The debate over regionalism in Cleveland is starting to heat up. Here are some thoughts:
I believe the notion of regionalism and tax revenue sharing between the communities of Greater Cleveland is a great idea. For many reasons, the strength of one community, whether it is the downtown area or an outer ring suburb, truly depends on the whole. Most people do not live, shop, play and work in the same city. Even if they did I am willing to bet their customers or business partners live in a different city.
But what do different parts of the region offer and how are they connected to the whole? Downtown has everything from fortune 500 companies to entertainment venues, Lakewood is residential, and East Cleveland has factories. Now, even though someone who lives in Lakewood may rely on a factory in East Cleveland, why would they want to support the city itself? I could make the argument that the factory could be located in any city. Plus East Cleveland has a history of corruption and a high crime rate. But there is more to the equation. For instance land in East Cleveland is cheap and that helps the bottom line of the industries that call East Cleveland home.
How do we promote regionalism? To give a specific example, the idea is to use the city of Lakewood’s tax dollars to not fix a side walk within their own city limits, but to instead maybe give it to East Cleveland to help maintain an aging infrastructure. Is that fair? To a Lakewood citizen, probably not. But to an East Cleveland citizen, it may be a blessing.
In order for me to give up having my sidewalk fixed, I would need a terrific understanding of where my money is being used instead, and it better benefit me in some way. This is the point where I believe regionalism falls apart. Let’s face it, government is not organized enough, especially when crossing city limits, to implement a program that takes away my tax dollars, gives it to someone else, and tells me exactly where it is going and how it would benefit me. It just doesn’t seem possible. Could you imagine how large a government agency would be in order to facilitate a program that could complete all of those steps? Not to mention we are living in a time of tight budgets and deficit spending and I am sure a large sum of that potential pool of money would have to go to administrative costs, and larger government is NOT something I am willing to give my tax dollars to.
Regionalism is a GREAT idea, but I am sorry to say, in my opinion, it’s just not feasible.