2011 was a busy year for the state of Ohio with a newly seated Governor and General Assembly, the kick-off of HUD Sustainable Communities Grants in Northeast Ohio, Cincinnati and Columbus, and a range of local responses to a changing budgetary climate. Greater Ohio remained in the thick of it all, as our “best of” list from the past 12 months shows. In 2012, make sure to follow us on our blog, Facebook or Twitter as we roll out new original research on “shrinking cities,” weigh-in on regional economic development legislation, give presentations to local communities, debate current events on local political shows, and undertake a range of other activities.
Modeling Collaboration. 2011 has been a divisive year for Ohio and the nation with partisanship increasingly dictating the political landscape. Among Greater Ohio’s greatest achievements in 2011 was collaborating with the Buckeye Institute and the Center for Community Solutions on two major policy initiatives.
- One was “Across the Spectrum: The Future of Ohio and the Path to Prosperity,” a highly successful and extremely unique conference that promoted bi-partisan dialogue and debate on a range of critical issues for our state. This daylong event challenged individuals and organizations to think out of their intellectual and ideological silos and work collaboratively to jumpstart a new economy in Ohio.
- Second was a jointly issued letter that called for a commission that would evaluate current tax expenditures or “loopholes” in Ohio. Our tripartite think tank partnership for tax reform attracted extensive state and even national attention and we continue to regularly testify with our partners on the need for tax reform.
Influencing State Policy. The collaborative spirit that we fostered with the Buckeye Institute and Center for Community Solutions also carried us through contentious battles at the Statehouse. We held over two dozen meetings with administrative and agency officials, and testified over 20 times this year to the General Assembly on a range of bills, including the 2012-13 Budget, agricultural zoning, the estate tax, and more.
- Based on our testimony, the General Assembly designated ODOT to be among the first four agencies to receive a Performance Audit (HB2/SB4). Such an audit is imperative because ODOT is facing fiscal collapse (see page 36). This audit will provide critical information that can help the agency run more efficiently and will give a better assessment of its funding and how that funding is being used. GO will leverage this audit to urge for funding for multi-modal transit options.
- We have long advocated for the reform of local governance structures. In addition to our testimonies and meetings, the Columbus Dispatch quoted our comments on the need for mechanics that will help manage Ohio’s high number of governments. We also published a Letter to the Editor in the Dispatch that applauded recent shared servicing underway in Franklin County and Columbus.
- The state established the Local Government Innovation Fund, a $45 million Fund that will award loans and grants to local communities for efficiency, collaboration, merger, and shared services projects. This program is a modification of one of our policy recommendations and derives from language we have been advocating for for several years. Additionally, GO’s Senior Director of Government Affairs was named to the Local Government Innovation Council, which is overseeing this program. The LGIC will be an important force in shaping how local governments adjust to funding reductions from the state.
Researching for Sustainable Growth. Greater Ohio is greatly respected for the data-driven research that undergirds our policy recommendations.
- After the 2012-13 State Budget was released, we disseminated our State Budget Response and Local Government Restructuring Toolkit in which we approved of the first steps established by the Budget but raised concerns that it didn’t go far enough in supporting cities as they transitioned to a more modern governance structure.
- We updated and released our Sales Tax Study, a research project first that analyzes rates of sales tax capture per county. The research indicates that we now shop, work and live regionally, but that our tax structure continues to operate as though it is the 19th century, by county. We have outlined these findings in legislative testimony and in public education presentations.
Advancing the Dialogue in Ohio and Beyond on Urban Core Revitalization. Much of Greater Ohio’s work is focused on educating stakeholders within the state, nation, and world of Ohio’s strengths and challenges. We do this through a number of collaborative relationships and by giving presentations around the state once a week, on average
- We convened a summit, “Building Prosperity in Akron,” with co-hosts the Greater Akron Chamber, the City of Akron, Summit County, and the University of Akron. The day’s multiple presentations framed for the 200 attendees new approaches that will help prepare the city and county for the next economy and ensure a strong Akron future.
- We served as a panelist and organizer for the American Assembly meeting in Detroit on “Defining a Future for America’s Cities Experiencing Severe Population Loss,” sponsored by Columbia University. Because Ohio has a number of “legacy cities,” we were able to learn much from and greatly contribute to the production of policy approaches that will assist cities in stabilizing, “right sizing,” and finding new ways to rebuild their economies and engage local stakeholders.
- We began our second year of partnership with the German Marshall Fund, participating in workshops in Cleveland and Youngstown on targeted neighborhood investment and economic development in legacy cities. We also co-led a 9-day study tour to Germany’s Ruhr region and Barcelona, Spain to understand regional economic development strategies.
- Greater Ohio partnered with the DC-based think tank, Center for Community Progress, on our “Building American Cities” project, which is researching and collecting best practices and policies for “cities in transition” Already, we have hosted two workshops in conjunction with this project and have several more planned for 2012.
- A graduate student architecture studio from OSU utilized our Restoring Prosperity findings to “visualize” what Ohio’s next economy might look like.
By the Numbers
Over 20 meetings with administrative and agency officials, and 20+ legislative testimonies.
12 appearances as a pundit on current events television shows around the state.
2 radio show appearances.
1 letter to the editor of the Columbus Dispatch on shared service agreements in Franklin County.
143 newspaper articles and blogs quoting Greater Ohio or covering our work, and additional 20+ articles covering our tax expenditure work and conference with the Buckeye Institute and the Center for Community Solutions.
1 high school intern, 1 undergraduate intern, 1 legal assistant intern.
1,016 Twitter followers.
266 Facebook “likes”.
4 different ways Greater Ohio staffers regularly commuted to the office: walking, biking, busing, and driving.