Category Archives: Cities & Towns

City Budgets Hit Hard By Economic Downturn, According To NLC Report

Source: American City & County, September 16, 2008

Many cities will have to struggle to make ends meet for the next two years, according to a report from the Washington-based National League of Cities (NLC). NLC’s City Fiscal Conditions in 2008 report, released this week, predicted that, even if overall economic conditions improved now, cities could be reeling until 2010.

Volunteering in America’s Largest Cities

Source: Corporation for National & Community Service, Office of Research and Policy Development, 2007

Volunteering in America: 2007 City Trends and Rankings uses volunteer data collected by the U.S. Census Bureau and Bureau of Labor Statistics from 2004-2006. It ranks and includes profiles for 50 of the largest cities including the volunteer rate; the types of organizations through which residents serve; their main volunteering activities, the average hours per year and volunteer rates for age and gender demographic groups, and key trends and highlights. The report also analyzes social and demographic trends affect city volunteer rates and finds that there are four key drivers of volunteering: community attachment; commuting times, high school graduation levels and poverty; and the prevalence of nonprofits and their capacity to retain volunteers from year to year. The information on volunteering at the local level can help local governments, community leaders, service organizations, and volunteers nationwide develop a volunteer growth strategy, set goals to increase the level of individual engagement in volunteer activities, and build the infrastructure of nonprofits and communities to support more volunteer opportunities.
Executive Summary
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Older Cities Hold On to More People, Census Shows

Source: William H. Frey, Metropolitan Policy Program, Brookings Institution, July 10, 2008

Newly released U.S. Census Bureau population data for U.S. cities show a new twist on a well-known theme that could be good news for older cities hoping to reverse population declines of the past.

The familiar part of the report indicates that most of the nation’s fastest growing cities are located in the South and interior West. Places like McKinney, TX; North Las Vegas, NV; and Cary, NC, are registering growth rates that cities in baseball’s “American League Central” division (e.g., Detroit, Cleveland, Kansas City) can only dream about. But the new estimates also show a clear retrenchment of the old “Snowbelt to Sunbelt” population surge, a turnaround that has brought modest gains to many older and coastal cities that lost population earlier in the decade.

•Figure 1: Annual Population Changes in Big Cities with Growth Rebounds, 2000-2007
•Figure 2: Annual Population Changes in Big Cities with Growth Slowdowns, 2000-2007
•Table 1: Annual Rates of Population Change, U.S. Cities with more than 1 million Residents, 2000-2007
•Table 2: Annual Rates of Population Change for U.S. Cities with at least 250,000 Residents, by Region, 2000-2007

Envisioning Opportunity: Three Options for a Community College in Washington, D.C.

Source: Brooke DeRenzis, Martha Ross, and Alice Rivlin, Brookings Institution, May 2008

From the summary:
In most cities around the country, community colleges play a critical role in providing training for “middle skill” jobs, those that require less than a four-year degree but more than a high school diploma; helping students transfer to four-year baccalaureate programs; and serving adults who want to upgrade their skills. Community colleges are accessible to residents through open admissions and affordable tuition rates. They serve a diverse student body from all social and economic backgrounds with flexible schedules and offerings. Community colleges offer a wide array of academic and occupationally-focused certificate and associate programs tied to the regional labor market. Associate degree programs have clear articulation agreements with four-year degree programs to facilitate transfers. Community colleges also provide strong developmental courses for students without the reading, writing, or math skills required for college-level coursework, as well as support and guidance services to help students succeed. They often forge strong links with public high schools and adult literacy programs. Additionally, community colleges serve regional employers by working closely with them to develop curricula and programs to prepare a pool of skilled and qualified workers.

This brief lays out three options for creating a community college in the District: (1) Create a community college within UDC; (2) create a freestanding community college from an incubator institution; or (3) create a community college network that strengthens and ties together sub-baccalaureate offerings at UDC and other institutions in the city and suburbs. None of these options are easy or cheap, and all would require substantial commitment from city leaders and major new investments in higher education. If the city is not willing to make a large and long-term investment, it cannot expect much in return. While each option has benefits and limitations, we believe that the most viable, effective, and sustainable option is the creation of a freestanding community college that starts within an incubator institution.
See also:
Why Washington Needs a Community College
Source: Alice M. Rivlin, Walter Smith, Brookings Institution, July 6, 2008

MetroPolicy for a MetroNation

Source: Brookings Institution, Blueprint for American Prosperity, June 2008

The current economic downturn forces us to confront America’s ability to compete in a global economy. We expect that the next president and Congress will turn their attention immediately to bolstering our nation’s economic health, and they should focus not just on easing short term pain, but also on setting our nation on a sustainable track for prosperity. The purpose of the Blueprint for American Prosperity is to ensure that our leaders are focused on those assets that drive national prosperity and those places where the assets are overwhelmingly concentrated–America’s 363 metropolitan areas. The Blueprint’s MetroNation report has already made the case for the economic and demographic primacy of metropolitan America in the face of withering global competition. Its companion piece, MetroPolicy, provides an integrated policy agenda to meet that challenge. Simply put, national prosperity hinges on metropolitan prosperity.
See also:
MetroPolicy: Shaping a New Federal Partnership for a Metropolitan Nation

Recycling America’s Land

Source: Unites States Conference of Mayors, A National Report on Brownfields Redevelopment, Volume VII, January 2008

The United States Conference of Mayors defines the term “brownfield” as an abandoned or underutilized property where expansion or redevelopment is complicated by either real or perceived environmental contamination. This description applies to a wide variety of sites including, but not limited to, industrial properties, old gas stations, vacant warehouses, former dry cleaning establishments, abandoned residential buildings which potentially could contain lead paint or asbestos. Under the new law, sites that contain petroleum products as well as mine-scarred land are also considered brownfields. Brownfields are located in almost every community in the United States.

The seventh Brownfield’s report documents the problems of brownfields redevelopment faced by local communities throughout the United States and identifies the fleeting opportunities lost when properties remain idle and abandoned. For the first time, this report quantifies some of the benefits from brownfields redevelopment efforts across the country with cities responding their positive results from land recycling and the return of brownfields to productive uses.

$60 Million and Counting: The cost of vacant and abandoned properties to eight Ohio cities

Source: Community Research Partners and Rebuild Ohio, February 2008

The debilitating effects of vacant and abandoned properties are evident in neighborhoods and communities throughout Ohio and the nation, and the recent foreclosure epidemic has made the issue of vacant properties a top news story and catapulted it to the top of public policy agendas. However, this is a long-standing problem in older and central city housing markets, where the issues of predatory and subprime lending and vacant and abandoned housing have existed for many years.

This research documents the magnitude and cost of the vacant and abandoned properties problem in eight Ohio cities: Cleveland, Columbus, Dayton, Ironton, Lima, Springfield, Toledo, Zanesville. The research found:

– 25,000 vacant and abandoned properties

– Widespread vacancies in both large and small cities

– $15 million in annual city service costs

– $49 million in cumulative lost property tax revenues to local governments and school districts

– Weakened neighborhood housing markets with evidence of property flipping

– Limited capacity of cities, on their own, to track and address vacant and abandoned properties

The Maturing of America — Getting Communities on Track for an Aging Population

Source: National Association of Area Agencies on Aging, in partnership with the International City/County Management Association, National Association of Counties, National League of Cities and Partners for Livable Communities (via Smart Growth Resource Library)

The vast majority of older Americans want to age in their homes and communities for as long as possible. However, the aging of the population will pose new challenges for the delivery of local services such as health care, recreation, housing, transportation, public safety, employment and education. While these services assist a broad segment of the population, they also have a major impact on the quality of life of older Americans. The aging of America will also present opportunities as the nation’s communities realize the largest population of educated and skilled older adults in its history. To help cities and counties better meet the needs of their aging population, and to harness the experience and talent of their older citizens, five national organizations joined forces to identify ways to prepare for the aging of this population. Known as The Maturing of America — Getting Communities on Track for an Aging Population, the project is being led by the National Association of Area Agencies on Aging, in partnership with the International City/County Management Association, National Association of Counties, National League of Cities and Partners for Livable Communities. The initiative is funded by a grant from MetLife Foundation. In the project’s first phase, Maturing of America partners surveyed 10,000 local governments to:
• determine their “aging readiness” to provide programs, policies and services that address the needs of older adults and their caregivers;
• to ensure that their communities are “livable” for persons of all ages; and
• to harness the talent, wisdom and experience of older adults to contribute to the community at large.

The survey found that only 46 percent of American communities have begun to address the needs of the rapidly increasing aging population. The survey results show that although many communities have some programs to address the needs of older adults, few have undertaken a comprehensive assessment to make their communities “elder friendly” or livable communities for all ages.

Survey findings indicate that local governments generally offer basic health and nutrition programs, but as yet do not have the policies, programs or services in place to promote the quality of life and the ability of older adults to live independently and contribute to their communities for as long as possible. These services might include job retraining, flextime and other job accommodations; home chore services, home modification and senior-friendly housing options, tax relief, roadway redesign or public transportation assistance as well as volunteer opportunities targeted to older adults.

The needs of older adults are often interrelated. For example, providing housing will not be sufficient if residents lack transportation to get to basic services such as medical offices, the pharmacy or grocery store. These interdependent needs of older adults may require a completely new comprehensive, holistic approach to service delivery organization and management. American’s communities need to take a fresh look at their existing policies, programs and services to see if they address the needs of an aging population. Those communities who have already begun to test their “aging readiness” are now reaching out to their older citizens to engage them in discussions about what changes to local government services may be needed to enhance their quality of life and ensure that they can grow old successfully in the community.

Full Report (PDF; 2.8 MB)

MetroNation: How U.S. Metropolitan Areas Fuel American Prosperity

Source: Alan Berube, Brookings Institution, November 06, 2007

From the summary:
Despite facing new and unprecedented challenges–economic, environmental, and demographic–America stands in a position of great strength. To achieve economic prosperity that is broadly shared and environmentally sustainable, our nation must leverage the key assets–innovation, human capital, infrastructure, and quality places–that principally concentrate in our major metropolitan areas.