Cleveland Struggles To Turn Talk Into Action On Regionalism

Following up on a series from three years ago, the Cleveland Plain Dealer finds that much hopeful talk on the benefits of regional cooperation have yet to translate into actual reform.

"Three years ago, The Plain Dealer began publishing 'A Region Divided,' a series exploring how Cuyahoga County and its 59 communities might benefit by eliminating duplicated services, sharing taxes across political boundaries and planning with a regional view. The series created a buzz, particularly an installment that showed how consolidating municipal fire departments could save tax dollars and improve safety."

"Our leaders have begun talking about cooperative approaches to economic development and re ducing poverty. But much of the talk has yet to result in action. So, the newspaper will try again. Today, we launch 'A Region Uniting?' Note the question mark. The new series will pose lots of questions."

"Leaders elsewhere in the nation do more than talk about getting together, said Bruce Katz, director of the Metropolitan Policy Program at the Brookings Institution, a Washington, D.C., think tank. Regionalism is gaining momentum worldwide, he said."

"But Cleveland and other older metropolitan areas of the Midwest, carved in Old World style into dozens of small communities, have trouble forging agreements, he said. Reaching agreement here seems next to impossible when talk turns to such ideas as sharing taxes or consolidating school districts."

"Lakewood Mayor Tom George suggests that many of us resist regional thinking because of a false sense of well- being in our far-flung suburbs. Some black residents, who waited decades to gain political clout in Cleveland, are equally wary of regionalism's impact."

Full Story: Reacting with lip service -- and lead feet

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