by Lee Fisher, Senior Advisor to CEOs for Cities //
“There’s battle lines being drawn. Nobody’s right when everybody’s wrong.”
– Buffalo Springfield, “For What It’s Worth”
As we reflect on the recent presidential election and a new President, many enter this new year with mixed feelings of hope and anxiety. I want to share some thoughts about where we go from here.
Most of us live in a bubble. We engage in what is called “confirmation bias.” That is, we search for or interpret information in a way that confirms our own preconceptions. We actively seek out and assign more weight to evidence that confirms our views, and ignore or under weigh evidence that contradicts our views. This tendency to look for people and information that confirm our own views has been accelerated and enhanced by Google, Facebook, and other internet platforms who use the personal data they collect about us to tailor our online experiences.
For all the forces that conspire to separate and divide “big city” and “small town,” and all that is written about Ohio as a microcosm of the nation’s “culture wars,” Ohio’s small hub towns share many of the same characteristics and challenges as the state’s eight major cities. In a recent report for The Center for Community Solutions, Big City Problems in Ohio’s Small Towns, I analyzed economic, social and health data for 47 of these communities, which are located in about half of Ohio’s 88 counties – towns that are centers of civic, social, and economic life for areas extending beyond their borders.
With a combined population of 1,170,570, or 10 percent of the state as a whole, communities included in the study have one or more major institutions that establish or contribute to its “hub” status. Most are seats of county government (34 of 47); 20 are home to a four-year public or private college or university campus (five public and 15 private); and most (35) have at least one general hospital.
“This world is full of conflicts and full of things that cannot be reconciled, but there are moments when we can … reconcile and embrace the whole mess, and that’s what I mean by ‘Hallelujah.’” – Leonard Cohen(via SNL’s Kate McKinnon)
On election night, no matter who you supported, most of us were surprised and many were shocked by the outcome. It is particularly difficult for Clinton supporters to understand how so many good people could have supported President-elect Trump given how many people were offended by his language in the campaign. Yes, a number of Trump supporters cheered his rhetoric. But I believe that many, maybe even most, Trump supporters voted for him despite his language, not because of it. For them, there was something in his populist, anti-establishment message that was much more important to them that his behavior. Trump’s message was that their lives matter. Many Trump supporters wanted to send the same message that Howard Beale, in the 1976 movie, Network, sent when he yelled, “I’m mad as hell and I’m not going to take this anymore.”It’s worth noting that a number of people who voted for Barack Obama in 2012 voted for Trump. Youngstown, where Obama won by more than 20 points in 2012, was basically a draw. A number of counties that supported Obama in 2012 voted for Trump by wide margins.
During the last century, America’s position as a global economic leader was unaffected by the lack of contribution of disconnected Americans in key performance areas. We were the largely unchallenged global leaders, and U.S. economic competitiveness was assured despite less than optimal productivity from more than half our population. This is no longer the case. With unyielding global competition for jobs and opportunity, our nation cannot continue maintaining the walls that separate too many Americans from opportunities to successfully compete and prosper. Without an economy open to more contributions from more Americans (especially from disconnected populations; generally, women, African Americans, Latinos, and rural populations) we accept spectacular success for a few at the expense of a resilient, globally competitive national economy.
How civic partnerships can create Transit Information Networks (TINs) to spur economic development and promote transportation equity.
Civic collaboration = shared success
A central theme of the recent CEO’s for Cities national meeting in Columbus was that a culture of civic collaboration between public and private organizations, including business, government and everyone in between, can deliver shared success. Columbus’ success in winning the $40 million federal DOT Smart Cities grant, along with $100 million in additional grants from Vulcan, and local business and organizations, is measurable evidence of this culture in practice.
In an innovative collaboration, committed local leadership, including business improvement districts, foundations, economic development boards, chambers of commerce, advocacy groups, local employers, franchises, merchants, transit agencies and city government, can fund and establish Transit Information Networks (TINs) –indoor electronic screens on which transit arrival times and related information can be distributed and displayed. This model can deliver immediate, highly visible benefits to many stakeholders at a modest cost.
The City of Cleveland is on the rise. Not just because its sports teams are winning championships or because the Republican National Convention brought an influx of economic opportunities and people into the city. But because the city is experiencing a revitalization in many of its neighborhoods that have long been dormant. Some of these neighborhoods have already begun their ascension, including Ohio City, Tremont, and the Flats. It looks like Slavic Village will be next.
Recently, I had the opportunity to spend a day with local economic development leaders from across the country to explore the role of economic development organizations (EDOs) in achieving more inclusive growth. The strong interest in the meeting suggest that a lot of EDOs are wrestling with this question.
I, too, have been wrestling with this question for some time now, and I’ve come to a few conclusions about what works and what doesn’t that might be useful to others heading down this path.
My father-in-law, the legendary West Side Cleveland City Councilman Michael J. Zone was a prisoner of war in WWII. Less than 60 days after he and Mary Zone (who served in Cleveland City Council after Mike died) were married, Mike enlisted in the army; and 30 days later he was caught by the Germans in the Battle of the Bulge.
Mike never talked about his experience, even to his own family, so everyone wondered how Mike survived as a POW when stronger, healthier, and younger men did not. One day we found the answer.
Cross-posted from Cleveland Foundation blog. By: Daniel Dress, Cleveland Foundation Summer City Fellow, CEOs for Cities //
Daniel Burnham, a renowned urban planner associated with the 19th-century City Beautiful movement, once famously stated, “Make no little plans; they have no magic to stir men’s blood and probably themselves will not be realized. Make big plans; aim high in hope and work, remembering that a noble, logical diagram once recorded will never die, but long after we are gone be a living thing, asserting itself with ever-growing insistency. Remember that our sons and our grandsons are going to do things that would stagger us.”