Monday, February 20, 2006

Imagine Regionalism

We’re discovering a variety of definitions on regionalism exist. We expect we’ll hear even more this week as WKSU explores the subject.

The alarm for NEO’s need to embrace regionalism was sounded again last week, prompting us to further consider how we define the concept. This AP news report, which tells how inner-ring suburbs often suffer from a lack of government support (i.e., tax dollars) at the expense of exurbs and core cities, helped crystallize our thinking.

Considering that the NEO region is expanding while its population remains relatively stable, this news report foretells trouble for more than just inner-ring cities; it's a warning shot for any suburb in Cuyahoga County as residential development proceeds into the greenfields of Geauga, Medina and Lorain counties. This might explain why Bay Village’s mayor was once lobbying for a seat on The Northeast Ohio First Suburbs Consortium.

Can you imagine if Cuyahoga County's suburbs had embraced regionalism in 1950? Their leaders would now be prepared to tackle the exacerbated issues they’re facing today. Had they embraced the challenges and troubles of neighboring cities like East Cleveland or, better yet, Akron and Youngstown, they would have answers to today’s problems.

Again, imagine how different our worries would be today if we had been operating as a region since the 1950s? We suspect our worries would involve choosing between the best opportunities and less on how to avoid disaster.

If our definition is true, the sooner NEO acts as a region the better.

Friday, February 17, 2006

Dream a Little Dream

It’s not a habit of ours to rely on references involving Corey Feldman’s career to illustrate our thinking. However, the title of the 1989 teen comedy captures what we view is being asked by NorTech.

Growing up in the Cleveland area we’ve always been asked to understand the region through the rearview mirror. Our parents and grandparents would tell us what Euclid Avenue once was and what it once represented. Infrequently, if ever, did anyone ask us to consider what it could be?

We knew at young ages that the strip between Playhouse Square and Public Square wasn’t a retail center. The closing of Halle’s told us it wasn’t, only to be confirmed by the shuttering of May Co. and the postdated death of the Higbee’s building.

Despite these clear signs, we’ve also witnessed ill-fated investments of capital and goodwill into reviving downtown Cleveland as a retail center. Why? We suspect too few of us have been willing to look out the windshield; to look for what opportunities are ahead and sequester the energy to steer clear of potholes and pitfalls to pursue these.

Knowing what we know and what we don’t, we’re excited that NorTech is asking us to look out the windshield, to see what’s coming and to align our resources accordingly. Individually. Collectively. Regionally.

Mind you, NorTech isn’t telling us what’s coming next. It is sounding some signals and posting some signs, however. Yet the path any of us travel is ultimately a product of our making.

Like a good travel agent, NorTech does offer advice as to how to arrive at our desired destination:
1) Get personally involved
2) Start thinking
3) Contribute time, effort and/or resources to the cause
4) Help any organization that you’re part of to understand its role in shaping the future
5) Communicate to politicians at every level why and how they must support science/engineering education in our schools, colleges, universities and businesses

As frightening as this is to imagine, NorTech is helping us to adopt a newfound perspective comparable to that of Corey Feldman’s character in Dream a Little Dream. His character gains the wisdom of an elderly neighbor’s experiences after Corey collides with his dream girl. This event gives him the insight needed to realize what he could only previously dream about and the old man never thought to achieve.

NorTech is doing much the same by asking old white guys in suits to join forces with the rest of us to realize a mutual dream, making the Cleveland/Akron/Youngstown region one of the top ten places in the world for livability by 2020. Now that’s a distinction we can live with once we’re old white men looking in the rearview mirror at the full Cleveland.