State and National News
Governor Strickland Keynotes Restoring Prosperity Conference
With more than 1,000 participants and feature presentations from Ohio Governor Ted Strickland, Lieutenant Governor Lee Fisher, and Bruce Katz of the Brookings Institution, Ohio's "Restoring Our Prosperity Summit" was a resounding success. The summit focused on restoring vitality to Ohio's 32 core cities - those with at least 15,000 residents and a 20 percent share of their county's population. Existing roadblocks to doing so highlighted during the summit included the state's focus on building new roads rather than investing in public transit or other alternatives and its "peanut butter" approach for business tax breaks (spreading them thinly across the state rather than focusing on distressed communities). Materials from the summit, including a copy of the Brookings Institution's draft paper, "Restoring Prosperity: The State Role in Revitalizing Ohio's Core Communities," as well as Bruce Katz's presentation and the five presentations from the breakout sessions, are available on Greater Ohio's website. Lt. Governor Fisher has said that Ohio will adopt many of the strategies proposed by the Brookings Institution; a number were contained in an economic development plan rolled out last week.
NY Governor Vetoes Land Bank, Historic Preservation Bills
New York Governor David Paterson vetoed two measures last week that would have helped revitalize the state's older cities and towns. The first would have authorized the formation of countywide municipal land banks. Established to help acquire, manage, and return vacant and abandoned properties to productive reuse, land banks are being used in states across the country to prevent blight and cope with the community impacts of foreclosures. In his decision Paterson sided with the mayor of Buffalo, who expressed concern about counties instead of cities operating the land banks, but left open the possibility of creating a land bank in Erie County in the future and considering revised legislation in the next session. The second failed measure would have increased tax credits for the rehabilitation of historic properties, but was vetoed because of state budget issues precluding increased spending. Numerous studies have shown that historic preservation tax credits yield returns on their investments far beyond the initial funding; however, state budgeting procedures only register the program as a cost. The National Trust for Historic Preservation is currently developing a state budget calculation that measures both the costs and economic benefits of historic preservation tax credit programs. For more information on land banking and historic preservation, visit the Restoring Prosperity website.
Obama Pledges Billions to Great Lakes Restoration
Democratic presidential candidate Senator Barack Obama is pledging to push for $5 billion in new funds to protect and restore the Great Lakes if he wins the presidency in November. The funds, released over a 10-year period and created by rolling back tax breaks for oil and gas firms, would go to efforts including sewage treatment repairs, toxic cleanups, and wetlands restoration, according to a restoration plan expected to be released by the Obama campaign. Beyond the $5 billion federal investment, Obama is planning a "zero tolerance" policy for invasive species in the Great Lakes and the designation of a Great Lakes czar to coordinate existing federal programs with authority over Great Lakes management issues. Republican candidate Senator John McCain has also signed a pledge to support Great Lakes restoration, but does not plan to commit to a specific dollar amount at this time.
Congress Considers Boosting Funds for Rail Transit
With gas prices on an upward trajectory, national transit ridership has increased dramatically over the past 2 years, rising 5.2 percent in the April-June period of this year alone. With budgets already strained by the cost of fuel, steel, and other commodities, many transit agencies are struggling to accommodate this increase. This month, Congress considered the importance of transit and took steps towards augmenting funding to meet demand. On September 9th, the Senate Committee on Banking, Housing and Urban Affairs held a hearing on the ability of public transportation to reduce our dependence on foreign oil. Read Robert Puentes' testimony from that hearing. Later this week, Senators John Kerry (MA) and Johnny Isakson (GA) will introduce the High Speed Rail for America Act, which would target $24.6 billion over six years to create several high speed rail corridors. Want to learn more about the transportation issues facing cities? Join Smart Growth America's Kate Rube on October 14th at 7:00pm for Great Lakes Urban Exchange's (GLUE) call on transportation for a 21st century America. Email glueteam@GLUEspace.org to RSVP and get call-in details.
The Need for Infrastructure Investment in Our Cities and Towns
On September 18th, the Northeast Midwest Congressional Coalition sponsored a briefing focused on smaller industrial cities and the need for infrastructure investment. The briefing included a presentation by PolicyLink's Judith Bell on the organization's publication To Be Strong Again: Renewing the Promise in Smaller Industrial Cities. This presentation was followed by an overview of the two main legislative options for funding domestic infrastructure investments: creating an Infrastructure Bank (H.R. 3401 and H.R. 3400), and establishing a National Infrastructure Development Corporation (H.R. 3896). Staff members for each of these three bills' congressional sponsors gave an overview of their focus and intent, and fielded questions from the audience.
Newark Holds Green Future Summit
Newark's Green Future Summit, a two-day conference held last month at the New Jersey Institute of Technology, focused on environmentally friendly initiatives that would also create jobs and affordable housing, reduce inner city crime, and employ struggling ex-convicts. Panelists spoke about the job creation benefits of retrofitting existing buildings for energy efficiency; the potential for cleaning up brownfields and redeveloping them into recreational space; and the city's plans to renovate the Passaic River waterfront for public use and to plant more than 100,000 trees over 17 years. The Green Future Summit came on the heels of a report by the Center for American Progress and the University of Massachusetts, Amherst, that outlined the 50,000-plus jobs that could be created in New Jersey with investments in clean energy.
Bruner Award 2009 Call for Entries
The Rudy Bruner Award seeks to promote fresh and innovative thinking about cities and discover places that embody excellence, not just in quality design, but in their social, economic, and environmental contributions to the urban built environment. Established in 1987, the award is distinguished by its broad eligibility criteria, its multi-disciplinary selection committee, and its detailed on-site evaluation of each finalist. Open to all types of applicants, the award is given to five winning projects; one Gold Medal Winner receives $50,000 and four Silver Medal Winners are awarded $10,000 each. All winners are promoted by the Bruner Foundation and included in books published by the Foundation. Submissions must be received no later than Monday, December 15, 2008. Final awards will be made in May of 2009. For more information and to download an application, visit the Bruner Foundation's website.
Join the Discussion
Are you a policymaker, a city employee, or otherwise involved in working to revitalize an older industrial city? Join the Restoring Prosperity listserv where you can ask questions and share best practices with other advocates around the country.
Publications and ResourcesPlan Regionally, Implement Locally: An Evaluation of Multi-municipal Planning and Implementation in Pennsylvania
10,000 Friends of Pennsylvania
Intergovernmental Cooperation Success Stories wiki
Local Government Academy and Sustainable Pittsburgh
Seven Ways Foreclosures Impact Communities
Upcoming EventsOctober 2
2008 Federal Community Stabilization Grants
Creative Cities 2.0 Summit
National Preservation Conference: Preservation in Progress
New Haven, CT
2nd Annual Statewide Smart Growth Conference: Tying it all Together: Transit, Jobs & Housing
Transforming and Redefining Community Development
In the News