GOPC Legislative Update November 2015

November 24th, 2015

By Lindsey Gardiner, GOPC Manager of Government Affairs

The following grid is designed to provide you with insight into the likelihood of passage of the legislation we are monitoring. Please note that due to the fluid nature of the legislative process, the color coding of bills is subject to change at any time. GOPC will be regularly updating the legislative update the last Thursday of every month and when major developments arise. If you have any concerns about a particular bill, please let us know.

November Leg. Update Grid

Bills Available Online at

Updates on Key Bills: greater-ohio-flag

greater-ohio-flag  HB 134 UPDATE: HB 134 has continued moving through the legislative process. Last week, the bill was passed out of the House of Representatives with 88 affirmative votes and zero objections. HB 134 is now on its way to the Senate where it will await referral to its respected committee. GOPC will continue to monitor HB 134 and looks forward to offering support as the legislation makes its way through the Senate.

greater-ohio-flag HB 233 UPDATE: HB 233 was unanimously voted out of the House chamber on October 27th with 91 affirmative votes. Earlier this month, the bill that proposes to establish Downtown Redevelopment Districts, was referred to the House Ways and Means Committee. GOPC anticipates HB 233 will be received well in committee and we look forward to offering support for the bill as it makes its way through the Senate.

greater-ohio-flag HB 303 UPDATE: As we reported last month, HB 303 had its first hearing with the House Financial Institutions, Housing and Urban Development Committee on October 20th. Since then, the committee held a second hearing, where GOPC offered interested party testimony in support of the proposal. Before the conclusion of HB 303′s second hearing, a substitute bill was accepted by the committee, which made changes to the Ohio Housing Finance Agency’s (OHFA) authority over the program. It was noted that the change was in agreement between OHFA and the bill sponsors. There were no objections to the sub bill and the committee unanimously approved HB 303 to be sent to the House floor. For more detailed information, please see the HB 303 Comparison Document.

greater-ohio-flag HB 340 UPDATE: HB 340, which proposes to extend the Local Government Innovation Council (LGIC) for another four years, continues to move through the Legislature at lightning speed. On October 27th, the bill was unanimously passed out of the House with 91 affirmative votes. Earlier this month, HB 340 was referred to the Senate Finance Committee and just last week, the bill has already had its first hearing. The LGIC expires at the end of December, and GOPC is ready to provide support as it continues through the second phase of the legislative process.

NEW Bills & Explanation of Bill Impact on Economic Development within Ohio:

SB 232 is sponsored by Senator Kevin Bacon (R-Columbus). This bill deals with the consequences of divorce, dissolution, or annulment on a transfer on death designation on an affidavit or deed that designates a spouse as the real property owner’s beneficiary. Currently Ohioans who execute a transfer on death designation affidavit or transfer on death deed are required to amend or revoke either document following a divorce to ensure that their spouse has no claim to their property. SB 232 intends to address the issue that an increasing number of Ohioans are seeking divorce without the advice or an attorney, who would ordinarily advise that they make these changes. GOPC is interested in this bill as it will help ensure properties are transferred to appropriate end-users; therefore, preventing blight within communities.

SJR 3 is sponsored by Senator Joe Schiavoni (D-Boardman). Senate Joint Resolution (SJR) 3 calls for state and federal legislation to assist communities across Ohio to improve outdated sewer and water systems. The proposal would allow the state to issue up to $100 million per fiscal year over a 10 year period for sewer and water capital improvements in cities, counties and townships. Senator Sherrod Brown (D-Ohio) shares Senator Schiovoni’s commitment to giving Ohio communities more resources to pay for critically important water and sewer infrastructure. GOPC believes there is a great need for additional funding to update Ohio’s water infrastructure and we are continuing to explore potential mechanisms for such funding. Please see our recent report titled “An Assessment of Ohio Cities’ Water and Sewer Infrastructure and Brownfield Sites Redevelopment: Needs and Gaps.


For more details and information on legislation that GOPC is tracking, please visit our Previous Legislative Updates.

Upcoming Event on Legacy City Preservation!

November 17th, 2015

On Tuesday, December 8 from 6:00 – 8:30 pm, Greater Ohio Policy Center will co-sponsor an event called Legacy City Preservation: A National Conversation on Innovation + Practice.

This free public event in Newark, New Jersey will showcase exciting new approaches to preservation in legacy cities to align with the launch of the game-changing Action Agenda for Historic Preservation in Legacy Cities.

More information is here:


Ohio Cities Boost Downtown Revitalization with Waterfront Parks

November 13th, 2015

By Sheldon K. Johnson, Urban Revitalization Project Specialist

In 2010 the Greater Ohio Policy Center, along with the Brookings Institution’s Metropolitan Policy Program, published Restoring Prosperity: Transforming Ohio’s Communities for the Next Economy. This report is a comprehensive blueprint for transitioning Ohio into an economy that is export-oriented, lower-carbon, and innovation-fueled. Ohio’s metropolitan areas— encompassing urban, suburban, and rural places— are home to the necessary resources that will lead the state into the next economy. GOPC’s Restoring Prosperity agenda is focused on advocating for state and local initiatives that will leverage these prosperity drivers.


One recommendation from the Restoring Prosperity report was to create a state-level “Walkable Waterfronts” initiative that supports local efforts to revitalize urban riverways and lakefronts. In recent years two Ohio cities celebrated the opening of waterfront parks that seek to boost their downtown revitalization initiatives. In May of 2012 the first phase of the John G. & Phyllis W. Smale Riverfront Park opened in Cincinnati and this past week the Scioto Greenways Park opened in Columbus.

These two projects are fantastic examples of leveraging Ohio’s natural resources as prosperity drivers. Numerous studies show that urban greenspaces are important amenities that have the potential to yield economic benefits in addition to tremendous environmental and social benefits.

Cincinnati and Columbus are only two of the metropolitan areas in Ohio with idyllic waterways. Cities ranging from Toledo to Marietta to Hamilton to Youngstown are built on waterways that present opportunities for recreational use, quality of life enhancement, and economic development. GOPC celebrates the progress being made, but will continue to advocate for walkable waterways throughout the state.

US EPA Case Studies on Vacant Land Feature Ohio Cities

November 11th, 2015

Re-posted from Youngstown Neighborhood Development Corporation:

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s Region 5 recently compiled current practices on vacant lot greening as a resource on issues of stormwater management, construction specifications, job training, property maintenance and funding. This research provides a snapshot of greening practices conducted by 11 spotlight cities including non-profit organizations, municipal offices, land banks and a sewer authority.

Spotlight cities and corresponding organizations include:

  • Baltimore, Md. – City of Baltimore, Office of Sustainability.
  • Buffalo, N.Y. – Buffalo Sewer Authority.
  • Cincinnati, Ohio – Keep Cincinnati Beautiful.
  • Cleveland, Ohio – Cleveland Botanical Gardens.
  • Detroit, Mich. – The Greening of Detroit.
  • Flint, Mich. – Genesee County Land Bank Authority.
  • Grand Rapids, Mich. – City of Grand Rapids, Economic Development Corporation.
  • Indianapolis, Ind. – Keep Indianapolis Beautiful.
  • Philadelphia, Pa. – Pennsylvania Horticultural Society.
  • Warren, Ohio – Trumbull Neighborhood Partnership.
  • Youngstown, Ohio – Youngstown Neighborhood Development Corporation.

This research supports U.S. EPA’s Office of Sustainable Communities’ technical assistance to the Genesee County Land Bank in Flint, Mich., on vacant lot greening strategies. Later this year, individual cities will be speaking about their own greening programs in a series of webinars hosted by EPA’s Office of Sustainable Communities. These webinars will provide current practices to other cities seeking to manage their portfolio of vacant properties.

Steubenville Summit Generates Ideas to Reinvigorate Historic Downtown

November 6th, 2015

Guest Post by Evan Scurti, Executive Director of the Jefferson County Port Authority

This past October, the City of Steubenville, Board of Jefferson County Commissioners, and the Jefferson County Port Authority took the first step in a long-term journey of sustainable growth and reinvestment in historic downtown Steubenville. “Investing in the Ville–A Real Estate and Business Development Summit” was created through the collaborative efforts of the three local governments, a steering committee of passionate citizens, and sponsorship money and services from local merchants. The event exceeded expectations by welcoming over 100 local and regional developers, investors, building owners, and interested citizens. Organizers agreed that this successful inaugural event is only the beginning of a series of interconnected strategies focused on reinventing the CBD of a historic city that is striving to reposition itself in a new global economy. While the old steel mills employing tens of thousands on both sides of the Ohio River no longer exist as an anchor to support bustling downtowns, there is currently great potential for Ohio Valley growth as new industries like oil and gas extraction emerge. Steubenville’s leaders are focused on guiding that growth back to the historic and large urban core of the city.


Aerial shot of Steubenville, Ohio

The event featured Keynote Speaker Franzi Charen, Executive Director of the Asheville Grown Alliance, a nonprofit supporting grassroots development and local entrepreneurship efforts in Asheville, North Carolina’s downtown. Franzi’s message resonated with the Steubenville crowd, as Asheville has also had to adapt to industrial economy changes in sectors like textiles. Through the vision of creative local developers and entrepreneurs, Asheville has diversified its economy and strengthened its tourism trade, which are both goals that Steubenville is beginning to adopt as its own. To help make downtown Steubenville a renewed destination for locals as well as visitors, the City administration has developed an exciting streetscape and civic plaza vision for the heart of the CBD. Consultants’ overviews of these plans followed Franzi’s address. The event culminated in an inspiring address by a longtime downtown business owner and resident who emphasized the safety and strong potential of the CBD and a walking tour of prime development opportunities that are ripe for new visions.

Event organizers have agreed that this should be the beginning of an annual effort to celebrate successes, invite and brainstorm building reuse ideas, track the CBD’s vacancy rate, and reassess the overall downtown plan. Downtown Steubenville is a special place with a large, impressive built environment. Local leaders are showing great commitment to current and future generations by engaging in the best kind of smart economic development–rebuilding and reusing the infrastructure and wonderful buildings erected by past generations. We firmly believe in, and will work toward, this event growing into a regional movement to renew one of Ohio’s most unique places with enormous potential.

Ohio Dept of Transportation Wins TIGER Grant

November 4th, 2015

GOPC congratulates the Ohio Department of Transportation for successfully winning a highly competitive grant from the federal Department of Transportation. Ohio’s $6.8 million TIGER grant will help more than 30 rural transit systems improve their operations and service provision. ODOT will use the grant to support rural systems in transitioning from pencil and paper scheduling to electronically scheduling rides, providing communications equipment so drivers and dispatchers can talk while a vehicle is on the road, which will allow for more efficient services, and help rural transit systems be more competitive for future rural transit grants.

GOPC applauds ODOT’s leadership and commitment to helping Ohio’s rural transit systems provide high quality and expanded service.

Highlights of the award and the project can be found at this link on page 34:


Despite Some Access to Transit, Ohioans Face Difficulties Commuting to Work

October 30th, 2015

By Torey Hollingsworth, Graduate Intern

As a Master’s student in the City and Regional Planning program at Ohio State, I get to spend even the time I’m not at Greater Ohio thinking about policies and practices that affect Ohio’s urban areas. I also get to spend a lot of time examining our cities’ pasts, which not only helps give a better sense of how we got where we are today, but can also give ideas about where we can go in the future.

As part of a recent assignment, I read the 1954 Comprehensive Plan created for Dayton. There are a number of interesting things in it – early steps toward mass suburbanization, discussions of the routes of the federal highway system through town, and maps outlining areas slated for urban renewal. But one thing struck me more than any other: according to data collected for the plan, less than one percent of people living in the city of Dayton in 1952 lived more than a quarter mile from a transit line. Less than 10 percent of people living in the entire region lived outside of the quarter mile radius from bus or trolley lines as well.

Although exact comparisons to today aren’t available, a Miami Valley Regional Planning Commission report shows that 36.3 percent of Montgomery County residents lived outside of the quarter mile buffer in 2008.[1] When the radius was expanded to three-quarters of a mile as it was in The Brookings Institution’s 2011 Report “Missed Opportunity: Transit and Jobs in Urban America,” fewer than one percent of city residents and 33 percent of metro residents fell outside of the buffer in 2010.[2]

I expected that transit access would not be nearly as widespread as it was in the 1950s, but these numbers surprised me – the coverage of transit lines has not reduced as significantly as I would have expected since the 1950s. Despite significant growth in the area considered “urban” and dramatic reductions in ridership, the percentage point drop in population living within a reasonable radius of transit lines has been relatively modest.

Dayton streetcar

Dayton in 1959. Photo Courtesy: Dayton History Books Online

What has changed dramatically, however, is how well transit lines are helping people get to work. According to Brookings’ analysis, only 34 percent of jobs in the Dayton area were accessible within 90 minutes on public transportation. Other Ohio cities do not fare better – Columbus and Toledo tie with Dayton at 34 percent, while the other cities trail behind: Cleveland at 29 percent of jobs, Cincinnati at 28 percent, Akron at 25 percent, and Youngstown at just 14 percent.[3] In the 1950s, jobs were concentrated largely in the central business districts, so transit lines running downtown were convenient, easy ways to get to work. Today, jobs are springing up along the peripheries where transit lines are less likely to go.

This quick look back at Ohio’s cities’ historic transit infrastructure underscores the value of mass transportation for economic and workforce development – transit options can be vital for helping workers, especially lower wage ones, access jobs. It is also a good reminder about the need for a number of the policies that GOPC advocate – including smarter and more robust transit options and promoting sustainable development, including new places of employment, in our existing urban centers.




GOPC Offers Testimony in Statehouse

October 28th, 2015

By Lindsey Gardiner, Government Affairs Manager

Throughout the month of October, Government Affairs Manager Lindsey Gardiner has been on the move within the House and Senate offering interested party testimony for various legislative bills that would impact Ohio’s revitalization policies. From establishing Downtown Redevelopment Districts and collecting data to track the effectiveness of the Historic Preservation Tax Credit, to extending and expanding the Local Government Innovation Council, there is a lot going on within the chambers of our Legislature.

On October 14th, GOPC submitted written interested party testimony for HB 340, which proposes to extend the Local Government Innovation Council (LGIC) through December 31, 2019. Currently, the LGIC is scheduled to sunset by the end of December this year. GOPC was extremely supportive of the LGIC when it was established nearly five years ago and we have been impressed by the Program’s positive impact in hundreds of communities across the state. Our testimony to the House State Government Committee affirmed that this program effectively encourages Ohio governments to work more efficiently and that extending the LGIC would enable the continuation of the programs that have benefited communities in innovation, efficiency, and public safety.

LG testify

Lindsey Gardiner, Manager of Government Affairs, offered interested party testimony on numerous bills this month.

HB 233, which proposes to authorize cities to create Downtown Redevelopment Districts (DRDs) and Innovation Districts to promote economic development, is another bill GOPC has strived to place in the spotlight within its respected committee. Earlier this month GOPC offered testimony that supported the overall objectives of the proposal and shared with members of the House Government Accountability and Oversight Committee of our endorsement of the bill. Testimony stated that our Policy Committee decided to endorse HB 233 as it champions revitalization and incentivizes much-needed investment and redevelopment in Ohio. Additionally, since offering testimony for this bill, HB 233 was amended before ultimately being passed out of Committee. GOPC is happy to report that the bill was amended to include a provision requiring the collection of necessary data to track the performance of revenues resulting from the Historic Preservation Tax Credit (HPTC). As you may recall, the HPTC has played a vital role in the rehabilitation of historic buildings throughout Ohio and has proven to bring economic benefits to the state in more ways than one. This new provision will help the preservation community and members of the Legislature gain a better understanding of why the HPTC is so important.

For more information on GOPC’s testimony, the endorsement of HB 233, or to ask any questions pertaining to our legislative efforts, please feel free to contact Lindsey Gardiner at


The Detroit Story: Are there Lessons Learned in Revitalization of Ohio Cities?

October 23rd, 2015

Lavea Brachman, Executive Director of Greater Ohio Policy Center, recently published a book review on the website The National Book Review. The review, titled “Detroit was a Golden City Once – And It Can Be Again,” explores Detroit’s recent revitalization strategies and describes practices that legacy cities in Ohio could replicate.

GOPC Legislative Update October 2015

October 23rd, 2015

By Lindsey Gardiner, GOPC Manager of Government Affairs

The following grid is designed to provide you with insight into the likelihood of passage of the legislation we are monitoring. Please note that due to the fluid nature of the legislative process, the color coding of bills is subject to change at any time. GOPC will be regularly updating the legislative update the last Thursday of every month and when major developments arise. If you have any concerns about a particular bill, please let us know.

October Leg. Update Grid

Bills Available Online at

Updates on Key Bills: greater-ohio-flag

greater-ohio-flag  HB 134 UPDATE: HB 134 has been on the move within the House Judiciary Committee and appears to have re-gained traction as it has continued through the legislative process. Earlier in the month, the bill had its first hearing and received supportive testimony from a representative of the Ohio Recorder’s Association. During its first hearing, the sponsors offered a substitute version of the bill which included changing criteria for vacant and abandoned properties. There were no objections to the changes, and the substitute bill was accepted. HB 134 continued to maintain the focus of the House Judiciary Committee, and on October 13th, the bill was unanimously reported out of the Committee, where it now awaits approval to be sent to the House Floor before it is sent to the Senate for review.

greater-ohio-flag HB 233 UPDATE: HB 233 has taken a similar track as HB 134 as it has continued through the House Government Accountability and Oversight Committee. Earlier this month, five organizations offered testimony in support of HB 233 including Greater Ohio Policy Center. Lindsey Gardiner, Manager of Government Affairs, announced GOPC’s endorsement of the legislation and shared reasons why HB 233 would benefit local communities across the state. On October 20th, a substitute bill was accepted by the Committee, which adds provisions requiring the State to track information necessary to anticipate the tax revenue impact of the historic preservation tax credits in current and future fiscal years. HB 233 unanimously passed out of the Committee and is headed to the House Floor pending approval from the Speaker.

greater-ohio-flag HB 303 UPDATE: HB 303 had its first hearing with the House Financial Institutions, Housing and Urban Development Committee on October 20th. Sponsor Representative Dever shared that his D.O.L.L.A.R. Deed concept surfaced during his time working as a defense attorney during the time of the foreclosure process. Dever shared that he noticed there weren’t many options for families facing financial hardships with foreclosure of their homes and found room for improvement with pre-existing policy. Co-sponsor Representative McColley called the use of the program soley permissive and said banks would not be required to enter into the program. The D.O.L.L.A.R. Deed program is the first of its kind within Ohio and GOPC is looking forward to learning more about the potential impact and benefits it can have for families and communities across the State.

greater-ohio-flagHB 340 UPDATE: Out of all the economic development and revitalization legislation GOPC is actively tracking, HB 340 appears to be moving at lightning speed. The LGIC is scheduled to sunset or expire on December 31, 2015 and GOPC is happy to see members of the House work together in an effort to extend the program. GOPC was extremely supportive of the program when it was established in 2011 and we have been impressed by its positive impact in hundreds of communities across the state. Earlier this month GOPC continued its support for the LGIC and submitted written testimony to the House State Government Committee. We’re happy to report that on October 14th HB 340 was successfully reported out of the Committee and is expected to be voted on the House Floor in the near future.

greater-ohio-flagSB 201 UPDATE: From an economic development standpoint, GOPC believes SB 201 will help address blight within our urban and rural neighborhoods by strengthening an existing tool local government officials already use to deal with problem properties that are hazardous. SB 201 is currently being vetted by the Senate Civil Justice Committee, which completed a third hearing on the bill in mid-October.

NEW Bills & Explanation of Bill Impact on Economic Development within Ohio:

HB 126 is sponsored by Representatives Stephanie Kunze (R-Hilliard) and David Leland (D-Columbus). This bill would accomplish much of the same objectives that SB 201 contains (see below). HB 126 expands the definition of a “nuisance” in the Ohio Revised Code to include “an offense of violence”. HB 126 is designed to give the Attorney General and city prosecutors an additional tool to deal with nuisance problem communities face throughout Ohio.

HB 340 is sponsored by Representative Ron Amstutz (R-Wooster) and proposes to extend the operation of the Local Government Innovation Council (LGIC) through December 31, 2019. The LGIC was created in 2011 as a means to offer communities financial assistance to create more efficient and effective services to their constituents (HB 53-129th GA). The Local Government Innovation Program and the Local Government Efficiency Program have proven a success and GOPC believes that the addition of the Local Government Safety Capital Grant Program will continue such success. HB 340 encourages Ohio government to work together more efficiently and will enable the continuation of various programs that overall will benefit communities in innovation, efficiency, and public safety.

For more details and information on legislation that GOPC is tracking, please visit our September Legislative Update.