The City of Cleveland and Cuyahoga County have invested millions of dollars in public money to help make urban development projects happen over the years. But do they provide the maximum benefit to the taxpayers paying for them?
Amanda Woodrum, a researcher at the liberal think tank Policy Matters
, says that Northeast Ohio leaders have not always maximized the public benefits of development projects. Yet cities like Cleveland have a tool at their disposal called Community Benefit Agreements to help ensure the public gets the biggest bang for its buck when it comes to public subsidies.
"Community Benefit Agreements involve an economic development approach that balances the three E’s of sustainability: environment, equity and economy," says Woodrum. "One of the biggest things is ensuring that the workforce involved is hired locally. The second thing is that it is diverse and reflective of the population as a whole. There are other questions, too. Are we behaving responsibly towards the environment? Is there access to the development site for public transit?"
Woodrum adds, "The whole process is done in a very open discussion in which key stakeholders come together. There is a movement nationally to do development this way. In many cases, anchor institutions are voluntarilyy creating such agreements because they recognize that they have stake in community."
Woodrum stated that the City of Cleveland does not have a comprehensive policy towards creating Community Benefit Agreements with developers, and that the absence of such a policy can lead to inconsistent results. She cited the Horseshoe Casino as a potential model project due to its local hiring practices; on the other hand, a new housing development at Cleveland State University has drawn ire from the local building trades union for its failure to hire local workers.
To generate a discussion about Community Benefit Agreements in Cleveland, Policy Matters has helped to organize a daylong symposium with local and national experts at Cuyahoga Community College on Friday, August 3rd. The event is cosponsored by the City of Cleveland and Cleveland City Council.
"If the stakeholders coming to the table decide it makes sense, we’d like to move forward with building a policy that ensures whenever city subsidizes development in any meaninging way, we’re maximizing value to community," says Woodrum.
Source: Amanda Woodrum
Writer: Lee Chilcote