This past weekend Dayton hosted the Ten Living Cities Symposium. The event was well attended and brought together a diverse group of public leaders, community activists, and artists representing each of the ten cities listed on the “fastest dying” cities. The day began with opening remarks by Josh Zumbrun, who authored the Forbes.com article that inspired the event. Through his remarks, he clarified that the article was an economic analysis and was intended to bring about public awareness to the plight of these cities and not meant to portray these as hopeless places. Following Zumbrun’s remarks, representatives from eight of the ten cities (Scranton, PA and Springfield, MA were not formally represented) gave presentations that highlighted the unique assets of their city and also provided examples of innovative and creative projects and programs taking place in each locale. The presentations communicated the overriding theme of the day: although each city on the list suffers from negative statistical trends, they are still home to many vibrant people and places who are working to improve their city’s quality of life.
The second half of the event called for more dialogue and participation amongst attendees in which ideas, advice and best practices were openly exchanged. The day ended with a recap and reflection of the main take away messages from the event with a collective understanding that there is much more work to be done. Overall, the symposium offered the residents of these cities the chance to meet and exchange ideas and to also showcase positive aspects of their cities, ones that often go unreported by the media.