Along with Detroit, Cleveland is the poster child for major Midwestern urban decline and a favorite punching bag for the national and international media. But Detroit’s travails are easy to understand. Anyone can look at and attribute them to the auto industry and poor race relations. The reality is more complex, but at least Detroit lends itself to a narrative. Cleveland is a different story. What happened in Cleveland to cause this? Even I cannot come up with a “grand unified theory” of Cleveland, which those of you who read this blog know is very unusual.
I was drawn to start thinking about Cleveland by this “tourism video”:
It’s humorous but also curious. Why would someone, presumably a local, create something like this?
That got me to wondering about Cleveland. I’ve actually never been to Cleveland. That in itself is notable. Out of the 11 Midwestern cities I typically cover in this blog, I’ve been to all but two, and most of them many times. (Kansas City is the other, but it’s a bit out of the way and arguably as much Great Plains as Midwest). Business never took me to Cleveland, another data point. And despite my desire to spend a weekend at least in all these places, Cleveland just never made the cut.
I also haven’t written much about it. I scan the news in every Midwestern metro daily but seldom find much that would cause me to write a major post about Cleveland. While not writing about it certainly plays a role, I get less web traffic from Cleveland than any other of my Midwest cities. I get more hits from New York, LA, SF, Boston, and DC than from Cleveland. It might be the only city in the Midwest where I don’t know of a web site that has linked to me.
It doesn’t appear to just be me either. Jim Russell over at Return to Pittsburgh says, “A better definition of Cleveland is a cul-de-sac of globalization”. He excoriates their lack of regional thinking. He also reminds us that Richard Longworth, author of the seminal work on the challenge of globalization in the Midwest, “Caught in the Middle“, found Cleveland an odd place indeed. Per Longworth:
“In all my travels through the Midwest, Cleveland was the only place, big or small, that seemed heedless of the global challenge. Only 4 percent of its population is foreign-born, in an era that demands new blood; the city government isn’t sure it wants more. One of its leading economists told me, ‘You can’t kill manufacturing—that’s stupid,’ but manufacturing is fleeing and cities need new ways to support themselves.”
Cleveland’s economic development establishment comes in for criticism not just from bloggers like Russell and journalists like Longworth, but from economic development professionals like native Ed Morrison:
“Most of the people doing regional economic development in this town don’t really know what they’re doing. It’s not really that surprising that the region has launched some remarkably unproductive efforts.”
That’s pretty stunning coming from a guy who lives there. I don’t know Morrison, but he works for Purdue University and commutes from Cleveland, where he also founded an open source economic development organization called I-Open that appears to be one of the few things keeping Cleveland’s economy in business. I’m alert for such things, but I don’t think I’ve heard Morrison criticize Indiana’s economic development, or anyone else’s, like that. He actually sounds a bit like a woman scorned, so I’m sure there’s a story in there someplace, but it’s pretty telling nevertheless.
Neither Morrison nor Russell care much for the site selection consultant tours Cleveland has been doing. You can see coverage of them here and here. Russell hits us with an interesting excerpt from the Plain Dealer:
“To distinguish its red-carpet tours, Team NEO crafts attention-grabbing invitations. For the tour during the Rock Hall’s induction weekend, invitees received small guitar cases with invitations tucked inside.
“‘We are competing for these jobs against Indianapolis, Detroit, Pittsburgh,’ said Team NEO’s Carin Rockind, vice president of marketing and communications. ‘We have to break through.'”
I realize gimmicks are par for the course, but does this person really think anyone is going to pick Cleveland over those other cities because of the quality of their swag? Detroit? Michigan is economic kryptonite these days, so that’s no problem. Pittsburgh is a much tougher competitor for jobs these days than a lot of people give them credit for but is still a rather slow growth place dependent on “eds and meds”. Those are easy cities to measure yourself against. But let’s look at Indianapolis and do a quick comparison of the two cities.
|Population Growth Last Year||(0.3%), 51 out of 52 large US metros, 10 out of 11 large Midwest||1.3%, 40% higher than national avg, 19th in US large metro, #1 in Midwest large|
|Migration||Negative (net out-migration)||Positive (net in-migration)|
|GDP Growth 2001-2006||21%||26%|
This is just a sample, but will give you a feel. On any relevant measure, Indianapolis beats Cleveland. Most notably, Cleveland’s population is shrinking meaning that the labor force situation is deteriorating over time.
Like almost all other cities, Cleveland is chasing dreams of life sciences, high tech, and green industry. That’s totally undifferentiated, though there is no denying that the Cleveland Clinic is one of the absolute best in the entire world, so anyone in a health care related company that could leverage the Cleveland Clinic connection would have to take a serious look at Cleveland. But beyond that, I couldn’t find much else, nor any indication that there is any strategic depth to the thinking in these spaces, and I spent a lot of time looking. Grass roots organizations like I-Open and E4S seem to be thriving, but it looks like they are just filling the vacuum left by the establishment.
Indianapolis, like most places, also has the same list of industries, but to that you can add things like motorsports and the sports events industry. Also, where that city is shooting for the target sector du jour, it has, in some areas, really taken a look at where it can win and tried to be focused on its target. For example, in the green industry segment, the Energy Systems Network is looking at some very focused areas, with a largely private sector funding model. Interestingly, Ed Morrison helped develop this. In the high tech space, it isn’t just scattershot here and there, but there’s a mini-cluster in internet marketing companies that is one of the nation’s biggest, with over 1,000 employees. The era of the large, megalithic corporation as the engine of growth is coming to a close. Tomorrow’s economy will be powered by clusters of smaller, densely networked firms that in aggregate will add up to what a traditional HQ used to bring. The motorsports and internet marketing clusters are right on point with this.
Plus there are plenty of other emerging sectors. I talked previously about how proximity to Chicago creates unique opportunities for Indy (and Milwaukee). And how the central Indiana region was primed to be a center for BPO. KMPG recently named Indianapolis one of only two US cities as hot spots for BPO (Boise was the other). In fact, the Indianapolis region has some of the most favorable geography of any city for BPO with the region-leading but still low cost downtown in the middle and a ring of ultra low cost small cities ringing it within easy commute distance.
Indianapolis has its problems to be sure. It is no Sunbelt boomtown by a long shot. But it runs rings around Cleveland, as do other Midwest growth champs like Columbus, Kansas City, and Minneapolis. Having Cleveland compete against any of these cities in most spaces isn’t even a fair fight. It would be interesting to see a study done on average incentives paid for site selections and what the averages are per city. I’d speculate that if Cleveland didn’t have some unique tie in like the Cleveland Clinic, it has to pay much more to win. That is, it has to buy the business.
This must put the state of Ohio in a bind since given an open playing field, most businesses are going to choose already thriving Columbus over Cleveland. But tilting incentives towards Cleveland to compensate would fracture the fragile balance in a state with 7-8 decent sized cities, including three major metros over one million in population. It’s a tough balancing act.
Now obviously the TeamNEO guys aren’t going to flagellate themselves in the media. That would only be material for other cities to use against them. They’ve got to do their best to sell the city and maximize what they can out of its assets such as my favorite, the Cleveland Orchestra (one of the absolute best in the entire world – I love some of their old recordings), the Rock N Roll Museum, the Cleveland Clinic, Lake Erie, and the transit systems they have. (I salute Cleveland for its transit, and especially the new Health Line BRT). But it makes me wonder if they believe their own press.
As I’ve noted of many Midwest cities, there is a legitimate marketing problem out there with vanilla and negative brand images in the marketplace. But it’s not just a marketing problem, it’s a product problem. If Midwest cities want to make themselves attractive to the labor force of tomorrow and new economy businesses, they need to change their aspirational value proposition and start changing the product to match it. I don’t see that happening in Cleveland, except in pockets.
Back at the beginning of the decade the Cleveland Plain Dealer did a fantastic series called “The Quiet Crisis“. You should definitely look at this, but be careful, because it can suck you in and take up tons of time. I spent a few days looking through all these articles. What strikes me is that all of the problems in Cleveland were well known a decade ago, but what has really happened in response? It’s eight years on and the answer is Not Much. To a great extent, it just didn’t seem to resonate locally. I recall again how Longworth recounted the editor of the paper telling him how the sections on globalization and immigration “landed with a thud” and that Cleveland seemed content to sit “sour and crumbling” on the lake.
Again, what is it? What happened here? Lots of large Midwestern cities got walloped by the Rust Belt era and globalization, but few came through as bad as Cleveland and Detroit. Again, the auto industry provides a narrative lens through which to process Detroit. But in Cleveland I’m having trouble grasping it. Was it steel dependency? If so, why did Pittsburgh walk through the valley of the shadow of death and come through it still standing? They aren’t a thriving city by any means, but seem to have bottomed out and even hit the inflection point in a few eras. Pittsburgh is even being touted recently as a role model for Detroit, though I don’t know if I would go that far personally.
There has to be some sort of historical dynamic going on that I’m not aware of. The only angle that makes any sense at all to me is that something poisoned intra-region relations long ago and that carries through to today. Cleveland to me exhibits some of the worst regional cooperation I’ve ever seen, with tons of in-fighting. Jim Russell rails on them for not including Youngstown in Northeast Ohio. But that’s small potatoes. I remember last year when a suburban community called Avon wanted to build an interstate interchange. A developer was even going to pay the cost. But since it was on an interstate highway, it had to be put into the regional transportation plan from the MPO, and since the MPO was controlled by Cuyahoga County, they vetoed it until Avon agreed to a tax sharing deal. In effect, Cleveland is trying to solve its problems by extorting money from its own suburbs at gunpoint. This is terrible. I’ve never seen anything like it anywhere. Whatever one’s opinion of sprawl or regional taxes, this is not the right way to do it.
Cleveland seems to have forgotten that a great city needs great suburbs. We have to bring the city up, not pull the suburbs down. In a region of the country that is too often struggling, every part of a metro area has to bring their A game, and there needs to be a recognition that a rising tide lifts all boats.
Beyond that, Russell’s calling Cleveland a “cul-de-sac” struck a chord. Cleveland just seems curiously disconnected from the rest of Ohio, from the rest of the Midwest, and from what is going on out in the world. Normally if I post an article about a city, it gets forwarded around in that city and I get lots of hits from there. We’ll see if anyone in Cleveland even notices this. In fact, I’ve got to confess, I’m running a bit of an experiment with this one. Will anyone in Cleveland notice? I’ll post a comment in a few days to let you know how it turned out.
In the meantime, I’d love to hear any thoughts you have that explain the Cleveland situation since I will admit to being at a bit of a loss. For more input, Ed Morrison gives his take over at New Geography in a two part series called Cleveland: How the Comeback Collapsed (part one and part two). I should clarify something here. Ed Morrison, Jim Russell, and I all post stuff at New Geography, but we have no financial or other relationship because of that. I know Jim via email through blogging, but I don’t know Ed from Adam, though I read his stuff.
I don’t think Cleveland is as different from Detroit as you make it out to be. Cleveland was – and is – highly tied in with the automobile industry. The steel industry, and industry in general, have also tanked, leaving a large work-force with no jobs and no other skills. This led to social and physical decay and just creates a cycle that’s tough to break out of.
Regional competition is also tough in Ohio as you mentioned. Pittsburgh is the only large city in western PA. Indianapolis is the only large city in Indiana (unless Chicago, Louisville, and Cincinnati count). Minneapolis -St. Paul is the only large city within hundreds of miles. Those cities have little in-state competition. Cleveland on the other hand has to compete with Columbus, Cincinnati, Akron, Dayton, Toledo, and Youngstown, not to mention its own suburbs just like any other city. This makes it harder to recruit people and businesses.
I think it’s similar to football recruiting. Indiana, Purdue, and Notre Dame are three major programs in one state and I’m sure they have a hard time recruiting enough in-state talent to have three solid teams. So they – especially Notre Dame – rely on out-of-state recruits to attempt to create competitive programs. Ohio has plenty of in-state football talent and only one major program, Ohio State. They win the best in-state recruits in a talent-rich state year after year. Schools like Cincinnati, Ohio University, and Bowling Green don’t really offer recruiting competition.
Back to the economy, I think Ohio has talented people, but there’s more competition for those people, so it’s harder to create a winning team, or several winning teams when you consider all the mid-major cities in the state.
I would argue that Cleveland is also hurt by the lack of a large state university. Cleveland State is basically a commuter school for people that already live in the region. Case Western is great, but is small. There just isn’t an influx of young people like in Columbus due to Ohio State. This causes fewer young people to be there after graduation, fewer businesses to get started, fewer jobs, even fewer people that have been to the city. I visited friends at other colleges all over Ohio when I was in college, but none in Cleveland. When nobody has a first-hand impression of Cleveland, they have to rely on the impression from the media, which isn’t a good one.
That said, you should visit Cleveland. phenomenal place to spend a weekend. See the orchestra, go to a Tribe game, visit the museums, see the architecture, bring a bike and hit the Towpath Trail in Cuyahoga Valley National Park, go to Cedar Point in nearby Sandusky.
I’ll take a stab at this.
I know Detroit very well, having grown up there. I visit 1-2 times a year. I’ve only been to Cleveland 2 or 3 times, but it has always struck me as being very similar to Detroit in its built environment and its local culture. I think that the only real difference between Detroit and Cleveland was the diversity of the manufacturing sector — Detroit was/is very auto-dominant, while Cleveland’s manufacturing base was a little broader. Still, both suffered the same decline.
To me, there are three overarching factors that led to the decline of both cities. The first is poor race relations. Detroit and Cleveland both had dynamic/charismatic/controversial black mayors who entered City Hall at the same time the wheels were coming off the industrial sector (the late ’60s and early ’70s). Coleman Young and Carl Stokes (like many first-generation African-American politicians) ran on an “it’s our turn” platform that was especially alienating to the white-ethnic middle class, largely because African-Americans had never really been a part of the power or establishment structure prior to their elections. And neither mayor was willing or able to be inclusive in their governance once in office; in fact, I don’t believe either was effective in governing (and I say this as an African-American). I believe that Young and Stokes were the impetus that gave the white-ethnic middle class the reason to not only move from the city, but to eradicate it from their consciousness. Yes — eradicate it from their consciousness. Those who fled for the burbs in both cities psychologically and emotionally abandoned them. Does any city have worse city-suburban relations than these two? (As an aside, I think the one thing that kept Chicago from falling like Detroit and Cleveland was the leadership of Richard J. Daley and the political Machine. Chicago held onto its white-ethnic middle class far longer than either Detroit or Cleveland, because that group had confidence in their leadership. I think that enabled Chicago to make its transition to globalization much easier.)
The second factor is education. I would argue that both Cleveland and Detroit established public school systems in the late 1940s that were designed to give its graduates the rudimentary skills needed to survive in the industrial world. And they’re still doing that today. And I don’t limit this to just the city public school systems — many suburban school systems follow the same pattern. The result? An ever-growing base of residents without true analytical or problem-solving skills, or even the desire to examine and question, “why?” This becomes compounded when in-migration comes to a stand-still.
The third factor is culture — which may actually supercede and impact the first two. There is little to no entrepreneurship in either city. There is little leadership by the industrial/corporate titans in either city. There are so many people still waiting for the return of good-paying, low-skilled manufacturing jobs in both cities. Why? There are so many people chasing the same empty dreams that other cities are pursuing? Why?
So that’s my take.
I agree that culture explains a lot of what is happening (or not happening) in Cleveland. It was a factory town for a long, long time and people here are used to being rewarded for doing what the boss tells them to and being punished for running off to chase their own idea. Cleveland also had a sizable influx of population from Appalachia in earlier decades that brought and has maintained an impact on its culture. Many of the negative stereotypes of Appalachian thinking hold true here–fear and suspicion of outsiders and new ideas, resentment of those who do well, low expectations and a chronic pattern of short-term thinking. Cleveland has an abundance of things that make it a great place to live and that give it the potential to really thrive but people here are the last ones to see that or believe that it could be true.
This doesn’t have anything to do with your current post, but it’s heavy on my mind. Have you ever linked the decay of inner city Indianapolis to the IPS school system? I have a near east side home, and can’t seem to sell it, with the most common complaint that a soon to be family will not willingly move into the district with IPS as their only choice for their child’s education. As a product of that school system, I can’t argue. (Side note: I’m trying to sell so I can move to Portland OR)
Interesting article about the answer to the old joke “what’s the Akron of Ohio?”. But seriously, it was surprising that there was no mention of the potential advantage for both Detroit and Cleveland of their locations within the Great Lakes region. All of the cities that were mentioned as growth areas; Indianapolis, Kansas City, Columbus and Minneapolis are outside the Great Lakes water shed. I am pretty much completely ignorant on this topic, but as drought in other parts of the country becomes an increasingly serious environmental issue, doesn’t this count for something? It seems that access to fresh water is a hugh selling point as these two cities sit in the center of one sixth of the world’s fresh water supply.
I don’t think there’s a significant difference between Midwestern cities in the Great Lakes watershed and those outside it.
Dayton just ran a half-page economic-development ad in the WSJ touting its abundant groundwater supply.
I can’t comment on the reasons for Cleveland’s current problems. I can say I had a great time there and recommend a visit. Downtown has a big city feel and some pockets of vitality, just needs to be filled in some more.
Ohio City was a pleasant surprise from the Westside market to the commercial streets there.
Shaker Square stands as a testament to the fact that high-density development can attract wealth and not be noisy and stinky. It’s all thanks to being located on the local rail line.
I still have to visit Little Italy, Cleveland Heights, Lakewood, etc. Hopefully, adding to their already existing rail transit along with the new BRT line could help spur reinvestment in the inner city. It seems to me that jobs are there, but they’re out in sprawlsville as is a lot of the money there.
Alon Levy says
Pete-rock: it wasn’t just race relations – Dennis Kucinich, who was ranked 7th worst mayor in America since 1820, is white. Not all problems in Cleveland happened his watch, but the bankruptcy did and so did the highest rate of population decline.
What’s wrong with Cleveland is it’s image. It has none. Most Americans and even most Clevelanders have a very indifferent attitude toward the city. I think that indifference is worse than hate because at least hate is showing some type of emotion. Cleveland is actually a very fine city but outside of its sports teams it is not a very known city to most.
I think there are a lot of cities – in fact most US cities – with race relations problems that didn’t fall apart the way Cleveland did. Cincinnati has those problems about as bad as anywhere, but it doesn’t seem to have decayed on the scale that Cleveland has. Clearly the loss of jobs and failure to evolve have had the most devastating effects.
The video makes some heady insights. “Come and look at both of our buildings”. “Come hang out at West 6th Street” (the Warehouse District). The video mocks what it essentially Cleveland’s marketing campaign. Cleveland struggles because it hasn’t transitioned out of the “big projects bring big gains” model. It something a lot of cities still struggle with, but most fail at. The Rock and Roll Hall of fame didn’t really bring more than a spattering of jobs to the region, certainly not as much as that amount of money could have created if invested and spread out properly. There isn’t nearly enough emphasis on Cleveland’s neighborhoods as their needs to be. CBDs can only take you so far.
I wonder why Cleveland doesn’t talk up its connection to the East. With the pseudo-exceptions of Buffalo and Pittsburgh, it’s the most easterly Midwest city, and therefore closest to that market as well. Youngstown is equidistant to New York and Chicago. The region should take advantage of it’s strategic locale as well.
Cincy is not as bad because it never had the heavy industry like Cleveland. Cleveland had its hands in both auto and steel and is struggling with the losses from both, among other industries too I’m sure.
Race is not the issue. It’s a problem like it is in most places, but like other cities dealing huge losses – those losses create more loss. It’s a horrible cycle to be in.
It comes down to jobs which creates growth/migration which creates more growth and migration.
Chicago is much more than industry.
Indy and Cincy never had the amount of Cleveland had to lose to create mess it is in.
If you stripped away the baggage, I bet you would find a few positive areas, but out migration coupled with a lack in of in migration will continue to restrict growth.
Fragmented leadership without vision of course is recipe for disaster too.
It really is unfortunate to see a see city with some history, character and nice amenities collapsing, but cities like Cleveland do in fact have to work harder and that can’t really happen unless their is some vision and a disciplined plan.
Jim Russell says
“Cleveland on the other hand has to compete with Columbus, Cincinnati, Akron, Dayton, Toledo, and Youngstown, not to mention its own suburbs just like any other city. This makes it harder to recruit people and businesses.”
The above comment from John really resonates with my own observations. Cleveland’s perception of other cities as competition starts with its Ohio experience. Since states are the primary conduits for the federal government largess, you might imagine the kind of backroom fighting that must go on in Columbus.
I’d bet that Cleveland has been quite good at out-maneuvering its Ohio sister cities, which provides a powerful rationale for status quo approaches to economic development. See Detroit.
I’ve been to Cleveland on a number of occasions. As an Erie native, I have strong emotional ties to Buffalo, Cleveland and (of course) Pittsburgh. I’m biased when I write that I think Cleveland is a great city. My reaction to the Team NEO comments is visceral. But there are so many things right about Cleveland.
Joel Kotkin (New Geography) recently wrote about Pittsburgh. He wondered why a city with so many assets has struggled for so long. Kotkin’s take is similar to Aaron’s posts about Cincinnati:
Gorgeous city with a treasure trove of urban amenities. Why is it shrinking?
“Why is it shrinking?”
An important lesson we should learn from the real estate/financial crisis is that there can’t be a boom without a bust. Few cities boomed like those in the industrial mid-west. Cleveland, Detroit, Pittsburgh, Buffalo, Chicago, Milwaukee, etc… A big boom usually leads to a big bust, except Cleveland’s bust seems to be more of a slow drain. Clearly it is possible to recover from a bust though. Chicago provides the proof.
I think some people misunderstand my points on how race is an issue in Cleveland and Detroit. Let me see if I can clarify.
First, I said race was an issue, not the issue. Clearly other cities have had horrid race relations problems (Cincinnati, Indianapolis, Chicago, Milwaukee come to mind), but few cities had the up-front challenge to the political and cultural establishment by African-Americans that Detroit and Cleveland did in the late ’60s and early ’70s. In both cities, new administrations upset the applecart and completely disrupted the status quo.
This I believe led to accelerated suburban flight, and a psychological abandonment of the city by those moving out. Why is this psychological abandonment important? Because it leads to the bad image problems both cities have. All of a sudden, Detroit is not the “Arsenal of Democracy” anymore, it is the home of devastating riots and “murder capital of the world”. Cleveland has a river that catches fire and a government that goes belly-up. What suburbanite wants to be associated with that? The new suburbanites mentally vacated Detroit and Cleveland even moreso than physically. I read recently that over the last 15 years or so, 1 out of 7 burial plots in Detroit cemeteries have been disinterred and relocated to places closer to the suburban or out-of-state locales where people are now. Can there be a clearer picture of psychological abandonment? You team that social challenge with the industrial decline of the time, the poor quality education, and a culture that doesn’t nourish entrepreneurial energy, and you have a recipe for disaster.
Lastly, here’s my provocative statement. If Chicago, Indianapolis, Cincinnati, Milwaukee had gotten the same kind of charismatic/controversial African-American mayor in the late ’60s or early ’70s, they would each have precisely the same problems that Detroit and Cleveland have today.
Not to get too far off topic but there is a unique reason for Pittsburgh “shrinking”
Yes growth could be better etc, but Pittsburgh ranked lowest of the top 25 metros for out migration ( I forget the time period but it was this decade)
Pittsburgh problem is that the massive out migration in the 80s created the oddity of more deaths than births.
The region does suffer from more domestic out than in migration, but so do many “growing” cities like Boston.
Boston and so many others have more than adequate births over deaths and healthy international migration.
Jim Russell says
The only thing lower than Pittsburgh rates of out-migration is the pathetic rate of in-migration.
I think you should visit before you knock it. Your opinion of the city seems more a product of your lack of awareness. Cleveland has more by accident than most cities have on purpose. Bad government is the major problem here. There is a lot of potential in Cleveland.
The Urbanophile says
Thanks for all the thoughtful comments everyone.
Regarding race, race relations are clearly a dynamic in all Midwest cities. I’ve long argued that you can basically judge the success of a city by looking at how it treats its black community and how that community shares in the success of the whole.
Chicago is an interesting dynamic. I wasn’t there at the time, but from what I know the first black mayor of Chicago, Harold Washington, was a) competent and b) made a real effort not to divide the community. A number of white politicians discredited themselves by the way they treated Washington. My understanding is that Richard M. Daley ran against Washington in the primary and lost, but then was one of the few white politician to endorse Washington. He has long been very smart and understood that he needed to be inclusive of minorities to effectively govern and for the city to be successful, particularly in a place that is so heavily segregated.
The Urbanophile says
The multiplicity of municipalities in Ohio is an interesting point. This obviously has its downsides. The challenge for Ohio is to turn this into an asset. In an era where metro areas are the engines of economy growth, much of Ohio is within the economic orbit of a decent sized city, in contrast to most Midwestern states. This is actually favorable geography if you can make it work.
It is interesting to hear the parallels to Detroit. I’ll have to consider this angle carefully.
JonV, I would love to visit Cleveland and realize I can’t do it justice from a visit. I’ve seen some fantastic photos of the city. On the other hand, I would not be so quick to dismiss Cleveland’s problems as being solely the result of poor government. I think that is too facile and let’s the community get away from the painful self-reflection that is clearly warranted.
“Lastly, here’s my provocative statement. If Chicago, Indianapolis, Cincinnati, Milwaukee had gotten the same kind of charismatic/controversial African-American mayor in the late ’60s or early ’70s, they would each have precisely the same problems that Detroit and Cleveland have today.”
You mean like Gary, Indiana? (It was once Indiana’s second-largest city.) Today it looks even worse than Detroit.
As much as I love cities and hate urban sprawl, the reality is that urban sprawl has made the best American cities better.
In the post WW II years when the Interstate system was built, Midwestern American cities were stinking, corrupt and overcrowded industrial slums. The moment that Americans, white and black, could vote with their feet, they did (see Nicholas Lehamann’s great Atlantic Monthly story about the plight of Chicago’s North Lawndale neighborhood).
Cleveland’s time may yet come, but it’s no guarantee.
There are lot of folks predicting that a new world order will accompany, slowly, the economic recovery. But, the Midwest’s urban centers, and American cities in general, face tremendous challenges that no one is discussing, least of all the urban planners who are suppose to have the answers.
Retrofitting urban areas like Cleveland, Detroit and St. Louis for denser development (hopefully near transit nodes) is extremely complex and time consuming.
There has to be an inspiring plan, community consensus and an entitlement process that inspires investor confidence. Most cities are very weak in this regard, and most traditional “comprehensive plans” and other sub-area master plan plans prepared by professional planning firms fail to provide sufficient guidance. For the most part, if you read one of ’em, you’ve read ’em all.
So, there’s a big void out there. As I’ve written in the past, leaders can’t lead if they don’t have answers.
At the moment, places like Cleveland, Detroit and St. Louis are poster cities for failed leadership as much as anything. There are a lot of opinions about what to do, but the global marketplace doesn’t give a rat’s behind about personal opinions. It has its own logic and demands. They are constantly evolving, but it’s not impossible to create the systems needed to modify “urban products” to be more competitive.
It’s a leadership problem of the first magnitude.
“They are constantly evolving, but it’s not impossible to create the systems needed to modify “urban products” to be more competitive.”
I wonder if this is really true? Short of massive and long-term government intervention and spending, I can’t think of any forces that will take a place like Detroit and turn it around. There are such massive legacy costs both in people and in infrastructure that it’s next to impossible to come up with financially realistic ideas that the private sector will even consider.
Most of the development that’s happened in the past 25 years in downtown Detroit has been driven by individuals and their personal allegiances to Detroit, not by the economics. Look at the developments – the Ren Cen and Henry Ford II, the Fox Theater and Comerica Park and Mike Ilitch, Ford Field and William Clay Ford, Compuware and Pete Karmanos plus dozens of smaller projects by people like Chuck Forbes who invested in downtown Detroit for reasons that often had less to do with economics than historical or personal ties to Detroit. No doubt, they often parlayed those connections and developments into financial packages. But does anyone think that they couldn’t have gone to the suburbs and done the same kinds of projects and been just as successful? Look at the Palace of Auburn Hills built by Bill Davidson after he moved the Pistons out of downtown Detroit. It’s privately financed and from all accounts, incredibly successful.
Once you get out of downtown and some scattered areas around the city, the picture gets much worse. No one has much allegiance to the wasteland that has sprung up inside of Detroit’s borders. Who’s going to invest to redevelop those areas, especially within the borders of a city that has an anemic and dysfunctional government, widespread poverty, a bankrupt school system and crime rates far in excess of anything in the suburbs? I hate to be such a downer about the state of Detroit. But so much of the city is so far gone, I can’t see any of the normal strategies working.
Fred Collopy says
On the question of differentiation, here is an interesting initiative: http://www.districtofdesign.com/
The Weatherhead School of Management, where I am a professor and Ed Morrison used to work, is another with its incorporation of design as well as sustainable value as themes in its MBA and other programs.
Alon Levy says
New York has its own controversial mayors whose political power came from minorities: John Lindsay, who was white but was very responsive to black concerns and not at all to white ethnic ones, and David Dinkins, who is black.
Lindsay served two terms, during which he gave enough concessions to civil rights activists that New York never had a riot. It led to a lot of resentment among the outer borough white middle class, but there wasn’t much white flight. The worst in the city happened under Abe Beame’s watch, when the city almost became bankrupt.
Dinkins was more controversial – Staten Island at one point threatened to secede from the city. He was unpopular enough that he lost reelection to Giuliani, who ran a terrible campaign and had lost to Dinkins four years before. The city’s crime rate started dropping under his watch, but it only became noticeable under Giuliani. Either way, there was not much white flight – the city kept increasing in population; the total white population decreased, but has been decreasing continuously since the 1950s.
My wife and I moved to Cleveland in 1995 and I remain perplexed about this city. My anecdotal surveys showed that there seemed to be three types of Clevelanders:
1) Those who’ve lived here all their lives
2) Those who’ve moved back here (i.e., after college)
3) Those who’ve moved here to be close to spouse’s relatives
Over those years I’ve hired a dozen people and observed a dozen more hirings. Of all the hirings that involved a move to Cleveland just for the job, no one stayed. (One guy even moved back to Detroit.) The last hire I moved to Cleveland (and the only one still here) I accepted only because his wife was from Cleveland (all other things/talent being equal).
Then there’s the struggle between Cleveland, the suburbs and the County. I don’t understand that one either except that the County is winning. And not winning to share but winner-take-all (“mine, all mine”). Perhaps an indictment or two would change this.
Then there’s the east/west divide issue. I don’t understand that, either.
Tonight we celebrate our 15th anniversary. I’ll take the bus 7.5 miles home, get the sitter, drive 1.5 miles north and choose between a dozen excellent restaurants, then drive another mile or two to a world-class orchestra. My friends in other cities can’t do that. And all total, I’ll bet my bill will be less than $200 (dinner, symphony and sitter).
Oh, and why did we move to Cleveland from Chicago 14 years ago? To be closer to my wife’s family.
It sounds like you live in Cleveland Heights.
I have a bone to pick:
In an earlier post, Anonymous said:
“In the post WW II years when the Interstate system was built, Midwestern American cities were stinking, corrupt and overcrowded industrial slums. The moment that Americans, white and black, could vote with their feet, they did (see Nicholas Lehamann’s great Atlantic Monthly story about the plight of Chicago’s North Lawndale neighborhood).”
Sorry, I’ve got to challenge you on your history. I don’t think the model above fits some Midwestern cities at all (such as Minneapolis/St. Paul). And for most other Midwestern cities, I think the quote above over-simplifies a far more complex situation, both from the standpoint of the quality of city neighborhoods and the reasons people chose to move to the suburbs. I’ll focus on Chicago, but I could just as easily substitute other examples.)
Yeah, certainly there were overcrowded, crime-ridden, dangerous polluted neighborhoods in Chicago the 20’3-50′. There still are today. But there were also rich, complex, humane neighborhoods comprised of close-knit, tight social networks — real “neighborhoods.” There were also huge bungalow belts of pristinely maintained modest brown-brick single-family homes and two- and three-flats. And there were gold coasts, co-ops and “swell” upscale neighborhoods, too. I could give you dozens of examples of residential neighborhoods in Chicago that fit this description through the late 50s, and many continuing through to today. For every North Lawndale there were two South Shores ( a neighborhood that is still spoken of nostalgically by the Chicagoans who lived there through the late 60s in the same tone one imagines the knights of the round table using when they reminisced about Camelot).
So, why, then, you’ll ask, did everyone move to the suburbs?
The Pull: The attraction of the new burbs and their accessibility via the newly constructed superhighways, the ability to get a new, affordable single-family house with a yard for the kids and no relatives sleeping on the couch, GI bill, FHA financing, new schools, a chance to break out of old ethnic identities and create a new future. And all this was constantly touted by R.E. developers. It was the 50s; everybody wanted “new,” streamlined. It seemed like a brave new world. Developers contrasted the green lawns and picket fences, at the same time creating a caricature of how bad city life was. Some people took the bate — millions. But millions didn’t. They stayed put; they loved their neighborhoods, their parishes, etc.
The push: outright racial bigotry and/or the fear of dropping property values and increased crime (fueled, again, by the real estate industry, that profited by neighborhood turn-over) , as increasing numbers of African-Americans moved north after WWII, ready to upgrade their own housing from what was available in the up-till-then limited ghettoes they were allowed to live in, by moving into the vacuum left by departing white households, fueled by a real estate industry that profited by turning over neighborhoods.
A perfect example of how many good neighborhoods and how many dedicated urban dwellers there still were in the 60s in Chicago: When MLK came to Chicago to march in the 60s, he was met with violent resistance from huge numbers of whites who had not fled to the suburbs and had no intention of doing so. They were still Chicagoans, and loved their neighborhoods. They would’ve laughed outright or been deeply offended by the characterization of their neighborhoods as stinking, corrupt and overcrowded industrial slums.”
The above characterization is, itself, a gross over-simplification, but I hope it at least suggests that sweeping generalizations about the past are almost always inaccurate, and probably not going to be very helpful in predicting the future.
I’d also had this, North Lawndale itself was not a “stinking, corrupt and overcrowded industrial slum” in the fifties either. There’s a new book out by a young woman whose father was a lawyer for some black homeowners
around there at that time.
Back to Cleveland, ten or twelve years ago wasn’t it the “Comeback City,” what was that all about? I thought they were trying to make themselves new and relevant, all just a veneer?
Hello, Clevelander here, we are watching! 🙂 I don’t have the broad reasoning that others do, but if I had to sum it up, and I will disclose up front I am a suburban dweller and have been all my years in Cleveland, I think we actually became TOO sprawled out and the suburbs too dominant and it has contributed to the crumbling of our city proper. Picture the sprawl that Los Angeles has, and how downtown is still not a destination unless you’re going there for work. Now take away all the money and the vast majority of the residents, but leave the sprawl and the individual cities and communities and that’s kind of what Cleveland is. It’s more like that than it is Chicago, which still has a vibrant downtown core and which has enough people and design to be able to have public transit run to almost all the various areas of the city. Instead, we don’t have the transit (I use it every day, but outside of to/from work it’s very difficult because the people who live here don’t want their money going to transit, they want roads), we have lots of people driving to and from all areas of the city to other areas of the city. Suburbs have gotten so big and have so much more room that they became attractive places for big and small businesses to set up shop, so they took away downtown workers.
I work downtown. If I were to drive every day and park in my building, it would be over $200/month. We have very limited lunch options downtown unless you want to spend a lot of money, even chains like Panera have left, and there’s only a few “park” like locations to sit in and eat lunch outside, which are mostly cement and right next to busy roads.
My spouse works in a suburb. There is free parking, they have a huge complex including a man-made lake/park-like setting where you can eat outside at picnic tables and watch birds/wildlife. They have their own, very good cafeteria as well as a plethora of chain and non-chain lunch options within 5 mintues of the office. The chef in the cafe even makes you a cake on your birthday. Where would you rather work?
Developers followed the residents and businesses, so the biggest, most rich shopping malls and grocery stores are out in the burbs and there’s almost nothing downtown proper. Pretty soon people quit coming downtown for anything except for the sporting events or concerts, and so it’s just really, really hardscrabble to make a business like a small, independent restaurant work here, since a lot of downtown empties out completely come 5pm.
The decline of our city schools hasn’t helped matters. As some great restaurants and bars have come back downtown and more people are coming downtown as a destination after work, at least for dining/drinking, they still don’t want to live downtown because quality of life and education are often a lot better (if you are a “family,” not a young, single professional) if you live out in the suburbs, so that’s a problem as well.
I certainly don’t have the answers as to how this is fixed, but I thought I’d give my perspective.
Michael Dylan Brennan says
I suppose dissertations could be written on what is wrong with Cleveland. And, in fairness, there are a lot of things that are right about Cleveland. But I will try to identify some of the problems as I see them. I know this list won’t be comprehensive.
For whatever reason, Cleveland is very provincial. There are a lot of people here who distrust outsiders and their ideas. I don’t mean that in xenophobic terms. I mean that Cleveland tends to look within instead of globally. As it is, Clevelanders who think they are thinking expansively still aren’t looking beyond Indianapolis and Pittsburgh, as described in the above article. Most people living in the Cleveland metropolitan area act as if they feel better or different or separate from even the rest of Ohio. And while I’ve made my home here since 1993, whenever I meet someone new, the first thing they ask me is where did I grow up. If I tell them I grew up elsewhere, its seems like I’ve already lowered myself in their esteem.
There is a crisis of leadership in Cleveland and Cuyahoga County. There are several reasons for that, and they seem to have created a vicious circle. With the so-called “brain drain,” we send our children away to college and they stay away because that’s where the jobs are. The people who are still in Cleveland are those fighting over the scraps of what is left. Talented people who could better lead this city have left. The ones that remain elect the “leadership” that unfortunately represents them too well in all the wrong ways. With that, add into that mix the corruption that pervades throughout the county government, and there is your leadership problem again.
Columbus appears to be thriving, but it is more appearance than fact. The city of Columbus has annexed most of Franklin County over the last few decades. Thus, the city appears to be thriving, yet it you look at the smaller area that was Columbus 50-60 years ago, that area has the same problems as Cleveland. It is the newer parts of Columbus that are doing well. Also, Columbus is the state capitol, and it tends to help itself first — which is to be expected.
What has sent more people out of Cleveland and into the suburbs appears to be the schools. That may have been racially motivated at one time — indeed, the bussing decisions to promote desegregation probably did fuel a lot of white flight. Today, I don’t perceive racial motivations so much as socio-economically motivations for leaving or staying out of the city. And the Cleveland city schools continue to lag far behind the other school districts in the region.
I will not put forth that the key to solving Cleveland’s problems is for the burbs to allow themselves to be annexed by Cleveland — that is no magic elixir. But it remains that tens of small communities have their own police and fire services to maintain, have their own city councils, and that going about it that way is woefully inefficient and costly. Yet it is wholly indicative of the distrust the people in this region have, and the need to keep control close.
As for the Cleveland video posted above — I have a good enough sense of humor about this city to laugh at that. I know Cleveland is better than that, that there is more to the city than that. But it is funny because there is a grain of truth to it as well.
I must also say this. I recently went into business for myself. And having worked downtown for the last ten-plus years, I located my new office in the suburbs along the I-271 corridor. There are things that I miss about downtown, but what I do not miss is the photo-enforcement of speed and traffic lights. As a suburban commuter, I kept getting ticketed — taxed, if you will — by both stationary and mobile traffic photo devices. Some people would admonish me that I should just drive slower. Instead, I just don’t drive through the city anymore. And I don’t subject my clients to it anymore either. That may seem like a peculiarly small reason to escape downtown, but it nevertheless contributed to my decision to locate my office in Mayfield Heights.
But Cleveland does have a lot of offer. We have lots of old culture, such as the museums and the orchestra. We have popular culture, great music venues, Playhouse Square theater district, and the Rock hall. We have some of the best dining and dining options that you could ever want in a city. We have many golf courses. We have beautiful Metroparks. We have the lake. We have major sports franchises. We have inexpensive housing. We have diverse retail throughout the region. We have hot summers and hearty winters. And despite all that, we have this self-loathing, this inferiority complex. We’ve been stuck in this rut.
I’ve only been to Cleveland a couple of times in the past 10 years and never really explored the city. But how much of the lakefront is open to the public? How much of that has been developed in a way that maximizes the view and access to the lake? I was left with the impression that the answer was “not much” but perhaps I’m wrong. Having been to Chicago and Milwaukee a few weeks ago, those are two cities that have done a good job of preserving the lakefront for public access while encouraging private development to take advantage of that amenity.
cher cher says
Why would someone make a video like that? The same reason someone would make a joke about his mom. It’s funny and will make people laugh, but he doesn’t want to hear other people making digs at her.
You mention Cleveland’s declining population but fail to mention its massive suburban area. People are moving out of Cleveland because they are moving into the suburbs (for all the reasons discussed in previous responses).
I also can’t figure out why you said “Indianapolis, like most places, also has the same list of industries, but to that you can add things like motorsports and the sports events industry.” That COMPLETELY discounts the fact that Cleveland is home to three professional sports teams: one is on its way to winning an NBA championship, one just missed the World Series a few years ago, and one is a terrible team with diehard fans who will attend every game in the sun, rain or 10 inches of snow.
And speaking of snow, a lot of people dislike Cleveland because of the weather. People who can’t handle the lake-effect snow move out.
Cleveland and Columbus are similar but different. I have lived in both places, and I can tell you that it wasn’t until the last few years that Columbus seemed to be sort of a destination city. I’m guessing that part of the reason for that is that Columbus has attracted white-collar businesses (some headquarter in its suburbs) while Cleveland has a strong manufacturing history. But the big thing about Columbus is Ohio State football. It’s all Ohio State football all the time, and OSU is one of the largest universities in the country. Of course the city is going to grow when 60,000 people attend college there and fall in love with the football team. And it doesn’t hurt that OSU is a good school, including fantastic programs in business and engineering.
I also think your stat about only 4 percent of Clevelanders being foreign-born is misleading. While that might be true, it definitely leaves out the fact that people in Cleveland are proud of their history and culture and want to share it. Columbus is like white bread compared to the diversity of ethnic backgrounds in Cleveland. Columbus has diversity (I know there are big pockets of immmigrants), but it seems like everyone in Columbus tries to blend in. Clevelanders have more culture and more interest in preserving it.
So what’s wrong with Cleveland? It’s not in the best shape, and it’s gotten hit really bad by the economic downturn. But there’s a lot of stuff that’s great about Cleveland. You should visit to get a full picture of the city before you criticize the city again.
Jeff Hershberger says
My wife and I moved to the Cleveland area (Shaker Heights) 2 1/2 years ago. When we arrived, it took us over a year to start making friends – the social skills we’d developed elsewhere didn’t work here. It felt cliquish and distrustful. Definitely not welcoming, at least at first.
And we have to start looking elsewhere. My wife works for The Bank Formerly Known As National City, whose white-collar Cleveland workforce mostly faces the prospect of either finding other work or moving to Pittsburgh (PNC). I like my job, but we can’t afford to get caught without options.
Nobody’s mentioned the banking industry yet here – with the headquarters of Key Bank and (until recently) National City, Cleveland was a force in the financial sector. And everybody knows how well that’s doing.
I’m a member of the Cleveland Social Media Club. One of its aims is to encourage a new industry here in social media companies. Often, though, I get the sense that our efforts are either under the radar or actually hindered by local government – we’re not seen as helping. I have no explanation for that.
Ed Morrison contributes to Brewed Fresh Daily, where I read about this post. Ed does a great job of contrasting the economic development initiatives of various areas in the continental US, and asking what NEO can learn and apply.
Cher Cher- I think Urbanophile’s comment about sports is not that Indy has major league sports teams, but hosted large events the Final Four, the Pan Am games, and is due to hold the Super Bowl in a few years.
Stephen Gross says
A few thoughts for you:
* Great article! You have taken a lot of time to think about and examine the situation Cleveland faces. You are correct on many points!
Some help & clarification:
* You might be tempted to see the Avon interstate fiasco as an example of bad city-suburb relations. It's anomalous; the problem is not that Cleveland lacks good suburbs. It's quite the contrary–Cleveland has excellent suburbs. Instead, Cleveland lacks a viable urban life.
This fact is–possibly–an explanation of why Cleveland has been left in the dust by the Rust Belt destruction. I suggest this as a possibility, because I haven't studied how much it has affected economic development directly. I will say that Cleveland–unlike other midwestern cities–lacks viable, attractive non-suburban lifestyle options. If you're an urbanite, there simply aren't many options in that city that will satisfy you.
There is also very little job migration in the city, which means that mid-level jobs (for people with 5+ years of experience) are hard to come by. As a result, Cleveland is a great city to get your first job, but as soon as you want to move up the career ladder you find yourself limited by the lack of available positions.
In the long run, this may have contributed to Cleveland's economic stagnation. I don't know for a fact that this has been the case for the past 20 years, but it certainly has for the past 7.
Some other thoughts:
* Cleveland has failed to leverage one of its greatest assets: its lakeshore! Lake Erie is–contrary to the stereotype–gorgeous, beautiful, and wonderful. Yet, most of the coastline is controlled by individual private homeowners. The portion of the coastline downtown is dominated by a few large institutions that won't budge. Note that this includes a seaside airport used for corporate and charter flights. Other places–like Chicago–have recognized that a lakefront is an asset that should be maximized. The most recent effort to plan a better lakeshore failed under the previous mayor's administration in 2006 (Jane Campbell).
The Urbanophile says
Wow, everyone thanks so much again for posting such thoughtful comments. Great stuff to consider. Very helpful to me personally.
Jeffrey 5:40, that’s a particularly damning indictment of Cleveland, your observation that anyone who comes there for a job ends up leaving. My experience with Midwestern cities has been just the opposite. People without a connection have to be dragged kicking and screaming to come there, but then fall in love and never want to leave.
cher-cher, two things. First, suburbanization can’t be the only answer since the entire Cleveland metro area is shrinking – there are very, very few places where that is true.
Second, on the sports front, you are right about local teams. I think it is pretty clear Cleveland has a much stronger local sports tradition than Indianapolis. But I was referring to special events hosting such as the NCAA Final Four (Indy is on a five year guaranteed rotation), the Super Bowl, the Pan Am Games, every high school championship in the state, lots of swimming, track and field, and rowing events, etc. Indy really built an entire events business around amateur sports events, starting in the 1970’s.
Alon Levy says
A lot of the comments here mention problems with Cleveland which are just as true in successful cities. For examples:
1. Cleveland has had incompetent mayors – but so have most other cities. Most cities haven’t had Dennis Kucinich for a mayor, but Cleveland’s decline began long before Kucinich.
2. Clevelanders are provincial and distrustful, but so are New Yorkers. For a while I thought it was just Upper West Side journalists trying to look cool, but eventually I realized that the idea that there’s nothing worthy outside of New York permeates New Yorkers of all social classes. This applies even to immigrants – the average New Yorker loves immigrants, as long as they tell him horror stories about how terrible the place they came from is.
3. Cleveland has a poor racial situation, but LA has a poorer one. The first race riots in the 60s were in LA and Detroit. South Central and Compton are both infamous for their poverty and crime. On top of these, Southern California has major unresolved issues with immigration. The region as a whole is considered liberal but only because of the Hispanic vote; many Anglos in SoCal, especially in Orange and San Diego Counties, hate Mexicans.
4. Cleveland has city/suburb friction, but so do most US metro areas. In Silicon Valley, there is a lot of NIMBYism going on with residents of the more affluent towns, such as Menlo Park and Palo Alto, trying to erect barriers to keep out people from the poorer towns, such as East Palo Alto, and destroy existing links. In New York, the New York City commuter tax was a bone of contention, and remains so even after it was abolished.
Cleveland Carole Cohen 3C says
It’s fascinating to read comments from those who do not live in Cleveland. I really appreciated the comments as much as the post.
I grew up in Cleveland, then went to other places, including the DC area for almost 20 years. Then I moved back here. The lack of cultural diversity hit home to me. Certainly compared to DC. But then again, we do have diversity, just not as prominently as other places.
We didn’t, by the way, have a housing bubble. We did have (and still do) foreclosure issues. That is why sales prices deflated, but also why we don’t have the huge bubble-like declines other cities experience. We were one of the few cities to experience recent housing purchase increases. So there is some good news.
I love a lot of the cities you seem to cover, although admittedly, Indianapolis is not my favorite place. It’s a place I have not revisited for quite some time so my mind could be changed. In your stats, there isn’t that much difference between GDP in both cities. We do need to stop population decline.
We have the most amazing housing stock. A variety. In many places in the country you see homes that identify the area. Here we have a wide variety of styles, from tudor mansions to mini versions, to brick to stucco to brick homes of all styles and eras. You mention Shaker Heights one of the oldest transportation oriented development cities in the country.
Thanks for the ‘non clevelander’ insights, truly.
I live in Sacramento. Its an area with a lot of first generation immigrants, Vietnamese boat people, Hmong refugees, lots Mexicans and Central Americans.
None of these folks are doing well on standardized test scores. The Hmong had no written language in their native tongue.
Yet despite the fact that region is importing a lot of uneducated people from around the world. The levels of educational attainment in the Sacramento MSA are higher than the levels of educational attainment in Cleveland.
In Sac, 8.5% had gone to grad school and 17.5% had graduated from college. In Cleveland the comparative numbers were 8.5/14.8.
These numbers aren’t just for the cities, but for the regions overall.
One would expect that the region with the most native born would be doing better on standardized tests and thus have higher educational attainment levels.
I think the best employment recruitment program that Cleveland could undertake would be to fix the local school systems. Where are the KIPP charter schools in this town to raise the educational attainment of the poor and the ethnic minorities?
Structurally there is something wrong in the region with the schools in the Cleveland region. Other areas have poorly educated minority groups too, but they are having better results educating them.
As you improve the schools you get more people off public assistance and you lower the local tax burden.
Cleveland may not be able to control its climate, but it can control how well it educates its own population.
I like Cleveland because it’s like living in the pages of The Onion. There’s a crap-ton of fodder here for creative people who gorge themselves on absurdity. I mean, look at all the creatives who go to New York to do their “big works.” Don’t they all start to look/sound/read the same after a while? Yeah. That’s because they’re all looking at the same buildings, the same quaint little corners of Central Park. Me, I’m taking a leaf from Arby’s book and thinking different.
Cleveland is myopia incarnate. The “Mistake-by-the-lake” is a region that is fractured and sprawling. Pervaded by a disturbing uniformity, it is overrun with the same chain restaurants and overpopulated by the same bourgeoisie merchants. It is a place that fails to significantly attract outsiders, and a region governed by shortsighted insiders who fight for pieces of a shrinking pie. No one but Clevelanders is to blame for its troubles. In fact the chief problem of Cleveland is Clevelanders. The only ones with good sense are the ones that leave. The blind hang on to a hope for change, but that ship is never coming in.
The Plain Dealer’s Quiet Crisis series, as mentioned in the blog, documented ten years after the fact what everyone knew: Cleveland was/is neck-deep in the quicksand. While the series was accurate and engaging, the punch in the gut meant nothing to a region that has been punched in the face so many times before.
As wake up calls continue to go unheeded, other areas have embraced new formulas and prospered. For example, Clevelanders are still wondering whether regionalism is an idea of merit. As Cleveland sprawls the only answer has been more roads and highways. This is the equivalent to thinking the answer to a bulging waistline is letting out one’s pants. Gridlock is the result, because there is no significant subway and/or light rail infrastructure to speak of. The hot topic in terms of transit is the legality of street cameras. Of course, the rest of the world has cameras and has moved on years ago.
Cleveland’s boosterism is laughable to me for both professional and personal reasons.
Young professionals have few opportunities. In terms of dating, the market is very bad. People tend to form social networks early in life and are not looking to meet new people. The rungs on the career ladder are slippery and the prospects for a great relationship happen at the high school prom.
It’s not all bad. Cleveland has pockets of brilliance such as the orchestra, the Rock Hall, the West Side Market, Little Italy, etc. In terms of commerce, the medical industry is topnotch. However, these are exceptions and not the rule. In fact it is the same laundry list that boosters of the city of have been pointing to for more than two decades. Where’s the real growth? Instead they give us more of the same – over and over.
I lived in Cleveland for more than 30 years and would never go back, not even in the next life.
Alon Levy says
Anon: college graduation rates are not always indicative. I’d venture a guess that very few of the 17.5% of Sacramentans with a college degree are Hmong. They don’t need to be; there are enough native-born Americans from a middle class or higher background to populate the colleges, without the city ever needing to help immigrants. That is the case in New York, where 27% of the population has a college degree, and in Los Angeles and Chicago, where the rate is 26%. Better measures of whether immigrants get a leg up include high school completion rates, functional literacy, and public school quality.
So, what was Comeback City all about?
Just a marketing scheme based on one big tourist trap- or was there an incipient awareness of the need to change the dynamic, to stop simply pining for the old days?
You are missing my point. In Sacramento the Hmong aren’t going to college in tremendous numbers, they aren’t starting internet businesses, mostly they are just adding to the social services burden by adding to the public housing burden.
But Cleveland isn’t attracting the world’s uneducated masses with limited English skills. So unlike Sacramento it can’t pass the blame for its poor local schools on incoming waves of 3rd world immigrants.
The people failing in Cleveland aren’t failing because they don’t speak the language and don’t understand the culture. The people in Cleveland that are falling through the cracks were born and raised in the Cleveland region. That is the bigger problem for the region.
That is a Cleveland regional problem that only Cleveland can fix. If it fixes the area, Cleveland will become a more desirable area.
Places with tough local climates like Minneapolis-St. Paul are doing much better at educating their populations than Cleveland. In that region 23% of the population has a bachlors degree and another 10% went to grad school. With high educational attainment and cheap housing places like the twin cities do a much better job of attracting employers than Cleveland.
In the twin cities the value proposition is simple highly educated population and cheap housing so your employees can afford to buy a home in a safe neighborhood to start a family.
In Cleveland, there is the cheap housing, but not the quite the highly educated population.
If the area wants to improve its self, it should be investing in the local work force. Making community colleges more affordible so retraining is easier and getting a college degree is more affordible. Perhaps investing some money in expanding spots in the local universities.
Ed in Sac
Sorry you felt the need to rip on a great city that you’ve never even visited. It really is fabulous, with the second largest theatre district outside of NYC, one of the world’s best orchestras, the Rock n Roll Hall of Fame, Iron Chef Michael Symon restaurants, and a $170 billion diversifying economy. In fact, the region is home to 40% of all Fortune 500 companies, boasts the nation’s top polymers and materials science, NASA Glenn research center, one-of-a-kind fuel cell prototyping, and an international medical imaging hub.
Here’s the thing – Northeast Ohio was out of the pro-active business attraction game for a long time. So we’re behind, and blogs like this put Cleveland unfairly in a poor light. SO, we need to go above and beyond the typical messaging and marketing (ie: what you called “gimmick”) to grab attention, change perception and begin to build relationships with industry influencers and decision makers.
Fortunately, the tactics are working.
Team NEO has attracted 195 new qualified business opportunities since we began focusing on business attraction in January, 2007. In the past 2 years, we’ve attracted 23 new companies, 2200 new jobs worth $76 million in new annual payroll, which adds nearly $150 million new annual economic benefit to the region. Since Team NEO’s annual budget is only $3 million, we think that’s a pretty good return on investment — and proof that Team NEO, regional economic development and CLEVELAND PLUS are working.
So please, give us a break. And if you want to talk about Cleveland, I invite you to come tour it. We’d love to welcome you here and show you around.
ps – I love Indy, and think the city has transformed well. However, for running an international business, give Cleveland a bit more credit – we have more Fortune 500 companies and more direct flights to major markets than Indy, making it easier to operate from here. Not a slam against Indy, just a fact about Cleveland. Rock on Cleveland Plus!!
“So we’re behind, and blogs like this put Cleveland unfairly in a poor light. SO, we need to go above and beyond the typical messaging and marketing”
I don’t think the original post was putting Cleveland “unfairly in a poor light”. The numbers speak for themselves. I’m a big believer in communities talking up their accomplishments. But happy talk isn’t a substitute for sober assessments of a community’s real position. The reality outside of Cleveland is that it’s not on a lot of people’s radars.
Jim Russell says
Notice in Carin’s comment how interchangeable Cleveland, Cleveland Plus, and Northeast Ohio are. That’s a big part of the current problem.
SputteringWith Outrage says
Excellent commentary by a knowledgeable outsider.
Cleveland is a great community, with terrific amenities which many hipper cities would love to have. Good quality of life, affordable housing, easy commutes…
The economy has had a hard time coping with transition, but its challenges are not terribly unique; most aging industrial centers are dealing with similar issues.
But the organizations making up the economic institutional leadership has had a hard time walking the talk. A proliferation of organizations with charters which are either highly specialized or overly broad are hamstrung by conflicting agendas, political intrigue, and limited expertise in real economic development.
These are deep organizational, cultural, and political issues which are not well-served by marketing campaigns.
And there’s an over-emphasis on “big bets” like publicly-financed private development projects as a sort of surrogate for economic development.
As the core of 20th-century industrial corporate leadership has continued to erode, those that remain are very focused on feathering their own nests and preserving political power. This has left power concentrated in the hands of relatively few people with their own agendas, facilitated by a highly-paid economic development bureaucracy whose performance is evaluated more in terms of keeping constituencies appeased than by results achieved.
Urbanophile’s post represents a credible point of view. Clevelanders won’t like it…not because it’s incorrect, but because it points up well-known shortcomings with the institutions’ efforts to “accentuate the positive” and keep the bad stuff deep in the closet.
Your points about Cleveland are well noted. Some readers of this blog are blinded by what some define as 'growth is good…and all the stats show that Indy is booming vs its Midwestern brethren'. Not taking away from Indy's stats or successes, BUT, Cleveland, Detroit, Cincinnati, Pittsburgh, Chicago, St. Louis, Kansas City…for all their flaws and challenges have far richer histories of being 'a big city'. That 'richness' is found in the cultural institutions, architecture and neighborhoods that, do not exist at the same scale in Indy.
Don't get me wrong, there is much that is good about Indy, but it's only Midwestern comparable is Columbus.
All other comps are wannabe, cud a been, or shudn't be.
Anon 12:36 – pray tell what is the image of any midwestern city outside of Chicago? If I were to rank the likelihood of someone knowing something of any city in the midwest it might rank like this: Detroit, MSP, Cleveland-Pittsburgh (tied), Cinci, St. Louis, KC…then Indy-Columbus (tied)
Thundermutt: CLE, DTW, CHI, MKE siton the Great lakes and it is a huge asset (for water and scenery); PIT, Cinci, Louisville, St. Louis, KC, MSP are on very large rivers which provides them a huge asset (water and scenery). The Mimai River (Dayton) and the White River (Indy) are also assets (water and scenery) but those tributaries are much different than large rivers or the Great Lakes.
Joe P: Great observation. Same is true about Detroit and Pittsburgh. CLE, DTW & PIT (in their hey day) were far more powerful/important than current day Indy, Cinci, Louisville etc.
Urban: Indy is not on the same planet in regards to sports as CLE, DTW, CLE, PIT, CHI and you can add MSP, STL, KCI and Cinci to that list. The Colts are a great team but have been in Indy since 84; the Pacers are… Indy's greatest sports event is the 500 and it seems Indy is embarrased by it. The NCAA's are great events and define teh results acheived by good planning…but for plain ol sports fans…nobody really cares
Joe F. says
I am also a Clevelander. I moved here in 2005, so my experience is somewhat limited compared to Jeffrey. However, I’m an active networker and have met a lot of natives and non-natives alike, including a former member of Mayor Jackson’s staff. I can second Jeffrey’s observation on why people move to Cleveland. No one is really excited about moving here, and that is both a symptom and the disease. The problems I see are as follows
1) Bad administrative decisions/priorities
The decision to build a convention center/med mart seems ludicrous when we have a decaying downtown, increasing unemployment, and decrepit suburbs. There are many things that could be done to clean up Cleveland and make it a more exciting place to live before building a new convention center.
Also, Cleveland doesn’t put much emphasis on its technology base. As a software developer I meet a lot of talented technologists every day. I know many people who would love to start their own company if it was a little more feasible. We also have one of the fastest internet lines in the world running through our city. Unfortunately, our mayor seems intent on embracing technology: he turned down a huge deal for Apple to build a multimedia center downtown and help high school students learn the latest and greatest. A friend owns a software company downtown and he’s struggling to keep his location because the city wants to use it for something else in 10-20 years. His office is used to host a large number of the networking events I attend. He is very active in building up the tech community here.
3) Apathetic citizens
The other major problem I’ve noticed here is that people aren’t excited about moving or living here. No one really goes downtown except to sporting events or performing arts events. There are so many ways we could improve our downtown area to make people want to stay there for the day. Revitalizing the immediate suburbs would be a huge help as well. I work in Ohio City, just across the bridge from downtown. I love the area, but the neighborhoods just don’t feel safe, so I don’t live there.
On the positive, the parks system is really great. Most of the entertainment here isn’t extremely expensive; in fact, cost of living as a whole is something we could advertise as a reason to move here. It’s obvious to me that Cleveland has a rich history (even though I don’t know it) and a lot of historical neighborhoods.
Those are my thoughts. I’m not an expert in any of these areas, but I’ve observed a lot in my short time here. Obviously, I’m also more than a little biased towards technology as a great economic advantage. Cleveland is a good town, but it needs to embrace the future in order to become great.
“Obviously, I’m also more than a little biased towards technology as a great economic advantage. Cleveland is a good town, but it needs to embrace the future in order to become great.”
If “embrace the future”, you mean embrace the potential of technology, why talk about it being the future? It’s the here and now. Too many communities, especially urban centers, still see technology as an add-on when anyone can see that it’s fully integrated into most peoples lives, even seniors and low-income residents (whether they want it or not). As an individual, you are the future, but your field is as everyday as anything else going on in the city.
Discussions like the one on this board really set me off. Asking what is wrong with Cleveland implies our metro area could be like some other areas if we made better decisions, or where fundamentally better people. It implies all you people who moved to “better” places a year or two ago are responsible for the decades old trends you’re riding. I lived in NYC for four years, the Bay Area for two, and Chicago for five. Was I a better policy maker when I lived there?
There are hundreds of thousands of hardworking, educated people doing important productive work in Cleveland. On a number of measures, quality of life is great here. The parks and access to outdoor recreation are very good. The public buildings and housing stock are full of artistry and craftsmanship. There are more interesting independent restaurants than you could eat through in a decade. On any weekend, I can go to hear live music at a dozen different venues. I can go to a hundred different bars and meet friendly, interesting people.
It is absolutely pointless to compare Cleveland to any state capital, college town, or regional hub like Chicago or New York. State capitals create economic growth and jobs through taxation. Places like Cleveland have to develop and market products and services, replace outmoded industries, and keep up with foreign competition, while paying those taxes. Appropriate comparisons would be Pittsburgh, Buffalo, St. Louis, Kansas City, Detroit, Philadelphia, and perhaps a few others.
All comparison of cities has to be in the context of the stratified modern economy. People with a college degree or a skilled trade can have a decent income and quality of life anywhere in this country. There are perhaps 60 million American adults who have neither, and they only participate in the economy on the margins. The most widely used measure of the success of a region is its ratio of college graduates to everyone else. The main thing that determines this is the *denominator* that you started with when we transitioned to a post-industrial economy.
State capitals and college town never had masses of unskilled workers. All they had to do was hire (with taxes and subsidies) a relatively small number of college graduates, and they appear brilliant. Businesses bring in amenities because of the stable economy, more graduates come for the comfortable life, and you’re on an upward trend.
Cleveland still has hundreds of thousands of people working in manufacturing and related industries. We also have 200-300K people with no education or skills. This is our denominator. How are we supposed to change that? Close the factories, and put those people on a train and ship them out?
Education? No one knows how to educate children raised in a ghetto culture! If you know, or someone knows, please give me an example! Chicago? 508K native-born high school drop-outs. Atlanta? 315K native-born dropouts. Washington DC? 197K. Minneapolis? 112K. Raleigh? 81K (2006 ACS). No one knows how to create middle class jobs for uneducated people. Beyond the jobs in cleaning, food service, and retail that are created by high income residents, no one is creating mass employment for the unskilled in any developed country.
Because we have inherited our neighbors, everything we try to build here is in the context they create. They elect the council and mayor in the city and the county officials. If you want to do business here, you have to support their infrastructure. You build a $10 million town home development and they move in next door with a section 8 voucher. You try to open some nice retail, and they loiter and scare the customers away. In Chicago, the middle class people (mostly from Michigan, Iowa, Ohio, etc.) are numerous enough to crowd and price the low income people out of neighborhood after neighborhood. Here, the numbers work against us.
Still we are trying. We are building new housing in the city and rehabbing neighborhoods. There are groups trying to reform the county and city government. There are people trying to get start-ups off the ground. We are trying to build on our health care and design industries. We do need more regional co-operation.
I welcome constructive ideas, but please lay off the uninformed comparisons. People in other cities take way too much credit for their success. You either got lucky with where you were born, or you participated in a regional form of middle-class flight. These aren’t things Cleveland can emulate.
Anon: 10: 30
Totally agree, particularly with:
“It is absolutely pointless to compare Cleveland to any state capital, college town, or regional hub like Chicago or New York. State capitals create economic growth and jobs through taxation. Places like Cleveland have to develop and market products and services, replace outmoded industries, and keep up with foreign competition, while paying those taxes. Appropriate comparisons would be Pittsburgh, Buffalo, St. Louis, Kansas City, Detroit, Philadelphia, and perhaps a few others.”
The idea that industrial cities can’t upgrade the educational attainment of their communities is factually just wrong. In Oakland California, 13% of the population went to grad school and 21.8% have a bachelors degree.
People have figured out how to educate people who grew up in the ghetto. Look at the success of the Kipp Schools or the American Indian Public Charter School. Both take improvished minority students and provide them with an outstanding education, they are doing this with poor minority students in Oakland and in the case of KIPP they are having success nationwide.
I think success for regions is contingent less on elaborate corporate recruitment programs than on basic performance levels of governance. How well can a region provide affordible housing to its population (something the midwest excells compared to California) and how well it can educate its population.
One of the strengths of Cleveland is relatively cheap housing.
One of the strengths of California is very cheap community colleges in state tuition is $11 a unit. In state fees in the California State University system are $1524 for full time students.
What this means is that people who are interested in improving themselves face less barriers to actually doing so in California than Ohio.
Not everyone in the ghetto is going to grad school, but if Cleveland increased its pool of people with bachelor degrees from 14.8% to 24.8% of the population, and the number of people with grad degrees from 8.5% to 10.5% the economic prospects for the region would change dramatically.
How many more educated people would Cleveland have if tuition at the local community college was free and if tuition at local branch of the Ohio State University was $11 a unit?
Before you are argue the cost is too high, look at the cost in terms of people recieving state assistance and in terms of forgone income taxes because the population isn’t better educated.
Since the area is having problem attracting people from outside the area, it needs to do a better job of improving the lot of the people living in the region right now.
This idea that the region has to write off whole sectors of its population just isn’t true and its holding the region back.
Ed in Sac
Oakland has graduates and post graduates who have been priced out of San Fran. They are not home grown. The exception might be some Asian immigrants. Their culture is supportive of education, not hostile to it.
*Every* inner city school district has some good schools that take kids from terrible circumstances and get them into college. But *no* inner city district has scaled this up to get a high school graduation rate above 80% for disadvantaged minorities.
Cleveland is doing a lot with charter schools. Maybe we’ll be the first.
We are also talking about people on different margins. 60% of high school graduates go on to college (which is the number nationally), and about 30% finish. How many people who just barely finish high school will do better in college than that 30% of the cohorts that currently drops out? College or community college tuition of $0 is useless to a high school dropout.
Frank A. Mills says
Two things strike me about most of the comments …
First, most don’t really address the reason for the region being in a slump, which seems to be typical for this region … Let’s just play the word game and not really address anything.
Second, those who do make suggestions generally suggest the same old, same old. The old paradigms no longer work, we need brand new, never thought of ideas, ones that turn everything upside down and address the issues from totally different angles. This is not something we do at all in Cleveland.
Frank A. Mills
Michael Pereckas says
It reminds me a bit of the Louisville/Cincy thing where the first thing people ask you is “Where did you go to high school?”I can’t really imagine adults asking each other where they went to high school unless the answer they are expecting is the name of the country, or in the special case of having to gotten to know each other and realized that they might have actually gone to the same one.
But as they say, anecdote isn’t data. I don’t think Milwaukee is really a cosmopolitan land famous for all the highly educated immigrants, but I work in academia and stand out as a local, having grown up in nearby Illinois.
For whatever it’s worth, growing up in the Chicago suburbs, living now in Milwaukee, Cleveland hardly even has an image in my mind, at any rate no more negative than any other random midwestern city.
The Urbanophile says
Thanks again for all the comments. This post has official set a record. My previous top comment garnering post had 57 comments.
Michael Pereckas, you might be skeptical on the high school point, but believe me, it’s true. Check out this post on cincinnati imports.
Frank A. Mills, I agree I haven’t heard a lot around solutions, but to be fair, the posting was about problems. It’s hard to suggest doing things when you don’t know what you are trying to overcome. I agree that not just Cleveland but many Midwest cities need significant change. However, not all of the “blocking and tackling” basics are bad. You need a mix of both.
Alon Levy says
Philadelphia’s metro population is increasing – very slowly, but it’s increasing. Its downtown, Center City, is also rapidly revitalizing, and increasing in population. Overall, 21.8% of the city’s adult population has a college degree. Cleveland doesn’t even have that.
On another note, reducing college tuition does not do much for high school dropouts, but not all people without degrees are high school dropouts. A lot are older adults who would like to come back to school to break the poverty and welfare dependency cycles.
“It reminds me a bit of the Louisville/Cincy thing where the first thing people ask you is “Where did you go to high school?”
I know this does exist in both Cinci and Louisville. Is this true elsewhere?
By the way, this question is only asked when the other person is known/discovered to be from Cinci or Louisville
Alon Levy says
Okay, now that I’ve found easy to access data about college degree rates, here are the numbers for Rust Belt cities, as of 2007:
St. Louis 24.9%
If you include cities that aren’t really Rust Belt, like Minneapolis (42%) and Chicago (29.6%), Cleveland looks even worse.
Indianapolis was omitted from the above. Using the same Census ACS data, 20% of adults over 25 in the Indianapolis MSA have an undergraduate degree, and 10% a graduate degree, for a total of 30% with at least an undergrad degree. That would put Indy near the top of the Rust Belt if the comparison was for MSA and not city proper.
Anon 10:30 and 1:05: Indianapolis (and all of Indiana) have long been dependent upon manufacturing, just like our neighboring states. Jobs here (and job growth) have not come from taxation. They’ve come in health care (Eli Lilly, Wellpoint, several major medical centers) and education (IUPUI, Ivy Tech, Butler, public and private grade schools).
Most of those enterprises require degree attainment. The about-to-close GM, Ford, and Harvester plants, and now-closed Chrysler and Western Electric and RCA Records plants did not.
At least in THIS state capital, job growth came from growth in companies already here and from attracting new ones to replace the industrial dinosaurs. Manufacturing jobs were replaced with others, but not with jobs in state government.
Why hasn’t Cleveland done better with a much bigger handful of civic and “beachfront” assets?
A lot of these cities are highly suburbanized, so you also have to look at the metro area numbers.
St. Louis 28.1
Cleveland has some nicer inner ring suburbs where more graduates live. Of course, young people would rather be in a city, even if the suburbs are as dense and historic as nice parts of other cities.
With these education level, like anything, were do you intervene in the cycle? Our private schools and suburban schools are as good as any in the country. We send tons of people off to college, where many do fine. But once they’ve seen the gentrified neighborhoods in Chicago or New York, or the prestine neighborhoods in Denver and the twin cities, how do you convince them to come back and battle the blight here? How do you convince people from outside the region to rent or buy in our “transitional” neighborhoods?
The Urbanophile says
We send tons of people off to college, where many do fine. But once they’ve seen the gentrified neighborhoods in Chicago or New York, or the prestine neighborhoods in Denver and the twin cities, how do you convince them to come back and battle the blight here? How do you convince people from outside the region to rent or buy in our “transitional” neighborhoods?
anon 9:20, you do it a couple of ways:
Firstly, you forget about retention, which is a bad strategy. Chicago didn’t get to be great by keeping its home growth talent. It got to be great by taking your home grown talent. Cleveland has to target being a place people will desire to live in its own right, not just because they grew up there.
Secondly, you don’t try to compete with Chicago head on. You can’t create neighborhoods like the ones in Chicago, so why try? Taking on an entrenched competitor at its strongest point is a recipe for failure. Don’t try to beat Chicago at their game, make them beat you at yours. What’s Cleveland’s game? What unique value proposition can Cleveland create for itself? This is the question that needs to be answered.
Stephen Gross says
For those of you reading through these comments who have not lived in Cleveland, you should pay particular attention to the pro-Cleveland messages. Notice how often the following “amenities” are repeated as evidence that the city is a wonderful place:
* The Rock Hall
* The Cleveland Orchestra
* The Theater District
* Cleveland Clinic
* NASA Glenn
You have to realize that these are the same amenities that are repeated again and again in every booster publication for the past ten years. Sure, they’re good amenities, but if you examine them in more detail you realize that they don’t make as much of an impact on one’s daily life:
* The Rock Hall: It’s cool, but you go there once and you’re done. It’s like the Statue of Liberty in NYC–New Yorkers take their out-of-town guests there, but that’s it. It’s not like you go there once a week because Jimi Hendrix’s guitar is shinier now.
* The Cleveland Orchestra – Sure, they’re fantastic. My good buddy subs for them sometimes. But guess what? They’re also expensive. This is not the sort of thing that you just casually go to. It’s a special occasion amenity–perhaps once or twice a year.
* Theater district–see Cleveland Orchestra.
* Cleveland Clinic–this is the one amenity that arguably holds up. It’s a huge institution that employs around 30K people and is an international leader in medical services. Definitely an asset (unless of course you don’t actually work in the medical field).
* NASA Glenn–ok, it’s pretty cool. But it’s not actually that big. I mean, it’s just a research center. It’s not like some giant Kennedy Center complex that dominates the city.
So overall, here’s the lesson to keep in mind: the Cleveland booster like touting certain amenities, but you have to realize that they are describing the 1% of Cleveland that might be really cool. There’s still 99% left over, and when you’re driving down Chester and you see crumbling warehouses that haven’t been occupied for decades, you realize that maybe… just maybe… the city is a bit grimier than the boosters would have you believe.
The problem with noting the amenities in Cleveland or similar cities is that nobody is denying such great institutions, organizations etc. exist.
The issue is that despite such nice things – at the end of the day, the metro is not able to even moderately have enough net growth.
Again, if a region is not growing, it unfortunately shrinks.
Now, does every city need to have Sunbelt growth to be considered moving in a good direction or have a decent or even strong economy?
Of course not. As often noted, Indy and Columbus do quite fine.
The Twin Cities and Chicago do ok.
Cincy is doing ok.
All have problems as well, but it is unfortunate the most rustbelt of rustbelt cities – those that had serious industry have a lot of baggage.
There is no doubt at best a few more decades over perpetual decline.
It maybe moderate, but the dynamic needs to change, and there is no magic bullet.
Yes Cleveland has some wonderful institutions and it’s frustrating to see people flock to cities without the character and institutions of well established cities like Cleveland.
But the reality is jobs.
People migrate to opportunities despite amenities or the lack of them.
I know people that have moved to Portland OR, which doesn’t offer a rich sporting history (though is associated with outdoors)
People love it there and there are opportunities to be had.
If a landlocked city becomes known as a magnet for say, some bio, or tech related industries and creates momentum in such industries, then the migration trends will reverse.
In 1970, Seattle is not what it is today.
Sure it’s easy to credit Bill Gates, it even then it didn’t happen over night.
Most here are probably familiar with the famous billboard there about the last person leaving, turn off the lights.
Seattle was industrial too.
It’s about making the right investments and nurturing and supporting what will create jobs.
Amenities are important too and some people will locate to Cleveland for the lake and arts.
Some may like the mountains of the Pacific Northwest or Florida winters, but many people will go where jobs are.
This is why I stated that growth happens despite other pluses (arts, sports, recreation) or minuses (traffic, cost of living, poor race relations).
Everything plays into it, but at the end of the day, a city needs to be able to create jobs.
Alon Levy says
Thundermutt: I didn’t include Indy in the table because state capitals might have different rules – for example, they naturally attract lawyers, policy experts, and lobbyists. I also excluded cities that recovered from Rust Belt conditions, like Chicago and Boston. Including these would only make Cleveland look worse.
Anon: you’re right that Cleveland’s suburbs are doing better than the city proper. The problem is that increasingly, a city needs to be centralized to succeed. There are exceptions, especially in Texas, but overall, there’s a strong correlation right now between low unemployment and centralization.
Thanks for the thoughtful post about Cleveland. And thanks to everyone who has posted.
First a preface … I see a lot of posts about Cleveland’s negative out-migration against other Midwestern cities’ in-migration. First, data suggests that most of that positive in-migration is actually the result of metros like Indy, Columbus and Louisville successively annexing their suburbs. When you look at the 1980 borders of the city, before agglomeration, populations tend to be stagnant or decreasing. Second, while I understand that growth is desirable and makes economic development and economic vitality in general easier, growth = success is a dangerous oversimplification. In cities like Fort Lauderdale and Las Vegas, “building for the boom” has put such regional economies in a very perilous position. As another poster mentioned, slow-growth cities like Cleveland and Pittsburgh, while definitely hurting from the housing crisis, are not currently facing nearly the same level of problems in construction and ancillary fields. High levels of growth have also led to quick sprawl and low-density development. In an age where energy concerns are mounting, Sun Belt meccas like Phoenix may end looking more like dinosaurs than cities like Cleveland in 2050. Meanwhile, this process of shrinkage is still occurring in most of the cities of the upper Midwest and East Coast. I would wager that few people would be pessimistic about the future of Boston or Chicago, despite those cities’ lackluster growth projections. For Cleveland, I think a more realistic approach is shrinking gracefully … continuing to diversify our regional economy, working to attract a more substantial national and international in-migration, investing heavily in higher education … but also pragmatically planning for how our city can be most successful if shrinkage continues as a trend.
Okay, I see four main problems facing the city. First, the exodus of population and jobs creates a bit of a self-fulfilling prophecy. It is very difficult to get people optimistic about the future of their city when there is such a dire daily reminder in the local media and the blog world that “Cleveland is failing”, “Cleveland is failing”.
Second, there is little churning of population. I think in any American city, and particularly in the Midwest, the majority of people who have lived in the area their entire life have this feeling that where they are from is “uncool”, that they are missing out on something. And the more people you have in a region who believe this, and the fewer you have coming into the region with fresh eyes, the more pervasive and more vocal this opinion becomes. Local wisdom suggests that “There are two kinds of people who hate Cleveland … those who’ve never been and those who never left”. That rings very true for me; most of my friends are either transplants who accidentally fell in love with the city or who moved back after trying out places like New York or San Fran for several years. And the number one reason I hear from people entertaining moving away is the pervasive negative attitude of those who never left.
Third, Clevelanders wrestle with an identity of being a national joke, often as a result of outdated stereotypes. For decades, our place in the national spotlight was little more than a punchline for Johnny Carson, and even today you see this kind of pervasive jeering in viral videos like the one you posted or Fiji Water’s ill-fated campaign “Because it’s not bottled in Cleveland” (subsequent water testing showed that Cleveland tap water was significantly “cleaner” than what comes in Fiji bottles … Fiji contained significantly higher levels of trace arsenic.). To a great degree, this pervasive national and local pessimism is like Cleveland has been repeatedly punched in the stomach and now walks permanently hunched over.
Fourth, Cleveland’s outmigration to the suburbs has been devastating, perhaps more than most American cities. Not only have the city’s tax bases sunk and its locational advantages of co-location decreased, but equally importantly, there is less and less identification with the central city. In the 1920s, people were heading to the inner ring, by the 1950s to the outer ring and now people are raising families in bordering counties. For many young people, their view of Cleveland and the quality of life there is less shaped by the city itself and more by their impression of an exurb sometimes 45 mins. away from the central core.
All that being said, I can’t think of a single place I would rather live. I moved there for graduate school (the Levin College … ranked 2nd in the country for urban policy) with every intent of heading to DC after, but along the way, I was infected with an unexpected love for Cleveland. I had never been there before school, had no family connections, but still found so much there to love. Right now I’m doing a fellowship in Berlin. During the year, I have had the opportunity to travel extensively throughout Europe, to places that many Americans dream of as ideal cities. I’ve seen Boston, New York, Chicago, Seattle, Portland. And while all these places are great, Cleveland is my adopted home, and I can’t wait to get back.
So what’s to love? Until the fellowship, I lived in a completely renovated 3,000 sq. ft. Victorian with two other people. My share of the rent was $282.50. I was in the middle of the second largest Chinatown in the Midwest, an old industrial neighborhood, where artists are quietly converting old warehouses. The Wall Street Journal just ran a front-page story about the key role artists are playing in neighborhoods throughout the city. Meanwhile, in 2006, Cleveland passed a cigarette excise tax in support of arts and culture organizations and artists … among large U.S. cities, Cleveland now has one of the highest levels of per capita arts and culture funding nationwide. And a recently launched artist fellowship program is the largest such public program in the country.
I worked ten blocks away in yet another converted warehouse space. As an arts administrator, I was paid roughly what I would be in NYC but was able to afford twice as much of everything in life. The city is sandwiched between a Great Lake, an “Emerald Necklace” of public parks forming a ring on the outskirts and a national park to its south and bisected by the Cuyahoga River and a series of dramatic bridges. I was able to bike pretty much everywhere or hop on a train.
I got to explore Little Italy, Tremont, Detroit Shoreway, Shaker Square, University Circle, Ohio City, Edgewater … a ton of really distinct neighborhoods, dotted with tucked away galleries, kitschey shops, urban farms and community gardens. I got to eat from an amazing culinary scene. And counter to the prevailing wisdom of this thread, I was doing my work within the context of a global framework … the year before I left, we met two groups of craft artists from the Kyrgyz Republic, a group of Ethiopian educators and a delegation of social workers from Istanbul. I watched what a small group of people could do to improve their community by participating in Cleveland Colectivo, a giving circle that pumps money into grassroots projects. Similarly, I watched how the Great Lakes Urban Exchange is bringing together a critical mass of young professives throughout the Midwest to address common policy issues (Cleveland is one of the most active chapters, if not the most). Meanwhile, the Regional Learning Network is bringing together community development professionals from Cleveland, Youngstown and Pittsburgh, and the business community is increasingly recognizing the benefits of working with those cities to create a regional “Tech Belt”. And with a little digging, I saw how OneCommunity was revolutionizing government and nonprofits with IT and wireless access and what organizations like BioEnterprises were doing to spin off start-ups in biotech and medical manufacturing.
In the end, I enjoyed an amazing quality of life there and perhaps more than anything Cleveland has struck me as 1) a place where grassroots urban experimentation is not only pervasive but welcome, 2) a city that has a real story, not always good, but something epic, something big and 3) is perhaps has the strongest feeling of authenticity of anywhere I’ve ever been.
In a country where we for decades forgot what “urban” means, where Sun Belt cities are building up like giant suburbs without any “there” there and where cities like Indianapolis and Columbus strike me as nice but rather sanitized and vanilla, Cleveland just strikes me as, at the very least, truly urban. I don’t think the amenities of the city, or its slow economic transformation, are very obvious and certainly are not pre-packaged for the non-adventurous … you have to seek the charm out. But when you find it, it seems much deeper and richer than many places I have been.
I have no association with any of the local tourism organizations or relocation firms. I am not about to try to sell you the “package vacation”. But if you ever make it to Cleveland, I would be happy to give you the “full Cleveland” tour … the good, the bad and the ugly 🙂
In Migration is the result of annexing.
In Migration is from other counties outside of the the metro, whether it be the same state or somewhere else. But in migration is not the result of gaining people from taking more land.
Jim Russell says
“Similarly, I watched how the Great Lakes Urban Exchange is bringing together a critical mass of young professives throughout the Midwest to address common policy issues (Cleveland is one of the most active chapters, if not the most). Meanwhile, the Regional Learning Network is bringing together community development professionals from Cleveland, Youngstown and Pittsburgh, and the business community is increasingly recognizing the benefits of working with those cities to create a regional “Tech Belt”. And with a little digging, I saw how OneCommunity was revolutionizing government and nonprofits with IT and wireless access and what organizations like BioEnterprises were doing to spin off start-ups in biotech and medical manufacturing.”
Seth, the kind of inter-regional collaboration you describe is exactly why Carin’s comment on behalf of Team NEO about competing with Pittsburgh (as well as Detroit and Indianapolis) is both ignorant and destructive. Her words undermine Northeast Ohio and are at odds with the Tech Belt initiative, as well as the Regional Learning Network.
Coming from a Team NEO executive, this is highly distressing and demonstrates an insensitivity to other NEO communities such as Youngstown. It comes across as Team NEO and Cleveland Plus just serving Cleveland. This parochial mindset is rampant throughout the Midwest and is one of the major impediments to economic development.
SputteringWith Outrage says
There’s nothing “wrong” with Cleveland that isn’t wrong with many other aging urban areas. And as the previous posts have shown, Clevelanders have plenty to be proud of when it comes to the communities in which we live.
What’s “wrong” is that the local economic development bureaucracy has generally ranged from crooked to merely ineffectual for many, many years.
The Cleveland Chamber alone spends probably $30 million a year on an assortment of activities. The organization writes checks to a number of spin-off groups (like TeamNeo, BioEnterprise, JumpStart, The Cleveland+ Marketing Alliance) in the name of regionalism, but the VAST majority of its efforts are spent on local shenanigans.
The only discernible activity in which the Chamber seems to play a leading role is in lobbying the state and federal governments to obtain public funds to finance private development activity.
Cleveland is the highest-tax city in the highest-tax county (Cuyahoga) in one of the highest-tax states in America: an obvious impediment to development. However, the Chamber persuaded Cuyahoga County Commissioners to use an obscure loophole in Ohio law to RAISE the sales tax without a popular vote…for the purposes of building a controversial convention center, the funding for which has been rejected by the voters three times previously.
The Chamber is on the brink again of supporting a referendum to bring casino gambling to Ohio, despite five failures in the past ten years to persuade the voters to okay it.
And of course, County government is currently the focus of a wide-ranging Federal investigation into allegations of massive corruption…on the heels of a similar scandal enveloping the City of Cleveland during the kleptocracy which was the Administration of Mayor Mike White.
Of course, corruption is to be expected in government; one can argue that Chicago runs on corruption. But at least in Chicago you GET something for your corruption. In Cleveland, even the corruption doesn’t pay off.
All of this corrupt activity has been brazenly enabled by a small group of developers and corporate “fixers”…who just happen to be among the leadership of the Chamber.
The idea that Cleveland has mainly a P.R problem incredibly disingenuous. The economic development bureaucracy is lazy and insular, the government is incompetent and corrupt, and local institutions pay lip service to regional collaboration while ignoring issues related to educational attainment, workforce development, broad-based entrepreneurship, immigration, tax, health care and regulatory reform in favor of boondoggle projects which develop the economies of a small number of developers, bond counsel, investment bankers and contractors.
THIS is what’s “wrong” with Cleveland: its leaders aren’t leading. The afflictions of parochialism, rampant corruption, insularity, self-dealing, and arrogance infect both the area’s elected officials and the corporate leaders who happily enable corruption because it’s good for their business.
And in the face of all this dysfunction, a couple million spent on regionalism “happy talk” is just putting the proverbial lipstick on the proverbial pig.
Connie Schultz, wife of Ohio’s Senator Sherrod Brown and Plain Dealer columnist, had this to say about clothing and sports.
I’ve lived in Cleveland/NEO region for 45 years and you certainly nailed it. I wish I had some answers.
Unfortunately it seems that our leadership is very paranoid of giving up control in such a way that would help move the region forward vs. backward.
It would be helpful if recent posts and comments were linked at the top of the blog in the right-hand column. My scrollwheel is starting to protest at the workout it’s getting keeping up with this thread.
In California, the only requirement to attend a community college is that one is over the age of 18 and interested in getting more education. You don’t have to be a high school graduate. Instead a community college is one of the places you can go to get remedial education. Tuition is also only $11 dollars a unit.
Community colleges don’t just prepare people to attend college but provide training to be auto mechanics, truck drivers etc, even to learn how to embalm bodies.
Cheap education lets people get new skills without a lot of financial risk. That raises access.
In Ohio the cost of school at both the community colleges and in the State collge system is much higher. That limits access.
If there is any place in the country where access to college is important its probably a rust belt city like Cleveland.
Getting laid off from work in a union job is probably a big motivator to get other types of employment. But when you are out of work, cash is limited.
This is why increasing access by limiting tuition is so important.
Community colleges offer classes at night. They allow anyone who is interested in improving themselves the opportunity to do so.
Why not make that free or deminimis to encourage people to do things that make everyone better off.
If they have more skills they are less likely to be on public assistance. To me high fees for community colleges are pennywise and pound foolish.
Cleveland needs to be better educated, so make it easier for that to happen.
Ed in Sac
Alon Levy says
Ed in Sac: another positive feature of California is that people who do well in the community college system can transfer to the U of C system, getting a prestigious four-year degree. This is increasingly popular in California, compared to the traditional route of doing all four years at Cal.
Seth: inability to annex suburbs is a serious failing of cities, and you’re right that it’s affected Cleveland particularly strongly. Jane Jacobs noted that problem in the Death and Life, and argued that it represents failure of city governance to appeal to people outside the city. (She doesn’t say so, but it also represents the fact that the city is poorer than its suburbs, leading to fears among suburbanites about having to subsidize the inner city.)
Sputtering with Outrage: as I noted in a previous comment, if a problem in Cleveland exists in other cities, you can’t blame it for Cleveland’s decline. Is Cleveland’s Chamber of Commerce really worse than New York’s political situation, where a billionaire spent his way into the mayoralty, and then convinced the city council to repeal term limits so he can stay in power indefinitely?
“It would be helpful if recent posts and comments were linked at the top of the blog in the right-hand column.”
Sorry, I missed the archive links at the top. Still, it would be nice to have recent comments easily accessible too.
In terms of governance there are a lot of benefits from having multiple governments competing with each other versus one goverment that controls everything. If you compare Los Angeles versus the Bay Area, in LA, both the City and County governments are huge bigger than many states.
In the Bay Area, a smaller population is spread out over 9 counties and hundreds of cities.
The smaller competing governments spur government innovation. Both Berkeley and Venice have similiar demographics. But why traffic calming and smart growth came first to Berkeley is that Berkeley is its own city. It didn’t take that many people to get involved to change things around. Venice is a district in the city of Los Angeles. In Venice when activists wanted to try adopting these kind of intiatives, they were thawrted by the large and less responsive bureacracy of the City of LA. In the bay area as other cities saw what was working in Berkeley they adopted those policies. But government intiatives that aren’t working don’t get adopted by other areas. In this sense government is both more innovative and more responsive in the bay area.
My hunch is that governance in Cleveland would probably improve if Cleveland itself was broken up into smaller more manageable chunks. That would encourage government to be more responsive to local needs. Special interests would have less influence because it would cost less money to run for office to propose and get new intiatives passed.
Instead of having one city with a population of 475k it might be better to have ten cities with a population of 47.5k
Ed in Sac
“Instead of having one city with a population of 475k it might be better to have ten cities with a population of 47.5k”
It’s one thing to grow a city to this population where you can plan a tax base, services, etc. It’s quite another to slice up a city into smaller bits. How do you divvy up all of the city facilities? Or the staff? Vehicles? Parks? Libraries? Who gets the non-residential tax base? 10 city governments means 10 mayors and 10 councils and 10 city managers or city administrators. Sounds like a mess.
“Special interests would have less influence because it would cost less money to run for office to propose and get new intiatives passed.”
Really? You don’t think special interests can and do control small-town politics? Think again.
Alon Levy says
Ed: on the contrary, fractional government tends to screw over everyone who doesn’t live in the favored quarter. It leads to a fractional school system, where the districts serving the richest towns get to hog all the best teachers and the rest get the rejects. It leads to towns too poor to afford basic services, or even loans, because interest rates are too high.
Let’s compare New York with the Bay Area here. New York is relatively unified – its central city has 40% of the metro area’s population. The upper class of the Upper East Side and Upper West Side pays taxes to support citywide services: mass transit to the Outer Boroughs, a well-funded school system by inner city standards, police, reasonable social services. Some people have fled to small towns in New Jersey, Connecticut, and Long Island, where their tax money goes to city beautification and public schools with the same per capita funding as private schools, but most haven’t.
Conversely, in the Bay Area, government is fractional. San Francisco, Oakland, and San Jose together account for 30% of the Bay Area’s population. The fractionalism is most acute on the Peninsula, between SF and SJ. There you have sharp splits between rich towns like Palo Alto and Menlo Park, and poor ones like East Palo Alto. This leads to wide gaps in school funding, police funding, and social services.
For example, take crime. Central Harlem, which is protected by the same police force as the Upper East Side, averages about 19 murders per 100,000 people. Newark, which is less poor than Central Harlem but has to raise money for itself, averages 37. Oakland averages 30.
The example you give of Venice shows that LA is run badly, not that it is too big. If Venice weren’t part of LA, it would probably be even poorer than it already is; it would look more like Compton than like a future Silver Lake. A good city gives its neighborhoods more say in internal affairs, such as zoning and traffic issues, police governance, and so on, without creating favored quarters. Tokyo, which has split into 23 cities while maintaining a unified prefecture government, is a good model. I think Paris is the same, but I’m less sure. New York and Los Angeles are both examples of how not to do it.
The Urbanophile says
anon 10:01 – two things. One, if you post via a real account, you can configure blogger to email you follow-up comments on a post by post basis. Also, there’s an RSS feed for comments, though don’t think I have the link posted. It’s the standard blogger comment feed.
Having said that, your suggestion is an excellent one. I’m looking to update the template for the blog in the coming weeks, and adding a recent comments sidebar is something I’ll think hard about adding to the mix. Thanks for the suggestion.
The Urbanophile says
Fragmented government appeals to some public choice theorists because of the competition aspect. It has its pros and cons. Alon sums it up I think. Small cities are great when they work, but when they fail, they fail hard. Fragmented government often leads to stratification by income and huge disparities in towns. Successful towns tend to implement policies that exclude lower income people as much as possible. One of the virtues of a large city is its ability to contain mixed incomes inside the civic border.
The downside is that city government is large and removed from neighborhood concerns. It also tends to become the prisoner of powerful interest groups such as unions or wealthy businesses. While small towns can be corrupt, the scale of city government makes, for example, running for office as an outsider a daunting proposition.
You might want to read the “Homevoter Hypothesis” by William Fischel. He points out how when California decided to shift funding of public schools to the state after prop 13, the quality of public schools went from being some of the best in the country to the worst in the country.
He points out that benefit of good public schools flows to the local neighborhood and as such homevoters (even those without children) were willing to support increasing funding for local schools because better quality schools would add to the value of their home. Cost of public education was capitalised in the value of the homes.
In California, once you could no longer increase your property values by increasing the quality of your local schools voters no longer had the same financial interest in providing schools. Since the the state shifted the majority of the cost to the state government the amount of money being spent statewide on schools is now less in real terms than it was spent in the poorest neighborhoods before the state took over responsibility for funding schools.
Now because increasing support for local schools no longer increases your property values, these measures are a lot less popular and die at the poles. In California, the public schools are poorly funded and of poor quality.
Fractional government makes government much more responsible to local needs. Its also weakens entrenched political interests because the cost of running for election drops dramatically reducing the importance of fund raising.
It also opens up the government to smaller groups who might otherwise be marginalised. In a community of 475k, the interests of 30k homosexuals might be overlooked. But if that same community is concentrated in one or two communities of 45k, they will have a very big voice in that community.
In Cleveland it probably would be difficult to ban chain stores or chain restaurants. The conservatism of the majority prevents innovation coming from a small minority.
But in smaller community if people want to ban the chains to create a greater sense of place, to ensure that local business serve local needs creating local jobs that type of innovation suddenly becomes possible.
Ed, you seem to gloss over the cost of providing services in a fragmented government. If this form of government was fiscally successful, the ring of suburbs that surround major cities like Detroit would include thriving communities. Instead, many of the inner-ring suburbs in Detroit and elsewhere are struggling and facing many of the same problems that are sinking Detroit.
Ed, large public school systems EVERYWHERE have “failed” since Prop. 13. I don’t think Prop. 13 is the cause. Cleveland didn’t have Prop. 13. Neither did Chicago, Detroit, St. Louis, Indianapolis…
We’re back to Alon Levy’s comment: if the same condition exists in more than one place, it’s not the cause of unique problems in a single place, whether that place is Cleveland or California.
If you are arguing that large districts are failing everywhere, why would you oppose efforts to break them up?
But are the inner ring suburbs of Detroit doing better than Detroit itself? Are they incorporated with the right to self government?
In Los Angeles look at the San Fernando Valley (SFV) and the San Gabriel Valley (SGV). In the 1970’s the SFV was wealthier in part because the air was cleaner and the climate was a little better because it was closer to the Ocean. The majority of the SFV is included in the city of Los Angeles.
Since that time both of those areas have lost their anglo majorities. But today the SGV is wealthier than the SFV.
The local governments in the SGV were just better at responding to the needs new business. They made decisions faster meaning that cost of business was cheaper in the San Gabriel communities. There was also learning. What worked in Monterrey Park got adopted in Rosemead.
Schools were also much more managable. The SFV was served by the huge LAUSD one of the largest districts in the country. To win one of the elections you needed a huge war chest, that meant that pretty much whichever candidate the teachers union endorsed won. No one else had the resources or the interest to run for office.
In the San Gabriel Valley, there are a lot of different much smaller school districts. There if you are worried about the schools, you can run to through out the incumbents. That is also true for local government. In the SGV, the local government is actually local with a lot of little cities.
In the SFV the city government is Los Angeles. In effect you have no local government. Its too big.
If Cleveland was to break up into much smaller communities. These cities would start out fairly poor because the community that they are starting from has its economic challenges. Some of these smaller communities will continue to be mismanaged. But not all of them will be mismanged. Some of them will be aggressive about courting new employers. Some of them will be aggressive about improving government services to their constutitents and some will probably try to cut services in an attempt to be a low cost provider of government in the region.
That is all part of government innovation. Trying things out and seeing what works. Some will fail. But some will succeed. Then what will happen is that the areas the cities that aren’t doing so well will copy the cities that are doing well. Good policies will spread and bad ideas will be dropped.
Look at the areas with lots of cities versus 1 big city, the small towns do better. Compare Orange County vs LA, the Bay Area vs Southern California.
Its very difficult for 1 big city to sustain good leadership for any period of time. Its much better for an area to have lots of little cities and if a few areas is mismanaged it doesn’t screw up the rest of the region.
Alon Levy says
There’s a far simpler explanation for what happened after Prop 13: property taxes were capped, and with them school funding went down. It’s misleading to say prop 13 shifted funding responsibility to the state; it merely capped property taxes, without requiring the state to step in and spend money on education.
To compare local funding of schools with more uniform funding, you really have to go outside the US. The idea that schools are funded locally is uniquely American. The schools of Canada are funded provincially, and the schools of unitary states like France are funded nationally. Both Canada and France surpass the US in quality despite lower per student funding; there are many reasons why they do, but at the very least this should suggest that local funding isn’t that great of a model.
There was a California Supreme Ct decision Serrano v. Priest 1976 that declared funding disparities in California unconstitutional and it required the state to make up the difference between districts. As such people in high property tax areas (not necessarily weatlhy people) no longer were recieving the benefit of better schools for higher property taxes. Essentially this is why they voted for prop 13, to roll back their taxes – to escape higher taxes that didn’t lead to greater local benefits.
Its worth reading Fischels paper on the matter here.
“Are the inner ring suburbs of Detroit doing better than Detroit itself? Are they incorporated with the right to self government?”
Not really and yes, they are independent cities. There are even two stand alone cities within Detroit borders. One, Hamtramck, is doing OK although it’s losing its largest taxpayer (American Axle). The other, Highland Park, has managed to fall into a state worse than Detroit.
Alon Levy says
Ed: the paper is interesting, but does not mention some of the political boilerplate issues in California. California then was polarized between a very conservative Republican Party, and a very liberal Democratic establishment. Orange County was one of the epicenters of the new conservative movement, which was opposed to high taxation (especially when the money was spent on the poor). Conversely, the courts were generally liberal at the time, and interpreted civil rights issues broadly. This was bound to lead to conflict: on gay rights, on affirmative action, on taxes, and so on.
Fischel argues that Massachusetts did not face a proposition as onerous as Prop 13 because the court’s standard for spending equity was laxer than in the Serrano decision. But he does not provide much additional evidence for it, or against the theory that as a liberal state, Massachusetts had less of a conservative revolt than California.
He also points to New York as a state that did not impose funding equity, and consequently did not suffer from spending caps. But New York City does have funding equity – if anything, schools in poorer areas get more money because of extra funds for ESL and low-income students. Upper West Siders pay a lot of money in income taxes to subsidize Harlem’s schools. Despite that, there is no significant tax revolt – even Giuliani, the most conservative mayor in recent history, boasts that his overall spending cuts spared teachers. The battle lines on education in the city concern school integration and union versus reform concerns, rather than money.
When I was offered a job in Cleveland 2-1/2 years ago, for almost $20,000 more than what I was making in Chicago, I jumped at the chance, dragging my dear husband with me (Jeff Hershberger who posted above). We recognized the value, not only in the additional salary and benefits, but that Cleveland was cheaper and smaller and, potentially, a place where we could settle.
I hadn’t been here a month and I regretted that decision. I moved into temporary housing in downtown Cleveland, thought I was getting a STEAL at $1750/month for a furnished, one-bedroom apartment with a parking spot and doorman. Heck there was even a restaurant in the building! Any of my locally-born co-workers scoffed at my price tag and told me to be VERY careful – downtown was not very safe. Often as I was introduced around the office, and I told people I had moved here from Chicago, the response was “why?” I couldn’t believe that local Clevelanders hated their city so much.
Since I was here alone, going out by myself was a normal occurrence. Never in my life had I encountered a town less friendly. Once, I was sitting in a downtown sports bar watching the Indians play, I remarked to the person sitting next to me about the play at hand and he actually turned to me and said, “I’m here with my friends.” In Chicago, as well as Indianapolis and Detroit where we have family, a single woman in a bar would be included in the group – the more the merrier. Here, I realized I could go into any bar and sit down, the seats on either side of me would vacate. The distrust of outsiders was profound.
The egregious cliquishness of Cleveland continued as I began to hunt for a house – was I going to be an “East-sider” or a “West-sider”? This is a concept I could not completely understand. It seemed you would be pulling on a set of expected traits just by the side of the city you chose to live on. We moved into a racially integrated neighborhood with more PhDs on our street than I have ever encountered in 10 houses.
But because we lived in a “mixed” neighborhood, even our mailman, on the day we moved in, told us to get an alarm system. This Cleveland suburb was declared unsafe. We were instructed, many times, to stay off of Buckeye and Kinsman roads, avoid the Rapid and be careful when we went to Shaker Square. Turns out our neighbors had, indeed, all been robbed in the past few years and within the first year we lived here – a neighbor was almost beaten to death outside his home.
We weren’t even here a year and we were ready to pack it in and go. We actually put a Lincoln List together to give us reasons to stay. We did produce a lengthy list of reasons – please see all the above pro-Cleveland posts.
So, we asked ourselves why is Cleveland beating itself up? It has a lot to offer. What is it about this town that makes itself impossible to love? We talked to a lot of folks and finally concluded that while the above arguments are absolutely true – race issues, education issues, government corruption, lack of global strategy and thoughtful urban planning – the underlying problem is that Cleveland suffers from its own self-esteem problems. It’s inhabitants complain – a lot – about this town without really wanting to do anything about it. They are waiting for it to magically change, someone else will fix it. Apathy and ignorance are rampant dictators of attitude and behavior in Cleveland’s inhabitants.
And it’s that behavior that spills over and covers anyone who has relocated here. If it hadn’t been for MeetUp.com, we wouldn’t have made any friends here. And the friends we have made – only a few are natively from Cleveland. The other transplants mostly encountered the same cold shoulder that I received. We have no alliances here outside of each other. We live all over the area, we are not east-siders or west-siders, we don’t associate ourselves with the high school we graduated from, nor do we give much thought to the fore warnings of “beware”.
So we gave it another year and now, that the loss of my job seems eminent, we’re more likely to leave than to stay despite the fact that we’ll lose money on the house and have to possibly move to more expensive, less accessible city. It saddens me because I thought Cleveland would be a nice place to settle in and grow roots.
That anecdote contrasts greatly with my experiences moving to, and around, Indianapolis over the past several decades. I think Aaron might say from his own recent experience here that this city can and does embrace “outsiders”, because so many of us were when we started out here.
How sad for Cleveland that its “outsiders” end up feeling this way.
I really liked reading Matt’s personal commentary. It actually reminded me of a former co-worker who grew up in Cleveland and exhibited a similar “mindset”.
The one thing I wasn’t sure I agreed with was linking the “good enough” sentiment with Cleveland alone. I think that this exists all over America (maybe a little more concentrated in the Midwest). One could point this back to the days when GM (and others) paid ridiculously good wages, and people got complacent and thought a factory job would be good enough for them and their kids in the future. We’ve “limped” along for the last 20 years trying to keep such things around and now more people are finally seeing that those things aren’t good enough anymore.
The Urbanophile says
Alice, your posting, and the one by Jeffrey above, are really troubling. If newcomers find it difficult to meet people, penetrate social networks, and there is excessive cliquishness, I’d say that’s very bad. It is completely the opposite of the experiences I’ve had in Chicago and Indianapolis, where meeting people and getting connected with others is super-easy.
I was born and raised in Cleveland (suburbs) and attended graduate school in Cleveland, too. After school, I had the opportunity to live in Washington DC and NYC. I moved back to Cleveland last year to buy my first condo and really (sadly) regret the decision. There is nothing for young people to do in this city. The shopping is terrible, there’s no fashion, the gyms are the worst, there’s no fun events such as ‘wine tours’ or hiking events. The dating scene is awful; everyone is married! Plus, besides two or three bars in Tremont, there aren’t any bars filled with younger people (i.e., aged 26-29). It also seems like so many young people are overweight or the men bald. It can’t be attributable to the weather because people are slender (and have hair) in Chicago! Also, downtown is allegedly ‘unsafe’ to live, so the suburbs are where to buy and live…and the suburbs consist solely of couples with children. Puke. I’m putting my condo on the market – which is a beautiful space if anyone’s interested – and looking at Miami, DC, Chicago or Charlotte. Sure, I’m part of the problem (“all Cleveland’s young people leave”), but I’m not about to waste anymore of my youth in this city.
The Urbanophile says
anon 10:32, not sure what to make of the bald comment, since I resemble that remark. But at least I’m 39!
“Once, I was sitting in a downtown sports bar watching the Indians play, I remarked to the person sitting next to me about the play at hand and he actually turned to me and said, “I’m here with my friends.” In Chicago, as well as Indianapolis and Detroit where we have family, a single woman in a bar would be included in the group – the more the merrier. Here, I realized I could go into any bar and sit down, the seats on either side of me would vacate. The distrust of outsiders was profound.”
Great discussion here in general, but as for the quoted material:
Are we to take seriously the notion that it’s measurably easier to meet people in bars in Indianapolis and Detroit than it is in Cleveland, let alone the notion that Cleveland’s deficiency in that regard plays any major part in its malaise?
I mean, call me the typical cynical, stuck-in-his-ways Clevelander, but I don’t think we’re going to solve any of this city’s myriad problems by modelling our happy hour behavior after Detroiters. It might be just a tad more complicated than that.
I know that Cleveland has the Rock and Roll Hall of fame and it has Symphony. But how strong is the local music scene?
Are their enough dive bars to give opportunities to unknown bands getting started? Any local music festivals? Any type of monthly area wide get togthers, something like 3rd Saturday event where the local art galleries hold wine tasting and art premieres and the city permitts certain streets to be blocked off for local musicians playing on the street?
One problem with comparing experiences in Cleveland with Detroit or Chicago or Indianapolis is that Cleveland is much smaller than any of those cities. In comparison, Detroit is twice as large geographically and in population than Cleveland. The same is true of comparisons of the MSAs (although Cleveland’s is larger than Indianapolis in that one regard). Those differences in population make a huge difference in terms of the level of urban activity that each city can and does support.
Anon, yes there are “Gallery Walk” or something like that in Tremont. I don’t know which weekend of the month it is though.
As for live music, I don’t really know, not my thing.
As for the comment about overweight, if I’m not mistaken, Columbus and Chicago, along with Detroit are all “heavier” than Cleveland. Definitely Cols and Detroit, but can’t recall particulars for sure.
Multiple inter-related problems exist in Cleveland (and I base this on observations I made while living there for several years). All have to do with mindset.
1) Many people who live in Cleveland lack global perspective. In the words of my former neighbor who grew up in Cleveland, “People are born there, live there, and die there.” Her back-handed praise of Cleveland was, “It’s a nice place to be from.” The rampant inward focus in Cleveland contributes to the lack of understanding of how other cities are embracing their problems and dealing with them. Hopkins Airport has an insanely low number of local enplanements (i.e. locals taking trips elsewhere) relative to its overall traffic volume. When I was in Cleveland, people were thrilled when it was announced that world-class architect Frank Gehry had been chosen to design a new building on the campus Case Western Reserve University; when the structure was complete it was denounced by the locals as an eyesore and likened to an “overflowing fax machine.” So much for wanting to join the big time.
2) Many people who live in Cleveland are obsessed with the “good old days” when things were better. Just about anything one reads about Cleveland is anchored in the past. For example, even today, Clevelanders are very quick to point out that Terminal Tower was the tallest building in North America outside of New York City from 1930 until 1964. But does anyone really care? People are always anxious to mention that “at one time, Cleveland was home to more Fortune 500 companies than any other city except New York.” Again, nice trivia, but totally irrelevant and yawn-inducing in 2009.
3) Many people in Cleveland are convinced that the nice attributes that the city offers are unique and should be celebrated and ooh-ed and aah-ed over by the rest of the world. Just about any city of Cleveland’s size and stature has a zoo, nice parks, decent museums, a symphony, sports teams, and an entertainment district, plus a couple stand-out institutions such as the Cleveland Clinic or Rock Hall. Yet, these are NORMAL urban attributes, not something to crow and gloat about, but don’t try telling that to anyone in Cleveland. As a result of this mentality, many people seem to fail to grasp that Cleveland has a LOT of work to do to be competitive with other towns and cannot simply rest on its allegedly profound laurels. Remember when Ohio had “The Heart of It All” on its license plates? Aside from the vagueness and hollowness of the slogan, it was simply baseless and lacking in meaning to the point of being laughable. And don’t get me started on “Birthplace of Aviation” which flies in the face of what every elementary school child knows to be the location of the seminal part of the Wright Brothers’ work: North Carolina (which had, decades before, already laid claim to a Wright Brothers-themed license plate slogan of “First in Flight”).
4) This is related to number 3 — many folks in Cleveland have an enormous inferiority complex. Perhaps this is understandable based on having lived through the “mistake on the lake” years (or decades) of derision, perhaps it’s not. Regardless, it also combines with an unwillingness to acknowledge that Cleveland has serious flaws; acting like the city’s shortcomings don’t exist and trying to bury them won’t make things any better.
5) The “all about me” mentality of every little town and hamlet in the suburbs. This balkanized set-up contributes to the inability to do things on a collective basis for the greater good of the region. Ask any car magazine reader what’s important to know about Cleveland, and chances are they’ll be most familiar with the notorious Lindale, Ohio speed trap on I-71 which brings no-end of bad press to the area. Most urban areas under central control have enough trouble getting themselves organized behind a common goal, but I can’t imagine what must be involved to organize the 10 or more townships along an artery like Mayfield Road.
6) As others have pointed out, there’s a definitely “Bang a wrench, drink some beer and watch the game, then go home” blue collar mindset in Cleveland. It’s hard to convince uneducated people that education is something that’s going to be important to getting the city out of its rut and for future generations. Sure, political leaders are always interested in assuring people that the blue collar jobs are going to come back (while chasing high tech jobs behind the scenes), but it’s much easier said than done, especially if the masses not only don’t get the point, but may feel threatened by change and potential evolution to something better.
Alon Levy says
Anon: points 2 and 4, and to some extent 3, are symptoms of decline, rather than harbingers. The ordinary chain of causation is that an area declines, and as a result its residents start crowing about the golden age when things were better. Point 1 is probably a result of the fact that Continental uses Hopkins as a hub; I’ll be surprised if Cleveland is very different in this regard from Las Vegas, St. Louis, and even Atlanta. And points 5 and 6 aren’t unique to Cleveland – the Bay Area and Greater Atlanta are as balkanized, and blue-collar workers resent any kind of non-blue-collar employment everywhere.
Many people in most cities lack a global perspective. In most cities there is also a group of people fretting over the fact that most people in their community don't have a global perspective.
I doubt its the lack of global that is creating the blight in Cleveland.
The more proximate cause is the continued collapse of the auto industry and that lack of people and skills to create new jobs that pay as well as the ones that are disappearing.
My hunch is that improving the local education attainments levels is a specific concrete reasonably attainable goal that might work. Whereas creating a global perspective probably won't bring employment to the area and might be to amphorous of a civic goal to lead to any concrete improvement.
While you are correct that Clevelands local features are commonplace for regions of its size. The cost of living in Cleveland is unusually cheap for a region of its size.
Compare Sacramento and Cleveland. Sacramento has had it symphony go under a couple of times. Outside of the colleges, there really isn't much local theater. In terms of professional sports, its pretty much just the Kings. Sacramento is also much more expensive than Cleveland.
The value proposition that Cleveland offers is the benefits of urban living for much less money than the rest of the country.
My hunch is that Cleveland could be very effective in recruiting companies and employees away from Sacramento based on the affordibility of high quality housing with strong schools for young employees as well as the attributes of urban living.
People in Sacramento are spending almost twice as much of their income on housing as they do in Cleveland and this is the cheapest housing has been in Sacramento relative to incomes in my live time.
In the Sacramento region, the areas that have been the most successful have been the smaller towns and suburbs. Places like Lincoln, Roseville, Folsom and Elk Grove. HP moved out to Roseville, Intel went out to Folsom and Apple and JVC went out to Elk Grove.
The City of Sacramento has been spectularly unsuccessful at actually recruiting employers to the area. It built out the Natomas community of about 60K homes with the hope of luring some major employer to the area. So far nothing. The smaller cities were more responsive to working with the employers to lure them to the area, provided better government services and lower taxes.
Ed in Sac
Part of the forward-looking issue as well is that Cleveland presently lacks a “hook” to get people to take it seriously. When the state of Ohio ran its recent string of WSJ ads about why Ohio was such a great place to which to move a family or business, I can’t say that any of them jumped out at me. If the ads had included 10-year tax-free zone incentives, that would have made me (and others) notice.
Moreover, Cleveland also likely suffers from a “Fool me once, fool me twice” issue. A lot of people sat up and took notice when Cleveland appeared to be pulling itself up off the mat in the late 90s; I remember NBC Nightly News doing a big story one evening on how the city was on a roll and that “Mistake on the Lake” was very outdated and misinformed, but now that much of that progress has faded away (i.e. the Flats businesses have largely folded and even Hooters shut down — how can a town like Cleveland not support Hooters for heaven’s sake?!?!?!) I think a lot of people are probably looking and saying, “Flash in the pan, they tried and failed once, I’m not going to put money on an even more likely second revival.”
Make that even more “UNlikely” second revival in my previous comment.
The Urbanophile says
3) Many people in Cleveland are convinced that the nice attributes that the city offers are unique and should be celebrated and ooh-ed and aah-ed over by the rest of the world. Just about any city of Cleveland’s size and stature has a zoo, nice parks, decent museums, a symphony, sports teams, and an entertainment district, plus a couple stand-out institutions such as the Cleveland Clinic or Rock Hall. Yet, these are NORMAL urban attributes, not something to crow and gloat about, but don’t try telling that to anyone in Cleveland.anon 1:10, you just described most cities. Read their CVB marketing materials and it is a bunch of stuff every place has. Almost every Midwest city has a mansion district, some restored movie palaces, etc. None of that is differentiating. Unfortunately, few people get it than this stuff does not impress.
Speaking of tax free zones, it’s amazing (and probably indicative of what keeps other problems from getting solved) that Cleveland can’t manage to lure a decent grocery store downtown. I mean, this ought to be a slam-dunk no-brainer as a way to get people to roll the dice on bringing people back from the suburbs. But for some reason, it never gets done.
Pete-rock’s comment about “it’s our turn” government is, sadly, so true. It’s such a killer everywhere. Cleveland, Detroit, DC, etc. And even when the one taking “the turn” screws things up (Kwame Kilpatrick in Motown, Marion Barry in DC), they get sent back because “they deserve another chance.” Tragic.
Ed in Sac mentioned that the cost of living in Cleveland is very low for a city its size. That’s very true, but it all can be chalked-up to supply and demand. One might argue that the cost of living is SO low in Cleveland that it scares people away; people don’t see a bargain, they see defective merchandise. And last time I checked, Sacramento was in California (a state with good weather and a generally positive reputation) whereas Cleveland is in Ohio (a state with not-so-great weather and a not-so-great reputation).
According the US census american factfinder site, in the Cleveland-Elyria-Mentor MSA, the median family income in 2007 was $61,193. In the Sacramento-Arden-Arcade-Roseville MSA, the median family income in 2007 was $68,928.
According to the NAR, the median price of a single family home in the Cleveland MSA was 108.5K in 2008. In the Sacramento MSA the median home in 2008 was 216.7.
In Cleveland, housing prices are roughly half of what they are in Sacramento, but incomes are only 8K higher in Sacramento.
The difference is probably a function of difference in educational attainment. In Cleveland 26.3% of the population has a bacherlors degree or higher and in Sac the comparable number is 29.6%
I think low wages might scare people off, but I think a low cost of living is an inducement to get people to move to Cleveland. The thing is that wages aren't that low in Cleveland. What is low is the cost of buying a home and starting a family.
Being able to spend half as much on housing is quite an inducement to get people to move to an area.
Housing is incredibly cheap in Cleveland, but incomes aren't that bad in Cleveland.
In terms of housing costs versus incomes, the data outlier here is Cleveland, not Sacramento.
Generally big cities are expensive places to live, but in the case of Cleveland that just isn't the case. You have the inducements of big cities like lots of professional sports, but the cost structure of a much smaller community.
If I was in Cleveland, I would be trying to recruit away employers based upon the premise of much cheaper housing prices.
Ed in Sac
Except for this: you’d have to move to Cleveland, where you would also find a high percentage of abandoned housing. That kind of blight is what keeps the median price (and the prices of the still-good houses) down
As Jason points out, a city without a downtown grocery store does not offer “urban living”.
Alon Levy says
Ed, if housing is the only thing that costs more in Sacramento, then the difference in discretionary income disappears. At a 5% interest rate, the difference between $216k and $108k translates to $10k per year versus $5k per year. This $5k difference is more than covered by the $8k difference in income.
And Sacramento itself isn’t the most successful city out there – it’s sustained by taxing the Bay Area and Greater LA. It attracts educated people for the same reason all capitals do, but it has none of the high-tech industry that Raleigh and Austin have developed.
Cleveland does have a downtown grocery store. Two, actually.
For what it’s worth Chicago does not have a full service grocery store in The Loop.
There are a few in the south loop and the near north side if you count those as “downtown” though.
The City of Sacramento has been extraordinarily ineffective about recruiting companies to the area. But the region itself has been much more successful. HP has a large facility employing several thousand people in Roseville. Intel and a memory chip spin off Numonyx both employ several thousand people in Folsom. Apple Computer has a plant in Elk Grove.
In addition you have smaller companies that have been spun off or support these companies.
Ebay's e-commerce software is something called Prostores. That software was developed by a start up in Folsom that was subsequently aquired by Ebay. There is a bunch of these type of companies in the region as well.
One of the early pioneers in television graphics was a company called the Grass Valley Group. In the Grass Valley/Nevada City region, there have been several companies that have been spun off from that creating another cluster.
There is a fairly large high tech industry in the region. Just not much in city of Sacramento proper.
Here is a list of counties in California by income as well as housing prices. The bay area in general does fairly well in terms of income. But incomes lag in Southern California.
Compare that with incomes here. Notice how compared to the rest of California Sacramento does pretty well in terms of affordible housing relative to incomes. Its only when compared to Cleveland that Sacramento seems to have expensive housing.
Of the four counties in the Sacramento MSA, two El Dorado and Placer County are in the top ten in the state for income.
While there is a lot of people in Southern California and there is a concentration of wealth, Southern Cal as a whole really isn't that wealthy. Notice how incomes in Sacramento County are higher than incomes in Santa Barbara, LA, Riverside or San Bernadino counties.
If you look at the four counties in the Sacramento MSA,(Sac, El Dorado, Placer and Yolo) Government employment is concentrated in Sacramento and Yolo counties. The main industries in Yolo county are agriculture and higher education. Davis is home to the local branch of the University of California. Sacramento County is where the government workers live. Placer and El Dorado County are where the people working for the high tech firms live. This is why incomes are so much higher in Placer and El Dorado vs Sacramento and Yolo.
There are few sectors like Firefighters and law enforcement that are well paid with strong unions, but a lot of the government employment in Sacramento isn't that well paid. Unfortunately for the region the high paid government employment is distributed statewide and not concentrated as much in Sacramento. In Sacramento you have a lot of secretaries and paper pushers doing work that in the private sector would be shipped overseas. Its done locally but its not knowledge work and it doesn't pay well.
The money in the region is in Placer County and El Dorado County. Those are the areas locally where the knowledge work is being done and that money isn't from government.
Ed in Sac
Constantino’s is downtown. It’s a full grocery store. There’s Reserve Square, which is somewhere between convenient store and grocery store. Beyond that, there’s Asian grocers around E 40th and the west side market – incredible selection but limited hours.
I heard somewhere it takes 25,000 people to support a regular grocery store. We’ve got a few thousand downtown, maybe?
I have been shopping for a house in Cleveland. There are tons of beautiful inexpensive homes, but we are worried about our investment and children (we’re planning on private schools).
In most city neighborhoods, the distinctive homes are mixed in with abandoned homes and tons of renters in doubles and four flats. North Collinwood, Detroit Shoreway, Ohio City, Edgewater all *should* be excellent neighborhoods.
Every suburb, excluding the exurbs, seems in danger of flipping into ghetto. That’s not to say they all will, but are you going to bet $200K that Euclid will survive? Cleveland Heights? Parma? Lakewood?
Cheap housing is a curse as well as a blessing. If housing is too cheap how do you keep out slum lords and the criminals they rent to? Price is supposed to be the screening mechanism. You buy into a good neighborhood with a steady income and 20% down.
Anyone with ideas, please share.
It’s me again — Anon — who posted items 1-6 on May 7.
I still maintain that there’s something about the collective mentality in Cleveland that makes the city a strange case and that hobbles its chances for serious introspection that might lead to and escape from the morass (or at least put a stop to the bleeding).
I encountered a comment the other day from a Clevelander which in essence said, “LeBron and the Cavaliers are doing so well in the NBA playoffs, but people are still making unkind comments about Cleveland.” As if there was some correlation. That remark had elements of another statement I heard not too long ago from another Clevelander who said, in effect, “Maybe when the Cavaliers win the NBA championship, people will start taking Cleveland (the city) more seriously and that help us get back on the map.”
That type of thinking reminds me the mindset I encountered VERY often while living in Cleveland when the Drew Carey show was still on network prime time. I lost track of how many people I encountered in Cleveland who were simply bursting with pride about the fact that the show was set in Cleveland. There was no recognition of the fact that the show was ultimately all about dead ends — dead end characters in dead end jobs/life circumstances in a dead end town. Nobody had any concept of the fact that “Cleveland Rocks!” was in many ways an unflattering parody and not a way of lifting up the city, but rather, symptomatic of the mentality under discussion here: insular and inwardly focused, lacking in real-world perspective, and bordering on delusional. I was once denounced when once made a comparison between the backhandedly-unflattering aspects of the Drew Carey and the backhandedly-unflattering aspects of WKRP in Cincinnati (complete with Les Nesman and his hog reports, etc.) Again, it’s the mentality of “everyone else is to blame for the fact that Cleveland doesn’t get any respect.” Same thing with Amy Poehler’s “Parks and Recreation” show — it’s not a tribute to Pawnee, Indiana; if anything, it’s a backhanded, polite form of insult and ridicule.
Speaking of Drew Carey, I think people are sadly mistaken when they assert that having Drew Carey host The Price is Right is in any way, shape, or form a nod to Cleveland or a feather in the city’s cap (and even if it were, would that be worthy of celebrating?). Somehow I doubt seriously that the folks in Los Angeles wanted to throw Cleveland a bone when they picked Bob Barker’s replacement.
On the subject of shopping, where are these alleged grocery stores in downtown Cleveland? Surely people aren’t counting the 7-11-esque place at Reserve Square and/or Gallucci’s (which is one of my favorite stores in the whole universe)…
To anonymous who posted on May 8 about grocery stores. The ones you listed (Constantino’s, etc.) are OK, but they still don’t carry the same signal value and “confidence in the community” value as would Giant Eagle or something of similar ilk (e.g. Kroger, Safeway, etc.).
Granted, urban grocery stores are a horrible nut to crack; shrinkage (i.e. damage and outright theft) is awful and many of the people who cause the problems are destitute and already have police records, which makes them immune to threats of prosecution. Property taxes on the store are usually high. “Normal” people who shop there don’t like dealing with their fellow riff-raff customers in the store. Finding competent, reliable employees is a nightmare, and if you can recruit managers, they are probably going to want combat pay.
As for suburbs flipping into ghettos, the pressure is already enormous and many of the candidate neighborhoods you listed are ripe for trouble. Take, for example, Cleveland Heights (poor cousin to Shaker Heights) which is desperately trying to keep East Cleveland and its problems at bay. Cleveland Heights is trying to do it through it’s take-no-prisoners, zero-tolerance approach to policing and and fining and jailing (and housing code enforcement, etc.) which, I’m sure they hope, will make CH unappealing to undesirables and people who have no real business in CH, but one questions how long it can hold out. You can’t put a cop on every corner (although sometimes it seems like CH is trying!).
And discussion of rolling the dice is exactly right, because ultimately it all comes down to dollars. And that is where government should come in by leveling the playing field financially for businesses and residents. Look at Delaware, which is unremarkable as a state in the way that Cleveland is unremarkable as a city, but which has huge numbers of corporations HQed there. The bottom line is that government has made Delaware an attractive place to set up shop; Cleveland needs to figure out how to do something similar.
Ask anyone who lives downtown — grocery stores ain’t the problem. If you don’t like what you have at nearby Constantino’s and Reserve Square, you can drive like 10 minutes to the behemoth Giant Eagle on 117th Street. I’d bet many people in Strongsville and Solon drive longer than that to their local Giant Eagles.
I think the grocery store tangent was started by someone who said something to the effect that offering “urban living” without having a downtown grocery store is laughable. If it were true that there were no downtown grocery stores, I’d agree. But it’s not true.
Alon Levy says
Anon at 8:32: Morningside Heights has 20,000 people, and 3 full-service supermarkets open 24/7 plus 2.5 that close late – all within walking range, none a national chain (though 4.5 are local or regional chains, and only 2 are independently owned). Hell, in Monaco, they seem to average one early-closing supermarket per neighborhood of about 3,000-4,000 people – again, always within walking distance, even if nothing else is.
As for low prices, is there any evidence that they promote crime? The other direction of causation is pretty clear, but has anyone shown that neighborhoods that are too affordable attract social problems? The examples I know in Manhattan suggest that they don’t – the Upper East Side is quite affordable, and has a murder rate slightly over 1 per 100,000 people. I think it’s far more likely that suburbanites just don’t want poor and working class people to be able to afford living nearby because of ordinary fear of people who are different from them.
Anon at 8:59: Delaware has no corporate taxes. Essentially, it’s the state equivalent of a tax haven. That’s why so many companies locate there. It has nothing to do with proximity to DC.
I’m not saying low prices promote crime, I’m saying they allow the movement of criminals. Lots of cities have areas where wealthy residential neighborhoods border crime plagued areas. The criminals can come in to commit crimes, but they can’t move in if rents are high enough.
Alon — I wasn’t suggesting that Delaware is anything other than a tax haven — I agree that its proximity to DC is not relevant. My point about Delaware was that the state has found itself a “hook” that draws corporate HQs, and I was suggesting that Cleveland’s public officials need to do something similar — the region needs to identify or create something that makes it unique and attractive (and even more, it needs to find a hook that encourages people to overlook the region’s negative attributes). If the city of Cleveland would do something like promise to waive 10 years of property taxes on new downtown construction, I’m confident that developers would sit up and take notice.
In response to the comment about being able to drive 10 minutes to get to a grocery store, that kind of defeats the point, doesn’t it? People who live in downtown areas don’t WANT to have to drive anywhere — they want to be able to walk or take safe, reliable public transit (preferably not the bus) from homw to work, from home to entertainment, and from home to shopping (and in regards to all three of those destinations, Cleveland’s downtown is headed in the wrong direction because stuff is shutting down, not opening). If you’re going to have to get in your car and go places, then you might as well live in a suburb.
Alon Levy says
This is still not true. The Upper East Side’s rents aren’t very high by the standards of the Village, or other gentrified neighborhoods; the crime rate is still close to rock bottom. Washington Heights is the most affordable neighborhood in Manhattan, far more so than Harlem to its south; its crime rate is somewhat less than city average, despite the fact that even in good economic times it has 15% unemployment and 30% poverty.
On crime and the standard of living:
There are plenty of places in the world where the standard of living and the crime rate are both low. Living in a low income area doesn’t imply that there’s automatically crime, but what’s more true is that living in a crime-ridden area will likely lead to the area sooner or later developing a lower standard of living. This relates to the earlier point about Cleveland Heights being armed to the teeth as the leaders in Cleveland Heights likely know that if the East Cleveland behavior starts to take hold in Cleveland Heights, it’s game over for Cleveland Heights as a place people want to live.
This is probably why University Circle also has their own police department — if the East Cleveland way of life starts to rear its head around the university and the museums, you can pretty much write the area off as a destination for people who might go to school there or want to see the orchestra, etc.
Alon Levy says
Anon: I don’t disagree about low standards of living and crime – I just disagree that keeping an area too affordable causes the crime rate to go up. It doesn’t, outside the imaginations of people who just don’t like minorities to be able to move in or even visit.
Keeping a distinct and definable area affordable in the strict HUD definition, if done by City policy, does indeed promote crime (from a strictly demographic point of view).
“Affordable” housing buyers or renters are defined as “low-to-moderate income”, at less than 80% of the area median income adjusted for family size. This demographic skews heavily to single-parent households with one or more children. And single-parent households are far and away more likely to be headed by a single working mother.
Again, on a general demographic basis, single-mom-headed households are far more likely to have children or dependents in trouble with the law.
Trouble follows concentrations of “affordable” housing. That’s the general reason why housing agencies everywhere are breaking up their concentrations of low-income housing and substituting mixed-income opportunities.
Much also depends on how a particular city handles its HUD entitlement grants for creating affordable homeownership opportunities in inner-city areas. Perhaps a knowledgeable source from Cleveland would comment upon that aspect of city policy here.
To the extent that policy is focused on tight geographic areas, then the policies may reinforce existing concentrations of low-to-moderate income households and bring increased risk of crime.
This only addresses market-created affordable housing concentrations, i.e. relatively stable lower and middle-middle-class neighborhoods insofar as a City is active in developing low-mod homeownership opportunities there.
Alon Levy says
This is different from what Anon is saying, which is that an existing middle-class area needs to be unaffordable to the lower middle class to avoid having crime problems.
And even if it weren’t, there’s no evidence that affordability causes crime. Low-income housing projects cause crime; having poor people live in the neighborhood doesn’t – again, look to Washington Heights for inspiration. Or for that matter Santa Ana, where 25% of the population consists of illegal immigrants and still the murder rate is barely above the national average.
There are other social factors, Alon, in both of your examples. Aren’t both populated with tight immigrant or religious communities?
In most US non-world cities, which covers all in the American Midwest besides Chicago, I believe fringe neighborhoods are either rising or declining based upon a complex set of factors that include:
…housing stock variables (age, size, sturdiness, maintenance, median price per square foot),
…geographic variables (“beachfront” features such as views, terrain or water; distance from amenities; transit availability, infrastructure),
…demographics and economics (white collar vs. blue, gray, or pink collar; predominant race and ethnicity; median age; median income),
…social/political factors (schools, taxes, governance, crime/public safety).
I don’t think it’s as simple as “keeping property values up to keep undesirables out” because there’s no one prescription for doing so, and because sometimes “the undesirables” look just like our sisters and daughters who need places to live with their kids after the family breaks up (or never forms) and move right back in.
Alon Levy says
Yes, both are populated with tightly-knit immigrant communities. But that in itself doesn’t guarantee low crime rates: East Harlem has tight ethnic ties, too, but its murder rate is 18, compared with 6 in Washington Heights and 7 in Santa Ana. And even a moderate amount of entrenched poverty can coexist with low crime rates even without such community ties, as in Yonkers (whose murder rate is 5) and Albany (whose murder rate is 3).
Alon Levy says
On a related note: black Americans have plenty of religious ties, based on historically black churches; the way it’s portrayed on The Wire, church is the only place that inner-city gangs respect as inviolate. And yet, crime rates among black Americans are very high. Conversely, Asians are relatively secular and less tightly knit, with Chinese-Americans often comparing themselves negatively with Jews; however, their crime rate is relatively low, even in poor areas like New York’s Chinatown (which has a lot of property crime and a lot of organized crime, but few murders).
Where do the successful African Americans live in Cleveland?
Are they moving out to the suburbs? How welcome are they there? Would their kids see many other children who look like them?
Or is there a community such as the Baldwin Hills community in Los Angeles that historically had been African American, but the middle class African Americans congregated in and that neighborhood genitrified or is gentrifing?
Or are the more successful and better educated African Americans just fleeing the region completely for greener pastures such as Chicago or Atlanta?
When African Americans in the region graduate from college where do they move? Where would they be welcomed to move into their communties?
Ed in Sac
Alon Levy says
On a completely different note, the BLS reports that Cleveland’s unemployment rate fell from 9.4% in February to 8.7% in March, the largest fall of any major metro area. To find larger reductions, you’ll have to go to places like Valdosta, Georgia, and Ocean City, New Jersey. In the same time period most Midwestern metro areas saw increases in unemployment – e.g. Indy went from 8.2% to 8.7%, Chicago from 9.2% to 9.4%, and Columbus from 7.9% to 8.1%.
Thundermutt’s comment was getting at what I’m thinking about. We have tons of ammenities, but they are all very close to housing that is vacant or available for dirt cheap. People with little or no income can move into *any* neighborhood, and they are. Lakewood, Edgewater, Old Brooklyn, Parma, Lyndhurst, Shaker, Euclid. Is there any neighborhood in the city or inner ring suburbs where crime hasn’t gone up since 2000?
The nieghborhoods that were gentrifying were low-income white neighborhoods in the 70s and 80s. Tremont, Ohio City, Detroit Shoreway. I’ve heard Slavic village was looking up too in the late 1990s, but the low-doc no-doc loans brought in hundreds of lower income African Americans from bordering neighborhoods. Now its hundreds of foreclosures and vacancies. If the 2010 Census shows Slavic Village is 75 or 80% African American, who is going to reinvest there? I don’t see why middle class Blacks would move there rather than near University Circle. What would draw middle class whites there? Or immigrants?
On the west side, there is a lot of new construction, and tons of trendy restuarants. But outside Tremont, 8 out of 10 people on the street appear to be lower-income Blacks (pants falling off, hats on bandanas, no suits or dockers, so I’m just guessing…). Which way will these neighborhoods go? The ones with lake access should have a chance, but what hope is there for Cudell? West Boulevard?
How can we avoid situations like North Collinwood, where you have middle class families (Black and White) in single family homes, with private beach clubs, who can’t walk past the end of their blocks?
David P. says
People keep talking about the cost of living in Cleveland as though it’s this huge, overlooked factor that makes Cleveland a complete bargain compared to elsewhere.
However, consider the following cities where the cost of living in decent neighborhoods is quite high: Tokyo, Hong Kong, Honolulu, San Francisco, Washington, New York, London. Notice a pattern? They are all highly-desirable places to live. You get what you pay for. You can buy yourself a 1982 Chevrolet and brag about how little it cost, but the fact is you’re still driving an ’82 Chevy and everybody knows it.
One other point about population decline is that, unless I’m mistaken, population figures are NOT adjusted for the normal population growth rate (which in the USA is about 1% annually IIRC). In other words, if your population growth rate is 1%, you’re keeping up with everybody else, if it’s 0%, people are leaving, and if it’s almost -3% as it is in the Cleveland MSA, people are really packing their bags.
People in Cleveland need to get out of their Pollyanna mindset and face reality before things get even worse. Can anyone point to evidence that Cleveland WON’T end up like Detroit before it’s all said and done?
Alon Levy says
Is there any neighborhood in the city or inner ring suburbs where crime hasn’t gone up since 2000?
In most US cities, crime has gone up since 2000. Boston deserves special mention – its murder rate is twice what it was in the late 1990s.
It is still possible for Cleveland to avoid Detroit’s state. This is because Cleveland has been able to reinvest and hang up long enough to survive to an era that will favor cities.
As of today, we have six or seven neighborhoods that have enough amenities to be desirable to the upper income urban households (young professionals, childless couples, adventurous retirees). They are reasonably safe. And we have a major research university within the city limits. Homes are being built, rehabbed and purchased. Businesses are opening. Professionals are moving in.
I don’t know enough about Detroit to know if it has any desirable, safe neighborhoods left. I do see that it has a major university pulling people 45 minutes away from the central city.
I think twenty to forty years ago the majority of Americans really thought we could live in suburbs surrounding dead central cities. Today, even people who live in exurbs and hate cities acknowledge that you have to have a vital central city to have a decent economy and quality of life. They are supporting public policies that help the cities. New York, Chicago, DC, etc. have proven that it is possible and desirable for middle class people to push back into neighborhoods that had been low-income and crime plagued. Every metro area is trying to reproduce this trend, and Cleveland has made major steps in that direction.
I think in the future, most middle class people will spend their twenties in a central city. Many will spend their retirement in a central city. Those who don’t have children will spend their whole life there. Whether married couples with kids stay will depend on whether the city has family neighborhoods (larger homes and yards, mostly owner occupied, inexpensive enough to allow for private school tuition or good charter/magnet school options). Lower income people will be pushed into the less desirable suburbs, as in Europe.
If the trends move this way nationally, Cleveland is capable of taking advantage of them. Pittsburgh, Rochester, Buffalo, St. Louis, Milwaukee, Cincinnati, etc. will all make it if Cleveland does.
“Every metro area is trying to reproduce this trend, and Cleveland has made major steps in that direction.”
Any stats to back up these claims? None of the stats for Cleveland show any kind of positive trends.
We don’t get counts of people by ed and income between the censuses. That would really prove what we want to know. ACS only gives the metro area with larger errors. So all we can do is look around.
Things that exist now that didn’t ten years ago
-the warehouse district with hundreds of units occupied
-East 4th with diners in the seats
-Wendy Park open to the public
-Euclid Corridor is complete, the BRT running, and people are cycling to work from the Heights.
-Tremont with galleries up and down professor, and five or six blocks of new homes sold.
-New condos in Ohio city, built and sold
-Battery Park – phase I built and almost sold out
-Steelyard commons – yeah its a strip mall, but it saves dozens of trips to the suburbs.
-Heritage Lane homes completed and half sold.
-Avenue district’s first building is up and there are residents in it. Tower Press lofts, and new student center are open near CSU.
-Lofts in West Tech, the Little Italy lofts, the Painter’s Lofts complete and occupied. Construction is progressing on Chicle development, the Franklin Lofts, and the Gospel Press Building.
-I’m in another Ohio City loft building, 220 units, high rents for the area, and its full.
In the last week, I’ve seen fifty people playing volleyball at Battery Park, dozens of people at some rowing event on the river, and 400+ at a City Music concert in Slavic Village. None of these people have to be here. They could all stay out in the suburbs or move away.
From what I can see, lofts, condos, and townhomes fill when they are available. I know for sure that there are people in the restuarants and coffee shops because I see them everyday. People want to be in Cleveland.
Anon 2:42 on May 14 said: “I know for sure that there are people in the restuarants and coffee shops because I see them everyday. People want to be in Cleveland.”
By this logic and anecdotal evidence, one could look at the Detroit Auto Show attendance, attendance at the Detroit Super Bowl and All Star Game, number of patrons at Detroit Casinos or the Fox Theatre, presence of General Motors at the Renaissance Center, and renovation of the Book Cadillac Hotel (now a Westin) and make the statement that “People want to be in Detroit.” And even if the Cleveland-oriented statements are true, one could have looked at the Flats or Tower City 10 years ago and talked about how downtown Cleveland was a hot destination; but everybody knows that blip of optimism proved fleeting. The population statistics show that people do NOT want to be in Detroit OR in Cleveland; it’s not just a case of people not moving to those areas, it’s a case of people who are already there heading for the exits.
On a different note speaking of Detroit, let’s not forget that Detroit’s dire straits are in part the result of 1960s riots, which, with the exception of the Hough riots, didn’t take too much of a toll on Cleveland.
Overall, most “we’re not Detroit” statements made in Cleveland strike me as kind of like saying “Yeah, I weigh 400 lbs, but I’m not as overweight as somebody I know who weighs 450 lbs.” Still not an enviable position to be in.
Jim Russell says
The Rust Belt’s Greatest Inferiority Complex continues:
Also worth reading:
Alon Levy says
Anon: wow! Cleveland has good research hospitals! It’s larger than Indianapolis (though not for long)! And it has inside jokes nobody else gets! Clearly, it’s booming.
The only point in that article that’s even semi-reasonable is “Ohio has several large cities – Cleveland, Columbus, Toledo, Dayton, and Cincinnati – who are all pitted against eachother in a battle for jobs, funding, eminence, and tourists.” It’s completely wrong – Texas, Florida, and California are doing fine with multiple cities – but at least it addresses the subject matter at hand.
“Not for long”…hmmm, 20 years for MSA…much longer for CSA.
The one thing that bugs me about this blog the most is that Indy is somehow viewed as Oz in the Midwest.
Whatever challenges that Cleveland and Cinci may have…I vastly prefer either to Indy
Alon Levy says
Anon: if we extrapolate from 2000-07 trend, it’ll take until 2031 for the CSAs to have the same population.
And although Aaron engages in Indy boosterism now, until about a year ago most Indy-related posts lamented that the city was ill-positioned for a global economy and compared it negatively with Minneapolis and Kansas City.
(I accidentally posted this under my girlfriend’s account; this is the deleted comment above.)
The article at
http://www.clevelandleader.com/node/10059 is also very interesting AND it's written by a local.
cleveland was about machine tools. thats y we have no identity. bcuz people understand cars-detroit, tires-akron, and steel-pittsburgh, but not the machines that make the final product which the consumer sees. thats what cleveland did. and without her u couldnt use any of these products bcuz they wouolnt exist!
Anonymous 5/13 10:15PM said…
"'Every metro area is trying to reproduce this trend, and Cleveland has made major steps in that direction.'
Any stats to back up these claims? None of the stats for Cleveland show any kind of positive trends."
The subsequent poster listed several individual developments to prove their point. One other thing to remember about many of the population stats for Cleveland is that much of the out-migration from the city proper is coming from the poorer, largely minority wards like Hough, Mount Pleasant, Stockyards, etc. My guess is that when we get the 2010 census info we'll see that several districts actually show population growth over the decade. This may not sound like much, but almost no wards had population growth from census to census since 1950. In 2000, only the downtown district showed growth (off a small base). I'd bet that in 2010 at least Downtown, Tremont, and Ohio City will show growth. Detroit-Shoreway has probably blossomed too late in the decade to overcome the population decline in the earlier years. These won't be enough to offset the general decline in city population, but are glimmers of progress.