Invest in changeWritten by Tom Pounds | President / Publisher | firstname.lastname@example.org
A few weeks ago, the Toledo Local Initiatives Support Corporation (LISC) sent the Toledo mayoral candidates some suggestions for “proven approaches that offer realistic, achievable improvement” for our community. These are not, as LISC is quick to say, “quick fixes,” but are compass points for long-term development.
LISC maintains that people chose communities based on common characteristics: quality of schools; crime; and economics, defined as affordability, shopping, market stability and neighborhood completeness.
The full essay will be posted below, but here is an outline of the LISC suggestions:
n Support community land use plans that have been developed by businesses and residents, approved by the Plan Commission, and adopted into the Toledo 2020 Plan. This includes avoiding “granting special use permits and variances in areas where overlay or neighborhood plans have been adopted,” and facilitating “comprehensive community planning for commercial and residential areas, especially those suffering from disinvestment.”
n Reinvest in existing infrastructure — “Fix it First.” This includes prioritizing projects, obtaining government funds and re-using existing buildings, and improving current elements of infrastructure before investing in new developments.
n Concentrate and coordinate resources. This includes increasing collaboration among city departments, eliminating duplication of city efforts and allocating specific federal funds to Community Development Corporations.
n Budget for investment in change. This is a plan to “Set aside eight percent of operating and capital budgets in each department for innovative, collaborative and strategic investment in projects and practices that increase local competitiveness in the future,” to supplement venture capital from private sources.
The LISC also recommends embracing such efforts as the New Schools New Neighborhoods initiative, which has been the focus of a yearlong Toledo Free Press special series written by Mike Driehorst.
I know the mayoral candidates are busy and their attentions are being pulled in myriad directions, but it would greatly benefit each of them to read and assimilate these suggestions. With their own creative spin and close collaboration with LISC and its many community partners, there could be a concerted effort to move our neighborhoods forward, one at a time.
It also behooves the candidates to be familiar with these points, as they may be topics for questions at our Sept. 8 live televised debate on FOX Toledo — hint, hint.
Thomas F. Pounds is president and publisher of Toledo Free Press. Contact him at email@example.com.
Toledo’s Future is Linked to its Neighborhoods
Local Initiatives Support Corporation
Great cities are great places to live. People “do their living” in neighborhoods – they are the central threads of a city’s well-being and vitality.
Historically, Toledo has been a city of great neighborhoods filled with committed citizens. However, like many older industrial metropolitan areas, Toledo is beset by population and employment loss, property abandonment and declining values, aging and decaying infrastructure, image and confidence issues, and declining business and payroll tax revenues. Our challenges obscure Toledo’s assets and undermine our economic competitiveness and community optimism.
For the past 20-years, Toledo Local Initiatives Support Corporation (LISC) has helped transform distressed neighborhoods into healthy and sustainable “communities of choice.” We have secured over $80 million in grants, loans, and equity from our national organization to help community development corporations build or renovate over 1500 homes and 500,000 square feet of commercial space in neighborhoods. At the same time, we have provided technical assistance, research and training for non-profits and local government, and produced a number of topical reports and development plans. Toledo’s competitiveness for employment and residential retention and growth is enhanced by the presence of an array of “neighborhoods of choice” or “Great Neighborhoods” that appeals to a cross section of people.
There are many characteristics of “communities of choice,” but three dominant factors guide most people in choosing where they live:
• Quality of schools
• Crime, including the fear of crime
• Economics, including affordability, nearby shopping, market stability and neighborhood completeness
Toledo’s problems have old roots, and the economic and real estate finance conditions of the last several years have exacerbated them dramatically. The spread of vacant properties and the rise in foreclosures extends far beyond the core city, threatening a growing number of Toledo neighborhoods. While there are no quick fixes for our problems, other cities have found promising, proven approaches that offer realistic, achievable improvement.
We must unlock Toledo’s potential by first reconsidering the way we do business. There are answers if we are willing to break old molds, re-think our core policies and practices and embrace the future.
The 2009 Toledo Mayoral election is undeniably an important point in the history of our city. Because of this, LISC offers several policy recommendations and encourages our elected and administrative leaders to adopt them as they set the stage for the future of Toledo.
Support community land use plans that have been developed by businesses and residents, approved by the Plan Commission, and adopted into the Toledo 2020 Plan.
• Avoid granting special use permits and variances in areas where overlay or neighborhood plans have been adopted. Successful development is founded on clear, thoughtful and comprehensive plans that focus on neighborhood completeness.
• Support and facilitate comprehensive community planning for commercial and residential areas, especially those suffering from disinvestment. It is simply not true that “any development or business” is a good thing in areas that are working to reverse negative trends and improve quality of life. Downgrading zoning and granting certain special use permits actually impedes renewal, discourages desirable new investment and residency, and encourages low-end real estate speculation.
Reinvest in existing infrastructure — “Fix it First”.
• Prioritize projects, secure federal and state funds, and support the adaptive re-use of existing buildings and land, both for commercial and residential use.
• Prioritize the improvement of existing infrastructure before committing scarce resources to the development and installation of new infrastructure. This is a more efficient use of limited capital resources.
• Target Capital Improvement Program (CIP) expenditures to areas with formal, planned re-development projects.
Concentrate and Coordinate Resources
• Commit to better internal coordination and collaboration among city departments and divisions, including planning and conformance to the 2020 Plan, with regard to all development projects involving the City.
• Mandate collaboration and coordination of all development and funding partners and concentrate investment in narrower and deeper ways. The City must resist duplication of effort and require collaboration.
• The City should continue to reserve at least 15% of its annual federal CDBG allocation to invest in Community Development Corporations (CDCs) and Community Housing Development Organizations (CHDOs) while ensuring a positive and sustainable impact by raising expectations and outcomes in a responsible and supportive way.
Budget for investment in change
• Set aside eight percent of operating and capital budgets in each department for innovative, collaborative and strategic investment in projects and practices that increase local competitiveness in the future. We cannot depend entirely on securing “venture capital” from public or private sources outside of Toledo. In the competitive environment for funds, the decision to invest local government resources increases our likelihood of securing funds from external sources. Committing a portion of every department and division’s resources to change-producing opportunities will tangibly demonstrate local support for strategic and innovative projects and practices. Such a commitment promises to accelerate positive change and position us to develop the economic engines of the 21st century to assure our prosperity – green technologies, highly efficient transportation modalities, and the like.
• Fully embrace efforts such as New Schools New Neighborhoods and institution-anchored corridor planning and development and adopt recommendations in “The Ripple Effect,” “The Toledo Housing Report” and “Toledo at the Tipping Point.”
Toledo’s future will be determined by the next administration, and a full outline of LISC’s Policy recommendations for the City of Toledo has been sent to all Mayoral candidates. On behalf of the Toledo LISC Local Advisory Committee, I encourage our next Mayor to follow these steps to renew and extend Toledo’s great tradition of “neighborhoods of choice” for the betterment of our community.