Contact the White House on the behalf of Cincinnati

A few weeks back, I wrote about the newly formed White House Office of Urban Affairs (OUA), which seeks to be more mindful of the impact federal policies have on metropolitan areas. As a way to better our metropolitan areas, the director of OUA has begin a several month-long tour of American cities.

Director Carrion’s focus recently has centered on cities’ efficiencies and therefore their natural ability to serve as the catalyst for a new, environmentally conscious economy. Director Carrion spent Tuesday in Kansas City meeting with “Special Assistant to the President on Urban Policy Derek Douglas, Special Adviser for Green Jobs Van Jones, … HUD Secretary Shaun Donovan, Transportation Deputy Secretary John Porcari [and] … local elected officials, stakeholders, and community members to discuss the development of the Green Impact Zone, an initiative which is using federal and local resources to invest in components of sustainable living and to create jobs in one of the city’s most challenged communities.”

The Director will be touring the nation holding similar meeting and seeking input to shape his policies. The fact that his first of such meetings focused on the potential for cities to act as an incubator for the green economy demonstrates Carrion’s willingness to research new, innovative ideas. As a result, the director’s policies will favor those cities that best implement best practices and innovative techniques.

Cincinnati needs to be on this list of innovative cities. There is no reason that our manufacturing past cannot resurrect itself to be the leader in inventive technology. One way to ensure that Cincinnati stands up and is counted among the cities that does not want to be left behind is to send a loud, clear message that we want to be involved. The White House encourages Americans to request that Director Carrion stop in their city to discuss their issues with him.

We ought to take the White House up on this offer. Please send a clear message to the Obama Administration that Cincinnati is a force to be reckoned with by emailing urbanaffairs@who.eop.gov. When you do, respectfully request that Director Carrion come to Cincinnati, and mention whatever urban issues you think are most pressing. When I wrote I motioned that Cincinnati’s once-booming manufacturing infrastructure currently lays under-utilized, so we need policies to encourage business development in the US. I also said that the gorgeous and historic architecture of this city is undervalued and under-appreciated, which accelerates its demise, so we need policy that encourages restoration and infill as opposed to demolition and new building. Finally, I praised the administration for taking a firm stance on high speed rail, and pled for a set of comprehensive, fair and practical transportation policies that encourage competition instead of an auto-centric monopoly.

If you have a moment, please write a few sentences on why Cincinnati needs to host the Director of Urban Affairs, and send it to urbanaffairs@who.eop.gov. It is vital for the future of this city that the voices of Cincinnatians be heard as they are crafting policy.

Cincinnati jobs (a national comparison)

Of the 50 most populous regions of the US, Cincinnati has the 15th MOST jobs postings per capita. That is to say that finding a job in Cincinnati would be easier than finding one in places from Pittsburgh to Portland , San Diego to San Antonio, St. Louis to St. Paul, and New Orleans to New York.

The map below graphically displays how well Cincy is doing. In addition to Cincinnati having the 15th best standing nationwide, it also boasts the 2nd best standing in the Midwest region. As a result of its high ranking Cincinnati also ranks ahead of many of its peer cities that it is in direct competition with for job talent. Cities like Denver, Seattle, Charlotte, Baltimore and Milwaukee did all rank higher.

In the interactive version clicking on a city will bring up job postings, and drawing a box will zoom to that area. Not currently looking for a job? Then pass this link along to someone who might be.

Cincinnati population growing, just barely

The United States Census released their population estimates for U.S. cities last week. The results are in and the results are decidedly undecided for Cincinnati. That’s not bad though for a city in the Midwest that has been experiencing decline for several decades.

From 2000 to 2008 the U.S. Census reports that the City of Cincinnati experienced a 0.6% population gain. Some may say this is not a real gain as it is only reflective of successful challenges by the City of Cincinnati. In the end though it seems to indicate a stabilizing population within the core of the Cincinnati region that is growing at an annual rate of nearly 5 percent (source).

When compared with the rest of Ohio, Cincinnati and Columbus are the only two cities to post gains while the rest of Ohio’s major cities saw significant declines – most notably Cleveland which has seen 9.2% of its population vanish since 2000.

Cincinnati ranks 6th in the Midwest behind Columbus (5.9%), Indianapolis (2.1%), St. Louis (1.8%), Chicago (1.5%) and Milwaukee (1.3%) with another seven Midwestern cities experiencing slower population growth or most likely population decline during the same span.

Click to open larger versions in new window

The population decline of many older American cities can be attributed to several things. Most common is the evidence of suburban sprawl and the exodus from the then polluted and overcrowded inner-cities.

The lesser of these examples that is covered is the changing American household. No longer can a neighborhood like Over-the-Rhine house 50,000 people like it once did. The market demands will not allow it as people look for walk-in closets, large bathrooms, offices, washer/dryer and the other modern amenities Americans hold dear. The result is that a fully occupied building in Over-the-Rhine that once housed 50 people may now only house 10.

This is the case for all older American cities that saw decline. Sure in part it was the exodus from the inner-city, but you can notice a difference in population changes between cities. Those that are experiencing minimal growth or minimal decline are those that I suspect are experiencing repopulating neighborhoods. Those with rapid decline are the cities that are struggling with this change and have still not managed to shake the decline that came at the benefit of the great American Dream.

As Cincinnati looks forward it must continue to build upon its strengths like its neighborhoods, culture and identity. At the same time we must realize where we stand. We are a old city, by American standards, and cannot expect to see the same population numbers we saw decades ago. Cincinnati also cannot expect to see growth like Columbus who has benefited from a liberal annexation policy there. Nor can we expect growth similar to the boomtowns of today that boast cheap land and labor that appeal to those kind of growth figures.

European cities have grown used to this stagnant population growth, but are still great cities. The Midwestern and East Coast cities in the U.S. must learn to do the same. What we should strive for is a stable population number and one that grows household incomes. Growing ourselves from the ground up is a great strategy Cincinnati can take, and one that will make the region stronger and healthier long-term with or without high growth rates.