Desperation drives merger in East Cleveland

On Wednesday, a different kind of “regionalization” plan was kicked off in Cleveland:

East Cleveland Mayor Gary Norton took the first step Wednesday toward a possible merger with the city of Cleveland – submitting petitions in support of the initiative with about 1,600 signatures to the Cuyahoga County Board of Elections.

Source: East Cleveland Mayor Gary Norton submits petitions seeking merger with Cleveland | cleveland.com

For those of you who don’t know Cleveland well, it’s a lot like Dayton- a sprawling center city- with a first ring of suburbs- and then exurbs that stretch a long way.

One of my earliest memories, living in East Cleveland, is looking out our 8th floor apartment windows- at a burning skyline. It was the riots, and it wasn’t pretty. We had armed National Guardsmrn outside our front doors in the aftermath. East Cleveland overlooked Hough, Glenville and Collinwood – all of which burned at one time or another between 1966 and 1970.

East Cleveland, by the time I was in high school at neighboring Cleveland Heights, was predominantly black. Cleveland Heights was probably 25% black when I graduated in 1980, and by 2000 was close to 90% black.

Yet, each suburb had to support its own infrastructure. Schools with School Boards, City Halls with Mayors, Managers and Police Chiefs. Finally, someone realized, we’ve got way too many chiefs for the Indians to keep supporting:

“We know that the costs of running the city infrastructure continue to go up, while revenues continue to diminish,” Norton said. “In these elected offices … we must understand that the analysis will sometimes show us that the best way to provide an acceptable quality of service is to have someone else do it.”

Damn. Gary Norton, you get it. Because electing people without any possible way to do the job isn’t really public service- it’s public debt load.

This kind of regionalization would make a lot more sense in Dayton, if we only had some competent leadership. Why Moraine hasn’t merged with Kettering? West Carrollton with Miamisburg? Or Trotwood with Dayton is beyond me. Just cutting the duplication of services and consolidating offices would probably add a decade or two before the inevitable bankruptcies occur.

To watch in today’s paper as Moraine, which can’t afford to give away any taxes:

“Moraine has offered the direct mail company that started in the mid-1980s a five-year forgivable loan to move to the Dryden site”…

In return, the company would be “incurring payroll subject to income taxation by the city in the aggregate amount of $2 million per annum, continuing during each of the next five years,” according to the contract.

“What they would be doing is bringing over their existing jobs,” Moraine Economic Development Director Michael Davis said.

And voila- shrinking taxes for Dayton, and Moraine gives away an undisclosed amount- because Dayton Mailing Services “might add jobs.”

This isn’t sustainable. It isn’t in the best interests of the region. And, it gives Dayton Mailing Services an unfair advantage over other mailing houses (the few that are left) who aren’t getting handouts.

We have too many jurisdictions, too many different rules, too complex a system that costs way more than it should. Unfortunately, with term limits on Statehouse offices, we’ll never be able to give someone enough time to re-work the patchwork mess we have now into a logical quilt of right sized jurisdictions.

It will be interesting to watch what happens in East Cleveland. It won’t be interesting to watch the doomed proposition for merging Dayton with the county.

Quality of life is economic development. Let’s organize it better.

The Dayton Daily News has turned over a new leaf- and has gone on a waste-busting spree. First up wasn’t the clown corps  in charge of tax giveaways- the “economic development” people- which we have in abundance. Nope- it’s the people in charge of providing public amenities.

First was yesterday’s “news” that most municipalities lose money on public golf courses. Well, they also lose money on parks and playgrounds- as you could look at the “opportunity costs” involved vs. having housing or businesses on parkland- plus the cost of upkeep. However, golf isn’t the most practical of things to subsidize. The number of golfers in our population is relatively low because we’re not a retirement community- and golf is a game for those with plenty of time on their hands and usually some money, too. Also- it takes up an awful lot of space for relatively few players. Compare a soccer complex with a measly 10 full-size fields, 2 kids-sized, throw in some volleyball, a BMX track, a half dozen baseball diamonds- and even a pond, picnic shelters and parking, wait- did I just describe Delco Park- and you have less space, with higher use than 3 tees at a golf course.

Also, public golf courses compete directly with private golf courses- who have to pay taxes on all that land- not a fair equation.

You did notice one thing though- Dayton was one of the few communities to break even on golf, imagine that.

Rob Drydek Skate Park in KetteringNext up in the DDN hit list is the new Kettering water park- and mention of the closed Splash Moraine. Kettering understands better than most communities that good parks and recs are good for building a good community. They also have good schools and have managed to have a modicum of diversity as opposed to our outer-ring communities. Besides the aforementioned Delco Park- they also have a world famous signature skateboard park, courtesy of native son Rob Drydek and DC Shoes, and an ice arena- the only public hockey-sized skating rink in Montgomery County (where you will find me playing Huff-n-Puff hockey each winter). We could also add that Kettering has an amazing complex at the High School- and James Trent Arena- open to residents, an arts program at Rosewood and the Fraze pavilion which hosts concerts- including free ones- all summer long.

Compare that to Dayton- which has no skate park, no dog park, no BMX track, no soccer facility, closed its arts center, handed over Island Park band shell to Metroparks, closed pools, and a useless sized ice rink under the stewardship of Metroparks at Riverscape.

Kettering gets quality of life as a measure of success and understands that healthy cities have healthy residents. Dayton on the other hand would rather engage in crony-capitalism and try to artificially prop up home values by subsidizing both for-profit and non-profit builders in adding new homes (See the Charles Simms homes or the ones being built by East End Community Services or the St. Mary’s Development refurbishment of Marvin Gardens) while we have an abundance of housing stock that we are simultaneously spending huge money to tear down- or “deconstruct.”

Read the title of the person in charge of the new Kettering water park in this DDN quote:

“There is a huge demand for quality recreational experiences in Kettering and a huge demand for water in Kettering,” said Bill Tschirhart, the Kettering parks’ business services manager. “We gave them exactly what they wanted.”

via Kettering’s new waterpark fills void, draws crowds.

The “Kettering parks’ business services manager”- that they understand that parks and recs is a business- and a service to the community is how advanced Kettering gets it.

We do have a regional entity that gets quality of life as economic development- it’s called Five Rivers Metroparks- and if greater Dayton were smart- we’d move all parks and recs programs under its authority, provide Metropasses to Montgomery County residents based on the contributions of their communities’ current investment in recs programs and on average income of the community. Cities would pay into the program based on census numbers- with fixed contributions per person and we’d start seeing a true quality of life infrastructure system that is balanced and well run.

Kettering deserves kudos and study by every other community in the region for its mastery of this part of government. The rest of the region needs to start understanding that we will only begin to advance as a community once we start working together.