David Beach | 11/14/07 @ 6:25pm
During the past year we've spent a lot of time educating Ohio political candidates about how to make our state more sustainable. We've worked with many partners to articulate reforms related to land use, the redevelopment of cities, energy, water quality, transportation, and other issues.
As the election approaches, we'd like to hear more of your ideas. What innovative policies and practices can make Ohio a leading, green state? Login and comment to this post to add your suggestions to the mix (or send a message here). We will forward the ideas to the transition team of the next governor.
To get you thinking, here are some potential recommendations:ODOT director - This will be a most critical appointment. Transportation funds are the biggest flow of capital dollars into most communities. If we are to rebuild our existing cities and towns so that they are livable, we need to change the 1960s highway culture of ODOT. This will require a tough, new director who can bring ODOT into the 21st century. Many other state DOTs have made this leap (Oregon is a good model) to a multi-modal vision for how transportation should mesh with regional land-use planning and urban design.
City redevelopment strategy - Ohio needs to have a strategy for redeveloping great cities - places where the new economy can thrive. Today, the state has no coherent vision for how to support this. The new governor could convene a City Summit to craft a redevelopment agenda. This could involve the big and small cities, first suburbs, Greater Ohio, vacant properties and neighborhood development organizations, and many others. There are many policies to consider. For instance, Greater Ohio has an interesting briefing book. The Ohio First Suburbs has an agenda. The Brookings Institution has ideas for renewing Great Lakes cities. And the National Governors Association recently issued case studies on vacant and abandoned properties, featuring Pennsylvania's strategy for preventing home foreclosures, Michigan's land bank program, and Maryland's tax credit that can be used to restore and rehabilitate historic homes.
Regionalism - Many of the state's important issues (economic development, education, affordable housing, transportation, environment, land use, etc.) really play out at the scale of the metropolitan region. But we have few institutional structures able to act at the regional scale. So it's important for the state to support new forms of regional collaboration, decision-making, and planning. A basic reform would be to align the districts of state departments to correspond to metro areas. And state policies, programs, and incentives should offer incentives for regional action. For example, the Ohio Lake Erie Commission's Balanced Growth Program is testing ways to encourage regional land-use planning by voluntary watershed collaborations of local governments and other organizations. And the recent Voices & Choices process in Northeast Ohio highlighted many of the hard, regional issues facing the state.
Advanced energy strategy - Energy and the related issue of climate change will be critical issues for the new administration. A number of groups are developing strategies, including the Ohio Environmental Council, Policy Matters Ohio and the Apollo Alliance, and a regional project of the Cleveland Foundation and NorTech. Goals could include:
- Reduce the energy intensity of the Ohio economy (dollars per unit of state output).
- Reduce carbon emissions.
- Increase the share of power consumption from clean renewables.
- Increase the energy efficiency of the transportation sector, in part by smart land-use planning that reduces the need for driving.
- Increase the energy efficiency of Ohio's building stock.
- Improve energy security and reliability (diversity and resilience of sources are more important than the notion of energy "independence").
- Increase the local power production to keep more energy dollars in the Ohio economy.
- Do all this strategically to maximize the development of Ohio energy industries and jobs.
Most of all, we need a positive, hopeful vision for Ohio. After all the negativity of the campaign, I think people are hungry for plausible strategies that will move us forward. In the spirit of appreciative inquiry, we need to focus on our positive assets and energize the state.