Cincinnati showing improvements over 2000 Census response rates

Lower Price Hill, the West End, Over-the-Rhine, Mt. Auburn, Clifton Heights and Corryville make up much of Cincinnati’s center city neighborhoods, and they also represent some of the lowest Census 2010 response rates to date. As of Monday, April 12 most of Cincinnati’s center city neighborhoods were below the 66% national average response rate while the East End, Clifton, Hyde Park, East Walnut Hills and Mt. Lookout all reporting at or above the national average.

A Census tract representing the northern portion of the West End is currently at a low 39%, while two Census tracts representing Pendleton and part of Walnut Hills have registered 43% and 42% response rates respectively. The lowest in the City of Cincinnati is Fay Apartments, an official City neighborhood and its own Census tract, at 34%. The City of Cincinnati in its entirety is at 63%, while Hamilton County has a 71% response rate making it the highest of Ohio’s five most populous counties.

Back in Cincinnati’s center city the success story is overwhelmingly the Census tracts that make up Over-the-Rhine. All four of the Census tracts there are already well above the Census 2000 response rates with two of the tracts a dramatic 21% higher already. Meanwhile, the Census tract in Over-the-Rhine that has been publicized for being one of the most difficult to count in the nation is currently at 44% which is 17% higher than the final Census 2000 tally.

“We are pleased with the appearance of an increase in participation, especially in OTR,” said Katherine Keough-Jurs, Senior City Planner with the City of Cincinnati’s Department of City Planning & Buildings who went on to note that the data collection methods differ from 2000 to 2010 and thus make the numbers more difficult to compare.

“Technically, comparing 2000 to 2010 is little bit like comparing apples and oranges,” Keough-Jurs explained. “Still, we are pleased that so far OTR is showing 40% to 53% participation rates and that some City neighborhoods are as high as 80%.”

The areas surrounding the University of Cincinnati had initially been slow to report and were initially some of the most under-performing in Cincinnati. The past week has seen a rapid increase in the number of responses in these neighborhoods with all now reporting at levels comparable to 2000 Census response rates with months still to go thanks to a 10% surge.

Cincinnati Counts workers have been hitting Cincinnati’s streets for months working to inform people about the 2010 Census. The good looking group on the right is a group of fellow Urban Planning students I knew while at the University of Cincinnati (shout out!).

The real paradigm exists when you move from the difficulties of counting center city populations to their suburban counterparts. As of April 12th, the west side community of Green Township boasted the highest response rate (83%) in the entire nation for communities with more than 50,000 people.

Census workers will continue to visit households that have yet to respond through July to help drive up those response rates before they must, by law, deliver the Census results to the President in December. Keough-Jurs notes that households with forms not turned in by Friday, April 16 may receive a visit from a door-to-door enumerator in May.

“Our 100-plus Complete Count Committee members are still working hard to get the word out that the census is simple, safe and important, and reminding people to complete and return their Census forms,” explained Keough-Jurs.

Those who have lost or have not received a form can pick up an additional form at local libraries and post offices. There are also Be Counted Centers that have forms available, and Questionnaire Assistance Centers that have helpers there to assist individuals with filling out their forms. You can find the closest Be Counted or Questionnaire Assistance Center near you online.

Complete Your Census Forms Today!

Today is national Census Day in America, and Cincinnatians need to be certain they send their completed Census forms back as required by law. The U.S. Census is conducted once every ten years and helps give policymakers a picture of the nation. Over that ten year period, the Census influences the allocation Congressional seats, billions of public dollars that go to schools, parks, roads, police and more.

In Cincinnati alone it has been estimated that the city was under-counted by some 45,000 people in 2000. Over the ten year period since the last count it is projected that Cincinnati’s under-counted population resulted in the loss of $104 million in public funding.

So far, only 42 percent of the households within the City of Cincinnati have responded. Cincinnati’s urban core is even worse off. Downtown has roughly 35 percent of their forms in, while Over-the-Rhine is around 15 percent. The student heavy areas surrounding the University of Cincinnati have about 25 percent of the households responding so far.

Historically urban areas are the most difficult to count, but it is imperative that a high response rate is achieved to ensure that Cincinnati gets its fair share of funding for critical public assets. In Ohio’s other major cities the story is much the same. Columbus comes in at 39 percent, and Cleveland has only 32 percent of their households reporting.

The ten question form is simple and easy to complete. In most cases it will take you just a few minutes to complete. We won’t have another shot at this until 2020, so make sure you turn those forms in right now.

STUDENTS AT AREA COLLEGES: The Census counts how many people are living at a particular place at a particular time. So regardless of where your permanent address may be you should fill out the Census for where you are living as of April 1, 2010. If your parents still claim you, and your permanent residence is listed as somewhere else that is fine, but you should fill out the form for where you are living now.

This Week In Soapbox 8/11

This Week in Soapbox (TWIS) you can read about expanded business hours at an eclectic downtown eatery, new life for a historic structure in Dayton (KY), Brandt Retail Group’s new urban focus, Cincinnati’s new comprehensive plan, the new specialty cupcake shop in Bellevue, and the Cincinnati Counts campaign for the 2010 Census.

If you’re interested in staying in touch with some of the latest development news in Cincinnati please check out this week’s stories and sign up for the weekly E-Zine sent out by Soapbox Cincinnati. Also be sure to become a fan of Soapbox on Facebook!

TWIS 8/11:

  • Expanded hours compliment new menu items at Gilpin’s downtownfull article
  • $1M grant may inject new life into historic RayMee Buildingfull article
  • Brandt Retail Group opening downtown office, creating urban focusfull article
  • Cincinnati to begin work on first city-wide comprehensive plan in nearly three decadesfull article
  • Specialty cupcake craze hits Bellevue with new shopfull article
  • City of Cincinnati intends to be fully counted for 2010 Census with new task force groupfull article

Cleveland amongst finalists for the 2014 Gay Games

Cleveland is on the verge of landing a major event that would not only pump an estimated $60 million into Cleveland’s economy, but also further establish Cleveland as a place that is welcoming to the LGBT community.

The Gay Games are the world’s largest sporting and cultural event for the LGBT community, and Cleveland is currently competing with Boston and Washington D.C. to hold this event in 2014 that, like the summer or winter Olympics, occurs once every four years.

The Cleveland Synergy Foundation (CSF) is one of the main groups pushing to land the Gay Games for Cleveland. The foundation states that its mission is to, “measurably enhance the economy, image and quality of life in the greater Cleveland LGBT and Straight community by attracting and creating athletic, cultural events and festivals.”

Cleveland Synergy Foundation also notes that while Cleveland may not sound like the first place for an event like this to be held, it should, as it has many advantages over Boston and D.C. – values that could be applied to many Midwestern cities:

  • Value – Your dollar will definitely go farther here than in Boston or DC, and that’s critically important for international spectators and athletes. More visitors add up to sold-out hotel space and significant economic impact across the entire Greater Cleveland region.
  • Location, location, location –Cleveland is centrally located in the Midwest with many major metropolitan areas, including those in Canada, less than 500 miles away.
  • Community support – The Cleveland Synergy Foundation (CSF), a nonprofit organization rooted in the LGBT sports community, is galvanizing support from public officials at the state and local levels as well as the LGBT, civic and business communities.

CSF is working hard to promote Cleveland in those ways and more, and on Friday they intend to rally the Cleveland community with an event called Frivolity that will be held at the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame and Museum in downtown Cleveland.

The event and Cleveland’s efforts to attract it are important because the LGBT community is one of the key demographics when it comes to urban revitalization. It has been seen time and time again that the LGBT community is often a demographic that is known for being ‘urban pioneers.’

These pioneers go into decaying neighborhoods and take a chance where others would just take a pass. Urban pioneers are a rare breed and one to be sought after. In Cincinnati one such neighborhood is Northside where a once borderline neighborhood has become one of Cincinnati’s best with a neighborhood business district that boasts tons of local businesses with unique offerings, fun nightlife and an enjoyable street scene.

Over-the-Rhine is another such neighborhood. Given its size it will take more than just one set or urban pioneers like the LGBT community in Northside. In OTR it is the artists and creative class, young professionals, LGBTs and others. It took these pioneers to turn 12th & Vine from one of the worst intersections in Cincinnati to one of the best. It’s happening right now just up the street at 14th & Vine and throughout much of the 100+ block historic neighborhood.

If city’s want to continue to turn themselves around and repopulate their urban neighborhoods, then the demographics that are known for doing so must be pursued aggressively. That means Cincinnati must do a better job at attracting immigrant populations, artists and the creative class, young people and the LGBT community.

Hat tip to Ashley from Raves and Reviews in Cleveland. Photo of 2006 Gay Games in Chicago by William Zachary.

Our Poor American Suburbs

The other day I was reading metropolitan policy briefings on the Brookings Institution site (It’s OK, you can say it: “Wow, David. You are a huge nerd.”) when I stumbled on this dinner party fun fact: more Americans who live below the poverty line live in suburbs than in cities.

Fascinating, right? Here’s the troubling part. The article goes on to say:

“America can’t ensure its leading place in the global economy unless we grapple with the problems and opportunities of our suburbs. Nonprofits, long focused on inner cities, need to reach out to poor families and immigrants in the suburbs. The federal government should support the production and preservation of affordable housing there.” (my emphasis added)

I respect the research the Brookings Institution conducts more than almost any other source out there, but they are dead wrong on this one.

Our public policy from approximately the end of WWII through now-ish encouraged suburban development. To say that it was the will of the people that drove suburbanization is to ignore how large of a role our public policies played in encouraging that notion.

Federally subsidized home loans allowed young families to live the “American Dream” (whatever that means…look for a post on that very topic sometime down the road). We the taxpayers funded the infrastructure that made living in the suburbs possible – the roads and highways, schools and sewers, water lines, power lines, garbage collection, police and fire protection, new parks, city halls, local government employees…all these things cost money.

‘Suburbia’ by David Shankbone

When people spread out over a large area, the cost to implement and sustain all new versions of these tax-backed services skyrockets. Furthermore, in many cases they become redundant. As has been said somewhere else, it costs the same to plow a street whether 10 people live on it or 100 people do. The only difference is the number of people paying into the system that pays for the maintenance of that road – the more people paying in, the less expensive per tax-payer. Multiply that same scenario out for everything else our taxes pay for, and well, you can see how expensive sprawl can be.

Nevertheless, for the past 60 years or so, our public policy has made it easy to move out of the scary, dangerous city into the prosperous, safe, “good life” in the suburbs because we the taxpayer have funded the infrastructure necessary to do so.

I agree with the Brookings writers’ assertion that the social services to support those who have fallen on desperate times ought to be available in the suburbs, but it’s a mentality that’s like treating a gunshot wound with a Hello Kitty Band-Aid – it might make you feel better momentarily, but you’re probably still gonna die.

Brookings’ solution to six decades of bad public policy that incentivizes living in an inefficient and unsustainable way is to … um … bolster the public policy that incentivizes living in an inefficient and unsustainable way. Throwing money and social services at this problem will help those who need it temporarily, but, we need to look at how our policies encourage and discourage where people live.

Instead of incentivizing sprawl, our local, state, and federal governments need to incentivize filling in the existing beautiful housing stock we have here already. We need to find ways to incentivize healthy density and strong neighborhoods with a local focus. When we do, the development that occurs as a result will grow the tax base. The new-found efficiencies will allow us to provide the same or better services, but with less money. Doing more with less – that’s what will reverse our economic downturn.

So how do we do incentivize density? Tax incentives to those who revamp existing housing within a particular radius of downtown, maybe? A reexamination of our existing federal subsidies for first-time home buyers? Build the Cincinnati Streetcar? Reexamining zoning laws to allow or encourage higher density mixed-use buildings in areas? I’m all ears.

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.