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The failure to [invest in cities] will be not only the demise and destruction of urban centers...but it will be, in my opinion, the destruction and demise of a country that will go bankrupt.— Mayor Frank G. Jackson
By all accounts, Cleveland is struggling. The city lost more population than any other big city in America in 2007, ranked sixth highest in foreclosures last year, and has a chilling unemployment rate of 7.7% that beats the national average by 2 percentage points. This Forbes article even considers Cleveland one of the nation’s “fastest-dying cities”.
Yet, the Brookings Institution has pointed out that 81% of Ohio’s population is contained in and 87% of its economic output is generated from the state’s metro areas. This suggests that neglecting urban areas like Cleveland puts at risk the vast majority of the social and economic resources contained within the state.
Mayor Frank Jackson of Cleveland understands the potential of Cleveland and the potential of the nation’s metro areas. While other superdelegates waited for the candidates for Democratic nominee to court them, Mayor Jackson released an urban agenda and suggested he would back whichever candidate pledged most support for this urban revitalization plan.
The $120.25 billion urban agenda (with a five-year price tag of $601.25 billion) ranges from renewed CDBG funds to infrastructure projects, from supporting federal mandates to resources for education, from community policing to public health.
While the agenda is certainly a wish list (no matter how practical a wish list it might be), Mayor Jackson reminded MayorTV in an interview that the federal government recently spent more than $150 billion on a short-term stimulus package. As Mayor Jackson explains, the long-term benefits of urban investment make his plan cost-effective:
“The [urban] agenda I released is really not that expensive. We were talking about $120 billion a year for five years. As you know, most recently, Washington had a stimulus package that was much more than that and probably wouldn’t do but a percentage of what could have been done if they spent it better in an urban agenda.”
In fact, Mayor Jackson believes the only way the country will go bankrupt is if we do not invest in our urban areas:
“The failure to [invest in cities] will be not only the demise and destruction of urban centers…but it will be, in my opinion, the destruction and demise of a country that will go bankrupt.”
Cleveland’s Urban Landscape
Population of Cleveland as of July 1, 2007: 438,042
Population of Cleveland as of July 1, 2000: 476,593
Rank of Cleveland among cities in the United States on the Economist Intelligence Unit’s 2005 list of the best cities in the world to live in: 1 (tied with Pittsburgh)
Median household income in Cleveland (in 2006): $26,535
Median household income in the U.S. (in 2006): $48,451
Percentage of families below the poverty level in Cleveland: 22.2
Percentage of families below the poverty level in the U.S.: 9.8
Unemployment rate in the Cleveland metropolitan area in June, 2008: 7.7%
Unemployment rate in Ohio in June, 2008: 6.7%
Rank of the Cleveland metropolitan area on RealtyTrac’s listing of the top foreclosure rates in the nation in 2007: 6
Number of banks sued by the city of Cleveland for their role in the foreclosure crisis: 21
Projected decrease in Cleveland’s revenue from 2007 to 2008: 2.2%