The State of the State

By Gene Krebs. Like many Buckeyes, I am waiting for the budget to be released later today.  In the meantime, many have been poring over the recent State of the State speech by Governor Kasich and looking for clues.  I was pleased to see that the speech touched on many smart growth principles.

Some of the themes from the speech aligned with what we have been hammering on for seven long years.  The main one is that our metropolitan regions are central to restoring Ohio.  Governor Kasich emphasized this by drawing attention to the dramatic population loss of many of Ohio’s major cities.  “Cleveland and Youngstown have lost 50 percent of their population since 1950. Fifty percent of the population of Cleveland and Youngstown gone.  And I will take your breath away by telling you that the city where the north meets the south, Cincinnati, has lost 40 percent of its population since 1950.”  This acknowledgment of our shrinkage is an important first step to being able to diagnose and treat the problems we are facing.  This focus on cities also affirms Greater Ohio’s agenda.  I am glad to hear that cities and metros are getting the attention they deserve.

The State of the State speech also reflected a shift in attitude towards how we grow.  What does it all mean?  This could be an indicator of massive changes in how we govern, how we are organized, and how we spend.  These changes are likely coming as the state attempts to deal with our unprecedented budget shortfall.

It was also positive to hear that Governor Kasich supports governance reform and shared services.  As he said in his speech, “We are going to reform government, okay? It's going to happen. And I'm -- I'm asking you all to keep an open mind about the possibilities of reform because you can't keep doing the same thing in this state and avoiding the decisions that need to be made that have been put off for political reasons, frankly.”   Change certainly is needed for many reasons.  Ohio’s antiquated form of government was designed for the horse and buggy economy, not the global economy.  We need to reform in order to compete.

However, we hope that the change represents not just cuts in our spending, but also the right types of investments in our cities and metros as well.  Ohio needs to face the fact that cutting taxes and spending alone will not be the silver bullet.  And we have to acknowledge that our population loss is not due solely to high taxes.  We need to invest in order to build the kinds of quality places that attract businesses and skilled workers.  For further proof of this, see this letter from a Michigan CEO who wants to relocate out of Michigan not due to taxes or regulations, but because the sprawl endemic to his area creates undesirable places where talented, educated workers prefer not to live.

All in all, there were many positive signs, but there is a lot of work ahead of us, and the devil is in the details.  We look forward to seeing the budget later today in order to figure out the Governor’s proposed path of action.  Stay tuned for more of Greater Ohio’s analysis.