Sunday, February 21, 2010

Geography Of Economic Gloom And Doom

As I noted yesterday, Seattle looks to Cleveland to lift its civic pride. Chris Briem provides Detroit some cause to do the same. Via Aaron Renn's Twitter feed, the Cleveland leadership explains where it looks in order to feel better:

Ken Johnson: "If we don't do something soon, I think we'll be worse than Youngstown." ...

... Since [Michael Polensek] took office, Cleveland has lost about half of its population. He predicts this year's federal census "will be like the shot heard round the world." A decade ago, Cleveland's population was 478,403. Today, Polensek thinks it might be 325,000.

"We're out of time," he said. "We need something dramatic or Cleveland will be like East St. Louis or Gary."

Most cities have a self-esteem problem, "I wish we were more like X, but at least we aren't Y." When musing about Pittsburgh, I tend to value the outsider opinion. A bunch of cities (including Cleveland) are trying to follow in Pittsburgh's footsteps.

As locals know all too well, Pittsburgh is far from perfect. There have been numerous missteps and past glory weighs heavily on the present. In the Rust Belt, the relative status tends to be temporal instead of spatial.

Cleveland is struggling to bury its history and the hyperbole about Gary, East St. Louis and Youngstown isn't helping matters. Perhaps the lament will shock resident readers into action. I think it unlikely. The senior members of City Council sounding the alarm are the problem. Shaking up Cleveland starts there.


Kevin Leeson said...

Shaking up Cleveland starts there.

While regionalism isn't universally supported in Cleveland, it is more politically acceptable there than elsewhere in Northeast Ohio. Mayor Jackson has been made numerous small steps towards regionalism that his predecessors wouldn't have considered. Regional initiatives can be a much tougher sell in suburban and exurban communities, where many officials continue to view urban issues as somebody else's problem.

Jim Russell said...

Regional initiatives are a tough sell in most suburban and exurban communities. Perhaps the situation is particularly dysfunctional in Cleveland. I don't know enough about it to constructively comment.

But I fail to understand how City Council mainstays who presided over the decline offer a way forward. They are a big part of the problem. The situation Cleveland finds itself in didn't appear overnight.

Kevin Leeson said...

I suppose the answer lies in where you place the responsibility for the city's problems. Are the elected officials to blame, or were they placed in a situation where they had little chance of success? Some from column a and some from column b? If there was a change in leadership, would things improve? I don't know.