The Downside of Regionalism

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.

-Rob Pitingolo


Filed under Economic Development, Headline, regionalism, The Big Urban Photography Project

5 responses to “The Downside of Regionalism

  1. Special K

    Good point. I think a lot of people use this buzzword without really knowing what it means.

  2. Thanks for the cross post. Interesting to see how this relates to the local situation in Cleveland.

  3. It really gets to a central problem with all collectivism. “Sharing”, can make it very easy to hide and evade things by sweeping them under a huge rug. But in the end, a bad banks, corrupt politicians, bad design still exist. Linking 50 disfunctional areas together doesn’t make them work better– in fact it just helps them hide their problems. Towns beg cash off counties which beg from states which then need Federal bailouts. The Dollar is dropping like a stone.

    I would argue for example that even NYC would be better off as 5 separate cities which would all have work harder at blocking and tackling.

    Right now, Manhattan carries most of the city’s tax load. I was just walking around Long Island City just accross the river from Midtown. If Queens was an independent city, it would have long, long ago worked to make the kind of dense mixed use development that worked so well in Manhattan.The same is true of Brooklyn’s downtown and waterfront. These places could sit on their ass because they could always count on Manhattan’s tax base.

  4. Guess you might know about that great big rug, Rob? The FED is the ultimate one?

    Care to tell us what toxic crap is under the FED’s rug? I don’t mean to get personal, but the central issue is the same. Hiding problems or sharing problems doesn’t equal fixing them which is what sooner or later you have to do.

  5. Doesn’t look like the markets want to guess about what’s going on at the FED anymore, gold is up 16 dollars so far in Asia and rising against almost all paper currencies.

    This brings me back to the topic. The ultimate form of “Regionalism” is Nationalism. I mean, the same issues raised about regionalism at the local level can be logically extended to the national one.

    As Washington transfers more and more power away from states and the country slides towards bankruptcy or hyperinflation, the semi responsible states are starting to seriously think about Secession from the sinking ship.

    The same thing is happening in Europe as the “regional sharing” is feeling a lot more like pillage and rape.

    It’s not a total surprise that some of the world’s best government’s developed in small city states like Hong Kong and Singapore that had no access to bailouts from a regional ATM machine.

Leave a Reply to John Morris Cancel reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s