Category Archives: The Media

'Smartest' US Cities Have a Rusty Tint


According to a June 6, 2012 piece by Richard Florida published by The Atlantic Cities, a recent analysis by Lumosity shows that more than half of the 25 smartest cities in the United States are situated in the Rust Belt. In order to calculate the smartest metropolitan areas, the article indicates that the following research methodology was utilized:

“…scientists at Lumosity tracked the cognitive performance of more than one million users in the United States on their games, mapping them across U.S. metros using IP geolocation software. Individual scores were recorded in five key cognitive areas: memory, processing speed, flexibility, attention, and problem solving.The data was normalized into a basic brain performance index controlling for age and gender. Only metros with more than 500 observations were included. The data cover 169 metros.”

Based on the research, below is the list of America’s 25 brainiest metros, according to Lumosity’s metrics, with the city’s ranking in parentheses:

  • Lafayette, Indiana (2)
  • Madison, Wisconsin (4)
  • Cedar Rapids-Waterloo-Iowa City & Dubuque, Iowa (6)
  • Johnstown-Altoona, Pennsylvania (8)
  • Champaign & Springfield-Decatur, Illinois (9)
  • Minneapolis-St. Paul, Minnesota/Wisconsin (10)
  • Rochester, New York (13)
  • Lansing, Michigan (16)
  • Burlington-Plattsburgh, Vermont/New York (18)
  • Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania (19)
  • Syracuse, New York (20)
  • La Crosse-Eau Claire, Wisconsin (23)
  • Harrisburg-Lancaster-Lebanon-York Pennsylvania (24)
  • Springfield-Holyoke, Massachusetts (25)

According to Daniel Sternberg, who developed the brain performance measure,

“The result is not driven principally by college students. “Since our analysis controlled for age, the reason they score well is not simply that they have a lot of young people,” said Sternberg. “Instead, our analysis seems to show that users living in university communities tend to perform better than users of the same age in other locations.”

An informative map (see below) prepared by the University of Toronto’s Martin Prosperity Institute depicts the results of the Lumosity study graphically. It clear shows concentrated strength throughout much of the Northeast, Great Lakes, and Midwest, with other areas scoring well along the Pacific Coast, Alaska and Hawaii, the I-35 corridor of Texas, and those larger metropolitan areas of the Rocky Mountain region.


The good news that could be derived from this report is that the “brain drain” may not be quite as bad as first thought. However, this represents a snapshot over one period of time. A more reliable long-term measure will be when this data is spread out further so trends can be observed.

The results also present an excellent marketing and public relations tool for many economic development agencies in the Rust Belt. Here’s is a weblink to one such press release from Greater Lansing’s LEAP (Lansing Economic Area Partnership).

Congratulations to all those cities who scored well in this report. As a graduate of Purdue University in Greater Lafayette, Indiana and a resident of Greater Lansing, Michigan, I was very pleased to see the data show what I already knew about these two terrific cities of the Rust Belt.

More details about the report and the story itself are available at Atlantic Cities.

Rick Brown

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Filed under Brain Drain, Economic Development, Education, Headline, Public Education, The Media, Urban Planning

Forbes Names Youngstown Best/Worst Place For Jobs/Homes/Kids

Forbes is fascinated with Youngstown, but they’re not quite sure what to make of the place:

America’s #10 Worst City for Jobs (4/08)

America’s #3 Fastest Dying City (8/08)

America’s #1 Downsized City (3/09)

America’s #3 Cheapest Homes for Sale (9/09)

America’s #8 Place with the Fewest Newcomers (10/09)

America’s #4 Best City for Finding A Job This Winter (12/10)

America’s #14 Most Miserable City (2/11)

Honorable Mention: Best Cities for Raising a Family (4/12)

–This post comes to us via Tyler Clark, a Youngstown homeowner with a job and kids.

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15 Scenic Cities of the Rust Belt

No one can deny the awe-inspiring scenic beauty of Seattle, San Francisco, San Diego, or Salt Lake City. But, often overlooked are the splendid topographic and geographic settings where a number of Rust Belt cities are situated. Beautiful city settings of the Rust Belt  may not get the national notoriety and ink of their western competitors, but some are equally endowed with great scenery. Here’s a list of 15 Rust Belt cities that I feel are a visual delight:

Duluth - Source:

Duluth-Superior, Minnesota/Wisconsin – the view of the city, harbor, and Lake Superior from Interstate 35 as it crests over the top of Spirit Mountain is simply magnificent. Throw in some alpine skiing within sight of the downtown skyline and you’ve got something very, very  special. If Duluth were situated on the Pacific or Atlantic coasts, it would be the legendary subject of artists worldwide. Shush…don’t tell anyone what a great secret we have hiding right here in the Rust Belt.

Cumberland - Source:

Cumberland, Maryland – shoe-horned between the steep ridges of Willis Mountain, Haystack Mountain, Irons Mountain, Big Knob, the Pennsylvania border, and the Potomac River, Cumberland is a history and outdoor recreation lover’s  paradise.  Sometimes called the “City of Spires” for its magnificent church steeples, Cumberland is scenically gorgeous and filled with delightful historical charm.

Madison - Source:

Madison, Wisconsin – built on an isthmus like Seattle, Madison is bounded by lovely freshwater lakes. The city’s handsome downtown area sits smack dab in the center of the isthmus and is visible from throughout the metro area across lakes Monona and Mendota. Throw in the University of Wisconsin’s main campus and you have one beautiful urban setting.

Traverse City -

Traverse City, Michigan – the sand dunes, the lake, the dune ridges, the cherry trees, the bays, the lighthouses, the peninsulas. What more could anyone ever ask for?

Chicago - Source:

Chicago, Illinois – One glimpse of the city’s skyline from Lake Michigan and  one quickly realizes that Chicago is much more magnificent than just a single mile. Personally, I find Lake Shore Drive in the summer to be one of the most captivating excursions anywhere.

Pittsburgh - Source:

Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania – there are few initial views of a city skyline that are more impressive than exiting the Fort Pitt Tunnel and seeing downtown Pittsburgh, especially at night. With more bridges and inclines (funiculars) than anyplace else in the United States, varied topography and visual goodies are a huge understatement in Pittsburgh.

Ithaca - Source:

Ithaca, New York – with a slogan of “It’s Gorgeous” Ithaca beholds and beckons residents and visitors alike to explore its gorge-dotted terrain. Toss in the Finger Lakes and you have scenic combination that’s hard to top.

Dubuque - Source:

Dubuque, Iowa – like Bloomington, Indiana (see below), Dubuque defies the stereotype of Iowa being flat. It is a delightfully hilly city set along a particularly scenic segment of the Mississippi River where three state border converge (Iowa, Illinois, and Wisconsin).  Though not located on an Interstate Highway, Dubuque is easy to get to via U.S. 20, U.S. 61, and U.S. 151. It is definitely worth the try. Oh, by the way, be sure to check out the “Field of Dreams” in nearby Dyersville, Iowa.

Marquette - Source:

Marquette, Michigan – the economic epicenter and unofficial capital of the Upper Peninsula, Marquette is a charming city situated on an especially scenic segment of Lake Superior shoreline. Sugarloaf Mountain, and Presque Isle City Park add to the ambiance, as do the crystal clear waters and rugged coastline. While you are there, within a few miles of Marquette are a myriad of waterfalls.

Altoona - Source:

Altoona, Pennsylvania – set in a long, lovely valley, Altoona is framed by linear blueish mountain ridges of the Allegheny and Appalachian Mountains.

Athens - Source: lakehillcabin,com

Athens, Ohio – hidden in hilly southeast Ohio, Athens is an enchanting surprise to anyone visiting the city for the first time. The University of Ohio campus (far prettier than that other school in Columbus) adds to the charm of overall setting.

Cincinnati - Source:

Cincinnati, Ohio – tucked away in the southwest corner of the state along the Ohio River, Cincinnati has a storied history. Its hilly terrain makes the city come alive with exciting views and vistas from every direction.

Fall River - Source:

Fall River, Massachusetts – another isthmus city, which is situated on a ridge between the Taunton River and Mt. Hope Bay on the west, and North Wattupa Pond on the east. The view from any direction while crossing the Charles Braga (I-195) Bridge is spectacular.

Erie - Source:

Erie, Pennsylvania – set aside its namesake lake, Erie is much more than lake effect snow. It is Presque Isle State Park which juts out into Lake Erie like a gigantic comma; it is sandy, windswept ridges, and it is full of captivating history.
Bloomington – Source:
Bloomington, Indiana – who said Indiana was flat? Come to Bloomington to see for yourself that the Hoosier State indeed has hills. I may be a Purdue alumni, but in spring time, Bloomington is especially nice as the flowering trees bloom and blossom.
There are other cities I could have included, but I think the point has been made. Sometimes, we are overly critical of ourselves. But, if Rust Belt residents stop and take an objective look, I think they would agree that we have some inspiring city settings too.
by Rick Brown

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Filed under architecture, Art, Economic Development, Headline, regionalism, the environment, The Media

Come to Pages & Places in Scranton

This year marks the third annual Pages & Places Book Festival in Scranton on Saturday.

The event is intimately tied to Scranton as a place, its creators say:

“Pages & Places grew out of two overlapping phenomena. On the one hand, there’s the obvious, ongoing revitalization of the city of Scranton, manifest in new construction and the rehabilitation of some of the city’s landmark architecture, in the influx of new downtown residences, and the reinvigoration of long-time and former residents who have committed to opening businesses downtown. On the other is the realization that thriving American cities—and there are relatively few in the early 21st century—require a vivid and interactive arts and culture scene. The Pages & Places Book Festival is our contribution to these exciting and necessary trends.”

 This year’s event features a host of panels speaking on everything from Coal Region writers to The Civil War to (Scranton native) Jane Jacobs and the death and life of Rust Belt cities, a panel co-sponsored by Rust Wire.

For more about the specific speakers and panels, click here.

One of the festival’s organizers, Bill Black, wrote a guest editorial for us last year about why he believes the festival is a key part of some exciting new things happening in Scranton.

Click here for tickets.


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“The Wire” Tour of Baltimore

A Preface

I love TV’s The Wire. When I heard about this self-guided, Wire-themed tour of Baltimore, I thought, “That’s the self-guided tour of Baltimore I’ve been waiting for.” But I read something a few days later that paralyzed my ambitions. Christian Lander, author of the blog and book “Stuff White People Like,” explained in an interview:

When and how did you get the idea for the site?

January 18th. A friend and I were having an IM conversation about The Wire. He said, “Not enough white people watch The Wire.” I said, “Don’t worry, they do.” We started talking about what they’re doing instead of watching The Wire : therapy, getting divorced, going to plays…

Thus The Wire is not only Stuff White People Like but the inspiration for the whole series.  Since I’m a white person, this discovery made me uneasy about my Wire tour, the way a Pakistani person must feel about a genuinely promising opportunity in the convenience store industry. And shortly thereafter, The Wire was parodied on Disney’s iCarly.

In the end, I just decided that Americans of all colors and creeds would love The Wire, if they saw it. The Wire transcends boundaries. Norman Rockwell has beaten me to the punch here with a painting I really think captures the sentiment:

In summary, don’t let your friends’ rolled eyes inhibit your pilgrimage to the greatest city in America to celebrate The Greatest TV Show in America.

The Tour

I arrived in Baltimore at about 1PM with three friends in the car. From the Interstate, Baltimore looks like scattered red legos. It was my first time in Baltimore, and I have never seen more red brick buildings. We pulled off at the Martin Luther King, Jr. Blvd exit, which is a reliable exit to take for a tour of the ghetto in most American cities. Up close, Baltimore resembles both the Birmingham, Alabama where I grew up and the Pittsburgh where I live now. Baltimore has Birmingham’s African American majority, boarded-up buildings and ubiquitous vegetation. It has Pittsburgh’s pedestrian presence and row houses. I really liked seeing Baltimore’s famous benches.

The tour divides Baltimore into seven districts. We started out on the west side, thinking it would contain the most shooting locations. That was wrong. As the guide explains, “The directors found East Baltimore’s relatively treeless streets much easier to film in, as they could film throughout at least three of the seasons without losing seasonal continuity.”

It was most fascinating to circle the McCulloh Homes housing project, the location of the “low rises” that DeAngelo presides over in season one. We peered between two buildings from the car and discerned “The Pit,” where DeAngelo, Wallace, Poot and Bodie hung out. Housing projects were prevalent throughout West Baltimore, and they seemed very clean and new from outside. I hope someone can help me understand a question that occurred to me: “Why did cities build housing projects rather than supplementing the Section 8 program?” Questions like this one will ignite in your head throughout the tour.

Outside the McCulloh Homes, we passed several women and children picking through an overturned garbage dumpster. I stared, wondering if a kid had thrown away his retainer. In my retainer days, I picked through many a trash bin. A lady glared back and started waving her hands at me, pointing at the garbage angrily as if to say, “If you’re gonna stare, why don’t you come down here in this garbage?” She triggered a sobering transition—one second I related to the little kids; the next second I remembered my childhood had about 3% in common with theirs, and they probably do not see an orthodontist.

I realized then how strange our Wire tour must seem to locals: three white guys and one African African American girl (a 6’3”Nigerian), pointing at empty corners excitedly, cruising very slowly, snapping pictures. Unfortunately, I think there is no cure for your glaring touristness. You had better embrace it. The only thing worse than four suburbanites pointing at everything in the ghetto is four suburbanites acting like they belong in the ghetto. I wondered constantly whether the locals knew we were on a Wire tour…how often people came through taking pictures and talking loudly.

Then we headed to North Central Baltimore. Here we saw Bubble’s Garage, Bodie’s Corner, Greenmount Cemetary, and North Ave Motel and other attractions.

One difficulty of The Wire tour is that the sites are so mundane that it can be hard to tell if you’re on the right spot. As a matter of fact, here I am at a corner cattycorner to Bodie’s corner. I was so sure this was the right corner that I pointed out where the guy who shot Bodie was definitely hiding.

Above: the corner that Bodie would have ostensibly stared at

At the North Ave Motel, we pulled into a narrow parking lot, and I correctly identified the general area of the room where Omar shot brother Mouzone. As I posed for pictures, a bewildered guy on the upper balcony smoked two cigarettes while watching me. A woman dressed characteristically like a prostitute entered a room with a man.

There was a Mercedes Benz parked in front of Bubbles’ garage. This invited speculation.

Then we headed to East Baltimore, where the standout attractions were Marlo’s Hangout and Hamsterdam. The guide made a cautious suggestion: “Look immediately on the right for Marlo’s Hangout. Hop out of the car and into the square (Faith Ln) to take some pictures if you like, but bear in mind that this is a legitimately rough neighborhood.”

We parked and crossed a small patch of grass to access the concrete space where Marlo dispatched Chris and Snoop to dispatch people. The space’s former use is ambiguous. It looks like the ruins of a skate park/dolphin show. Across the street, a group of young men motioned for me to approach but I declined. This was the closest I came to the drug trade, and I’m only speculating.

There were no corner boys anywhere in Baltimore that Saturday afternoon. I would guess that the show exaggerated the daytime drug trade because it’s easier to film in the day. The light is cheaper. And you can’t film fictional drug dealers at times when real drug dealers need to use the very same corners.

As the day passed, we saw many other sites until wrapping up at the abandoned building that is Major Crimes HQ, located down by the port in southeast Baltimore. Every season of The Wire ends with a retrospective montage. In my own head, the projector played a retrospective montage of our day—shot on 8mm film, because that’s how people remember things. In the quiet peace of the empty port, we said goodbye to Major Crimes HQ and headed out.

Editor’s note: This post come from Lewis Lehe, maker of the famous congestion pricing video. If you’d like to take the same tour as he describes in this post, it is online here.  Lewis will soon be heading to the University of Leeds for graduate studies in the economics of transportation. We wish him well!-KG

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Filed under Crime, Good Ideas, Race Relations, The Media, Urban Poverty

Video: New Reality Show Shows Off Cincinnati

I have mixed feelings about this new reality show based on young, single women living near downtown Cincinnati.

Queen City episode 1 “The Dress” from Queen City on Vimeo.

One one hand, this type of reality TV show — sort of a “The Hills” ripoff without the drama — probably wouldn’t have even been possible in Cincinnati about a decade ago. The young protagonists live in modern condos in the revitalized Over-the-Rhine neighborhood. They hang out at craft breweries and attend fashion shows.

On the other hand, I couldn’t shake off this feeling of depression after I watched it. Gawker called it, get ready for it Cincy boosters, “a reality show about four boring single women and their boring struggle to balance their boring lives in a boring southern Ohio city.”

Clearly Cincinnati is trying to say, we are young and hip. We are a national player. Except — I hate to say it — the show just lacks the intrigue of of Atlanta’s fabulously wealthy athlete’s wives or even the escapist superficiality of spoiled Laguna Beach teenagers jetting off to some Caribbean island on a moment’s notice.

Gawker has a point, in my opinion. The show’s fault is that these women’s lives are too ordinary to warrant this level of scrutiny. Only one of them has a reality TV personality, and by that I mean crazy (see if you can guess which one I mean). Also there is a suspicious lack of hot tub sex, which is the foundation for any respectable reality show of this type (There isn’t even a hot tub in it at all!). Instead of the city coming off as cosmopolitan — the women spend most of the episode helping plan the city’s “Fashion Week” — the whole thing comes across as banal and second-rate.

I’m afraid to say it, but I think this is a classic case of a Rust Belt city pretending to be something that it’s not. The Anthony Bordain show about Cleveland celebrated its grittiness. A show that really highlighted what’s unique about Cincinnati, IMO, would have followed around some ambitious DAAP students trying to survive their first year, or the most hard-core Bengals fans.

Because Over-the-Rhine is still a neighborhood in transition, it might have been interesting to examine that effect on young urban-dwellers. Is there a culture clash going on? Who are the champions of redevelopment and how is that going? What are the rewards and drawbacks of this relatively new lifestyle in this middle-American city? In my opinion, that would be more interesting than the sterilized version of Cincinnati that is presented.

Since it will only run on local television, maybe it will succeed in helping glamorize urban living locally. But as a national marketing campaign for the city, I’d say it’s not too effective.

That’s just my opinion. What do you guys think?


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Smartphone Aps Help Sell Cleveland to Consumers

Community groups, neighborhoods even whole suburbs in Cleveland are helping advertise their offerings using smart phone aps. These portable guides can help you catch a film, catch the bus or grab a bite to eat when you’re on the go in the Cleve.

This is definitely a policy other communities, public agencies and businesses should be looking into to help with marketing and customer service.

This is a guest post from my friend, the lovely and talented Ashley Shaw. It originally appeared on her cooking-themed blog Shroomin with Shaw.

Cleveland International Film Fest

I don’t know about you, but I find the Cleveland International Film Fest guide to be somewhat overwhelming. There’s pages and pages of films but it’s so hard to remember what you want to see. Every year, I write down all the films I want to see and every year I forget what’s what and miss half of them. Well, this will no longer be a problem now that I’ve discovered the CIFF iPhone app!

The CIFF iPhone app allows you to see updates, film synopsis’s and screenshots as well as browse by category, program, date, or even theatre. Navigating the film fest has never been easier!


Beachland Ballroom

It’s Friday night, you’re at happy hour with your friends and you feel like seeing live music. Before getting into your car and driving over to Collinwood, you better check who’s playing at the Beachland Ballroom and Tavern. This might require you tracking down a Cleveland Scene, logging onto the Beachland’s website (which is rather difficult to navigate on your phone) or hoping they’ve recently updated their Facebook/Twitter pages. Wrong. Just open your iPhone app to see upcoming shows and even purchase tickets.

The Beachland Ballroom and Tavern is one of the best music venues in Cleveland. Visit the Tavern on Saturdays and Sundays for brunch as well!


Even though it’s so easy to drive in Cleveland, I love riding public transportation. Your commute may be longer but it’s an excuse to do some leisurely reading or have a real conversation with your child instead of just looking at him in the rear view mirror while you drive.

Google Maps makes riding public transit really convenient but oftentimes the app does not give you control over which bus line you want to take. With TransitGuru, RTA riders can look up the schedule for any bus or rapid line as well as the schedule for each bus station. In addition, riders can access maps, find nearby stations, create routes and set alerts for these routes.

EXP: Tremont, Lakewood, Kamms Korner

Located in the heart of Tremont, SCK Design has developed EXP apps for Tremont, Lakewood and Kamms Corner. Look up bars, restaurants, shopping, churches and other services as well as upcoming events and neighborhood history. You can also look up points of interest and historic landmarks such as Union Gospel Press or a building that housed an old grocery (ca. 1875) in Tremont. Whether you’re new to the neighborhood or a long time resident, the EXP apps are great for exploring our neighborhoods’ past and present.

Cleveland Historical

From the Center for Public History + Digital Humanities at Cleveland State University, Cleveland Historical is an archive of schools, museums, sports facilities, bridges, historic and cultural landmarks in the city. You can read about the history of these places, view pictures, videos and even listen to stories.

Download this app if you’re a history buff like me who constantly finds yourself walking through this town trying to imagine what it used to be like in the old days.

Get the Plain Dealer straight to your phone. With this app, you don’t even have to get out of bed to read the newspaper!

Dim and Den Sum

Chase down the lovable food truck that started the food truck scene in Cleveland and look up their ever-changing menu while you’re on-the-go!






There you have it. Check your ap store for each!


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