Ohio Historic Preservation Tax Credit Jeopardized

June 15th, 2015

As you may know, the Ohio Senate has unveiled a proposal to put a 2-year freeze on Ohio Historic Preservation Tax Credit projects beginning this July. The Ohio Historic Preservation Tax Credit has been an important tool in revitalizing Ohio’s communities and strengthening our metro economies. We need to keep this going to create jobs and vibrant communities in which people want to live and work.

Why is the Ohio Historic Preservation Tax Credits program good for Ohio?

1. Job Creation. Since the start of the Ohio Historic Preservation Tax Credit Program in 2007, more than 21,000 permanent jobs and more than 20,000 construction jobs have been created.

2. Economic Development. Every $1 of Ohio Historic Preservation Tax Credit will leverage at least $6.71 in investment. This proposed moratorium will kill major revitalization projects that are already in the pipeline and underway but not yet complete and it will put the entire program in jeopardy.

Please email your senator TODAY and tell him or her why this moratorium is a bad idea for your community and for Ohio and ask the committee to remove the proposal from the Senate Budget Bill. You can find your senator’s contact information here:   http://www.ohiosenate.gov/senate/members/senate-directory


Highlights from the 2015 Greater Ohio Summit

June 11th, 2015

Greater Ohio Policy Center would like to thank all the participants of Restoring Neighborhoods, Strengthening Economies for contributing to the Summit’s great success!

It was not missed that the Summit occurred while important discussions were taking place at the Statehouse about the future of financial tools for neighborhoods and cities throughout Ohio. Greater Ohio was able to testify while also hosting the Summit, and we will keep you updated on these ongoing legislative issues here on our blog.

We have included a recap of some of the highlights of the 2015 Summit below:


Coleman Calls for an Urban Agenda & Leading Mayors from Around State Discuss the Role of Cities in Ohio’s Future


As reported by the Columbus Dispatch, Mayor Coleman of Columbus gave the following remarks at the Summit on June 9th:

“We need a state legislature that understands cities are economic engines, not economic drains,” Coleman said during his keynote speech at the Greater Ohio Policy Center’s summit on urban innovation and sustainable growth.

Coleman wants to see better public transit — both within cities and connecting Ohio’s urban areas. He wants the state help to create more-walkable neighborhoods and fight blight, and he wants the legislature to renew a state fund to clean up polluted industrial sites so they can be redeveloped.

“We’ve come to the point where we need a statewide urban agenda,” he said at the Westin Columbus hotel Downtown.

The Summit closed with a plenary panel of leading mayors from across the state: Mayor Nan Whaley of Dayton, Mayor Paula Hicks-Hudson of Toledo, Mayor Randy Riley of Wilmington, and Mayor John McNally of Youngstown. Highlighting recent successes in their cities, the mayors struck an optimistic tone on the future of cities in Ohio and each noted the unique relationship their city had with its surrounding region and the state. Discussing challenges facing their cities—including the difficulty of blight and connecting workers to jobs and opportunity—the mayors cautioned that the state of Ohio could do more to support cities.

Greater Ohio Policy Center has been leading the charge for a statewide urban agenda in Ohio and will continue to do so through the current state budget season and in the future. We believe that an urban agenda would support the revitalization of neighborhoods and cities throughout the state, help connect workers to employment centers, create vibrant communities of choice, and strengthen Ohio’s economy.


2015 Award Winners

2015 0610 Greater Ohio Policy Center-Catalytic Partner - Tom Wilke City of Kent  Kent Mayor Jerry Fiala  Kelvin Berry Kent State Univ  GOSDA Chair Chr

We would like to congratulate the winners of the first ever Greater Ohio Sustainable Development Awards! The awards recognize those who are working to create vibrant and sustainable communities, cities, and regions in Ohio.

Public Sector Leader Award Winner:
This Award recognizes a public sector individual or entity exemplifying outstanding leadership and innovation in advancing policies or programs that incentivize and enable community reinvestment and sustainable development in Ohio’s cities and regions.

Senator Bill Beagle is in his second term in the Ohio Senate, representing all or part of Darke, Miami, Montgomery, and Preble Counties, and is a recognized advocate for workforce development, community and economic development.

Private Sector Champion Award Winner:
This Award recognizes a private sector individual or entity that has demonstrated a commitment to and excellence in investing in existing communities and strengthening local economies in Ohio. Their contributions foster a holistic approach to sustainable development, leading to environmental, social, and economic prosperity.

The Model Group is an integrated property development, construction, and management company working Cincinnati. Partnering with a variety of funding sources, local municipalities, and community stakeholders, Model Group builds and redevelops housing and mixed-used developments that revitalize and transform urban neighborhoods.

Nonprofit of the Year Award Winner:
This Award recognizes a nonprofit individual or entity in Ohio that works with communities to identify local needs and addresses them with efficiency and effectiveness. Open to 501-c3 designated nonprofits and philanthropic institutions, this Award honors those organizations that are innovating community solutions and meeting local needs and opportunities with distinction.

University Circle, Inc. is responsible for the growth of Cleveland’s University Circle neighborhood as a premier center of innovation in health care, education, arts, and culture.  Utilizing real estate development, business services, and advocacy, UCI has helped to create a vibrant urban district that is a national model.

The Catalytic Partnership Award Winner:
Communities are strengthened when sectors work together to meet common goals for sustainable development. This Award recognizes a cross-sector partnership that has had a measurable positive impact in a community or region in Ohio, and represents a model for creative and effective collaboration.

The City of Kent and Kent State University have brought together city, university, and business assets to catalyze economic revival in downtown Kent.  With the local Regional Transit Authority and private developers, the revitalization plan has attracted $130 million in investments.


Media Attention on the Summit

Illustrating the relevance of the speakers and topics covered, the Summit received a great deal of media attention! You can take a look at some of the articles about the Summit on our website here.

If you would like to see all the live tweets from the event, go to our Storify page here.


Presentations Now Available!

All the panel presentations are available for download via Dropbox here. Enjoy!



Legislative Update: Fast Track Foreclosure & Service Station Cleanup

May 21st, 2015

Ohio General Assembly Reviews Bill that will Fast Track Foreclosure on Problem Properties

House Bill 134, formerly known as HB 223 in the 130th General Assembly, has been re-introduced by bill cosponsors Representative Cheryl Grossman (R-Grove City), and Representative Mike Curtin (D-Columbus).

Image by Forsaken Fotos

This bill will expedite the time it takes to foreclose on a vacant or abandoned residential property, leading to a faster turnaround for managing and mitigating blight in Ohio’s neighborhoods.  Specifically, HB 134 aims to:

  1. authorize a municipal corporation to file for foreclosure on vacant and abandoned residential properties,
  2. permits blighted properties on sale at a sheriff’s auction to be listed without a minimum bid on the second sales attempt, and
  3. permits a municipality to dispose of blighted properties at their convenience if such properties have not been disposed of through a sheriff’s auction.

As a result of the bill, additional foreclosure actions may be filed by municipal corporations with the appropriate court of common pleas or municipal court, and those properties in turn could be sold through a sheriff’s sale, or if unsold, disposed of in a manner deemed appropriate by the municipal corporation that filed the action.

Since the bill’s introduction in late March, the bill has been moving quickly with a third hearing in the House Financial Institutions, Housing, and Urban Development Committee on Wednesday, May 20th. With the rate the legislation is moving and no testimony in opposition to the bill, HB 134 remains in good standing and could be up for a possible vote out of committee by the end of this month.

GOPC has offered support to assist Representatives Grossman and Curtin, and is working collaboratively with the Ohio CDC Association and other Interested Party members, such as the Ohio Bankers League (OBL), and various other stakeholders of this legislation. Proponents of HB 134 include the Ohio Mortgage Bankers Association (OMBA), Safeguard Properties, Community Blight Solutions, SecureView companies, the City of Columbus, and the Buckeyes State Sheriffs’ Association.

HB 134 continues to receive widespread, bipartisan support and GOPC is optimistic the bill will pick up more momentum as more members of the Legislature learn of the positive impact it will have on Ohio’s communities.



GOPC Testifies to Ohio’s Senate Finance Workforce Subcommittee on the Service Station Cleanup Fund Program

Image by Matthew Rutledge

Government Affairs Manager Lindsey Gardiner recently offered interested party testimony to the Senate Finance Workforce Subcommittee on the Service Station Cleanup Fund Program contained within the Ohio Development Services Agency’s budget, which is part of the 2016-2017 Operating Budget (HB64).

Gardiner gave the following remarks (excerpt from testimony):

“We were pleased to see that the Operating Budget proposes the creation of a Service Station Cleanup Fund (Sec. 610.20). We have made three recommendations for consideration in the Budget.

  1. Expand the definition of property owner to include organizations that have entered into an agreement with a political subdivision, which will be better prepared to manage the challenges associated with these contaminated sites.
  2. Clarify the definition of cleanup or remediation to include the acquisition of a class C release site, demolition performed at a site, and the installation or upgrade of the minimum amount of infrastructure that is necessary to make a site operational after other clean up measures. Adding specifics to this definition will ensure properties are shovel-ready.
  3. Adjust the grant amounts for property assessment from $500,000 to $100,000 and cleanup from $2,000,000 to $500,000. Average assessment costs for small sites like a service station usually range from $20,000 to $120,000 and cleanup and remediation of these sites often can be accomplished with $100,000 to $600,000.”

GOPC is very pleased to see a commitment by the state of Ohio to assist communities in priming sites that will directly support local economic development efforts. Ohio has much economic redevelopment potential locked-up in contaminated sites and remediating these locations will help businesses thrive and create places where people want to live. We hope that the Service Station Cleanup Fund is the first of several programs that leverage the investments needed for these sites, which are located in so many of Ohio’s communities.


GOPC’s Recommended Transportation Policies Signed Into Law

April 2nd, 2015

On Wednesday, April 1st, Governor Kasich signed the state transportation budget bill. This $7 billion budget bill includes two important provisions that GOPC strongly advocated for and that will help lay the foundation for a more diverse and modern transportation system in Ohio. GOPC’s successful policy provisions include:

  1. Performance metrics that allow for comparison of performance across transportation modes. The legislation directs ODOT to use these metrics to assist with statewide strategic planning processes and investment decisions (exact language can be found in Sec. 5501.08 of the transportation budget). With this new language, Ohio will be joining other states, such as Pennsylvania and North Carolina, in utilizing metrics to guide transportation investment. This provision should help public transportation compete for additional funding.
  2. Joint Legislative Task Force on Transportation Issues. Throughout the legislative process, GOPC championed the creation of a task force that would analyze transportation funding. This Task Force has a broader focus, but must report by December 31, 2016 on the funding needs and recommendations for funding transportation. There is significant bi-partisan support for this Task Force (the exact charges of the Task Force can be found in Sec. 775.40). This Task Force creates an opportunity to further explore funding options for multi-modal and public transit.

GOPC thanks the Legislature for considering these provisions and incorporating them into the final budget that went to the Governor.  Without support from key legislative champions, these provisions would not have been signed into law.

Click here to see the final transportation bill (follow the link for “Transportation and Public Safety Budget FY2016 and FY2017″).

The Water & Sewer Infrastructure Crisis and Potential Paths Forward

March 3rd, 2015

By Samantha Dawson, GOPC Intern, and Marianne Eppig, Manager of Research & Communications

Our nation and its legacy cities are facing an impending infrastructure crisis: water and sewer systems are failing and require modernization as soon as possible. Most of these water and sewer systems were built following WWII, meaning that they are approaching the end of their useful life. In some places, the infrastructure is already beginning to fail, leading to water main breaks, housing floods, sewage overflows into the environment, and public health crises.

While the national bill to upgrade this infrastructure has been estimated at around $1 trillion, costs for addressing Ohio’s existing water and sewer system deficiencies are estimated to be around $20.84 billion, according to the American Society of Civil Engineers.

To meet federal clean water mandates, cities must find ways to finance these needed infrastructure overhauls in short order. So far, many cities around Ohio have been ratcheting up water and sewer rates. The city of Akron, for example, has increased rates by 71% in one year. Other cities around Ohio have raised rates between 30% to 50% or more within the last two years.

Graph-WaterRates-OEPA    Graph-SewerRates-OEPA

GOPC is currently looking into other financial tools that can be used to restore Ohio’s water and sewer infrastructure systems. We will be discussing these tools with a panel of experts at our upcoming 2015 Summit on June 9th during the following session:

Finding Solutions to Ohio’s Water Infrastructure Challenges 

Ohio cities, large and small, must address the critical behind-the-scenes challenge of modernizing their water and sewer infrastructure to avoid potential serious public health crises and environmental degradation, and to create capacity to attract and support businesses and residents.  However, Ohio’s cities are struggling to find ways to finance the complicated infrastructure overhauls needed to address these challenges, comply with federal mandates, and even support on-going maintenance. On this panel, experts will discuss the scope of these infrastructure challenges along with innovative financing approaches and sustainable solutions necessary for Ohio’s cities to function smoothly and accommodate regrowth.

We hope you will join us at the 2015 Summit! For more information about the Summit agenda and to register, click here.

Two GOPC Policy Recommendations Incorporated in Statewide Transportation Budget Bill

February 27th, 2015
The Ohio Statehouse

The Ohio Statehouse

Throughout February, Greater Ohio Policy Center has been testifying to the Ohio House of Representatives on the Ohio Department of Transportation’s (ODOT) biennium budget, calling for policies that would lead to a modern and diverse transportation system in Ohio.

The Ohio House Finance Committee has incorporated two of GOPC’s policy recommendations into the transportation budget bill that passed out of the House Finance committee in late February. As a direct result of GOPC’s testimony and educational efforts, the bill now includes:

Sec. 5501.08. The department of transportation, in order to assist in statewide strategic transportation planning, shall develop metrics that allow the comparison of data across transportation modes and that also incorporate the full spectrum of state strategic transportation goals, including all of the following:

(A)   Anticipated future costs of maintaining infrastructure in acceptable condition, both short-term and long-term;

(B)   Short-term economic impact, one to five years, and long-term economic impact, thirty years and longer;

(C)   Economic impact on a region’s future rate of job growth and job retention;

(D)   Motorist, bicyclist, and pedestrian counts, and number of accidents by mode.

Section 755.40. There is hereby created the Joint Legislative Task Force on Department of Transportation Funding. […] The Task Force shall examine the funding needs of the Ohio Department of Transportation. The Task Force also shall study specifically the issue of the effectiveness of the Ohio motor fuel tax in meeting those funding needs. Not later than December 15, 2016, the Task Force shall issue a report containing its findings and recommendations to the President of the Senate, the Minority Leader of the Senate, the Speaker of the House of Representatives, and the Minority Leader of the House of Representatives. At that time, the Task Force shall cease to exist.

These provisions will help the state maximize resources and fully leverage the potential of Ohio’s multi-modal transportation system, which is essential to enhancing Ohio’s draw as a place where businesses can thrive and where people want to live.

The bill, Amended Substitute House Bill 53, will be voted on by the House of Representatives in early March. The Ohio Senate will begin hearings in early March and GOPC will be testifying in support of these two provisions, as well as other policy recommendations that could lead to a modern and diverse transportation system in Ohio.

GOPC applauds the House Finance Committee for its contributions to this proposed legislation.


GOPC Testifies on ODOT Budget

February 16th, 2015

GOPC calls for policies that would lead to a modern and diverse transportation system in Ohio

By Alison Goebel, Associate Director

Every two years, Ohio’s Governor submits a proposed Operating Budget to the General Assembly. This biennium budget for fiscal years 2016 and 2017 is proposed at $72.3 billion. Of that overall budget, $5.9 billion have been allocated to the Ohio Department of Transportation to support its capital projects and operations.

The Ohio Department of Transportation oversees and funds all modes of transportation in Ohio, including railroads, maritime ports, airports, state routes and highways, and public transportation.

Approximately 92% of ODOT’s biennium budget is to be used for the maintenance and construction of highways and bridges, which mostly translates into capital dollars for highway repair and expansion. Undoubtedly, Ohio’s highways are a critical asset to the state; with key national highways running through Ohio, the state must maintain the highways in good repair.

However, other modes are critical to the long-term economic health of the state, as well. In particular, public transit has always played, and will increasingly play, an essential role in job growth in the state. Public transit connects workers to jobs—low wage workers utilize public transit, as do “choice riders” who prefer the convenience of public transit to driving. National studies have confirmed again and again that young professionals are showing a strong preference for a range of transportation options.

To attract and retain young professionals in Ohio—the next generation of economic generators—the state of Ohio must assist local transit agencies in meeting the demands of this workforce.  Currently 2% of the ODOT budget goes to supporting Ohio’s 61 public transit agencies.

This past week, GOPC provided testimony to the House Finance Subcommittee on Transportation urging the Legislature to increase funding for public transit and to put into place policies that would help “level the playing field” for transit, bike and pedestrian infrastructure, and other options that would modernize the state’s transportation system and help prepare the state to attract and retain residents who expect a range of transportation choices.

GOPC will be providing similar testimony to the full House Finance Committee and the Senate Finance Committee in the coming weeks as the Legislature works to finalize the ODOT budget.

Let’s Talk Transit

October 20th, 2014

Health Line in Cleveland

ODOT Hosts Five Regional Stakeholder Meetings on the Future of Transit in Ohio

Join the Ohio Department of Transportation (ODOT) at one of five regional stakeholder meetings to help shape a long-term strategy for meeting the needs of Ohio’s transit riders today and in the future.

Trends show there is a definite rise in the need for convenient, affordable public transportation to jobs, medical appointments, shopping and recreational activities. Ohio’s transit agencies are struggling to fund existing service, let alone meet increasing demand. From light rail and bus service in large cities to rural van services, the Ohio Statewide Transit Needs Study is examining existing transit needs and drafting recommendations for better addressing them. ODOT needs your input, comments and ideas!

Tuesday, Oct. 21, 2-4 PM
Greater Cleveland Regional Transit Authority
Board Room
1240 West 6th Street
Cleveland, OH 44113

Wednesday, Oct. 22, 2-4 PM
Hancock Family Center
1800 North Blanchard Street
Findlay, OH 45840

Thursday, Oct. 23, 2-4 PM
Mid-Ohio Regional Planning Commission
Scioto Room
111 Liberty Street
Columbus, OH 43215

Thursday, Oct. 30, 2-4 PM
Athens Community Center
701 East State Street
Athens, OH 45701

Friday, Oct. 31, 10 AM-12 PM
OhioMeansJobs Building
300 East Silver Street
Lebanon, OH 45036

Unable to attend? All meeting materials will be available online starting Oct. 21 at www.TransitNeedsStudy.ohio.gov. Comments accepted through Nov. 14.

Questions or comments? Email ODOT at Transit.Needs@dot.state.oh.us.


Greater Ohio 2012 Accomplishments

January 18th, 2013

We are proud of the accomplishments we have made in 2012. To fill you in on what’s been going on at GOPC’s office and throughout the state in the past year, below is a list of our accomplishments within our three priority policy areas: Urban Core and Neighborhood Redevelopment, Transportation and Sustainable Growth, and Regional Governance Reform. Together, redeveloping our urban centers, expanding our transportation options, and fostering regional cooperation will contribute to smarter, more sustainable growth, improving our quality of life and economic competitiveness in Ohio.


Raising Our Statewide Profile:

  • Ohio Properties Redevelopment Institute. GOPC hosted this innovative two-day forum that promoted solutions to vacant and abandoned properties. Nearly 200 local leaders from municipalities and non-profit community development organizations across the state attended.
  • Moving Ohio Forward Grant Program. The Ohio Attorney General’s office contracted with the GOPC to provide technical assistance to communities for the Moving Ohio Forward Grant Program, which supports Ohio’s communities undertaking activities to demolish abandoned and vacant residential properties.
  • Panels and Keynotes. GOPC presented on urban revitalization issues over 20 times to a variety of audiences including Ohio code enforcement officers, Cincinnati’s Foreclosure Group, Cleveland’s Vacant and Abandoned Property Action Council (VAPAC), and Heritage Ohio workshop attendees.
  • In the Media. In 2012, GOPC was quoted or cited over 50 times in Ohio’s major newspapers and other publications around the country. In one article about vacant properties, The Columbus Dispatch relied heavily on data and graphs produced by GOPC.

Read the rest of this entry »

GOPC, “Across the Spectrum” Think Tanks Unite Again

September 13th, 2012

Greater Ohio Policy Center is again collaborating with Center for Community Solutions and the Buckeye Institute, two other think tanks that span the political spectrum, renewing the call to examine the issue of tax expenditures, commonly known as “tax loopholes.”  Last week, the three partners issued a Press Release once again advocating for a Joint House-Senate Tax Expenditure Review Committee to examine and vet tax expenditures and subject these loopholes to “sunset revisions,” which would allow certain tax expenditures to expire after several years unless re-enacted by the General Assembly and approved by the Governor. 
“In the absence of guidelines for demonstrating effectiveness, and a schedule for periodic evaluation, these cannot be considered good public policy”, the three groups said in their Press Release.
This unique tripartite partnership began during last year’s debate over Ohio’s 2012-2013 budget, when the groups joined together to propose ways that Ohio policymakers could address the issue of tax expenditures.  This partnership attracted extensive state and national attention and spurred the highly successful “Across the Spectrum” conference, raising the level of public discourse by facilitating thoughtful discussions that avoided partisan platitudes and instead explored a range of policy solutions available to the state and nation.
GOPC and their partners commend Governor Kasich for his recent comments on the need to examine expenditures and the Ohio House of Representatives for convening a tax review committee last year.  These policymakers have brought back into public view the importance of adopting a comprehensive process for assessing Ohio’s loopholes.
Evaluating the costs and benefits of specific expenditures will ensure a transparent and defensible decision-making process.  In improving Ohio’s competitiveness and quality of life, any future expenditures—new or renewed—must have transparent criteria that ranks projects and clearly demonstrates a net benefit to tax payers.
“Our organizations often take different positions on how best to raise and allocate public resources, but we share the common goals of eliminating ineffective, counterproductive or outdated tax expenditures, and assuring that those remaining in Ohio tax law receive periodic scrutiny.”

The collaboration between Greater Ohio and their partners have already received attention by Trib Today, Salem News, the Akron Beacon Journal, and been featured on WVIZ NPR.