Carol Coletta has an awesome post up at GOOD. I’ve been skeptical of the concept of ‘regionalism’ for quite a while. For all the hype, all I’ve seen around me in Cleveland is suburban development at the expensive of the central city, Coletta provides some much needed clarity
Regionalism can be relatively easy to impose in regions with big, dominant core cities, such as New York and Chicago. In those regions, everyone knows what’s powering the economic engine, and no one can risk killing it off. The dominant city is favored, as it should be, in regional decisions because it’s in everyone’s clear interest to do so…
But in those regions with cities of equal size or with a weak central city, the conflicts are writ large. The conflicts are even sharper in regions with a history of racial and economic segregation. That’s challenge enough. The real problem comes when, in the name of regionalism, decision makers become place agnostic. In other words, they can’t favor any one place in the region for fear of offending every other place in the region. That translates into development anywhere in the region being labeled as good development. If a road is built in one part of the region, it must be equalized with a road in another part of the region. If a cultural facility is awarded to one place, the next sports facility should surely be built elsewhere.
Weak central city? Historic racial and economic segregation? Sounds like Cleveland to me.
It’s hard to swallow the claim that Eaton Corporation’s move from downtown Cleveland to a suburban development ten miles to the east will be miraculously beneficial for the metro area. The apparent apathy from Frank Jackson and other local leaders seems to be embedded in the belief that the move is in the name of ‘regionalism’ and thus must be worthwhile. When Jackson successfully picked off Crowe Horwath from Mayfield Heights, the PD article made this point clear:
Mayfield Heights is not one of the 18 suburbs that Jackson said have forged tax-sharing deals with the city in an effort to boost regionalism.
As if no effort would have been made to bring this firm downtown had they been part of the ‘regional pact’. It’s frustrating because we really appear to be willing to let the romantic idea of regionalism undermine our region anyway.