Winning nearly $5 million from federal and local funding sources to create a plan for regional sustainability was the easiest part of establishing a coordinated plan to address the rapid abandonment of Cleveland's urban areas for unplanned, exurban development, observes Schmitt.
"Of course, winning a grant and mustering the political will to do some actual transformative planning are two different things. Right now there is a fierce internal struggle going on within Northeast Ohio's Sustainable Communities Consortium (NEOSCC), and the outcome could determine whether the region puts the $5 million grant to good use or wastes a rare opportunity."
More than a year after NEOSCC began the planning process, little progress has been made and an internal reorganization has exposed conflicts over the desired magnitude and focus of the plan, writes Schmitt.
"NEOSCC is made up of a broad cross-section of regional interests - rural, suburban and urban officials; representatives from communities of color; highway proponents; bike advocates; environmentalists; business leaders. Younger, more progressive factions want to discuss planning tools that seem daring in Cleveland, like urban growth boundaries, while others - namely those with a long history of government service in Northeast Ohio - say it's not even worth discussing."
"Regions around the country are adopting a new 'technology' - land use planning - to make their cities cleaner, more efficient, healthier and more equitable. Will greater Cleveland reject this new technology – like the Aborigines of Northeast Australia rejected bows and arrows - and further resign itself to becoming a once-great but fallen empire?"