Category Archives: Urban Poverty

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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Filed under architecture, Crime, Economic Development, Featured, Great Lakes, Politics, Public Transportation, Race Relations, Real Estate, Sports, sprawl, The Media, U.S. Auto Industry, Urban Planning, Urban Poverty

A literary triumph – “Nothing But Blue Skies” by Edward McClelland

It is difficult to describe how truly outstanding the book entitled Nothing But Blue Skies: The Heyday, Hard Times, and Hopes of America’s Industrial Heartland is to read. As a nearly lifelong Rust Belt resident, I can attest to the fact that Edward McClelland’s newly released book simply nails our industrial heritage, decline, and hopeful potential squarely on the head. From nationally known politicians like Dennis Kucinich or Coleman Young to the everyday blue-collar laborer toiling in our mills and factories, Mr. McClelland personifies the Rust Belt like no other book I have ever read on the subject. As a Lansing native, he has personally witnessed the dramatic (and sometimes catastrophic) changes just in his lifetime. In Nothing But Blue Skies, Mr. McClelland takes the reader on a quasi-chronological step-by-step sequence of events that shook the Rust Belt down it its very core.

From Buffalo and the loss of its competitive edge with the opening of the St. Lawrence Seaway to Detroit’s dramatic fall from grace following the 1967 riot, to Cleveland’s multi-decade search for post-Cuyahoga River fire redemption, to Flint, Homestead, and other cities. Mr. McClelland whisks the reader through a series of events that spelled the disaster for America’s Industrial Heartland and gave rise to its current moniker of Rust Belt.

Nothing But Blue Skies is a literary triumph that must be read by anyone who has an interest in history, sociology, economics, demographics, geography, politics, planning, environmental protection, and many other topics. Author Edward McClelland takes the best (and worst) of our post-World War II legacy and paints a tapestry of images that is very hard to put down. I guarantee that you will empathize with many of the everyday folks identified in his book, as they are exactly the same as you and I – Rust Belters.

– Rick Brown

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Filed under Book review, Brain Drain, Economic Development, Featured, Great Lakes, Headline, Labor, Politics, Race Relations, the environment, U.S. Auto Industry, Urban Planning, Urban Poverty

Video: East Cleveland Middle School Students Respond to a Police Shooting

Late last year, at the culmination of a long high-speed chase, 13 Cleveland police fired 137 rounds into a car in East Cleveland killing two unarmed people.

State and local authorities are currently investigating the case: why the chase — which violates official department policies — occurred; why police thought the fleeing couple was armed.


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department. None of the 13 shooters was black, but the victims were.

Anyway, one of the more upsetting elements of this case is that the shooting took place basically on the grounds of a school in East Cleveland, although not during school hours. Some local filmmakers interviewed students at that school, Heritage Middle School, about their thoughts on the case, below.

Pretty tough environment these kids are living in. It’s interesting to hear their opinions.




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Filed under Crime, Race Relations, Urban Poverty

Burned: A Photo Essay on Arson in Toledo

Above photo by Sam Ricker

Editor’s note: The following photo essay come from Lori King’s photojournalism students at Owens Community College. Click here to view their photo essay.


Above photo by Lynn Redding

Burned: The Rust Belt on fire

A photo story by the Intro to Photojournalism class at Owens Community College
By Lynn Redding and Miranda Molyet

Arson is the leading cause of fires in the United States, according to the U.S. Fire Administration. Of these fires, 30 percent are in structures, including homes. Fire officials estimate that 50 percent of all fires may be intentionally set, yet it is difficult to determine the actual number of arson fires because many of them go unreported.

The FBI estimates that four out of the top 10 cities in the United States for arson crimes reported are in Ohio. The fourth spot on the list is right here, in Toledo. The Office of the Illinois State Fire Marshal reported that the six common motives for arson are: excitement, vandalism, crime concealment, revenge, extremist/terrorist and profit.

For our team community service photo story project, the Introduction to Photojournalism class at Owens Community College visited a few arson fire sites in the Central Toledo area.

Why should we, as a community, care about arson and its impact on the Rust Belt?

Arson is a felony crime. It is a crime against people, and every year firefighters are killed in responding to open-air fires. Then there is the cost of the fires, including the cost of supplies to fight the fires, the value of the property destroyed, the loss of tax revenue, and the fact that firefighters must be paid. In spite of the fact that arson is a crime, the real reason we should care about the growing arson problem in the Rust Belt is the fact that while firefighters are away battling an intentional and needless fire, they cannot respond in the event a real emergency should arise. The cost of arson is more than money; it is putting lives at risk.

To learn more about  Lori’s class and their work, check out the class blog here.

Above photo by Paula Taylor

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Filed under Crime, Economic Development, Featured, The Big Urban Photography Project, The Media, Urban Poverty

Niagara Falls: Reversing decline in a bipolar city

My definition of bipolar urban areas are those that have two principal cities at their core but that have each taken nearly opposite paths socioeconomically. The two cities possess Jekyll-and-Hyde-like qualities–one being quite healthy and prosperous while the other suffering from poverty, economic distress, or environmental degradation. While every significant urban area has its areas of poverty, distress, and degradation, a bipolar region differs in the fact that one of two primary core communities is the site of concentrated problems.

Unfortunately, in some cases the socioeconomic differences can be so stark that it’s almost like a third-world city has developed directly adjacent to a first world city, even though in many cases they exist in the same country.

Here are some examples of bipolar urban areas in North America.

  • El Paso, Texas and Ciudad Juarez, Mexico
  • Kansas City, Missouri and Kansas City, Kansas
  • Niagara Falls, Ontario, Canada and Niagara Falls, New York
  • Philadelphia, Pennsylvania and Camden, New Jersey
  • St. Joseph and Benton Harbor, Michigan
  • St. Louis, Missouri and East St. Louis, Illinois

A bipolar urban case study:

These stark differences can be easily observed by both the residents and the millions of tourists alike in the Niagara Falls region of New York and Ontario.


The Niagara Falls region has been a tourist destination for many decades due to its awesome natural wonders–not just the waterfalls themselves, but the whirlpools, rainbows, nearby Great Lakes, and the impressive gorge below the falls. Combine those with numerous tourist attractions and historic sites and you have a recipe for long-term economic success on both sides of the border.


But Niagara Falls, New York and Niagara Falls, Ontario have followed two different paths since World War II and have ended up at nearly opposite ends of the socioeconomic spectrum. Niagara Falls, Ontario is a busy tourist destination with a pleasing mix of modern and stately hotels, gorgeous and carefully manicured parks and gardens, scenic parkways, lovely neighborhoods, and busy commercial centers. Granted, it can be argued that Ontario has the better overall view of the American and Canadian (Horseshoe) Falls, but that alone shouldn’t have led to such a vast and visible difference right across the river.


For many years, parts of Niagara Falls, New York seemed virtually desolate compared to its vibrant Canadian neighbor. Instead of relying largely on tourism as Canada did, Niagara Falls, New York also used the enormous raw power generated by the falls to become an industrialized city. As a result, when those industries began to falter, the city declined in suit.

Niagara Falls, NY – Source:

Downtown has seen a number of revitalization schemes put in place, some successful, others not. Much of the city’s breathtaking riverfront was marred by the limited access Robert Moses State Parkway, which also cut the city off from its source of fame and fortune. While the state parks abutting the falls remain busy, access to the heart of the city was impeded. Power plants and chemical plants were built (and in some cases abandoned) in the city, while electrical transmission and distribution lines crisscross the landscape.

Among the most heartbreaking legacies are the remnants of industrial indiscretions which have left visible scars —Love Canal being the most infamous. Niagara Falls, New York has never fully recovered from its industrial course and today remains a symbol of Rust Belt decay and dismay. The city’s population loss reflects this, as it has fallen from a high of 102,394 in 1960 to a mere 50,193 in 2010.

Niagara Falls, ON – Source:

On the other hand, Niagara Falls, Ontario is simply a delight to visit. Beautifully landscaped parks and gardens, neat and trim neighborhoods, prosperous business and shopping districts, a growing and very impressive skyline for a city its size, well-maintained infrastructure, and a healthy and appealing ambiance all garner kudos. Each time I have visited Niagara Falls, Ontario I have been more impressed by the pride evoked by its citizens and business community. As a result, Niagara Falls, Ontario’s population has grown over the same decades, increasing from 22,874 in 1951 to 82,997 in 2011.

Are there ways to reverse the decline facing these urban Mr. Hydes without displacing those who have struggled to weather decades of socio-economic distress? Only time will tell. But, as urban planners, I believe part of our social, ethical, and moral responsibility is to seek viable solutions to such problems and do our level best to see them implemented.

Do I profess to have the solutions? Of course not; I would never be so vain. But I do know this–the status quo does not work. As Daniel Burnham so aptly said, “Make no little plans.”

In Niagara Falls, New York’s case, the first thing I would consider is demolishing and/or converting the limited access Robert Moses Parkway into a landscaped grade level boulevard with an adjacent but physically separated scenic bicycle trail overlooking the river and gorge. Apparently, I am not alone in the idea of removing the limited access highway. The multi-purpose bicycle trail would extend from one end of the city to the other and hopefully all the way to Lake Ontario.

Once the boulevard and bike trail have been established, a series of attractions could be developed along with a mix of low to mid-rise, ecologically friendly lodging and entertainment venues overlooking the lush surroundings. Linking these with attractions such as the Niagara Gorge Discovery Center and TrailheadProspect PointTerrapin PointCave of the WindsGoat Island, a proposed Nikola Tesla Science Museum in the world’s first hydroelectric plant, the planned restoration of the Niagara Gorge Rim, and the very successful ArtPark.

Most important would be to incorporate a variety of residential options along and near the boulevard/bike trail and provide direct walkable connections from downtown, existing residential areas, and other parks. The inclusion of residential options will assist in building a local client base for area businesses as well as provide new housing options within the city itself.

Unlike many cities facing difficult socioeconomic challenges, Niagara Falls, New York does have numerous great natural, scenic, ecological, and historical elements from which to build a strong economic base. It also has serious name recognition. From the list of existing and planned projects provided above, it is evident that they are working diligently to re-establish a thriving community. Kudos on their efforts to date and continued best wishes to Niagara Falls for the future.

— Rick Brown

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In Honor of the Casino Opening: A Look at Cleveland's Long History of Class Warfare

By Roldo Bartimole

There are many histories of Cleveland. Not just one history of the city. No history that would tell us, “This is the way it was.”

There are many ways to report history. It could be from the view of different people. Different movements. Different economics. Different heroes. Different villains. Different reasons why the city went this way or that way.

Now, there is a new history examining this city through the eyes of what many people might see as odd or unusual.

Daniel Kerr’s “Derelict Paradise – Homelessness and urban development in Cleveland, Ohio,” does this. It is a remarkable testament of how – through the city’s history – the poor (especially black poor) have been pushed aside to make way for what the wealth of the community deemed Progress.

It tests the matter of who enjoys Progress and who doesn’t.

As Cleveland media hail and promote casino gambling and a new convention center as the latest city comebacks, Kerr has some reminders that there are losers and winners. We pretty much can bet on which will be which in this contest.

Even with the Group Plan of the early 1900s, Kerr says, the demand for Progress came at a great cost to low income Clevelanders. “In 1899 the chamber (of commerce) urged the city to eliminate ‘a notorious slum’ known as the Hamilton Avenue vice district” to make way for a civic center.

“The plan the architects argued would alleviate disorder and promote harmony: ‘The jumble of buildings that surround us in our new cities contributes nothing of valuable to life; on the contrary, it sadly disturbs our peacefulness and destroys that repose within us which is the basis of all contentment,” he wrote. Speak of elitism. Whose repose is destroyed? As whose expense?

Kerr writes “Neither the architect nor the political and business leaders that backed the plan indicated any concern for the people who would be displaced by the project.” Business as usual. Past is present.

We love to idealize past leaders. They did such magnificent things, we are told. Kerr cites one business leader complaining that people uprooted by new construction didn’t move where they should have moved, but “destroyed the value of the Erie Street Cemetery.” Such a shame! How inconvenient.

The past echoes through the years. Today we see Mayor Frank Jackson and downtown cheerleaders eager to swipe everyone without a suit and tie from Public Square for the casino owners and players. It was ever so.

“The proliferation of panhandlers on downtown sidewalks provided the most immediate challenge to Cleveland’s boosters at the onset of the Depression. The sheer numbers of people begging or selling apples, pencils and other items on the streets threatened the general sense of order that Cleveland politicians, businessmen, and civic leaders wanted to project,” Kerr writes. Yesterday and still today. Whose streets are these?

Even the 1930s had its Joe Romans and Joe Marinuccis doing the bidding of corporate leaders.

And Mayor Jackson has pledged some $800,000 to keep the casino area cleansed.

Kerr takes us through the years of rousting those who have no place to call home. In the early 1930s Whiskey Island was such a place, called at that time a “Hooverville” after the Depression President. In 1934 Mayor Harry Davis ordered eviction of the shanties built as shelter by the homeless. The Convention Bureau, he reports, wanted to sell Cleveland as “a summer spot.” Thus the bulldozing. Even the pr dreams don’t change much with time.

The book gave me a peek into Cleveland before I got here in 1965. I learned first-hand about the urban renewal disasters here. As a reporter I got to travel through some of its tragedies in Hough and other East Side neighborhoods. The Plain Dealer in the mid-1960s had full-page pieces on such problems under the title “The Changing City” and I was assigned to many of them.

One aspect of this period that has escaped notice and it may be responsible for the advances possible now in Ohio City, Tremont and Detroit Shoreway was the lonely fight Al Grisanti made to keep the destructive urban renewal from damaging the west side. Grisanti, a former downtown councilman, fought urban renewal most of his life. He was often a visitor at the PD news offices, trying to alert reporters about urban renewal dangers. One of his favorite sayings was “We got to organize the confusion.” Someone from the street couldn’t walk the news offices of today’s PD. Tight security.

Grisanti stopped urban renewal before it crossed the Cuyahoga River. It never did to the west side what it did to east side. Essentially wrecking it. Kerr tells of this disaster, too.

Cleveland, as usual, was pushed beyond its limits by an active corporate and foundation community. It had, writes Kerr, more acreage (6,060 acres) under urban renewal than any other American city.

Indeed, Upshur Evans of the Cleveland Development Foundation (CDF was created by $5 million from the Leonard Hanna fund, routed through the Cleveland Foundation) pushed or went around city government, helping cause a disaster that still reverberates. Evans, a former Sohio executive, said this, according to Kerr about urban renewal: “It isn’t a matter of social consciousness – it is a matter of plain, ordinary, practical common business sense. In short, we believe it will pay out. It means ‘pay dirt’ for Cleveland, Cuyahoga County, and northeast Ohio.” It didn’t pay out or off. Not to those who pushed it and surely not to those pushed.

I remember interviewing Evans when I was at the PD. He revealed that the business community gave a hefty sum to the City Planning Department to “plan” downtown. At the same time – behind the scenes – the development foundation was planning urban renewal. It would render the city’s plan irrelevant. I remember this because when we (me and the late Don Sabath) wrote it in an article, city editor Ted Princiotto, a lunch companion of Evans, challenged us that Evans couldn’t have said that. Both of us agreed he did. The information was muted in the published account.

One of the clearest assessments of this time was made by banker Tom Westropp who sat on the city plan commission. “For some the urban renewal program worked very well, indeed. Hospitals and education institutions have been constructed and enlarged. So have commercial and industrial interests and many service organizations, all with the help of urban renewal dollars. With respect to housing, however, the urban renewal program has been a disaster.” His last remark was most telling: “I wish I could believe that all of this was accidental and brought about by the inefficiency of well meaning people – but I just can’t. The truth, it seems to me, is that it was planned that way.”

Kerr covers one of the most despicable moves of this time. Many blacks were being uprooted by urban renewal. Little if anything was done to provide relocation for those displaced.

“Living up to its promise, CDF found a solution to the city’s urban renewal doldrums, build the relocation housing on a dump. Using slag from the blast furnaces of Republic Steel, the infamous Kingsbury Run would be filled and new housing constructed,” writes Kerr. It was a decision that highlighted the racism that helped produce protests and riots in the 1960s. People began to realize what was happening to them. They were being treated like garbage.

Kerr writes that the PD editorial board “threw its support behind the plan.”

Little changes. The ideas of the big shots are always A1 at the PD.

“Amid this state of euphoria, Cleveland’s disastrous headfirst foray into urban renewal began,” Kerr concludes. As one federal official said, “Cleveland is our Vietnam. We’d like to get out but we don’t know how.” That summed up the game played on the city’s citizens by its highest level corporate leaders.

Now, I can’t forget that this book addresses homelessness – in the past and present. His personal experience with the homeless in Cleveland prompted Kerr to embark on this book, he told me. He began this project in the fall of 1995. He started having free weekly picnics on Public Square. He reports what the homeless told him. Their remarks remind one that they know what is happening to them. And have ideas of why it is happening and by whom.

I believe he makes a strong case for why we have so many homeless people in our cities today. Anyone working in the city should read his take on this phenomenon.

Why is there and why has there been so much homelessness in Cleveland. Is this a new phenomenon, as many seem to believe? Or is it endemic, always a part of our city and how it operates?

How does homelessness happen?

If Kerr’s assessments are right – and I think they are – a lot of so-called “homeless” people are going to be especially hurt by the opening of the Higbee building casino.

From the 1880s to the 2012s little has changed. The modus operandi remains the same. Get those people out of sight. It hurts business.

Kerr reveals with strong evidence how a combination of vast destruction of cheaper housing, the development of day labor businesses that provide cheap labor at such reduced income that it makes housing unattainable. Combine this with the horrendous climate of jailing people, especially blacks, and you have a recipe for more and more guaranteed homelessness.

“The massive expansion of the penal system benefits the careers of politicians, provides profits for prison contractors, and offers secure employment for guards, while it leaves ex-offenders unable to access stable jobs or housing. Non-profit organizations that run shelter and social service for local governments benefit from the contracts they receive.

“They are not charged with eliminating homelessness; their role is to contain it,” he concludes.

Kerr notes that former Mayor, Governor and Senator, George Voinovich’s family profited handsomely by prison expansion. The family business, the V Group, between 1980 and 2000, Kerr writes, constructed over a dozen state, county and city jails in Ohio. “The firm grabbed some $100 million in contracts” in that time, Kerr writes.

With 20 percent of the state’s inmates from Cuyahoga County, “Mayor Voinovich helped support the family business by keeping his brother’s new prisons filled beyond capacity,” Kerr writes.

Voinovich also helped increase the number of homeless by eliminating general relief. Kerr cites other Gov. Voinovich moves that contributed to these problems.

Kerr also reminds us of the Arthur Feckner case when Mayor Voinovich and Council President George Forbes helped police in a botched sting deal that the PD labeled as instituting a “drug plague” at a public housing complex. It put 30 pounds of cocaine on the street.

Kerr convinces me that rather than mental illness or drug or alcoholism the prime reasons for homelessness are the conditions he cites and we have allowed and perpetuated them.

Shelters, say Kerr and the homeless he talk with, are not an answer, though they have become the institutional solution for government.

“For many, sheer existence of homeless shelters is ample evidence that our society is making a concerted effort to address the issue. This assurance allows cities like Cleveland to pour public resources into subsidizing project such as new professional sports stadium, corporate construction, and condominium and townhouse developments. This confidence in the shelter system allows the market to run smoothly,” Kerr writes.

“When un-housed people resist the conditions within shelters and the policies designed to keep them there, their actions are incomprehensible for many other citizens. The efforts are seen as further evidence that the homeless are insane,” Kerr writes in his conclusion.

One homeless man explains to Kerr: “They have torn down nearly all the low-cost housing in the city. At one time downtown Cleveland was a haven, almost a utopia, for lower income people. There were a thousand cheap hotels, and cheap rooming houses, etc. They have torn them down for different stadiums. And they’ve raised, instead of $3.00 a night hotels, there are $150, $300 a night hotels.” He says they have tried to make downtown a “playground for the rich.”

He continued: “They wanted to create a complete new image for downtown Cleveland of everyone prosperous, of everyone doing real well, so they really made a sweep on all the poor people there.”

I can personally attest to the cheap housing that no longer exists. In 1965, I came to work for the Plain Dealer, having left my family temporarily back East. I took a room on E. 18th Street not far from the PD on Superior. The street had numerous rooming houses. The cost was $10 a week. Cheap enough for even the lowest paid worker. I lasted one night. Too depressing for me. Then I went to the New Amsterdam hotel, a block or so away, for $22 a week. That too was cheap housing. But it was cheap housing. It has all been destroyed for Cleveland State University.

Kerr writes, “With billions of dollars being invested downtown and with the lakefront and Gateway projects nearing completion (now it’s Horseshoe Casino and Med-Mart Convention center), Mayor White, county officials, local foundations, and area business leaders scrambled to keep the shelters open throughout the summer to prevent 300 homeless men and women from sleeping on the sidewalks and in the parks downtown. Within days of the scheduled closing, the White administration announced that the city, county, and local foundations had raised $215,000 to keep the shelters open throughout the summer. Community Development Director Chris Warren, bristling from the criticism of advocates of the homeless, defensively maintained: ‘We should not apologize for taking on the task of keeping people off the street.’ The concerns and criticism of social service providers dissipated that winter when the federal government increased its shelter grant for the city from $309,000 to $884,000.” But to hear Kerr’s homeless voices – shelters were not the answer – unsafe, dirty and often run by people who demeaned them.

Nothing like your own home; even if a shack.

We obviously need more affordable housing, an alternative to day labor businesses that rob workers to provide other businesses with cheap labor, and a much higher minimum wage.

* * *

Daniel R. Kerr lived in Cleveland Heights, is a graduate of Heights High; has a BA from Carleton College; MA & PhD from Case Western Reserve University; taught five years at James Madison U. in Virginia and is now interior director of public history at American University in D. C. He is married to Tatiana Belenkaya, also a graduate of Heights High; a BA from CWRU and a law degree from Cleveland Marshall. They have a 14-month old daughter, Elsa Kerr. The book is published by University of Massachusetts Press and is available in hardback and paperback.


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Making Sustainable Attainable in Greater Lansing

Monday evening I had the honor to join approximately 100 fellow participants, planners, partners, and stakeholders from throughout Greater Lansing at a kick-off meeting for the Mid-Michigan Program for Greater Sustainability at East Lansing’s Hannah Community Center. Partners in the program include the Tri-County Regional Planning Commission, Lansing Area Economic Partnership, Michigan State University Land Policy Institute, Michigan Energy Options, the Michigan Fitness Foundation, Greater Lansing Housing Coalition, the Mid-Michigan Environmental Action Council, and CAM-TV.

The four-hour event showcased the nine sustainability projects that will be part of the three-year effort funded through a three million dollar grant from the United States Department of Housing and Urban Development and $5.2 million in local matching contributions. The nine projects as described in a handout prepared by the Tri-County Regional Planning Commission are:

  • “A five-year comprehensive regional fair and affordable housing plan for the tri-county region.
  • A regional affordable housing study.
  • A community reinvestment fund to build capacity in the region for traditionally underserved and marginalized populations.
  • Develop an energy audit study of build structures.
  • Build capacity for a regional urban services management area.
  • Promote a multi-faceted and prioritized green infrastructure system.
  • Develop a sustainable corridor design portfolio using the 20 mile long Michigan Avenue/Grand River Avenue Corridor from the State Capitol to Webberville.
  • Build capacity for complete streets planning and implementation.
  • Create an online portal for sharing information, evaluating, and promoting sustainability.”









These nine projects will build the impetus for propelling Mid-Michigan into a thriving and sustainable metropolitan region that is inclusive and beneficial to all socio-economic and demographic populations within the Greater Lansing community. It is a very exciting prospect to consider and long-range planning project to participate in.

Other Rust Belt communities and organizations to receive sustainability grants from HUD in 2011 include the following:

  • Baltimore, Maryland
  • Binghamton, New York
  • Erie County, Pennsylvania
  • Freeport, Illinois
  • Grand Rapids, Michigan
  • Lehigh Valley Economic Development Corporation, Pennsylvania
  • Niagara Frontier Transportation Authority, New York
  • Northwest Michigan Council of Governments (Traverse City), Michigan
  • Oak Park, Illinois
  • Warren, Ohio
  • Washtenaw County (Ann Arbor), Michigan

Rick Brown

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