Category Archives: Politics

SB 310 — an Unprecedented Step Backwards for Ohio

On Wednesday, the Ohio Legislature approved a bill to freeze and dismantle the state’s clean energy provisions, making Ohio the first state to roll back its energy conservation and renewable energy standards. A vote on the House floor took place Wednesday, May 28; two weeks after the Ohio Senate passed the corporate polluter giveaways, known as Senate Bill 310. Governor Kasich has indicated that he will sign the legislation on Thursday, May 29.

In 2008, Governor Ted Strickland signed bipartisan clean energy legislation into Ohio law. At the time, it garnered only a single vote of opposition in the Ohio General Assembly. Yet, state lawmakers under pressure from FirstEnergy, and a national organization of major corporations known as the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC), have frozen Ohio’s clean energy progress in its tracks.

ALEC members include several of the nation’s biggest coal, oil, gas, and utility companies like American Electric Power, Duke Energy, and ExxonMobil. The group has repeatedly attempted, unsuccessfully, to dismantle cost-saving standards in Ohio, as well as in traditionally conservative states like Kansas and North Carolina. For ALEC-board member State Senator Bill Seitz of Cincinnati and Akron-based FirstEnergy, the nation’s largest investor-owned utility, the third time has proven a charm. Throughout the coverage of the bill, Ecowatch was the only Ohio-based media outlet that provided mention or information about ALEC.

The law has raised vocal opposition from environmental advocates, as well as the NAACP, Ohio veterans, consumer advocates, and manufacturers. Yet, Senator Seitz has mused that the 2008 law is a ‘Bataan Death March’ conducted by clean energy interests. These disrespectful comments came during testimony from Sierra Club’s Dan Sawmiller, a combat veteran who served in Iraq. Such remarks from the chair of Ohio’s Senate Public Utilities Committee make it critical the public understands what clean energy standards really dictate.

The 2008 law required utilities, such as FirstEnergy, to implement efficiencies to cut electricity consumption, especially during peak daily electricity demand, which typically occurs at about 5:30pm. This measure, paid by a rider billed to consumers, reduces high-end stress on the electric grid and fossil fuel-burning power plants, reduces air, water, and carbon pollution, and reduces prices for consumers. Naturally, if top-line demand is reduced, prices drop. Former Ohio Consumers’ Counsel Senior Energy Policy Advisor Wilson Gonzalez has testified that consumers save from $1.70 to $3.90 for every dollar they pay on their bill rider.

The law also requires utilities to install renewable generation from wind and solar sources. General Electric recently produced a report for PJM Interconnection, the company overseeing Ohio’s entire electrical grid, stating that PJM’s regional market can reliably handle as much as 30 percent renewable energy while lowering costs for customers.

But lower prices and savings for Ohioans are direct revenue losses for utility monopolies, and FirstEnergy CEO Tony Alexander, who made $23 million in 2013, doesn’t get paid to lose. That is why FirstEnergy has made dismantling the standards their legislative priority since 2012.

A derisive post from the Facebook page of Matt Brakey, of Brakey Energy and the Industrial Energy Users

Alongside a hastily assembled group of golf-playing white men called the Industrial Energy Users, utilities have taken to using their financial and political clout to propel SB 310 through the legislature. With the help of corporate allies in Ohio Chamber of Commerce and the Greater Cleveland Partnership, they have drowned out arguments to protect Ohioans’ clean energy savings. Such messaging undermines the great work by small-business advocates- and local best actors on energy efficiency- Council for Small Enterprise (or COSE).

Ohio Senate President Keith Faber quoted in the Columbus Dispatch:

“What we want to do as a legislature is put procedures in place that are based on evidence and science, not based on ideas that happened back when we thought Solyndra was going to be a good investment for the federal government.”

Denying science and the threats of increasingly volatile climate is nothing new for Ohio Republicans, but not even the Solyndra comparison holds water. Iberdola’s Blue Creek Wind Farm in Van Wert and Paulding Counties was the largest investment in Ohio in 2011 at $600 million. This wind farm currently sells The Ohio State University a quarter of its Columbus campus’ energy needs, agreed to in a contract and saves the university $1 million a year, for 20 years. Ohio wind farms pay $3.6m per year in property taxes, and $2.5m per year in land lease payments to landowners.

“We’ve spent $1.1 billion since 2009 on energy efficiency. … I’m not quite sure what we’ve gotten out of it,” Faber said.

Answer: Energy resources at less than $0.01/kwh (vs. market rate of $.06-.11/kwh). For a local example, the Cleveland Orchestra’s facility manager testified to the Public Utilities Commission of Ohio that they cut their utility bill in half through FirstEnergy’s efficiency program.

Cost of Saved Energy Results by State chart via LBNL


Cutting demand through energy efficiency and real-time demand response (i.e. ‘turn off that light’) programs are far and away the cheapest and cleanest ways to make additional energy resources available. When one considers the health benefits of clean energy, such as lowering the incidence of asthma and emissions-related health issues, the 2008 standards are not nearly ambitious enough.

Zach Roberts, Ohio director for Operation Free, a veterans’ group working to address climate change and energy policy has characterized the rollback efforts as a “dramatic and draconian” attack on clean energy. Veterans like Roberts and Sawmiller certainly recognize the consequences of energy policy and conflict. They are also realists who recognize the immense threats of an increasingly volatile climate.

Ohio’s ever-hedging Governor Kasich, in a dubious call for moderation, pared down original legislation to a ‘temporary freeze,’ but has still signed on to provisions that would dismantle Ohio’s clean energy industries. Ohio is the first and only state to roll back its clean energy standards.

Unfortunately, FirstEnergy and ALEC have deep pockets. Campaign contributions tell a story of Northeast Ohio Democrats paid to collaborate with a pro-polluter agenda. Both Senator Shirley Smith and Representative Sandra Williams, running for Smith’s senate seat, have voted for SB 310. Each of them point to their well-intended amendments to protect low-income people, but neither will preserve customers’ on-bill savings, which are derived from energy conservation and renewables. Cleveland’s majority-black east side children suffer from asthma at a rate of nearly 1 in 4, and will actually see a deterioration of local air quality, and steady increase in ozone action days.

Given the true popularity of clean energy and the accompanying savings, it is clear that Ohio is facing a critical test of its democratic values against the power of corporate fossil fuel interests. On Monday, the US EPA is releasing rules to limit carbon dioxide pollution from coal-fired power plants. Naturally, the Ohio legislature is mobilizing to opt the state out of reducing Ohio’s emissions.

Due to its high proportion of coal in its energy portfolio, the state of Ohio is the 4th highest emitter of carbon dioxide in the nation. Where more immediate public health is concerned, Ohio is the 2nd highest emitter of mercury in the nation, and Lake Erie the most mercury-polluted of the Great Lakes. (That hasn’t stopped Ohio’s Republican Senator Rob Portman from voting to dismantle standards to reduce mercury pollution.)

Ohio needs to keep expanding affordable clean energy in Ohio, to keep reducing toxic air emissions and carbon pollution, and to preserve its clean energy workforce that stands 30,000-strong. Through the mass organizing efforts of its labor unions and local communities in 2011, Ohio was able to reject SB 5 and the right-to-work for lower wages. Our state now faces a test of accepting global scientific consensus, bucking its polluter monopolies, and securing the public the clean air, clean water, and monthly savings they deserve. If we fail to act now we will be failing our future generations’ health and welfare

By Akshai Singh

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How Big, Taxpayer-Funded Development Works in Cleveland

There are 6 steps:

#1. Powerful individuals decide on a concept for a big project behind closed doors.

#2. They line up the support of a handful of “community representatives” whose support they need. Heretofore, these folks will do all the work of promoting the project.

#3. A “study” is completed, paid for by the powerful people whose idea it was. The study, everyone understands, is to be a marketing tool, not an actual investigation of the project’s merits. No alternative concepts will receive formal study. The “study” will claim the powerful people’s idea will generate thousands of jobs. (As if large amounts of public spending could take place without some jobs being created.)

#4. A sham public process takes place. This is designed not really to incorporate public feedback but to make the process seem democratic and manufacture consent for the concept that was already decided a long time ago behind viagra closed doors.

#5. Our “community representatives” from step 2 do a big media campaign, repeating carefully chosen talking points about how great it will be generic cialis for the city and how many jobs will be produced. The media — which is very much a part of the power structure and answers to the same people — uncritically accepts the claims. When project critics are even acknowledged by the press, their perspective is outnumbered four-to-one by supporters who are on friendly terms with the media representatives.

#6. Clevelanders generally get on board after being inundated with information about how positive the proposal will be. If they don’t get on board, it what happens if a woman takes viagra might not matter anyway. In most cases, the consent of only a few key individuals is needed, and their positions of authority rest on complying with the idea.

The “Opportunity Corridor” and the sin tax extension are both great examples of this. Notice how in this article about the Opportunity Corridor, the ODOT spokesperson points to three changes they made as a result of public feedback. The three changes are so minor, it’s sort of amazing she seems to take pride in pointing them out. But that’s the way the process was designed. They can allow the public a few very minor changes — to make it look like their opinions matter — and really even that they feel like they should be applauded for.

Is this ever going to change? Because honestly, Columbus and Pittsburgh seem to be getting too smart for this kind of bullshit. Is that the difference between a 13 percent college attainment level and a 32 percent?

Theory: Perhaps a feedback loop where civic “elites” prey on the relative ignorance and desperation of the population, which in turn repels smart people, which makes the population that much more ignorant, desperate and pliable.

Who knows? I’m open to alternative interpretations.

–Angie Schmitt


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Ohio and the Fate of the "Big Eight"

The 2010 Census produced mixed results for America’s “legacy cities,” that is deindustrialized cities located primarily, but not exclusively, in the Midwest and in the Mid-Atlantic states. While east coast cities like Newark and Philadelphia actually posted population gains, Midwestern Rust Belt cities generally continued their long slide down in terms of population growth. This proved especially true in the state of Ohio, formerly a key manufacturing hub and once arguably the heartland of Industrial North America. For not only have Ohio’s major cities continued to shrink, their population loss actually ACCELERATED from 2000 to 2010. The same largely holds true for the shrinking counties that are home to Ohio’s seven withering major cities.

All of this leads to a central question: How long will it be before Ohio itself loses population? Much is at stake. Not just tax bases, representation in the house, and federal funding, but national relevance. With the decline of the Upper Midwest/Great Lakes region, Ohio’s internal decay is even more of a pressing issue.

The state has been traditionally known for its “Big Eight” cities: Columbus, Cleveland, Cincinnati, Toledo, Akron, Dayton, Canton, and Youngstown. All of these cities, save the capital city of Columbus, owe their existence to the explosion in manufacturing in the nineteenth and early twentieth century. Cleveland was an early leader in automotive production before diversifying into other manufacturing sectors as the twentieth century wore on. Youngstown was a steel center, known as “America’s Ruhr Valley.” Dayton’s manufacturing muscle grew on, among other things, automobiles, foundries, and printing plants. Toledo was also known for auto manufacturing and the glass industry.

Suburbanization in the post-war era and deindustrialization hit Ohio’s cities as hard as any in the nation. From the early 1970s to the mid 1980s, Ohio’s manufacturing employment dropped by nearly 20 percent. Simultaneously, Ohio’s metropolitan areas decentralized. Seven of the Big Eight began to crumble, albeit at various speeds. The deterioration in the economic and social fortunes of Ohio’s cities through the 1980s has been well covered in a variety of venues. What has been less mentioned is that, unlike east coast legacy cities, the decline of Ohio’s major cities accelerated from 2000 to 2010. And according to 2012 U.S. Census Bureau estimates, the decline continues.

Figure one is a comparison of the change in population for seven of Ohio’s Big Eight from the 2000 to 2010 census.

Figure 1

Every one of these cities experienced a larger decline in 2010 than they did in 2000. Cleveland’s collapse is particularly shocking, as are Dayton and Youngstown’s double-digit losses. Even Akron, somewhat of a success story, experienced a surprising drop in 2010. After seeing a substantial improvement in its population numbers in 2000, the city registered its largest population decline since 1980 in the year 2010. The 2012 census estimates look equally dismal: Only one out of 15 Ohio cities with a population of over 50,000 managed not to lose residents. Two of Ohio’s cities (Cleveland and Youngstown) were among the seven fastest shrinking cities in the entire nation during that period. Youngstown was the country’s fastest shrinking city.

Counties containing a major shrinking city are on a similar path of continued contraction. With the exception of Stark and Summit in 2000, accelerated population loss has become the norm, as figure two below shows.

Figure 2

(Chart shows negative population loss. Negative numbers are positive)

Lucas County, Mahoning, and Cuyahoga experienced large decreases in the period from 2000 to 2010. Cuyahoga, home to the second largest city in the state, is the fastest shrinking county in the state. Mahoning County in particular faces a troubled future. Between the middle of 2008 and the middle of 2009, Mahoning had more deaths than births. This is termed “negative natural increase.” Once a county experiences a cycle of negative natural increase, it is likely to re-enter the cycle again at some point.

The population decrease of the state’s major cities and counties is almost certainly a prelude to state population loss; a major sign is the disappearance of young people, a problem especially centered in counties housing the state’s largest cities. Cuyahoga County’s under-18 population dipped 16 percent between 2000 and 2010. In fact, Ohio’s drop in people under 18 was the third worst in the nation.

Ohio’s manufacturing employment wasn’t just hard hit during the seventies and eighties. At the beginning of the century Ohio had nearly a million manufacturing jobs. A little over a decade later just under 350,000 of those jobs remained. Manufacturing is the crucial piece of the economic puzzle in Ohio. And as the “recovery” begins to pick up steam, especially for automobile production and pipe production for energy exploration, manufacturing will continue to be a centerpiece of the state domestic product. However, it’s unlikely job growth will ever return to the numbers seen in the nineties, much less the seventies. Also present is a significant skills gap, particularly in distressed urban communities, between what modern manufacturing employers are demanding and what job seekers possess. Lost manufacturing jobs are particularly troubling considering that average compensation in manufacturing for the year 2009 was nearly $68,000, while non-farm, non-manufacturing sectors averaged only about $42,000.

As important as the decline in manufacturing jobs is for the state, there are other negative long-term indicators. According to the Brookings Institute, “Ohio underperformed the national average on employment in every industry from 2000 to 2008. Ohio’s shrinking industries are declining faster than its growing industries are gaining ground.” There have been bright spots, like the creation of the National Additive Manufacturing Innovation Institute in Youngstown or the Evergreen Cooperatives in Cleveland-a green worker co-op that’s part of a highly innovative “Cleveland Model.” The model partners community co-ops and anchor institutions (like universities and hospitals) with a large local footprint that could utilize services in their surrounding communities. Still, it’s unclear how long these initiatives will take to have a measurable impact. And time is not on the side of the “Big Seven.”

The term Big Seven denotes the absence of the capital city of Columbus. Unlike the others, Columbus has seemingly prospered while urban flight and deindustrialization ate away at her brethren. Columbus’ diversified economy traditionally buffered it from the extremely cyclical nature of Ohio’s manufacturing cities. And while sprawl devastated other cities in the state, Columbus annexed outlying areas, withholding the extension of water lines to areas that might resist incorporation into the city. Annexation disguises the low-density nature of the city. The urban core of Columbus has been hit hard by foreclosure and disinvestment. The near east side and south side are also experiencing disinvestment, yet, Columbus is drawing people from all over Ohio. It is the only one of the Big Eight with a growing population.

Franklin County, however, which Columbus dominates, has a child poverty rate of almost 27 percent.[vii] For several years child poverty in Ohio has eclipsed the national average; approximately one in four children live in poverty. Black child poverty in Ohio is three times higher than all other child poverty. The percentage of black children living in poverty in Ohio’s Big Eight is much higher than the state average. In 2003, over 40 percent of black children in Youngstown, Toledo, Akron, Cleveland, Cincinnati, and Canton lived below the poverty line. In 2011, that number was over 50 percent in Toledo and around 56 percent in Youngstown.

Ohio is now very likely to join Michigan as the only other state in the union to have lost population. While recent census estimates show a very slight uptick in growth, long-term trends are more than enough to reverse this. Overall population growth is trending in the wrong direction. Ohio’s metropolitan areas are no closer to resolving long-standing conflicts between city and suburb; instead, shrinking counties are home to a polyglot of municipalities fighting over ever-decreasing economic pies. The federal government has long been an absentee voice in the realm of urban issues, so what is being done at the state level? States have toolboxes that can hinder or help cities. Ohio’s poor record on fostering municipal cooperation, encouraging sprawl and green field development, as well as failing to invest in twenty first century transportation infrastructure, is more than discouraging-it’s akin to promoting spatial suicide. Since Ohio’s 2005 tax cut-that largely benefited top-earners-job growth in every sector has trailed the national average. From 2005 to 2009, Ohio eliminated its corporate income tax, instead establishing a “commercial activity tax” in 2010. Unfortunately corporations are multi-state enterprises and are likely to invest such tax breaks in places other than Ohio, which is apparently what happened. Since 2005, only three other states have worse job growth rates.

Ohio’s budget for 2014 and 2015 also features income tax cuts (mostly benefiting the wealthy, again) and an increase in the regressive sales tax. Tax cuts up to $250,000 for small business owners won’t add up to much of a stimulus when most small business owners make under $30,000 a year. Estate taxes, the majority of which fund local government, are now gone. Distressed cities in Ohio will likely have to enact further reductions in services, which in turn will make them even less desirable places to live.

Ohio is in crisis mode, whether the state government realizes it or not. Seven out of Ohio’s eight major cities are in various states of decline or even collapse. The economy is moribund on many levels. The decline of manufacturing employment is hurting working class families at a time when few opportunities for college graduates are driving more young people to the Sun Belt and elsewhere. As the Greater Ohio Policy Center points out, “Ohio’s seven largest metro areas are home to 71 percent of its population, 76 percent of its jobs, and 80 percent of the states’ gross domestic product.” With accelerating blight and population loss, metropolitan fragmentation, and a disconnected state government more interested in restricting access to abortion than in increasing access to education and jobs for low-income households, Ohio faces a race to the bottom of states in terms of opportunity and quality of life.

–Sean Posey

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Al Jazeera Looks at Cleveland's Infant Mortality Crisis

#1. This is such an important story. I just want to say a couple things. First of all, Christ, what these women and families are going through.

#2. How great is that woman in Hough?

#3. I also thought the city of Cleveland’s response was frustrating and typical: defensiveness. They should have just said, we know we have a big problem, it is a systemic problem that we have limited ability to control. I sorta get why Cleveland is defensive. When something like this comes to light, they’re immediately sort of blamed, when really, deindustrialization, suburbanization, lousy state politics and a lot of larger forces that are outside of their control deserve a lot of the blame. But still, very disappointing response. Come on, city of Cleveland! You look totally ridiculous in this film.

#4. Also, it looks like the officials in the statehouse now may actually pull it together and expand Medicaid in Ohio. That would be such a godsend for Cleveland families. I’m not a religious person, but if I prayed, I would be praying for Ohio’s leaders to come to their senses and pass that legislation. To not do so, would be an outright abdication of their duty to the people of Ohio.

#5. Kris Jordan of Powell wants premature babies to “earn it” and “avoid handouts.” What a heartless bonehead.

#6. ❤ Charleta Tavares.

-Angie Schmitt

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Ten Lessons from European Industrial Cities

Dublin - Soure:

I’ve had the distinct privilege and honor of visiting the great cities of Dublin, Ireland; Glasgow, Scotland; and Manchester, England over the past four years. All three of these industrial revolution-era urban centers can provide America’s Rust Belt with valuable insights about overcoming past malaise and degradation to chart a new economic paradigm. Here are ten lessons I have learned from visiting them and observing what makes all three so vibrant:

  • Cities can be reborn again and again, as long as they are not abandoned.
  • Discarding and demolishing a city’s physical history or its cultural legacy leave little from which to build a strong foundation for the future.
  • Plan and design every project with pedestrians, cyclists, and transit in mind.
  • Mixed uses are a great catalyst for rejuvenation, especially when residential uses are a part of the equation.
  • Density is imperative, provided it remains at a human scale.
  • Focus precious transportation resources on public transit, particularly modes such as commuter rail and light rail.
  • Government participation is critical – the private and non-profit sectors have a role, but they cannot do it all.
  • Art and cultural vibe – both traditional and trendsetting – are tremendously important.
  • Remain open to bold and possibly contentious new ideas, designs, and/or methods for accomplishing goals.
  • Accentuate the positive, but be sure to also address the negative.

– Rick Brown

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Michigan's Spending Priorities Through the Eyes of a Young Expat

What’s sadder guys? The fact that the powers that be in Michigan think widening I-94 and I-75 will help their economy, or the above Youtube video? Tough call, I think.

Michigan expat Erica Flock is allowing us to publish this letter she wrote to Rob Morosi at the Michigan Department of Transportation regarding the Detroit region’s plans to spend close to four billion widening two highways.


Dear Mr. Morosi,

Last month during a visit to my family in Michigan, I stood on RiverWalk overlooking the Detroit River. I don’t recall ever seeing the river up close and was delighted by how blue and crisp it was, much like the Great Lakes system it feeds into. After years of living in Washington DC, I’m used to the brackish brown color of the Potomac River. Don’t get me wrong. I love the Potomac River: the majesty of Great Falls National Park, kayaking under the historic Key Bridge, the forests that line its shores.

But when I look into the Detroit River, or walk the rolling dunes of Lake Michigan, or search for Petoskey stones with my nieces and nephew on the beaches of Lake Huron, I feel such an ache for the unique beauty of this state. The designation “pure” is appropriate. Despite the pollution I know is there, despite the invasive muscles and carp and shrinking water levels, “pure” is the precise word that comes to mind when I look at the horizon and see blue glacial lake meeting a blue sky. There is no place like this on earth.

My feelings toward Michigan’s built environment are another thing entirely.

When I was a kid, I didn’t know that the way American cities — and particularly cities in Southeast Michigan — were designed was unusual from a global perspective. It seemed self-evident that the only way to get around was by car.

But when I visited Ireland in 2003, I was surprised to discover that many of the Irish 20-somethings I met had never gotten a drivers license. Their compact cities didn’t require it. Years later, I envied the Japanese and Germans their beautiful, widely used, and efficient public transit systems: the yellow trams quietly criss-crossing Berlin, the humming bullet train from Nagoya to Kyoto. And then I saw incredible videos of rush hour bike traffic in Copenhagen and learned that 63% of the Danish Parliament gets to work by bike every day.

The US was supposed to be such a rich country. Why didn’t we have this stuff?

I later learned that some US cities did in fact, have this stuff (sans bullet train): Boston, Philadelphia, Seattle, San Francisco, etc. They all had rail and bus networks that put my home state to shame.

When I moved to Washington DC in 2012, I sold my car and joined the 37% of DC residents who get around solely by Metro, buses, bikes and walking. Within the next year, we’ll also have a new streetcar, a new Metro line and bikeshare stations extending to more cities (the system just celebrated 5 million rides). Despite the explosive growth of the DC’s population, its car count has remained relatively steady because of the many options we have to get around. Metro DC certainly has its own well-known transportation problems, but it’s undeniably easier to live here without a car.

In light of this, my twice-yearly family visits to Michigan always frustrate me. I can’t see my friends in Canton or Ann Arbor without borrowing a car from my busy parents. I can’t walk to the grocery store or bike safely to the nearest rail-trail. There is no pedestrian traffic to enliven the center of my hometown. There is no center of my hometown. The many lakes scattered about Waterford provide some semblance of public space, but that’s only by nature’s fortuitous accident. Thoughtless sprawl has left huge blemishes like the empty Summit Place Mall in Pontiac on our landscape.

Having been spoiled by transportation options in other places, it seems so obvious to me where Michigan should be putting its resources: into a robust rail and bus system that would seamlessly connect Detroit and its suburbs, zoning laws that encourage mixed-use, infill & pedestrian friendly development, traffic calming measures, and green infrastructure.

SEMCOG echoes these observations in their 2040 Regional Transportation Plan:

“One of the guiding principles of the Plan is that transit service in the region must be significantly improved in order to attract the same levels of ridership that exists in thriving metropolitan areas across the country. There are several reasons for this principle including: the need to attract and retain young professionals, the need to connect people to jobs, and the need to address the challenges presented by a rapidly increasing elderly population.”

I’m happy to see that SEMCOG is making some inroads here with M1 and the Detroit-Ann Arbor commuter rail. But when the same agency approves a $4 billion dollar highway-widening project for I-94 and I-75, I question their commitment to such a vision.

I hear MDOT leadership saying that “expansion” is a mischaracterization of the project. If that’s the case, why are lanes being added to these highways? Michigan’s population, jobs and vehicle miles driven have all fallen over the last decade and multiple studies have shown that widening roads does not ease congestion.

What will the price of gas be in 5, 10, 20 years? At what point will driving become a financially crippling choice? For 25% of Detroiters, it already is: they don’t own cars despite the poor service provided by the region’s bus system. Energy prices are sure to rise in the years ahead. Our current system isn’t designed for this unavoidable scenario, and yet MDOT and SEMCOG continue to spend precious resources propping it up.

SEMCOG has pointed out that Metro Detroit ranks 22nd out of 25 metro areas in terms of transit operating funds and 23rd in transit service. Now that we have a regional transit authority, we have a great opportunity to re-define our future.

As a Millennial and an expat from Southeast Michigan, I want to add my voice to the scores of residents who have already movingly expressed their opposition to the I-94 and I-75 projects. This region is in desperate need of a new transportation paradigm, one that matches the vibrancy of its people and natural resources, and these highway projects will only delay that vision, at great social and financial cost. Please reconsider going ahead with this development.


Erica Flock

Washington, DC (Formerly Waterford, MI)

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Shared Responsibility for Detroit's Woes


As a Michigander for the past 21 years, I’ve heard my share of Detroit criticisms, jokes, and put downs, both from within and outside the Great Lakes State. While fingers can be  pointed at the lack of past civic and political leadership in Detroit, our collective actions (or lack thereof) can certainly share in the responsibility. Some may scoff at such a notion, but here’re a few reasons why:

  • As a nation we elected leaders who adopted a tax code and laws that advocated, promoted, and accelerated flight from cities and suburban sprawl. Many in this nation continue to support such policies. Granted, this affects every city, but that doesn’t mean it was beneficial for them unless they had scads of excess land for new subdivisions or the ability to annex freely.
  • As a nation, we collectively turned our backs on inner cities and the residents thereof many years ago, only seeing fit to reverse course when the notion of revitalization became profitable.
  • As a state, Michigan has some of the most arcane home rule laws that created thousands of 36 square mile “kingdumbs” (pun intended) that fight with each other like cats and dogs and seldom do the right thing.
  • This nation very nearly turned its collective back on the auto industry due to political self-interest.
  • As a state and nation we allowed expressways, poorly placed factories, urban renewal projects, sports stadiums, and other projects to carve up and displace perfectly healthy inner city neighborhoods, leaving a tattered and disjointed landscape.
  • Residents/politicians living in outstate Michigan from Detroit would short-sightedly say, act, and vote as if Detroit was not their problem too.
  • In Southeast Michigan, leaders and residents alike outside of Wayne County often could care less what happened south of Eight Mile.
  • One of the best interurban transit systems in the nation was torn up and replaced by diesel-belching buses that have as many endearing qualities as a lump of coal.
  • Corporations ran away from the city in the ’60s and ’70s…with some finally seeing the light of their actions and returning to Detroit in the ’00s and ’10s.
  • Half of Detroit’s professional sport franchises left for the ‘burbs with one, the Pistons, still playing practically closer to Flint than Detroit.
  • Far too many lenders and insurance companies red-lined inner city neighborhoods.
  • Shady lenders who offered inner city loans foreclosed on homeowners the first chance they got.
  • Absentee landlords let their properties decline into disrepair and blight.
  • Politicians shied away from making the tough decisions, and rhetoric replaced reason in far too many discussions and decisions concerning Detroit.
  • Too many people in Southeast Michigan acted like the city was an island unto itself, when, like it or not, their collective futures have been inexorably linked to Detroit’s fate.
  • Up until recent years, the national media tended to solely focus on the bad news  about Detroit. There are many great things about Detroit, and piling on does nothing to reverse problems: it only reinforces misperceptions and stereotypes.

Shall I go on?

– Rick Brown


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