My Vibrant Daily

An Initiative A Day 9.6: Sustain the momentum of NEOSCC by continuing to convene stakeholders to identify and address regional issues and to advance the region’s collaborative capacity.

March 28, 2014 in Vibrant NEO 2040, Vision

Initiative 9.6: Sustain the momentum of NEOSCC by continuing to convene stakeholders to identify and address regional issues and to advance the region’s collaborative capacity.

WHAT THIS MEANS. NEOSCC filled a tremendously valuable role by convening and facilitating dialogue between stakeholders throughout the Vibrant NEO 2040 visioning process. The “Workstreams” NEOSCC convened brought together stakeholders who had limited interaction in the past to engage in a joint fact-finding process culminating in the indicators and trends platform. The results were striking: data-driven identification of commonalities across several dimensions of concern, along with open dialogues about what it meant. From these conversations, outward migration, fiscal health, and environmental quality emerged as the central themes guiding the process.

WHY THIS IS IMPORTANT. Dialogue builds trust between parties lacking a common history and helps them to identify common interests and concerns—critical first steps to being able to build consensus and agree on joint action. Since many of the required next steps to implement the region’s vision require intergovernmental collaboration or larger regional collaborations, there is an acute need for a space and support function similar to what NEOSCC provided for the regional visioning effort.

GETTING IT DONE. The natural lead for this initiative would be a formalized NEOSCC entity, which could provide the skilled staff and resources to convene ongoing working groups of stakeholders to implement the region’s vision. If appetite for extending NEOSCC’s life is too low, the successors of the organization may want to consider identifying a university partner(s) to fill the facilitation role. Either way, progress toward a vibrant Northeast Ohio in 2040 hinges on the availability of a good facilitation and collaboration management entity.

On February 25, the NEOSCC Board voted unanimously to approve and endorse the Vibrant NEO 2040 Vision, Framework and Action Products.  We are sharing an “Initiative A Day” so you can gain a better understanding of the vision and framework!  If you would like to read all of the Initiatives, you can download them here: Recommendation and Initiatives.  You can access a pdf of the entire vision chapter here.  The vision chapter contains all 41 initiatives, development strategies, indicators, and matrices that identify how the recommendations, initiatives and indicators all relate.

Show your support for Vibrant NEO 2040 by adding your name to our Champions of Vibrant NEO 2040 list here.

These recommendations, initiatives, and products, are not one-size-fits all and some aspects of the initiatives won’t be applicable everywhere in the 12-county region. The Vibrant NEO 2040 Vision, Framework and Products are intended inspire and guide decision-making at the Metropolitan Planning Organization (MPO), Council of Government, and local levels to ensure that land use, transportation, and environmental considerations are simultaneously addressed by their processes. Ultimately, the implementation of Vibrant NEO 2040 is up to Northeast Ohio’s communities and residents. But regardless of the applicability of each initiative to any particular part of the region, the goal for each community within the Vision is the same: stability, prosperity, and a high quality of life for all of its residents.

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An Initiative A Day 9.5: Foster greater engagement between MPOS/COGS and organizations/ initiatives that address natural resources, parks, sewer, public health, housing, education, private business investment, and economic development.

March 27, 2014 in Vibrant NEO 2040, Vision

On February 25, the NEOSCC Board voted unanimously to approve and endorse the Vibrant NEO 2040 Vision, Framework and Action Products.  We are sharing an “Initiative A Day” so you can gain a better understanding of the vision and framework!  If you would like to read all of the Initiatives, you can download them here: Recommendation and Initiatives.  You can access a pdf of the entire vision chapter here.  The vision chapter contains all 41 initiatives, development strategies, indicators, and matrices that identify how the recommendations, initiatives and indicators all relate.

Show your support for Vibrant NEO 2040 by adding your name to our Champions of Vibrant NEO 2040 list here.

Initiative 9.5: Foster greater engagement between MPO’S/COG’S and organizations/ initiatives that address natural resources, parks, sewer, public health, housing, education, private business investment, and economic development. 

WHAT THIS MEANS. The Vibrant NEO 2040 visioning process brought the region’s MPOs and COGs into contact with a wide spectrum of organizations, initiatives, and stakeholders with which they do not regularly engage. These include philanthropies, metroparks, community and economic development agencies, housing agencies, health districts, universities policy centers, private developers, advocacy groups, and natural resource management entities. The alternative scenarios created during the process showed how the transportation and community development work of MPOs and COGs interacts with the region’s many other systems and attributes to produce outcomes that affect livability. These relationships should be further explored to inform more substantive planning and policy-making in the future.

WHY THIS IS IMPORTANT. The alternative scenario exercise illustrated the value of interdependent systems thinking—how one decision or physical pattern in one system impacts the performance of others, yielding a chain of impacts that eventually affects the environment of that same system. If the ambitious objectives set forth in this plan are to take shape, not to mention the initiatives proposed above, the level of involvement and communication between MPOs, COGs, and stakeholders in a variety of areas must continue and increase. This is especially true of economic development and business entities, as many of the initiatives proposed above address how infrastructure investments and land use policy should be made to strengthen economic development prospects in the region.

GETTING IT DONE. Many of the initiatives proposed above involve MPO and COG leadership, or view them as a catalyst for further action or a source of research and information support. Taken together, these initiatives provide a roadmap for how MPOs and COGs can engage in the work of organizations and efforts taking place in other areas of focus:

• Natural resources—7.1, 7.2, 7.6

• Parks—7.1

• Sewer—1.3, 1.5

• Public Health—3.1, Recommendation 6,   Recommendation 8

• Housing—Recommendation 1, Recommendation 4

• Education—6.4

• Economic Development—Recommendation 1, Recommendation 3

POLICY: Build stronger local governance and partnerships: While the growth of new economic sectors and stronger markets will ultimately transform cities, those changes may not take place unless the cities themselves build new and stronger local governance structures, reorganize operations, and build greater capacity. Partnerships must be created to bridge the public, nonprofit, and private sectors.

Lead Metropolitan Planning Organizations, Councils of Governments; Universities; Nonprofit Organizations; Special Purpose Districts or Agencies; Municipalities, Townships, Counties
Target Community N/A
Implementation Complexity High

 
These recommendations, initiatives, and products, are not one-size-fits all and some aspects of the initiatives won’t be applicable everywhere in the 12-county region. The Vibrant NEO 2040 Vision, Framework and Products are intended inspire and guide decision-making at the Metropolitan Planning Organization (MPO), Council of Government, and local levels to ensure that land use, transportation, and environmental considerations are simultaneously addressed by their processes. Ultimately, the implementation of Vibrant NEO 2040 is up to Northeast Ohio’s communities and residents. But regardless of the applicability of each initiative to any particular part of the region, the goal for each community within the Vision is the same: stability, prosperity, and a high quality of life for all of its residents.

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An Initiative A Day 9.4: Align MPO/COG/ODOT transportation model inputs and continue to collaborate, share information, and align policy objectives across the multiple regional planning agencies of northeast Ohio.

March 26, 2014 in Vibrant NEO 2040, Vision

On February 25, the NEOSCC Board voted unanimously to approve and endorse the Vibrant NEO 2040 Vision, Framework and Action Products.  We are sharing an “Initiative A Day” so you can gain a better understanding of the vision and framework!  If you would like to read all of the Initiatives, you can download them here: Recommendation and Initiatives.  You can access a pdf of the entire vision chapter here.  The vision chapter contains all 41 initiatives, development strategies, indicators, and matrices that identify how the recommendations, initiatives and indicators all relate.

Show your support for Vibrant NEO 2040 by adding your name to our Champions of Vibrant NEO 2040 list here.

Initiative 9.4: Align MPO/COG/ODOT transportation model inputs and continue to collaborate, share information, and align policy objectives across the multiple regional planning agencies of northeast Ohio.

WHAT THIS MEANS. The planning area in Vibrant NEO 2040 encompasses four transportation management areas (TMAs) served by four metropolitan planning organizations (MPOs). MPOs are federally-designated regional transportation planning entities charged with modeling transportation system performance and travel demand, maintaining a long range transportation plan for their TMA, and administering a Transportation Improvement Program through which federal transportation dollars flow to transportation project. Given the scope of MPOs’ duties, aligning transportation models, information systems, and policy objectives between these organizations is an important administrative step in making progress toward the region’s vision.

In other urban regions with several MPOs, an overarching coordination entity may exist to help align MPO’s modeling and planning efforts. The seven-MPO West Central Florida MPOs Chairs Coordinating Committee (CCC) in the Tampa Bay and central Gulf coast region is composed of the board chairpersons of each of its constituent MPOs, with nonvoting advisory representation from Florida Department of  Transportation district secretaries, the area’s regional planning  councils, and a non-governmental business-led transportation  authority in the Tampa Bay area. The Committee develops a unified long-range transportation plan that helps to guide the updates of federally-endorsed long-range plans of member MPOs, organizes a regional congestion management system, and coordinates between member MPOs on major investment studies and project programming.

WHY THIS IS IMPORTANT. Today, there is not a formal overarching framework of coordination between Northeast Ohio’s MPOs. The multiple MPOs of the region may currently update long-range transportation models, plans, and transportation improvement programs on different cycles, may define differing selection criteria for projects to be included in the plans and programmed for funding, and may focus public outreach and comment on purely local issues due to their limited geographic scope. This may result in missed opportunities for combining efforts, programming projects, and developing policies that seek to achieve common objectives. It may also lead to major project investments that fail to yield the benefits and outcomes projected of them because they are not coordinated with other investments throughout the region and thus do not fully achieve their intended potential utility. Both of these in turn may hinder Northeast Ohio’s efforts at economic growth and development in the long term, especially as the region begins to draw on its collective strengths in keeping itself economically competitive.

GETTING IT DONE. Northeast Ohio’s MPOs should consider forming a coordinating council to align their activities and help ensure that truly regional projects and opportunities for investment are mutually understood. Ideally, this would further allow the coordinated planning and programming of projects to extend the benefits that an individual MPO’s investment of public funds would have for the entire region. An individual metropolitan area’s projects and programs could yield additional, region wide benefits if they were designed to complement one another and contribute to meeting the objectives for regional connectivity discussed in 5.1 and 5.2.

The council does not have to be large in size and may indeed be most effective when giving limited but strategic recommendations. Establishment of a coordinating committee for these MPOs can be an initial step in ensuring better coordination and making sure that transportation investments that benefit the larger region are mutually understood. It would specifically allow the following:

• Joint use of transportation models, with the possibility of integration into an overall regional travel demand model

• A focused audience for public comment on individual MPO LRTP drafts as they are being developed

• Real-time understanding of project demand from local governments throughout the region (as understood from MPO calls for projects)

• Potential combination/leverage of funds for technical assistance programs and other planning initiatives, especially related to Congestion Management and Air Quality (CMAQ)

Lead Metropolitan Planning Organizations, Councils of Governments
Target Community Strategic investment areas, asset risk areas, cost risk areas
Implementation Complexity Moderate

These recommendations, initiatives, and products, are not one-size-fits all and some aspects of the initiatives won’t be applicable everywhere in the 12-county region. The Vibrant NEO 2040 Vision, Framework and Products are intended inspire and guide decision-making at the Metropolitan Planning Organization (MPO), Council of Government, and local levels to ensure that land use, transportation, and environmental considerations are simultaneously addressed by their processes. Ultimately, the implementation of Vibrant NEO 2040 is up to Northeast Ohio’s communities and residents. But regardless of the applicability of each initiative to any particular part of the region, the goal for each community within the Vision is the same: stability, prosperity, and a high quality of life for all of its residents.

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An Initiative A Day 9.3: Identify one or more organizations that will host and maintain the technical resources created by NEOSCC so that they will remain current, accurate, and available for future regional visioning and planning.

March 25, 2014 in Vibrant NEO 2040, Vision

On February 25, the NEOSCC Board voted unanimously to approve and endorse the Vibrant NEO 2040 Vision, Framework and Action Products.  We are sharing an “Initiative A Day” so you can gain a better understanding of the vision and framework!  If you would like to read all of the Initiatives, you can download them here: Recommendation and Initiatives.  You can access a pdf of the entire vision chapter here.  The vision chapter contains all 41 initiatives, development strategies, indicators, and matrices that identify how the recommendations, initiatives and indicators all relate.

Show your support for Vibrant NEO 2040 by adding your name to our Champions of Vibrant NEO 2040 list here.

Initiative 9.3: Identify one or more organizations that will host and maintain the technical resources created by NEOSCC so that they will remain current, accurate, and available for future regional visioning and planning.

WHAT THIS MEANS. The Vibrant NEO 2040 regional visioning process involved extensive data collection and integration, surveys of best practices, and compilations of tools and pilot projects. Taken together with the alternative development scenarios and the vision indicators, the output of NEOSCC constitutes a body of valuable resources for the region as it plans its future. Data-driven resources require maintenance, however, and maintenance requires an organizational framework and adequate financial support. Most regions that have undergone visioning processes similar to Vibrant NEO 2040 have invested their MPOs with responsibility for carrying the vision and its products forward; several created non-profit organizational entities whose dedicated purpose was to work with stakeholders to advance the vision’s goals, including providing technical assistance and planning services. The Salt Lake City metro area’s Envision Utah is the stand-out example of the latter group.

WHY THIS IS IMPORTANT. NEOSCC was able to generate appreciable momentum in Northeast Ohio in regional thinking through the Vibrant NEO 2040 process. As the region proceeds with planning and implementing the vision, it will be important for data to be maintained and refreshed so progress toward vision goals can be measured. This need not involve high levels of methodological sophistication; the “Technical Appendix” in fact contains detailed notes on data sources and instructions on how to calculate indicator statistics. What will be necessary is the computing infrastructure and data storage capacity to perform these updates.

GETTING IT DONE. In Northeast Ohio, MPOs, COGs, and universities are the current organizations best positioned to do take over NEOSCC work products. The resources could be distributed to one (especially in the case of a university partner), or several (in the case of MPOs and COGs) of these organizations for ongoing maintenance and use, with recommendations from NEOSCC on updating methodology and on data standardization. Ideally, however, NEOSCC would be retained and formalized as an inter-governmental, cross sector partnership that maintains and updates the resources created for the visioning process, and works with regional planning entities and other partners to continue standardizing regional data.

Regardless of the “ownership” structure of the data and post-visioning work, the region should consider extending the NEOSCC indicators and trends web platform into a more dynamic virtual space for sharing and interacting with data. The Boston Indicators Project, launched in 2011, is a good example of this; it has served to galvanize action across jurisdictions and sectors to work toward implementing Boston’s regional vision, which was completed in 2008. NEO CANDO at Case Western Reserve University could be a logical partner for developing an online mapping interface for geographic data.

Lead Metropolitan Planning Organizations, Councils of Governments; Nonprofit Organizations; Municipalities, Townships, Counties
Target Community Strategic investment areas, asset risk areas, cost risk areas
Implementation Complexity Moderate

These recommendations, initiatives, and products, are not one-size-fits all and some aspects of the initiatives won’t be applicable everywhere in the 12-county region. The Vibrant NEO 2040 Vision, Framework and Products are intended inspire and guide decision-making at the Metropolitan Planning Organization (MPO), Council of Government, and local levels to ensure that land use, transportation, and environmental considerations are simultaneously addressed by their processes. Ultimately, the implementation of Vibrant NEO 2040 is up to Northeast Ohio’s communities and residents. But regardless of the applicability of each initiative to any particular part of the region, the goal for each community within the Vision is the same: stability, prosperity, and a high quality of life for all of its residents.

Read More »

An Initiative A Day 9.2: Utilize joint procurement strategies and the sharing of facilities, staff, and other resources wherever possible to save money on the provision of public services.

March 24, 2014 in Vibrant NEO 2040, Vision

On February 25, the NEOSCC Board voted unanimously to approve and endorse the Vibrant NEO 2040 Vision, Framework and Action Products.  We are sharing an “Initiative A Day” so you can gain a better understanding of the vision and framework!  If you would like to read all of the Initiatives, you can download them here: Recommendation and Initiatives.  You can access a pdf of the entire vision chapter here.  The vision chapter contains all 41 initiatives, development strategies, indicators, and matrices that identify how the recommendations, initiatives and indicators all relate.

Show your support for Vibrant NEO 2040 by adding your name to our Champions of Vibrant NEO 2040 list here.

Initiative 9.2: Utilize joint procurement strategies and the sharing of facilities, staff, and other resources wherever possible to save money on the provision of public services. 

WHAT THIS MEANS. Joint procurement is an emerging best practice in public management and administration. Though its benefits may appear obvious, joint procurements are difficult to structure owing to divergent priorities and needs. Thus, transparency and communication are critical first steps in structuring effective partnerships on procurement. An equally important question is administration of a procurement process. This has been resolved a number of ways, from vesting regional councils of government (COGs) with administering procurement and contract administration on multi-jurisdictional projects, to one-off agreements between jurisdictions in which one partner agrees to manage procurement and contracting.

Fortunately, Ohio has been a pioneer in the practice of joint procurement, particularly in the transportation sector. Three of the cases featured in a recent report from the Greater Ohio Policy Center were from the Northeast Ohio region, and the Ohio Legislature’s passage of HB 153 in 2011 eliminated a number of barriers to effective intergovernmental collaboration on procurement caused by state law—including a dramatic streamlining of the interlocal agreement process.  This is a practice ripe for scaling throughout the region. In some cases, it may make sense to take the spirit of interlocal cooperation a step further and actually share or consolidate facilities, staff, and other assets. This can mean anything from jointly administering services or facilities through a contract to consolidating units of local government. Again, the State of Ohio has been a national practice leader in encouraging such arrangements.

The Beyond Boundaries initiative, a cabinet-level office dedicated to promoting interlocal collaboration on public service and goods provision, outlines eight priority domains for local governments to consider:

• Technology

• Education

• Administration

• Public safety/911 systems

• Economic development

• Fleet management and operations

• Health and human services

• Facilities and facilities maintenance

WHY THIS IS IMPORTANT. Local governments in Northeast Ohio are faced with mounting costs of providing essential services while overall regional growth remains flat. While some communities have employed one solution to this problem—poaching commercial and industrial development from other places in the region—a far healthier solution would involve pooling resources and obligations, increasing the efficiency of government while cutting costs. GETTING IT DONE. This initiative already has a strong source of leadership in the State of Ohio’s Local Government Innovation Fund and the Beyond Boundaries program, both of which are housed at the Ohio Department of Development Services. It is incumbent upon Northeast Ohio’s local governments and other jurisdictions to evaluate their obligations and explore opportunities to save on costs through sharing procurement, services, and resources. The high level of state support for sharing services, not to mention the fiscal benefits, should encourage all local governments in Northeast Ohio to act upon this promising practice. The Consolidation of the Health Departments in Summit County —In January 2011, the merger of the Summit County, Akron, and Barberton health districts took effect and became “Summit County Public Health”.

PILOT PROJECT: EfficientGovNetwork : Launched in 2009, EfficientGovNetwork is a competitive award and civic engagement program that encourages and accelerates government collaboration and efficiency by providing funds to local government collaboration projects as selected by the residents of Northeast Ohio. It was created, in part, as a response to the research co-sponsored by the Fund for Our Economic Future highlighting the duplicate nature of local government in Northeast Ohio and the high cost of delivering services.

Lead Municipalities, Townships, Counties; Metropolitan Planning Organizations, Councils of Governments; Ohio Department of Development Services
Target Community Strategic investment areas, asset risk areas, cost risk areas
Implementation Complexity Low

These recommendations, initiatives, and products, are not one-size-fits all and some aspects of the initiatives won’t be applicable everywhere in the 12-county region. The Vibrant NEO 2040 Vision, Framework and Products are intended inspire and guide decision-making at the Metropolitan Planning Organization (MPO), Council of Government, and local levels to ensure that land use, transportation, and environmental considerations are simultaneously addressed by their processes. Ultimately, the implementation of Vibrant NEO 2040 is up to Northeast Ohio’s communities and residents. But regardless of the applicability of each initiative to any particular part of the region, the goal for each community within the Vision is the same: stability, prosperity, and a high quality of life for all of its residents.

Read More »

An Initiative A Day 9.1: Study privatization and public-private partnerships as means to fund critical infrastructure projects that cannot be funded solely through public dollars.

March 21, 2014 in Vibrant NEO 2040, Vision

On February 25, the NEOSCC Board voted unanimously to approve and endorse the Vibrant NEO 2040 Vision, Framework and Action Products.  We are sharing an “Initiative A Day” so you can gain a better understanding of the vision and framework!  If you would like to read all of the Initiatives, you can download them here: Recommendation and Initiatives.  You can access a pdf of the entire vision chapter here.  The vision chapter contains all 41 initiatives, development strategies, indicators, and matrices that identify how the recommendations, initiatives and indicators all relate.

Show your support for Vibrant NEO 2040 by adding your name to our Champions of Vibrant NEO 2040 list here.

Initiative 9.1: Study privatization and public-private partnerships as means to fund critical infrastructure projects that cannot be funded solely through public dollars.

WHAT THIS MEANS. Cities and counties are caught between two fiscal fires. On the one hand, the recession has led to depressed revenues; on the other, investment needs are accruing rapidly. Compounding this difficult situation is the mounting cost of planning, constructing, and maintaining physical infrastructure, acutely felt at a time when regional economies are just emerging from recession. It is not surprising that, under these circumstances, many local governments are looking to partnerships with private organization to fill financial gaps and keep cities running. The Vibrant NEO 2040 regional visioning process recommends initiatives and projects that will require significant investment and involve considerable regulatory and jurisdictional complexity.

Image from Denver’s FasTracks Campaign

Transportation is a sector that is particularly well suited for privately-led or public/private partnerships. Northeast Ohio is not unfamiliar with public-private partnerships, having relied on this tool to develop sports facilities and spur the redevelopment of the Euclid Corridor in Cleveland. Partnerships on a regional scale, though not found in Northeast Ohio, are to be found at the state and regional level in other parts of the country. These examples may serve as models for implementing the Vibrant NEO 2040 Vision and Framework. One such state-level model is Virginia’s Office of Transportation Public-Private Partnerships. Most are at a regional or municipal scale, though, including the Denver Regional Transit District (RTD)’s FasTracks Light Rail expansion project and a proposed concession agreement between the Chicago Transit Authority and Goldman Sachs to leverage funds for needed upgrades to the Red Line elevated train.

The case of Denver’s FasTracks initiative warrants particular attention. Facing a multi-billion dollar capital shortfall for its West Side light rail transit line, the RTD opted to enter into a build-operate-maintain agreement with a private consortium of funders. The agreement, which leveraged $1.3 billion of up-front private for the $2 billion project, is expected to yield returns of $4 billion over the course of the 40-year contract.

WHY THIS IS IMPORTANT. The region should consider and study options for fully or partially privatizing construction and maintenance of certain infrastructure, particularly new capital investments that are developed in follow-on planning efforts to Vibrant NEO 2040. This is not a proposition to approach lightly; major questions regarding fiscal benefit, social equity, and security are involved. Chicago’s failure to perform adequate due diligence when privatizing the city’s parking meters will end up costing taxpayers dearly over a long time.

GETTING IT DONE. The decision to privatize or engage in PPP on infrastructure rests with the entity (entities) having jurisdiction. The barriers to structuring a PPP are many: in determining feasibility for a private partner plus long-term costs and benefits for the jurisdiction; legal restrictions on the jurisdictional entity’s contracting powers; and political (especially voter) sentiment. In the transportation sector, where PPP is most common, the Ohio Department of Transportation can assume a leading role in developing a PPP model for the state, scaling up its existing Division of Innovative Delivery to define best practices and standards.

Lead Ohio Department of Transportation; Municipalities, Townships, Counties
Target Community Strategic investment areas, asset risk areas, cost risk areas
Implementation Complexity Moderate

 

These recommendations, initiatives, and products, are not one-size-fits all and some aspects of the initiatives won’t be applicable everywhere in the 12-county region. The Vibrant NEO 2040 Vision, Framework and Products are intended inspire and guide decision-making at the Metropolitan Planning Organization (MPO), Council of Government, and local levels to ensure that land use, transportation, and environmental considerations are simultaneously addressed by their processes. Ultimately, the implementation of Vibrant NEO 2040 is up to Northeast Ohio’s communities and residents. But regardless of the applicability of each initiative to any particular part of the region, the goal for each community within the Vision is the same: stability, prosperity, and a high quality of life for all of its residents.

Read More »

Initiative 8.4: Support the work of local food initiatives to share best practices and identify policies of regional significance.

March 20, 2014 in Vibrant NEO 2040, Vision

On February 25, the NEOSCC Board voted unanimously to approve and endorse the Vibrant NEO 2040 Vision, Framework and Action Products.  We are sharing an “Initiative A Day” so you can gain a better understanding of the vision and framework!  If you would like to read all of the Initiatives, you can download them here: Recommendation and Initiatives.  You can access a pdf of the entire vision chapter here.  The vision chapter contains all 41 initiatives, development strategies, indicators, and matrices that identify how the recommendations, initiatives and indicators all relate.

Show your support for Vibrant NEO 2040 by adding your name to our Champions of Vibrant NEO 2040 list here.

Initiative 8.4: Support the work of local food initiatives to share best practices and identify policies of regional significance.

WHAT THIS MEANS. Robust community organization and development initiatives are taking shape nationwide around issues of food access, food security, and local foods cultivation and distribution systems. An emerging organizational form that gives expression to this is the food policy council, often a non-profit organization or coalition of interested public and private stakeholders. Such councils have been formed for everything from neighborhoods and districts to entire multi-county regions. Most of Northeast Ohio’s food policy councils are formed at the county level. Six food policy councils are in existence in the region, in Cuyahoga, Lake, Lorain, Mahoning, Summit, and Trumbull counties. Food policy councils serve a variety of roles, depending on how they are constituted and the robustness of their funding. At the most basic level, food policy councils evaluate barriers to local food cultivation and access; at their most sophisticated, they offer training and act as “chambers of commerce” for enterprises within the local food supply chain. The Cleveland Cuyahoga Food Policy Coalition (CCFPC) is an example of one such wide-spectrum organization. Convened by a partnership of the Ohio State University Extension and Case Western Reserve University, the organization has engaged City and County officials along with multiple non-profit organizations, businesses, and active farming operations.

WHY THIS IS IMPORTANT. Like other initiatives highlighted above, engaging and encouraging local food policy councils can yield a host of benefits to communities, including healthier citizens, wealth creation, and vacant land reuse. By coordinating regionally, the pace by which innovations are refined into best practices can be accelerated.

GETTING IT DONE. This initiative requires leadership from both the government and non-profit sectors. Local governments and land banks could provide funding or in-kind resources to assist with land acquisition and remediation, or with securing grants from federal and state agencies. Regional collaboration and best practices dissemination should be led by partnerships of the Ohio State University and local universities in Northeast Ohio counties, taking cue from the successful organizational structure of the Cleveland Cuyahoga Food Policy Coalition. With Ohio State University Extension as the element of continuity, best practices could be readily shared region- and state-wide, connecting county-level food policy councils into a broader community of practice. 

 Lead Food Policy Councils; Ohio State University Extension, Universities; Municipalities, Townships, Counties
Target Community Strategic investment areas, asset risk areas, cost risk areas
Implementation Complexity Moderate

 

These recommendations, initiatives, and products, are not one-size-fits all and some aspects of the initiatives won’t be applicable everywhere in the 12-county region. The Vibrant NEO 2040 Vision, Framework and Products are intended inspire and guide decision-making at the Metropolitan Planning Organization (MPO), Council of Government, and local levels to ensure that land use, transportation, and environmental considerations are simultaneously addressed by their processes. Ultimately, the implementation of Vibrant NEO 2040 is up to Northeast Ohio’s communities and residents. But regardless of the applicability of each initiative to any particular part of the region, the goal for each community within the Vision is the same: stability, prosperity, and a high quality of life for all of its residents.

Read More »

An Initiative A Day 8.3: Review and amend local ordinances to allow for small- and moderate-scale urban farming on occupied and vacant parcels that are environmentally safe for growing food.

March 19, 2014 in Vibrant NEO 2040, Vision

On February 25, the NEOSCC Board voted unanimously to approve and endorse the Vibrant NEO 2040 Vision, Framework and Action Products.  We are sharing an “Initiative A Day” so you can gain a better understanding of the vision and framework!  If you would like to read all of the Initiatives, you can download them here: Recommendation and Initiatives.  You can access a pdf of the entire vision chapter here.  The vision chapter contains all 41 initiatives, development strategies, indicators, and matrices that identify how the recommendations, initiatives and indicators all relate.

Show your support for Vibrant NEO 2040 by adding your name to our Champions of Vibrant NEO 2040 list here.

Initiative 8.3: Review and amend local ordinances to allow for small- and moderate-scale urban farming on occupied and vacant parcels that are environmentally safe for growing food.

WHAT THIS MEANS. Zoning and land use are significant, yet easily changed, barriers to urban farming and growth of the local food system. Many municipalities ban certain agricultural uses on urban land outright, while others restrict eligible agriculture uses to personal gardens. In recent years, municipalities in Ohio and elsewhere have adopted amendments to local zoning to remove barriers, and in some cases encourage, urban farming. The cities of Cleveland and Youngstown have addressed urban agriculture by substantially revising their zoning codes. Some strategies for modifying zoning include:

• Creation of a dedicated urban agriculture zoning class within municipal code
• Creation of an urban agriculture overlay district for application to larger sections of the city
• Revision of existing discrete zoning classes where urban agriculture could be permitted

Municipalities in peer regions have largely opted to go with the latter strategy. Chicago adopted a citywide ordinance that amended zoning to allow a specified range of urban agricultural uses by right in certain zoning classes, while reserving others for special permits and prohibiting some outright. Pittsburgh’s approach is similar, though it is simplified through establishment of three primary use categories and three accessory use categories and less accommodating of animal/livestock cultivation.

WHY THIS IS IMPORTANT. Northeast Ohio communities with a high volume of vacant land should pay particular attention to how their zoning codes impact urban agriculture activities, and be proactive in creating zoning that encourages urban agriculture. Doing so would transition vacant land back into productive use, generating needed economic activity and accompanying revenue.

GETTING IT DONE. This initiative must be led by local jurisdictions, particularly municipalities. NEOSCC and regional planning partners, particularly COGs and Food Policy Councils, can research and provide syntheses of best practices on zoning that is friendly to urban farming, but the process of changing zoning and land use controls rests squarely with local jurisdictions, particularly municipalities.

Municipalities throughout Northeast Ohio should review their zoning codes to determine the degree to which existing code impedes agricultural uses, consider the range of such uses that are appropriate to their community, and devise strategies for making their codes friendlier to those uses. Municipalities should consider collaborating with local land banks and agricultural extensions to identify vacant parcels suitable for multiple scales of farming, and consider the needs of urban agriculture while engaging in the vacant land inventories proposed in 3.1 and 3.4. They should also consult with urban farmers on their needs and desires, and leverage agricultural and environmental expertise to ensure that parcels unsafe for food cultivation are either remediated or barred from use.

POLICY: Support integrating food system elements into urban, rural, and regional economic development plans: Incorporating food issues into economic development analyses and plans assures that the important economic contributions that the food sector makes to communities and regions are preserved and enhanced.

TOOL: Urban Agriculture Zoning Code: Urban agriculture is the practice of cultivating, processing, and distributing food in or around a village, town, or city. The City of Youngstown recently updated their zoning code and a section is dedicated to urban agriculture (i.e. Chapter 1102.02 (t)).

PILOT PROJECT: Cleveland Urban Agriculture Incubator Pilot Project: Six acres of land at East 83rd and Gill, donated from the City Land Bank, will be turned into a farm, due to $100,000 grants from the Ohio Department of Agriculture and the City of Cleveland, and $740,000 from the Ohio State University Extension, via the U.S. Department of Agriculture. The goals of the incubator are to promote entrepreneurship and access to fresh produce in an area that sorely needs both. If successful, the model will be replicated in other neighborhoods.

Lead Municipalities, Townships, Counties; Councils of Governments, Food Policy Councils
Target Community Strategic investment areas, asset risk areas, cost risk areas
Implementation Complexity Low

 

These recommendations, initiatives, and products, are not one-size-fits all and some aspects of the initiatives won’t be applicable everywhere in the 12-county region. The Vibrant NEO 2040 Vision, Framework and Products are intended inspire and guide decision-making at the Metropolitan Planning Organization (MPO), Council of Government, and local levels to ensure that land use, transportation, and environmental considerations are simultaneously addressed by their processes. Ultimately, the implementation of Vibrant NEO 2040 is up to Northeast Ohio’s communities and residents. But regardless of the applicability of each initiative to any particular part of the region, the goal for each community within the Vision is the same: stability, prosperity, and a high quality of life for all of its residents.

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An Initiative A Day 8.2: Partner with individual landowners, the food processing industry, and local organizations to protect agriculturally valuable land for future generations.

March 18, 2014 in Vibrant NEO 2040, Vision

On February 25, the NEOSCC Board voted unanimously to approve and endorse the Vibrant NEO 2040 Vision, Framework and Action Products.  We are sharing an “Initiative A Day” so you can gain a better understanding of the vision and framework!  If you would like to read all of the Initiatives, you can download them here: Recommendation and Initiatives.  You can access a pdf of the entire vision chapter here.  The vision chapter contains all 41 initiatives, development strategies, indicators, and matrices that identify how the recommendations, initiatives and indicators all relate.

Show your support for Vibrant NEO 2040 by adding your name to our Champions of Vibrant NEO 2040 list here.

Initiative 8.2: Partner with individual landowners, the food processing industry, and local organizations to protect agriculturally valuable land for future generations.

WHAT THIS MEANS. Agricultural land is a precious resource that is diminished by exurban growth and development. The farm crisis of the 1980s inaugurated a several-decade decline in the economic prospects of smaller family-owned farms, with many families choosing to exit the business entirely and sell their properties. This trend intersected with structural shifts in the American workforce to produce a period of rapid sprawl. Though the pace of suburban building has slowed in the aftermath of the 2008 recession and the price of agricultural land is at an all-time high (as of 2013), the structural conditions of declining family farms remain the same, and promises only to worsen in coming years.

Many regions and local governments have recognized this dynamic and partnered with a constellation of actors to facilitate the transition in farm ownership from kinship-based models to new generations of producers and processors. Several of Ohio’s peer states, notably Minnesota, are leading national practice in this regard. Minnesota’s program engages the considerable knowledge and resources of the University of Minnesota, offering a host of resources from networking events and initiatives between experienced and emerging young farmers to estate planning and legal consulting services

In addition to providing support for farm transition planning, mechanisms are needed to hold agricultural land in easement. Agricultural land trusts and conservancies have taken shape in several states to meet this need. The first agricultural land trust, in Marin County, California, was established in 1980 in response to a rapid urbanization scheme proposed for the coastal area of this Bay Area county. It has succeeded in preserving nearly 50,000 acres of farmland, contributing greatly to the scope and scale of the region’s food shed. The model has also been successfully applied to ranchers and commodity producers—Colorado Cattlemen’s Agricultural Land Trust, founded in 1995, and has preserved over 417,928 acres throughout the State of Colorado, for instance. Less common, and a potential area for Northeast Ohio to innovate in this sector, is employing agricultural easements to convert former commodity farm operations into produce (fruit and vegetable) cultivation.

WHY THIS IS IMPORTANT. While the dominant model of agricultural land succession is in decline, the demand and need for food, particularly locally-cultivated food, is ever-rising. There is no shortage of willing entrants to the market, but both they and prospective sellers are hampered by the absence of mechanisms facilitating and supporting transactions. This is a problem of market organization, and if regions are to secure valuable agricultural lands and their productive capacity for the future, something must be done about it.

GETTING IT DONE. Northeast Ohio’s land conservancies are already working to preserving agricultural land, but ensuring continued and successful agricultural use is not in their core skill set, nor should it necessarily be. The region should consider formation of an agricultural land trust, either as an independent entity or as a subsidiary of an existing land trust, whose dedicated mission is to preserve agricultural land for the next generation(s). In addition to using the standard tool of easements to preserve land, this entity could play a valuable role in inter-generational networking between farmers, especially with the surge of interest in local foods. Leadership of this initiative is an issue. While the State of Ohio does have a farm preservation program currently active, it is modestly funded and grants much latitude to counties on screening candidate farmsteads. A more robust private, nonprofit, or university-based entity is probably best positioned to lead exploratory efforts, with soil and water conservation districts playing an advisory role. Local philanthropic foundations should be engaged in this, as it bears directly on a whole way of life and a vital aspect of the region’s character and economy, as well as the State of Ohio.

TOOL: Agricultural Easement Purchase Program: A permanent deed restriction, placed on a parcel or several parcels of active agricultural land. The deed restricts that use of the land for agriculture only, in perpetuity.

TOOL: Agricultural Security Areas: An Agricultural Security Area is a 10-year agreement between farmer, County Commissioners, and Township Trustees to not initiate any non-farm development for a period of 10 years. ASA’s must be at least 500 contiguous acres and therefore may require neighbors applying together. The benefits of placing a farm in an ASA are a guaranteed 10-year no-build period, plus some may be eligible for tax abatement on new construction of farm buildings. In most counties, either the Planning Department or the Soil and Water Conservation District are responsible for the application process.

Lead Land Conservancies; Nonprofit Organizations; Ohio State University Extension, Universities; Soil and Water Conservation Districts
Target Community Cost risk areas
Implementation Complexity Moderate

These recommendations, initiatives, and products, are not one-size-fits all and some aspects of the initiatives won’t be applicable everywhere in the 12-county region. The Vibrant NEO 2040 Vision, Framework and Products are intended inspire and guide decision-making at the Metropolitan Planning Organization (MPO), Council of Government, and local levels to ensure that land use, transportation, and environmental considerations are simultaneously addressed by their processes. Ultimately, the implementation of Vibrant NEO 2040 is up to Northeast Ohio’s communities and residents. But regardless of the applicability of each initiative to any particular part of the region, the goal for each community within the Vision is the same: stability, prosperity, and a high quality of life for all of its residents.

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An Initiative A Day 8.1: Support the expansion of Community Supported Agriculture (CSA’s), farmer cooperatives, farm-to-school programs, and other existing mechanisms that support sustainable agriculture and enhance food access.

March 14, 2014 in Vibrant NEO 2040, Vision

On February 25, the NEOSCC Board voted unanimously to approve and endorse the Vibrant NEO 2040 Vision, Framework and Action Products.  We are sharing an “Initiative A Day” so you can gain a better understanding of the vision and framework!  If you would like to read all of the Initiatives, you can download them here: Recommendation and Initiatives.  You can access a pdf of the entire vision chapter here.  The vision chapter contains all 41 initiatives, development strategies, indicators, and matrices that identify how the recommendations, initiatives and indicators all relate.

Show your support for Vibrant NEO 2040 by adding your name to our Champions of Vibrant NEO 2040 list here.

Initiative 8.1: Support the expansion of Community Supported Agriculture (CSA’s), farmer cooperatives, farm-to-school programs, and other existing mechanisms that support sustainable agriculture and enhance food access.

WHAT THIS MEANS. The entrepreneurial ecosystem around the local foods movement is expanding steadily. It includes a diverse range of actors: community supported agriculture (CSA) cooperatives, incubators, research extensions, farmers markets, and many others. Many cities and towns throughout the country and Northeast Ohio have moved in recent years to establish farmers markets and amend zoning laws to allow for orchards, crops, and in some cases small-scale livestock. Fewer, however, have invested in the intermediate segments of the local food supply chain, where the most value is added. Such investments have included:

• Granting vacant or abandoned municipal- or land bank owned buildings and land to local cooperatives or CSAs for sorting, processing, and/or distribution of produce

• Allocating community development block grant (CDBG) and other economic development funding to startup farms and food processing enterprises

• Amending procurement standards and policies to privilege locally-sourced foods

Farm-to-School programs are a good example of intentional efforts to build linkages between a local foods industry and institutions, resulting in a host of benefits to all parties involved. The Ohio State University extension service maintains a resource for farm-to-school initiatives throughout the state. Several Northeast Ohio community school districts, including the Cleveland Metropolitan School District, have inaugurated farm-to-school programs using state-level resources and programs such as that offered by the OSU Extension.

WHY THIS IS IMPORTANT. The local foods movement should no longer be viewed as a fad, but as an important economic and community development paradigm. Investing in networks of local producers, processors, and consumers builds individual wealth through new opportunities, activates vacant and underutilized space, connects communities, and keeps value within the region.

GETTING IT DONE. This initiative is relatively easy to implement, as there are a many ways that various public entities can support the local foods system. Local governments, land banks, and school districts should lead the way in this effort given their ability to financially support local producers and processors through amended zoning regulations, procurement standards, building and land cleanup and acquisition. Entities participating in vacant land inventories and evaluation efforts proposed above (3.1 and 3.4), especially local governments and land banks, should consider the needs of local food producers and processors and encourage their participation in those processes.

BEST PRACTICE: Rid-All Green Partnership has turned an empty and forgotten piece of land in Cleveland’s Kinsman neighborhood into an urban farm where they grow produce to bring healthy, local food to area institutions and citizens and train others on this work. They have two greenhouses and four hoop houses in Cleveland’s Forgotten Triangle. The Rid-All Farm harvests 150 to 200 pounds of vegetables a week that’s distributed to local restaurants, institutions and consumers. TOOL: The 30 Mile Meal : Wondering where to find local peaches or lamb? Or a restaurant that serves great food and supports local farmers? The 30 Mile Meal™ celebrates and promotes those producing, selling and serving local foods within a 30-mile radius of Athens, Ohio. The 30 Mile Meal provides a shared identity for their many farmers, specialty food producers, farmers and retail markets, food events, and independently-owned eateries and bars featuring locally sourced menus. The 30 Mile Meal Project is a collaboration of the Athens County Convention and Visitors Bureau, the Appalachian Center for Economic Networks (ACEnet) and 130 local food partners.

PILOT PROJECT: The Oberlin Project local food system strategy: The growth of local food systems includes a comprehensive plan to increase local food processing and distribution, utilize waste as an input to local agriculture and promote urban agriculture. The Oberlin Project has organized a network of local farmers who are exploring new production techniques that store large amounts of carbon in soil and plant biomass. This provides a promising solution to climate change, offsetting the carbon releases of the community through investments in farms in the surrounding area. Local Food Systems development in the greater Oberlin area will unfold through a four-step process that includes: assessment, investment, capacity, and replication. 

Lead Municipalities, Townships, Counties; Land Banks; Nonprofit Organizations; School Districts
Target Community Strategic investment areas, asset risk areas, cost risk areas
Implementation Complexity Low

 

These recommendations, initiatives, and products, are not one-size-fits all and some aspects of the initiatives won’t be applicable everywhere in the 12-county region. The Vibrant NEO 2040 Vision, Framework and Products are intended inspire and guide decision-making at the Metropolitan Planning Organization (MPO), Council of Government, and local levels to ensure that land use, transportation, and environmental considerations are simultaneously addressed by their processes. Ultimately, the implementation of Vibrant NEO 2040 is up to Northeast Ohio’s communities and residents. But regardless of the applicability of each initiative to any particular part of the region, the goal for each community within the Vision is the same: stability, prosperity, and a high quality of life for all of its residents.

Read More »