation? Regardless, this problem of smaller inner suburbs not being able to provide basic services is not going away.