Water Quality Bill Released by Governor’s Office

April 14th, 2016

This week, the Governor’s mid-biennium review budget bill related to water systems testing was introduced.  HB512 (Ginther-R) focuses on four major reform areas.

 First, it proposes new and stricter guidelines for testing lead in drinking water.

 Second, it proposes to shorten the timelines for the Ohio EPA and water system owners to notify affected residents of test results.

 Third, it proposes to extend the maximum repayment schedule for loans taken out in service of renovating or constructing wastewater treatment systems to 30 years, making these loans more affordable; it also proposes to expand the types of projects eligible for financing through state programs.

 Last, it proposes to provide more grant dollars to be used to replaced lead pipelines in schools.

 GOPC applauds Governor Kasich and the Legislature for pro-actively offering more and stronger tools to Ohio’s local communities as they work to address lead in Ohio’s water systems.  Mitigating outdated and dangerous pipes are one important component reforming and modernizing Ohio’s water and sewer infrastructure systemsFollow us on Twitter and Facebook for the latest updates on this bill and other legislation we are tracking.

GOPC Releases Memos Recommending Strategies to Reform Ohio’s Transportation Policy

March 15th, 2016

GOPC is a leading advocate for policy reforms that will support a diverse and modernized transportation system in Ohio.  To support GOPC’s most recent policy recommendations, GOPC has published a series of research memos that:

  • Analyze Pennsylvania’s 2013 comprehensive budget reform and identifies strategies that Ohio could replicate.  Undertaking a similar reform in Ohio could produce more resources and recalibrated funding to better fund all transportation modes, especially public transportation.
  • Outline the benefits of “flexing” $30 million of Ohio’s federal dollars to public transportation.  Ohio is the 7th most populous state in the country yet ranks 38th in state support of public transportation.  The allocation of existing federal funds to transit could support 370 new rural transit vans or 107 new full size buses per year.  Ohio currently has 275 rural vehicles and 900 urban buses beyond their useful life and 22 rural counties without any transit service.
  • Discuss the benefits of raising the state motor fuel tax, indexing it to inflation and removing, through statewide ballot, the constitutional provisions that restricts the gas tax’s use to highways.  By the Ohio constitution, the state’s gas tax can only be used for highway construction and repairs.  While increasing the gas tax is not a complete  solution, it is a longstanding resource that will remain so for Ohio.

To attract and retain businesses and residents, states across the country are investing in diverse, modern transportation systems that support all modes.  Ohio has a geographic advantage of being within 600 miles of over half of the U.S. and Canadian populations.  To leveraging this prime position, Ohio must invest in transit, bike/ped, rail, deep water ports, airports and highways. GOPC’s memos outline strategies to support and enhance all the modes that make up Ohio’s transportation system.

Click here to for more information and to access the memos.

Connecting Neighborhood Revitalization to “Green” Water Infrastructure

March 10th, 2016

By Colleen Durfee, GOPC Research Intern

Stormwater runoff and Combined Sewer Overflows (CSOs) are primary concerns of Ohio’s industrial legacy cities. In the midwest, we have long depended upon natural water sources for city and metro water needs but severe weather patterns, decades of unsustainable development, aging infrastructure, and fluctuating populations damage natural hydrological systems by allowing human produced bypass and overflow to enter them without being treated. Because of this, many municipalities are faced with needing to upgrade sewer and stormwater infrastructure. Whether mandated by the EPA or adopted independently, stormwater and sewer infrastructure upgrades are extremely expensive. However, municipalities are finding incorporating green infrastructure allows them to cut costs while meeting desired stormwater and CSO capture. Green stormwater and CSO infrastructure often require making more porous surfaces, meaning the land can act as a sponge and absorb the first inch or so of water during a storm rather than flowing on impervious surfaces until reaching a sewer system that overflows into rivers, streams, and lakes. In legacy cities where population and income decline leave abandoned and vacant land in their wake, we find an opportunity to kill two birds with one stone.

Click Here to Read Part I of GOPC’s Infrastructure and Brownfields Needs Assessment!

Repurposing vacant land for green infrastructure can also revitalize neighborhoods, attract populations, stimulate economic activity, and increase incomes and property values. In cities with brownfields and abandoned property, green infrastructure is a welcome alternative to letting the space remain unusable. Buffalo, NY is addressing the problem of population shrinkage by using abandoned and vacant land to “right-size”, incorporating green infrastructure into its urban core. In Ohio, Youngstown adopted a shrinking city policy as part of their comprehensive land-use plan, allowing them to incorporate porous surfaces and act as a location for wetland creation, fulfilling a need for companies to create wetlands under the wetland banking regulations. Cleveland, St. Louis, Milwaukee, and Cincinnati, are using abandoned lots for green infrastructure like rain gardens and storm basins as part of their overflow control plan.

Repurposing condemned and abandoned properties beautifies neighborhoods, decreases crime, enhances health, reduces urban heat index, and has long-term economic benefits. For municipalities riddled with abandoned properties –remnants of mid-twentieth century hay-day – opportunities to “right-size” while positively affecting stormwater runoff issues should be seized upon. Green infrastructure is not only cost effective but also efficient and adds benefits to the human experience, environment, and health far beyond fiscal viability. In the long term, green infrastructure upgrades will not only provide stormwater runoff and CSO benefits but create resilient and long-lasting communities that house more permanent residents, leading to economic, human, and environmental health.

GOPC Presents on Complete Streets and Active Transportation Policies

February 18th, 2016

The Greater Ohio Policy Center supports the establishment and implementation of a statewide complete streets policy.  Such a policy, also sometimes called an active transportation policy, means that roadways are sensitive to context and designed for all users. Roads with a complete streets treatment have sidewalks (with curb cuts), bike sharrows or lanes, safe and accessible public transportation stops, and traffic calming designs that keep motorists to the posted speed limit.

Currently Ohio does not have a robust statewide complete streets policy, although fifteen local municipalities and four metropolitan planning organizations have passed resolutions or local ordinances in support of complete streets.

For more information, please see GOPC’s recent presentation on the topic:

http://www.slideshare.net/greaterohio/active-transportationcomplete-streets-policies

Franklinton Residents Seek to Maximize Impact of Creative District Across Boundaries

February 5th, 2016

By Sheldon Johnson, Urban Revitalization Specialist

Last week a panel gathered at the Columbus Metropolitan Club (CMC) to discuss what Columbus Business First reporter Carrie Ghose called “a great urban experiment that is playing before us now.” The experiment she is referring to is the planned redevelopment of Columbus’ oldest neighborhood, Franklinton. The event saw lively discussion from Jim Sweeney, Executive Director of Franklinton Development Association (FDA), Dana Vallangeon, CEO of Lower Lights Christian Health Center, Nick Stanich, Director of Franklinton Gardens, and Trent Smith, Executive Director of the Franklinton Board of Trade (FBOT).

Franklinton was known for many years as an area struck by floods, disinvestment, and high rates of crime. The City of Columbus began a concerted effort towards redeveloping Franklinton in 2011 when then-Mayor Michael B. Coleman announced a partnership between the City of Columbus, the Columbus Metropolitan Housing Authority, a private developer called the Urban Growth Company, and the Franklinton Development Association (FDA) in his annual State of the City Address. Together these four partners sought to “market, incentivize, and build an affordable neighborhood tailored for live-work housing, for our city’s creative sector.” Mayor Coleman defined the creative sector as artists, designers, performers, media professionals, architects, engineers, techies, and marketers. In November 2012 the Columbus City Council adopted the East Franklinton Creative Community District Plan in order to direct the development of this affordable neighborhood for Columbus’ creative sector.

Nearly five years since Mayor Coleman announced his Franklinton plan, the neighborhood has seen the establishment of breweries, the Columbus Idea Foundry, bars, co-working spaces, and coffee shops. During her introduction to the CMC event, Laquore Meadows called Franklinton “the center of cool,” but reminded attendees that Franklinton was home to longtime residents prior to the influx of the creative sector. Can the new dawn of Franklinton be a rising tide to lift all boats? This question was at the forefront of the discussion among the three panelists at the CMC event. In response to a question about what additional investments should come to Franklinton, Stanich pointed out that the strong focus of economic activity pouring into the new creative district located east of State Route 315 was distinct from the largely residential area located west of the highway.

Vallangeon stated that the economic development occurring on the eastside of Franklinton presents an opportunity for more interest and good energy to be carried forward to the west side of the neighborhood. Smith expressed hope that events like the CMC panel will convince potential residents and business that the Real Franklinton is a great neighborhood to be in. Targeting resources in select areas in order to maximize impact is a key revitalization strategy that several Greater Ohio Policy Center partners are currently undertaking. The creation of intentional revitalization plans is key to the regeneration of many of Ohio’s urban areas.

GOPC Legislative Update January 2016

January 29th, 2016

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.

January Leg. Update Grid

Bills Available Online at www.legislature.ohio.gov

 

Updates on Key Bills: greater-ohio-flag

greater-ohio-flag HB 303 UPDATE: HB 303 continues to move smoothly through the legislative process and was referred to the Senate Financial Institutions Committee on January 20th. With the Ohio Housing Finance Agency’s support of HB 303, GOPC is optimistic members within the Senate will aptly receive the bill. GOPC offered Interested Party testimony on behalf of HB 303 and plans to continue offering support as it proceeds through committee within the Senate.

greater-ohio-flag HB 340 UPDATE: GOPC is happy to report that HB 340 was signed into law on December 22nd, just 9 days before the Local Government Innovation Council (LGIC) was set to expire. As we reported in December, HB 340 contained more than an emergency extension of the LGIC as it soon became known as a budgetary corrections bill as well. GOPC commends the Legislature for coming together to extend the LGIC, which has provided loans and grants for local government innovation projects to hundreds of communities across the state.

 greater-ohio-flag HB 233 UPDATE: HB 233 continues to move through the legislature as it was scheduled for a second hearing in the Senate Ways and Means Committee. Five witnesses testified as proponents to the bill, which included Youngstown State University President Jim Tressel; Shaker Heights Mayor Earl Leiken, the Canton Regional Chamber of Commerce, and the COO of the City of Toledo Eileen Granata. GOPC has offered interested party testimony for HB 233 while it was being vetted by the House, and we look forward to offering interested party testimony in a future hearing.

 greater-ohio-flag SB 232 UPDATE: Earlier this week, the Senate Government Oversight and Reform Committee heard proponent testimony for SB 232. The Ohio State Bar Association was the only organization that offered testimony in support of the bill. Currently, there is no legal protection between ex-spouses for real estate that passes by way of a transfer-on-death (TOD) affidavit or deed. SB 232 intends to bring TOD affidavits and deeds for real estate in line with other areas of the Revised Code. GOPC commends Senator Kevin Bacon (R-Franklin) for championing this corrective legislation and plans to offer support of the bill that will help establish consistency with respect to the legal effects of divorce, dissolution, and annulment on beneficiary designations.

 

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

HB 418 is sponsored by State Representative John Barnes (D-Cleveland). This bill proposes to enact the “Senior Housing Relief Act”, which will prohibit the sale of delinquent property tax certificates for homesteads owned for at least 20 years by a person aged 65 or older. Currently, local governments can place a lien on a property that is delinquent in property tax payments. HB 418 would remove properties that fall under the Senior Housing Relief Act from the list of parcels that may be selected for a tax certificate sale. HB 418 seeks to address an increasingly serious issue many Ohioans within the elderly community face. This bill will provide a much-needed supportive service to communities and will have positive long-term effects as it will keep people in their homes thus preventing blight.

 

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

GOPC’s 2015 Accomplishments & A Look Ahead

December 15th, 2015

Dec Newsletter Photo

Pictured from left: Alison Goebel, Lindsey Gardiner, Lavea Brachman, Meg Montgomery, Torey Hollingsworth, Sheldon Johnson, and Alex Highley.

2015 has been an eventful year around Ohio and has been filled with achievement and promise for GOPC. As a leader in championing revitalization and sustainable growth, GOPC has accomplished a lot in the past year, including:

Led Dialogue on Revitalization and Sustainable Regrowth in Ohio

  • Summit on Restoring Neighborhoods, Strengthening Economiesthat brought together national experts, state policymakers, and local leaders to recognize outstanding leadership and practices in revitalizing Ohio’s cities and to discuss new strategies to sharpen the state’s economic edge.
  • Roundtable on Rebuilding Neighborhood Markets to further GOPC’s effort to connect small business growth to areas with commercial vacant properties. The Neighborhood Development Center in St. Paul, MN and ProsperUS in Detroit, MI presented their successful models for property reuse.
  • Participated in over 15 events as speakers, panelists, or moderators

Successfully Influenced State Policy

  • Advanced Two Reforms for a Diversified Transportation System. GOPC is working with leading planning organizations—as well as other regional leaders—to develop and advance policies to support additional funding for public transit systems and multi-modal options throughout the state, as well as investment in existing infrastructure.
  • Helped Create Service Stations Cleanup Fund Program. GOPC offered interested party testimony to the Senate Finance Workforce Subcommittee on the Service Station Cleanup Fund. GOPC supported the creation of this program because it leverages initial investment for future economic development.

Published Original Research

  • Assessed Current State of Land Banking in Ohio. In May, GOPC released Taking Stock of Ohio County Land Banks: Current Practices and Promising Strategies , which analyzes how land banks operate in the larger context of community revitalization. The report highlights promising county land bank programs that have the potential to greatly contribute to sustainable economic and community redevelopment throughout Ohio.
  • Identified Challenges and Initial Solutions for Water & Sewer Infrastructure Improvements. With support from the Ohio Water Development Authority, GOPC recently released an Assessment of Needs for redeveloping sewer and water infrastructure to identify innovative financing options to assist communities with infrastructure modernization. GOPC is working with financing experts and MORPC and will release its Phase II recommendations in late 2016.
  • Financing in Opportunity Neighborhoods Report. This report analyzes neighborhoods in Ohio that are showing signs of stability but struggle to attract traditional financing because of credit gaps and other challenges. In this report, GOPC outlines potential interventions and innovative financing tools and strategies that can stabilize the housing market in these neighborhoods.

Provided Education and Strategic Assistance to Ohio’s Communities

  • Strategic Advice on the Formation of a Youngstown Center City Organization. GOPC is working the Wean Foundation and local partners to develop a process for creating a Youngstown Center City Organization. The YCCO will catalyze and coordinate economic development and community investment in Youngstown’s Central Business District and adjacent areas.
  • Commercial Vacant Property Redevelopment Webinars. GOPC partnered with the Ohio CDC Association to present four webinars as a “how to” for local leaders of legacy cities faced with commercial vacancies. Topics for the webinars included redevelopment planning, identifying successful tools and strategies, and overcoming financial gaps.
  • Continued Outreach to Practitioners and Leaders in Ohio’s Cities.  GOPC met regularly with leaders throughout the state around needed revitalization policies and policy reforms that will assist with neighborhood regeneration and sustainable redevelopment.

Coming in 2016…

In 2016, GOPC will continue working to ensure Ohio has robust, effective policies and practices that create revitalized communities, strengthen regional cooperation, and preserve Ohio’s green space by reducing sprawl. With partners from around the state and nation, GOPC will continue to investigate creative financing approaches to infrastructure improvements and neighborhood revitalization; advocate for a diversified transportation system, and support communities as they invest in themselves and their futures.

We believe GOPC offers strong leadership and unique skills to address critical issues and to ensure a prosperous future for the people of Ohio. And others agree; check out the New Video illustrating GOPC’s role in vital areas!

US EPA Case Studies on Vacant Land Feature Ohio Cities

November 11th, 2015

Re-posted from Youngstown Neighborhood Development Corporation: 

http://yndc.org/news-media/youngstown-featured-epa-vacant-land-case-studies

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.

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.

[1] http://docs.mvrpc.org/lrtp/2008/CHAPTERX.pdf

[2] http://brook.gs/1My01GD

[3] http://bit.ly/1KL6eY1

Cleveland & Lucas County Awarded Revitalization Assistance

September 18th, 2015

Congratulations to the city of Cleveland and Lucas County, Ohio for receiving the Technical Assistance Scholarship Program (TASP) from the Center for Community Progress! Via a competitive application process, Cleveland and Lucas County were two of the three communities to receive support in this round of technical assistance. Criteria for receiving this assistance were based on a number of factors including potential for innovation and demonstrated leadership to implement reform.

CCP will offer 200 hours of technical assistance to Cleveland and Lucas County in order to combat challenges such as property vacancy, abandonment, and tax delinquency currently facing these areas. Specifically, a team of national experts will lead staff trainings, provide legal and policy analysis, and publish tailored reports for improvement. The bulk of TASP’s leverage is made possible by JPMorgan Chase’s grant funding support. In this collaborative effort, JPMorgan Chase has shown a strong commitment to neighborhood revitalization through its support for the Center for Community Progress and local communities.