Tag Archives: Flint

Urban Farms: Bad Idea?

Urban farming in places like Detroit (and elsewhere) has gotten a lot of good press, this blog included.

But the author of this piece, Richard Longworth says we shouldn’t necessarily be praising urban farming, but instead seeing it as a symptom of how far some cities have fallen. (We’ve written about Longworth, and his work at the Chicago Council’s Global Midwest Initiative before.) His suggestion? Better grocery options for central-city neighborhoods, including big box retailers like Wal-Mart.

Reading Longworth’s post reminded me of a speech I heard at last year’s GLUE (Great Lakes Urban Exchange) conference in Cleveland. The speaker, from the Genesee County (Flint) Landbank, said some in the urban planning community mistakenly might assume inner city residents are always enthusiastic about having an urban farm in their neighborhood. This isn’t necessarily true though, she pointed out. Some residents who migrated to Flint (or Detroit or Cleveland or wherever) came from a background of being rural sharecroppers in the South. A sizeable number of folks in the Flint community she dealt with were not enthused about farming in their neighborhoods, they wanted where they lived to feel like a city. 

What do you think?



Filed under Featured, Green Jobs, Real Estate, sprawl, the environment, Urban Farming, Urban Planning

St. Louis, America’s Most Dangerous City?

Congressional Quarterly has released its annual report on America’s most crime-ridden cities. This year St. Louis topped the list, upping last year’s leader: Camden, NJ.

Activists in St. Louis play dead in a demonstration on healthcare reform. Image via St. Louis Area Jobs with Justice.

Also, Detroit was No.3, Flint, No. 4. Cleveland ranked in at No. 7. Gary, Ind. ranked 9th.

The National Conference of Mayors called the report a “premeditated statistical mugging of America’s cities,” saying the rankings are “bogus.”

St. Louis mayor Francis Slay said on Twitter yesterday “Crime stats reflect crimes. Crime stats rankings reflect how we draw our boundaries.”

Writers at UrbanSTL, took a different stance however, saying “I’m dumbfounded that many in St. Louis would rather attack those pointing out the fallacy of crime rankings than the ranking itself.”

I’ll speak for Cleveland when I say: A list? What list?

So many lists, so little energy to defend oneself (especially when you’re constantly fighting off muggers).



Filed under Crime, Headline

New Ways to Fight Blight?


From the Flint Journal via Flint Expatriates:

Former Genesee County Treasurer Daniel Kildee is pushing for reforms to allow local governments to sue property owners who don’t take care of their homes- the proposed system would allow the Genesee County Landbank to recover costs of cleaning and fixing up homes, according to Flint Expatriates.

I’m curious to see if this idea goes further. A few years ago, when I was writing stories about vacant properties in Lorain, Ohio, Kildee’s Genesee County Landbank was often cited as a model other cities should copy.

Kildee is now the head of the Center for Community Progress.



Filed under Economic Development, Featured, Good Ideas, Real Estate, regionalism, Rust Belt Blogs, The Housing Crisis, The Media, U.S. Auto Industry, Urban Planning

Ohio Land Bank Legislation Official

Ohio Governor Ted Strickland yesterday signed legislation that will make it easier for cities to take control of vacant and abandoned properties.

The land bank legislation was championed by Cuyahoga County officials and urban policy advocates alike. It will allow county governments to establish land banks to clear the title to foreclosed homes and begin the process of returning the property to productive use.

Many Ohio Cities have long operated their own land banks. However, without a strong legal framework, local efforts have been challenging.

The state law is modeled after a program recently adopted in Cuyahoga County, which is home to Cleveland. Cuyahoga’s land bank, in turn, was modeled after Genesee County’s, home to Flint, Michigan.

Here’s a Toledo Blade story if you want more details.



Filed under Politics, The Housing Crisis, Urban Poverty

Guest Editorial: The Stigma of the Small City

I have recently returned to Cleveland after several years in the “Capitol of the Midwest,” Chicago. Chicago is filled with Midwesterners from all corners, and those who have committed to living there have a mixture of disdain, pity, and guilty longing for the places they left behind. The opinion they expressed was that leaving Chicago for a smaller Midwestern city would stifle career ambitions and deprive one of big city amenities. All they saw outside Chicagoland was corn fields and closed factories. In a discussion of urban development, one economist (originally from upstate NY) asserted, “Detroit and Cleveland no longer have an economic reason for being.” When I told people in Chicago that I planned to return to Cleveland, most looked dejected and some said, “I’m sorry.”

Having spent a year now in Cleveland, I realize that it is not a small city with nothing going on. It is truly a major city with sufficient scale for most things you find in major cities. We have finance and legal industries. We have designers and publishers. We have bicycle messengers. We have at least a half dozen companies that do nothing but walk dogs for busy professionals. We have a sand volley ball league, a dozen ski clubs, and thirty-some yoga studios. We have immigrants from all over the world in our universities and running ethnic groceries. We have commuter trains, valets, and loft condos with concierges. Life in Cleveland is much more like life in Chicago than people there, here, or elsewhere recognize. Is our perception about smaller cities also wrong?


Photo by David Richardson via Flickr.

Just as Chicago collects people from Detroit, Minneapolis, and Columbus, I have found that Cleveland has no small number of people who grew up in Youngstown, Lima, and Wooster. From time to time, I find myself in smaller cities or reading blogs about them – Erie, Jamestown, Flint, etc. I start to wonder about these places as the people in Chicago wonder about Cleveland. How can they have an economic future? Who would move there? If I were a young, educated person, how could I justify staying there? Would I have returned to Flint if that’s where I grew up? If so, who would I work for? Who would my spouse work for? What if I had to change jobs mid career but there’s only one local employer in my field?

Looking at the latest population change estimates, I was struck once again by the falling populations in “small” places near “big” places – shrinking counties south of Atlanta and Charlotte and west of Dallas and Austin (http://www.census.gov/popest/gallery/maps/County-Numeric-Change-00-09.html).

What do you think about roll-up? Should we be promoting the gathering of educated young people of our region from rural areas to cities? From small cities to large cities? From large cities to Chicago? Should we be trying to save every urbanized area? At some point, do we have to say to some small places, “You are just too small. You will never have the jobs or amenities to stop your shrinking. Let your young people go to a bigger city. At least we can save that city, and they can visit you on long weekends.”

Even though Cleveland has a lot to offer, we are struggling with inadequate numbers to fill and hold desirable urban neighborhoods. There are places in Cleveland with dozens of rehabbed homes and new condos. Young professionals live in these and support local businesses and artists. But for every young professional household there are three or more rentals. The nice housing is mixed in with blight. The surplus space keeps rent low and intimidating characters outnumber friendly neighbors. I wish we had a few thousand more young professionals so we could make at least one neighborhood feel as safe as Lakeview or the West Loop in Chicago.

I see people making a valiant effort to save Jackson, MI, and Findlay, OH, and I feel like saying to them, “Let it go. We can’t save everything. Cleveland needs all the young talent we can get, and we’d love to have you as a neighbor here.” At the same time, I know exactly how it feels to hear that. The difference, if anything, is that Chicago doesn’t need any more young professionals. Cleveland needs more educated people to slow and reverse its decline. But Erie needs more educated people too. What should we do?



Filed under Brain Drain, Editorial, Headline, Real Estate

Dayton Patented. Originals Wanted.

Can “branding” a city through a snappy slogan and slick marketing campaign work?

A lot of cities apparently think so, including Dayton and Cleveland, as outlined in this USA Today story.

They point to successful and memorable slogans, like “I love New York,” and “What Happens in Vegas, Stays in Vegas.” It’s also interesting to read the comments under the story- on mentions great success North Dakota has had marketing itself as a “Wild West” destination for bicyclists.

The story doesn’t mention less-successful campaigns. (I’m thinking of the Michael Moore movie Roger & Me, when he mocks the marketing campaign Flint undertakes: “Flint: Our New Spark Will Surprise You.”) It does detail the Hastily Made Cleveland Tourism video, which Rust Wire previously highlighted.

I’m not sure how much a slogan alone can do without the jobs and attractions to back it up…but I guess a good one can’t hurt.

Have any other Rust Belt cities tried branding like this? Have they had any success?



Filed under Brain Drain, Economic Development, Good Ideas, regionalism

Video: Flint’s New Mayor

Dayne Walling, the former Rhodes Scholar, has done it. He won the special mayoral election in Flint with more than 60% of the vote.


I like this guy. He’s ambitious. He’s got his work cut out for him. Never underestimate the power of good leadership.


more about “Video: Flint’s New Mayor“, posted with vodpod

1 Comment

Filed under Politics