Glenn College Forum Highlights Improvements Necessary to Sustain Water, Transportation Infrastructure

September 26th, 2016

By Jason Warner, GOPC Manager of Government Affairs

This month, GOPC was pleased to join with our colleagues at the Mid-Ohio Regional Planning Commission (MORPC) as a part of a panel discussion at the Glenn College Leadership Forum at The Ohio State University. The panel, Keeping Things Flowing: Water and Transportation Needs in the 21st Century, focused on the growing concern about infrastructure deterioration in the state and addressed ways in which local and state governments can identity and implement innovative strategies to take on these twin crises head-on.

Jon Honeck, Ph.D., Senior Policy Fellow with GOPC, presented on Ohio’s Water and Sewer infrastructure needs, with special focus on a growing issue that often is overlooked when considering this critical utility service, stormwater infrastructure. Most of Ohio’s water and sewer infrastructure was installed in the late 19th and early 20th Century, and especially in major metropolitan downtown areas, the systems have not been updated to meet the needs of growing populations and demands of the 21st Century. This is especially true of stormwater systems. With some studies suggesting that rain events are now producing more precipitation than they did even 20 to 30 years earlier, aging sewer systems that combine wastewater and stormwater are often overwhelmed, resulting in releases of raw sewage from aging systems into rivers and streams.

JH Glenn College3

Photo Credit: John Glenn College of Public Affairs

Estimates show that Ohio needs $14.1 billion for wastewater treatment upgrades alone between 2012 and 2032, in addition to another $12.1 billion for upgrades and replacing to the state’s drinking water systems over 20 years. That is a total of $26.2 billion in infrastructure needs in just 20 years, and that does not include costs to identify and replace lead pipes, which service an estimated 650,000 homes and businesses in the state.

Coming up with the necessary funding to upgrade this aging infrastructure is complicated by the elimination of federal grants for water and sewer systems in the 1980’s. The feds now provide revolving loans to local governments to assist in system repairs and upgrades, but local communities facing economic problems must repay the loans over time, which is an challenge many small communities in the state cannot afford.  

Among the potential solutions that could help to mitigate this future crisis that Honeck discussed during the forum include new financial tools which could provide either credit enhancements or loan guarantees for small communities that lack necessary funding resources, regionalization of water systems that encourages smaller communities to band together and pool limited resources to better afford work which needs to be done, public-private partnerships, and increased state funding in revolving loan funds and grant programs. 

Thea Walsh, the Director of Transportation Systems and Funding at MORPC, next provided an overview of Ohio’s transportation infrastructure and the needs it faces in order to maintain the state’s competitive edge.  Ohio’s interstate highway system is the 12th largest in the nation, and ranks 5th in overall traffic volume and 4th in truck traffic volume. Ohio boasts the 2nd largest inventory of bridges in the nation.  Beyond roadways, Ohio also ranks 4th nationally in freight rail mileage, hosting 35 freight railroads and 5,305 miles of rail.

Despite these impressive statistics, the American Society of Civil Engineers has graded Ohio’s 125,000 plus miles of roads a ‘D’, finding that 43% of Ohio’s roadways are in critical, poor, or fair condition. Of greater concern is a finding that 2,242 of the state’s 27,015 bridges (8% of total bridges), are structurally deficient. The overall cost to motorists in the state, the personal cost of driving on roads in need of repair, is $3.3 billion per year, which amounts to $413 per motorist.

Ohio receives a significant portion of its overall transportation funding from the Federal Highway Trust Fund, which constitutes 45.1% of the Ohio Department of Transportation Revenue (FY12-14), while 32.9% is generated from the state motor fuel tax. The Federal Highway Trust Fund is supported from the federal gas tax, currently 18.4 cents per gallon of gasoline. That rate has remained unchanged since 1993. The state motor fuel tax is 28 cents per gallon of gasoline, and has remained unchanged since 2005. Moreover, because of constitutional limitations, this fuel tax revenue may only be used for highway construction, which precludes its usage toward public transportation projects. GOPC is constantly seeking ways of funding and modernizing all modes of transportation, including transit, biking, and walking.

Because the Federal Highway Administration has estimated that $170 billion in capital investment is needed annually to improve only roadways nationwide, it will be necessary in the future to increase revenue in order to make the required improvements. This will likely include raising fuel taxes, but also involve alternative sources of revenue as automobiles are becoming more fuel efficient and more vehicles that run on alternative sources (hybrid, electric) are operating on roadways.

One alternative that was discussed is a pilot program underway in the state of Oregon where individuals have volunteered to have tracking devices installed in their vehicles to track the number of miles they are traveling, and then paying per-mile fees to help fund highway and road construction and improvement. Other alternatives include the construction of new tolled infrastructure, an alternative that has been discussed to fund improvements on the Brent Spence Bridge in Cincinnati (Ohio has approved the toll bridge, Kentucky has not) and public private partnerships.

It was clear from the discussion that difficult decisions will need to be made in the months and years ahead. Investment in the state’s critical infrastructure, including drinking water, stormwater, and transportation, is necessary for two reasons. First, it is of paramount importance to ensure public health and safety. Without improvement to the state’s water systems, Ohio runs the risk of seeing repeats of the public health crisis in Flint, Michigan caused by lead contamination in the city’s water system, or the tragic failing of critical infrastructure such as the collapse of the I-35W bridge in Minneapolis several years ago. Secondly, these systems are of critical importance to our state’s economy. Ohio is at the center of the nation’s economic livelihood, located within a day’s drive of 50 percent of the country’s population, with tens of thousands of jobs tied to transportation, manufacturing, and logistics. Investment in quality water and transportation systems will ensure Ohio’s economic stability in the years ahead.

 

View the PowerPoint presentation here

 

Remaking Cities After Abandonment Lecture Emphasizes Role of Community Efforts

September 16th, 2016

By Alex Highley, GOPC Project Associate

This past Wednesday, the Knowlton School of Architecture at the Ohio State University hosted a lecture by Margaret Dewar, a University of Michigan professor teaching at the Taubman College of Architecture. Dewar focuses her research on economic development, housing, and urban planning and she investigates the ways planners seek to ameliorate population and employment loss. During the lecture, Dewar outlined three main questions that she seeks to answer as part of her research:

  • What does a city become after abandonment?
  • What makes a difference in what a city becomes after abandonment?
  • What should a city become after abandonment?

The theme of Dewar’s research findings is that even in the cases of extraordinary shock marked by the collapse of government and a plunge in housing values, social groups and institutions make significant strides in community building. According to Dewar, this concept is important to understand given that prior research had only concluded that community efforts could produce smaller-scale change, such as inducing a decrease in crime.

Dewar lamented that during the mortgage foreclosure crisis in Detroit during the last decade, local leadership demonstrated little in the way of support for citizen resilience. Instead of imploring citizens to stay in their homes and rebuild their communities in the midst of a widespread crisis, the previous Detroit mayor tried to clear people out of their houses because city services were so insufficient. In Dewar’s view, these services should have been restructured so that people would have more incentive to remain and persevere in rebuilding their neighborhoods. For instance, citizens could have found creative ways to combine their garbage each week in order to have more efficient garbage collection services when cuts needed to be made.

Dewar highlighted the need for governments to prioritize community development corporations (CDCs) when seeking to rebuild neighborhoods that have suffered from recent abandonment. GOPC partners with CDC associations around Ohio and likewise recognizes the important work they contribute to community investment and redevelopment. Dewar also stressed the cost savings that cities can benefit through transitioning to green stormwater infrastructure. GOPC is constantly researching and discovering new ways for local governments to finance and modernize their sewer and water infrastructure.

DetroitSkyline wikicommons Cropped

Detroit, Michigan. Source: Wikicommons

 

Social Impact Bonds for Urban Redevelopment and Green Infrastructure Break New Ground

September 6th, 2016

By John Honeck, GOPC Senior Policy Fellow

Social impact bonds (SIBs) or “pay for success” models are debt arrangements established by a public agency or nonprofit organization in order to finance an innovative service or program with an uncertain rate of return.  Investors are paid back in full only if the project succeeds in meeting its goals.  In this way, public agencies are incentivized to take a more flexible approach to problem-solving.  Until recently, social impact bonds were mainly tried in social service and criminal justice fields to test approaches with significant risk.  For example, Cuyahoga County is using a SIB to test a new approach to reduce foster care placements of children with homeless parents.

Two recent deals show that the social impact bond approach can be used in infrastructure and urban redevelopment.  In Hamilton County, the Port Authority of Greater Cincinnati has been looking for ways to redevelop sites for manufacturing firms seeking to locate or expand within the county.  Although the county has many abandoned industrial sites, they are often contaminated and have outdated buildings and infrastructure.  The lack of suitable locations for manufacturing expansion puts the county at a significant disadvantage with respect to greenfield development. 

To help remedy the situation, in June, 2016, the Port Authority issued bonds with a principal amount of $7 million for the acquisition and remediation of contaminated sites in the county.[1]  The bonds were purchased by local businesses and high net worth individuals that have an interest in economic development but are willing to provide a source of long-term patient capital.  Investors hope to make a profit when the land is sold, but if the deal does not work out as planned they are only guaranteed a miniscule annual rate of return of 0.15 percent.  If the approach is successful, the Port Authority may seek an additional $13 million from other investors.  This financing strategy may provide an example for other older post-industrial cities in Ohio and the rest of the nation. 

In Washington, D.C., a ground-breaking deal showed the potential for social impact bonds for infrastructure.[2]  The DC Water and Sewer Authority announced in early September that it will seek between $20 – $30 million in financing from investors to support the installation of “green” infrastructure such as porous pavement or rain gardens to manage stormwater flowing into the Potomac River and Rock Creek watersheds.  DC Water hopes to avoid using expensive deep tunnels or other major infrastructure work that would otherwise be necessary to address a federal mandate to stop combined sewer overflows.  Like many other cities in the Eastern U.S., the older parts of Washington’s sewer system combine wastewater and storm water runoff into the same pipes, which overflow when it rains, discharging raw sewage into rivers and streams.  Investors will be repaid according the degree of stormwater control that the project achieves. 

Greater Ohio Policy Center is currently in the midst of a year-long study of innovative financing techniques for water and sewer infrastructure and brownfield redevelopment.  These two issues are critical needs for cities in Ohio and across the nation, as discussed in our earlier report.  Although social impact bonds cannot be expected to provide most of the financing needed to tackle these issues, it can promote innovative approaches to test the application of new programs.  In the long run, these arrangements can also help to build a network of stakeholder organizations that see themselves as partners in addressing a significant environmental or economic problem.  SIBs are not just about financing, they also help to focus public attention on an issue. 

 

 

[1] Press release, Port of Greater Cincinnati Development Authority, “Port Authority Issues Impact Investment Debt To Fund Industrial Site Revitalization; Closes $7.0 Million In First Round,” June 16, 2016.  http://www.cincinnatiport.org/wp-content/uploads/Port-Authority-builds-patient-capital-portfolio-6.9.16.pdf

[2] Kyle Glazier, “D.C.’s Social Impact Bond Deal Will Fund Infrastructure,” The Bond Buyer, 9-2-16, http://www.bondbuyer.com/news/regionalnews/dcs-social-impact-bond-deal-will-fund-infrastructure-1112664-1.html.

GOPC’s Fall Partner Conferences are Right Around the Corner!

September 2nd, 2016

GOPC’s partners are hosting exciting conferences this fall. These conferences will examine different facets of community revitalization and strategies for stabilizing and rebuilding our communities.  Additionally, GOPC and long-time partner, Ohio CDC Association will be co-hosting a webinar in October. Check out the descriptions below and click on the links to register!

The Dialogue in Detroit Conference will go from September 13 to 16, 2016 in Detroit, Michigan. This Conference will bring together professionals, decision-makers and academics from America’s Legacy Cities, where long-term population loss and economic restructuring present difficult challenges for the future of astounding historic resources and significant cultural heritage.  This Conference is sponsored by the Michigan State Historic Preservation Office, the Michigan State Housing Development Authority, and Wayne State University. This conference is a follow up to one at which GOPC keynoted in Cleveland in 2015.

Detroit dialogue

 

From September 28-30, 2016, The Center for Community Progress will be hosting the Reclaiming Vacant Properties (RVP) Conference in Baltimore, Maryland. Themed “In Service of People and Place,” the seventh RVP will take a deep look at how work to reclaim vacant properties can improve the wellbeing of residents and the places they call home.  Former GOPC Executive Director, Lavea Brachman will be speaking on the Creating State Policy Change to Support Blight-Fighting Innovation panel and GOPC will be leading a small group workshop on small and medium sized legacy cities.

CCP

 

The Ohio CDC Association will be hosting the Passion for Progress Conference October 13-14, 2016. Taking place in Athens, Ohio, this annual conference will showcase the revitalization occurring throughout the region. GOPC will be attending and learning the latest and greatest in the community development field.

CDC Association

 

Finally, GOPC and Ohio CDC Association will co-host a Webinar on October 27, 2016 from 10:00-11:30am. This webinar will explore the findings of a recent report by Greater Ohio Policy Center that examined how smaller legacy cities, from Akron to Zanesville, fared over the last 15 years. GOPC will share best practices that smaller legacy cities throughout the Midwest and Northeast used to jumpstart revitalization and that community development and public sector leaders can put into practice in their own communities. 

Join us on October 27th here!

 

Pokémon Go Bringing Gamers to Underused Public Spaces

August 29th, 2016

By Alex Highley

In the last few months, Pokémon Go has helped shift the gaming community from their TV and computer monitors to outdoor locations where they search for highly coveted Pokémon species. By bringing gamers out of their homes to parks, monuments, streets, and courtyards that they otherwise might never have visited, this game is changing the way these public spaces are being used, at least for now. Businesses are taking note and are attempting to take advantage of the new market of people that are within a short distance. Of course, the long-term value of the game remains to be seen since the popularity of the game will likely wane eventually. But there is the possibility that more video games will be created like Pokémon Go in the future, further drawing throngs of people into public areas and engaging them with the surrounding amenities, businesses, and people. GOPC supports creative ways of bringing people into contact with the assets and anchor institutions of Ohio’s cities.

Pokemon Go Downtown Dayton

With gamers walking down underused streets and ambling around public parks, people who otherwise might not have been outside are now new visitors to these areas, and more likely to participate in other activities such as buying a coffee at a nearby shop, interacting with strangers, or walking around a previously empty park. Increased interaction in these areas that were previously uninhabited will help boost the image of these public spaces, which often suffer from the stigma attached to underuse. New ways of attracting new visitors to city parks and plazas will help spur economic and social growth in public spaces in the future.

 

Neighborhoods in America’s Legacy Cities: A Dialogue in Detroit

August 4th, 2016

Greater Ohio Policy Center is excited to cosponsor a four-day event next month on the historic preservation of America’s legacy cities. The Michigan State Historic Preservation Office (SHPO), Michigan State Housing Development Authority (MSDHA), will convene an interdisciplinary meeting in Detroit, Michigan September 13-16, 2016 to discuss the role of historic preservation in revitalizing legacy cities, where long-term population loss and economic decline present significant challenges for the future of the urban built environment.

Feedback from the  Historic Preservation in America’s Legacy Cities conference held at Cleveland State University in 2014 strongly demonstrates a need to continue and strengthen this important conversation among key stakeholders and decision-makers from legacy cities throughout the country.  At this crucial juncture, there are difficult questions about what role preservation can and should play in shaping the future of legacy cities, how to identify and leverage historic assets, what benefits and impediments exist in integrating preservation into community and economic development, and how we make decisions about what we save and what we destroy.  Detroit, a true legacy city that is rebuilding after years of disinvestment, will provide the perfect setting and context in which to raise these questions.

DetroitSkyline wikicommons Cropped

Photo Credit: Wikicommons

The conference will bring together preservationists, community developers, economic developers, urban planners, urban policymakers, urban designers, and others.  It will be an opportunity to cross-collaborate, share ideas, and devise solutions with the goals of launching a more integrated approach to planning for the future of Legacy Cities, bringing historic preservation into urban policymaking and crafting a 21st century preservation profession that is responsive to the needs and conditions of Legacy Cities.

Go Here to learn more about this Event

 

Internship Opening: GOPC seeks candidates for Research & Conference Support Intern position

August 2nd, 2016

The Greater Ohio Policy Center seeks qualified candidates to fill the Research Intern position. The description below is also available on the Job Opportunities page in PDF format.

Qualified candidates will be interviewed on a rolling basis. Applications will be accepted until position is filled.

Thank you for your interest in GOPC.

 

Intern, Research & Conference Support

Greater Ohio Policy Center

Candidate Position Description

The Greater Ohio Policy Center (GOPC) seeks an intern to assist GOPC in championing revitalization and sustainable growth in Ohio. This position will provide research support to senior staff and assist with preparing for a large conference that will occur in March 2017. GOPC seeks an intern who is interested in urban revitalization issues, such as brownfield site remediation, water and sewer infrastructure, transportation, and housing.

This position is part-time (15 hours/week) and will begin in mid-August and will end in late December 2016 (i.e. Fall 2016 semester).
Intern will work under the direction of the Senior Policy Fellow and the Urban Revitalization Project Specialist. Intern will report to the Deputy Director.

Principal Duties and Responsibilities

This position will be responsible for the following activities:

  • Undertake directed research to assist GOPC’s mid-level and senior staff in carrying out high-quality research projects
  • Support senior staff in raising GOPC’s public profile by preparing select research, talking points and memos for speaking engagements and other outreach opportunities
  • Aid in planning and taking notes at meetings related to research project development and implementation
  • Assist GOPC’s communications staff in growing GOPC’s supporter base
  • Effectively advocate on GOPC’s issues in a bipartisan and non-partisan manner in all settings and situations

Percentages below denote an approximation of the amount of time the Intern, Research and Conference Support would spend on each major job duty.

Research and Project Assistance (75%)

  • Undertake select research under direction of senior staff that contributes to GOPC’s outreach efforts, and policy and advocacy work; support project managers in carrying out research projects, such as investigating different financing models and developing policy recommendations
  • Provide research support through: basic Census and ACS data gathering and graphing, literature scans and reviews, select interviews, and other information gathering activities
  • Must be a critical reader, thinker, and writer who is able to summarize key takeaways and can effectively communicate these takeaways in written memos and in meetings

Conference Planning and Organizational Support (25%)

  • Assist senior and mid-level staff with planning and organizing the GOPC Policy Summit in March 2017 and other convenings, roundtables, and large events. Responsibilities may include:
    • Assist with tracking panel development and panelist confirmations; assist with finalizing contact and biography information of panelists
    • Assist with printing and organizing conference
    • Assist with preparing Awards Ceremony
  • Assist senior staff with scheduling meetings with stakeholders and other partners
  • Other relevant duties as assigned

Education/Experience Requirements

  • Minimum 2 years of college experience
  • Interest in cities and revitalization. Coursework in urban and regional planning, public policy, or social sciences preferred
  • Experience with Microsoft Excel and Word strongly preferred. Experience with Adobe InDesign or other visual design programs preferred, not required

Knowledge Requirements

  • Must be strong writer
  • Must exhibit high degree of professionalism appropriate for high level partners
  • Must be extremely detail-oriented

Required Application Materials

  • Resume
  • Cover letter (generic cover letters and resumes will not be seriously considered)
  • One writing sample available upon request
  • Contact information for three references, including at least one academic reference

Send cover letter and resume to Jon Honeck, PhD, Senior Policy Fellow, jhoneck@greaterohio.org.

Other Job Information

  • The Greater Ohio Policy Center is an Equal Opportunity Employer.
  • Intern is expected to work in the GOPC office in Columbus during normal business hours (8a-5p).
  • Qualified candidates will be interviewed on a rolling basis. Applications will be accepted until position is filled.

Compensation

This is an hourly employee position, with estimated rate of $10-$14/hour, depending on experience and qualifications.

About the Organization

The mission of the Greater Ohio Policy Center is to champion revitalization and sustainable growth in Ohio.
Greater Ohio Policy Center (GOPC) is a mission-driven non-profit, non-partisan organization based in Columbus and operating statewide. GOPC develops and advances policies and practices that value our urban cores and metropolitan regions as economic drivers and preserve Ohio’s open space and farmland.
Through education, research and outreach, GOPC strives to create a political and policy climate that advances economic growth through urban revitalization, modernized transportation options, improvements to infrastructure, and talent development and retention within the state.

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Models for Success Session Delves into Funding of Ohio’s Transit Systems

July 27th, 2016

By Alex Highley, GOPC Project Associate

As part of the first breakout sessions at the 2016 ODOT Conference held at the Convention Center in Columbus, Greater Ohio Policy Center’s Deputy Director Alison Goebel moderated a panel session titled: “Models for Success: Moving Transit Forward in Times of Fiscal Constraint.” After Goebel’s brief comments to frame the session, speakers from Dayton, Cincinnati, and Toledo each discussed the funding models for their respective transit systems and highlighted the current challenges of ensuring that transit is well supported in Ohio. Brandon Policicchio of the Greater Regional Transit Authority, John Deatrick of the City of Cincinnati, and Jim Gee of the Toledo Regional Transit Authority summarized key facts about their area transit systems and described funding opportunities and sources, strategic partners, and innovative services each system provides.

Speakers

Speakers from left: Brandon Policicchio, Jim Gee, Alison Goebel, and John Deatrick

In Ohio, Regional Transit Authorities (RTAs) are funded with a variety of local funding sources.  Eight counties utilize a county sales tax of up to 1%. Policicchio noted that Dayton’s RTA benefits over the long term from assurances that that revenue stream will continue, given that the half-cent sales tax does not expire for renewal. A few counties generate the majority of their RTA revenue via non-sales tax means: Toledo Area RTA (TARTA), the Steel Valley, and the Ohio Valley levy a property tax and the Cincinnati area RTA (SORTA) levies an income tax. Interestingly, Deatrick noted that Cincinnati will begin to levy a new parking fee to generate a few million dollars to fund the Streetcar, which will be unveiled in September.

While 27 Ohio counties do not even operate a public transit system, and given that 60 percent of public transit trips are work trips (medical trips are the second most common destination for transit riders), local transit systems would greatly benefit from increased state support. As GOPC has highlighted in recent memos, Ohio’s contribution to transit calculates to 63 cents per capita, which ranks 38th in the nation – in between Mississippi and North Dakota. With federal grant support few and far between, Gee explained that many existing transit authorities must scramble to find creative local ways to ensure their systems continue to serve riders.

Despite the strains facing Ohio’s transit systems, Gee emphasized that there are reasons to be encouraged about transit in Ohio. Firstly, ODOT remains an important player and a key partner in ensuring that transit has a bright future in Ohio. GOPC echoes this support of the state’s role and was encouraged by ODOT’s commission of the 2015 Transit Needs Study. Secondly, baby boomers and millennials simply demand more public transportation and will be a significant voice in this issue. Thirdly, there are already many success stories in Ohio; as Policicchio and Deatrick discussed, Dayton serves over 200,000 annual trips while Cincinnati is implementing exciting mobile technologies such as fare purchasing via smartphone as part of its imminent Streetcar rollout. Moreover, Cleveland was selected to host the recent Republican National Convention in large part due to its robust light rail system and excellent Bus Rapid Transit fleet.

Brandon DaytonJim GeeJohn Deatrick

From left: Policicchio, Gee, and Deatrick

The need for additional state support is clear, however this session highlighted that Ohio’s transit agencies are acting creatively and resourcefully to meet demand for their services. 

 

In Time for the RNC, Cleveland’s Public Square Renovation Showcases Fine Center-City Redevelopment

July 25th, 2016

By Alex Highley, GOPC Project Associate

The redesign of Cleveland, Ohio’s Public Square, which was completed in June 2016 and just in time for the Republican National Convention (RNC), demonstrates impressive investment in a legacy city’s downtown core, to the long-term benefit of the public. The remodeling of the area has transformed the area from a mere intersection of traffic to an exemplary planning case study of intelligently recreated urban space for refined functionality and imagery. By creating more green spaces with park benches, walkable paths, the artistically-modeled area now exudes an atmosphere that is welcoming for visitors and passers-by.

Along with newly paved walkways, fresh green spaces, newly planted trees, and a fountain for kids to play in, the refurbished square features a brand new outdoor café for visitors to enjoy. Statues of the city’s founder and a former mayor have been preserved and repositioned in the square. For special events, as the RNC demonstrated, Public Square acts as the central hub where citizens can congregate to absorb ranging opinions at the “speakers’ platform” on the south end of the park.

Cle Public Square

Cleveland Public Square revitalized. Photo credit: The Group Plan

The renovation of Public Square, overseen by the nonprofit city-county Group Plan Commission, in total cost $50 million. According to the Cleveland Plain Dealer, $37 million was spent on landscaping and $13 million was spent on reconstruction underground. A combination of government and private sources contributed to this project. As Greater Ohio Policy Center’s reports have argued, urban core investment will substantially improve the downtown area in many ways. Firstly, by attracting people who otherwise wouldn’t visit the area, commercial activity in the surrounding businesses will improve. Property values in the area will likely rise due to the public good of improved amenities such as green spaces. Lastly, as we saw with the RNC, the new area should act as a venue of bringing people together for events, such as the upcoming Cleveland Orchestra concert, where Clevelanders and visitors can interact and enjoy themselves.

 

Ohio as a Bellwether for National Elections

July 20th, 2016

By Alison Goebel, GOPC Deputy Director

On July 13, Kyle Kondik spoke at the Columbus Metropolitan Club; Kondik is the author of the recently released book, The Bellwether: Why Ohio Picks the President.

In his research, Kondik looked at the last 30 national election cycles (i.e. his research begins in the late 1800s) and compared Ohio’s voting record to the national results.  He found that in nearly every election, Ohio very closely mirrored the national outcomes in terms of winners and percent differences between candidates.

Kondik argues Ohio’s unique political, cultural, and physical geography have been, historically, a good representation of the country—Ohio has many smaller cities but no one major urban center that pulls the state Democratic (as Chicago does in Illinois), no single industry that dominates the state (as coal does in West Virginia), and Ohio’s urban and rural areas are moderated by its growing suburban areas.

Interviewed by Karen Kasler, Kondik predicted that Ohio’s “collar counties”—those counties outside Cuyahoga, Franklin and Hamilton that make up the metro regions of the state—will take on more importance in the 2016 election.  These are the places that are seeing the greatest population growth and are politically more variable than the urban county they surround. 

Kondik did not predict how Ohio would go in November, but he did predict that Ohio’s final “spreads” would mirror the national outcome in this election.  He did also note that in future elections, Ohio’s relative racial homogeneity may make Ohio less of a bellwether as Latinos and other racial-ethnic groups continue to grow in numbers, nationally.

As former Attorney General Richard Cordray’s Director of Policy and Research, Kondik was a wealth of information on how Ohio compared to national trends but also how individual counties in Ohio performed compared to each other over a number of decades.

While Kondik’s research may not have a direct land use angle, his perceptiveness of how policy and politics unfold does provide insight into Ohio’s current local, state, and national political environment.