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The U.S. EPA's national Toxics Release Inventory reported that disposal or other releases of toxic chemicals decreased by 12% from 2011 to 2012. In Ohio, releases fell by 21%, from 149 million pounds in 2011 to 117 million pounds in 2012. ArcelorMittal and Charter Steel remained the largest emitters in Cuyahoga County.

In a paper conducted for Harvard University, local researchers examined post-foreclosure transactions on 38,931 houses that were acquired from financial institutions. They found that "nearly one-third experienced a negative outcome: abandonment, condemnation, demolition or tax delinquency" and that those purchased by out-of-state investors were more likely to experience a negative outcome. A Plain Dealer editorial said that the "regulatory changes identified in the study should be implemented."

The Ohio Housing Finance Agency allocated $49.5 million in federal Hardest Hit Funds to 11 counties with established land banks. The Cuyahoga Land Bank received $10.1 million. Last year, the state obtained permission from the U.S. Treasury Department to use a portion of the foreclosure-prevention funding to demolish blighted properties. A Plain Dealer editorial called it "a smart investment in stabilizing neighborhoods."

Meanwhile, the Ohio Attorney General's office awarded an additional $3.8 million from the 2012 national mortgage settlement to support demolition programs in 87 counties. Cuyahoga County received $602,202. Counties must use the funding by the end of September.

In his final State of the County address, Cuyahoga County Executive Ed FitzGerald said that he "directed [his] staff to find an additional $50 million in bonding capacity to fund the most sweeping effort to not just demolish, but to demolish, protect, and restore our neighborhoods."

In addition, an Ohio coalition is seeking $200 million from a $13 billion federal mortgage-fraud settlement with J.P. Morgan Chase. The proposed Ohio Plan (PDF) would use $144 million to support demolition programs. A Plain Dealer editorial concluded that it "may be a long shot, but it's a shot."

In its recommendation to the U.S. EPA, the Ohio EPA identified Cuyahoga County as a nonattainment area under 2012 federal fine particle pollution standards. Other Greater Cleveland counties that formerly were in nonattainment status now meet the standards. When the designation becomes effective, Ohio will have three years to implement strategies to bring the area into compliance. The final federal decision is expected by August 14. Last year, NOACA published an overview of Northeast Ohio air quality trends (PDF).

The Cleveland Restoration Society, Cuyahoga County, and First Federal Lakewood partnered to expand the Heritage Home Purchase Program. The program, which began in South Euclid, offers assistance to potential homeowners in purchasing and rehabilitating houses built at least 50 years ago. Participants receive a home purchase loan, a home improvement loan, plus free technical assistance from the Restoration Society.

For the third consecutive year, RTA bus and train ridership increased in 2013. The transit system provided 49.2 million rides, an increase of 2% over 2012 levels. The HealthLine and Red Line saw the greatest growth in ridership. RTA was also among the national leaders in ridership growth for the third quarter of 2013.

The latest state capital budget includes funding for community projects. The Greater Cleveland Partnership recommended nine projects for state funding, requesting a total of $20.3 million. The largest item on the list is $7 million for a lakefront access project in downtown Cleveland. The City has unsuccessfully sought federal TIGER funding for the project in the past.

Update: at Rust Wire, Angie Schmitt criticized the organization's role in influencing regional infrastructure decisions.

The Cleveland-Cuyahoga County Port Authority and the Cleveland Metroparks will have tax levies on the November ballot in Cuyahoga County. The Port Authority's board of directors voted to place a 0.13-mill renewal issue on the ballot. Voters rejected a 0.67-mill levy last year. The Plain Dealer published an op-ed by Ed FitzGerald and Frank Jackson in support of the issue, and another by Jack Boyle and Jim Trutko in opposition.

The Cleveland Metroparks commissioners voted to place a 2.7-mill levy on the ballot, a 1.8-mill renewal and a 0.9-mill increase. The Metroparks' last levy request was in 2004. Metroparks CEO Brian Zimmerman recently spoke about the parks at the City Club (video, audio (MP3, 51.5 MB)).

Metro Parks, Serving Summit County will also have a renewal levy on the November ballot.

Cuyahoga Valley National Park Superintendent Stan Austin was promoted to director of the National Park Service's Southeast Region. Cheryl Schreier from the Mount Rushmore National Memorial is serving as acting superintendent.

The U.S. Census Bureau published its annual population estimates for incorporated places, covering the period between July 2011 and July 2012. The data showed that the nation's large cities grew faster than their suburbs for the second consecutive year and experienced accelerated growth rates. The figures also showed that the fastest-growing large cities were in the South and West.

All of Ohio's major cities, with the exception of Columbus, lost population between 2011 and 2012. Cleveland's estimated population fell from 392,694 to 390,928, a 0.4% decrease. Figures for all Cuyahoga County communities are available.

In its annual report on foreclosures, the Ohio Supreme Court said that foreclosure filings in Ohio decreased by 1.5% in 2012. In Cuyahoga County, the figure fell from 11,544 in 2011 to 11,427 in 2012, a 1.0% decrease, but still the largest number in the state. Policy Matters Ohio used the data in its annual foreclosure report. It said that "Ohio foreclosures remain at crisis levels" and that the "number of filings remained more than four times higher than it was in the mid-1990s." Meanwhile, Slate published an excerpt of Edward McClelland's Nothin' but Blue Skies about the origins of the foreclosure crisis in Cleveland's Slavic Village neighborhood.

The Cuyahoga Valley National Park completed its trail management plan. Its preferred alternative calls for 37 miles of new trails, including 11 new hiking trails, 12 short interpretive trails, two cross-country ski trails, five connector trails, and three links into neighboring residential areas.

In the annual State of the Air report from the American Lung Association, Cuyahoga County again received an F for its ozone levels, and its grade for 24-hour particulate levels improved to a C. The report ranked the eight-county Cleveland metropolitan area as having the nation's 20th-highest levels of year-round particulate pollution, an improvement over last year's 14th-place ranking. The area experienced a spike in the number of poor air quality days in 2012, but both the region and the country generally have seen increases in air quality.

Mayor Summers of Lakewood and Mayor Clough of Westlake participated in a recent League of Women Voters forum (PDF) on regionalism. While they agreed on some aspects like service delivery, they offered different views on topics like tax-base sharing and the role of the central city.

Voters in Broadview Heights and Solon passed zoning issues in the May 7 primary election. Issue 1 in Broadview Heights established a a conversion corridor along Royalton Road, and Issue 2 in Broadview Heights created the Town Center Special Planning District. (The Plain Dealer's Steven Litt recently critiqued the town center plans.) In Solon, Issue 8 rezoned a 2.5-acre parcel from retail to office and Issue 9 rezoned a 5.7-acre property for an auto dealer expansion. The Cuyahoga County Board of Elections has complete election results.

Meanwhile, Lorain County voters rejected a countywide transit levy. The County will return more than $1.5 million in unused federal transportation funding because it has not fulfilled its 20% local match.

The Cuyahoga Valley National Park received 2,299,722 visits in 2012, keeping it among the nation's most-visited national parks. A National Park Service report said that visitors in 2011 spent $51,473,000 in communities surrounding the park and supported 728 jobs.

In this year's County Health Rankings, Cuyahoga County again finished in the bottom third of Ohio's 88 counties, ranking 67th in health outcomes and 45th in health factors. Geauga and Medina counties were again ranked highly. Cuyahoga County health officials are working to improve health issues through the Health Improvement Partnership. Nationally, residents of the unhealthiest counties died at more than twice the rate of those in the healthiest counties. Previous rankings: 2012, 2011, and 2010.

The U.S. Census Bureau released its annual population estimates for counties and metropolitan areas. For the period between July 2011 and July 2012, population shifts returned to pre-recession patterns, with the fastest-growing metropolitan areas in the South and West, and the slowest-growing in the Northeast and Midwest. The Cleveland metropolitan area was the slowest-growing large metropolitan area in the country, and Cuyahoga County's loss of 4,872 people was the nation's second-largest numeric population decline. However, the 0.38% drop in Cuyahoga County was its smallest annual decline in 15 years. Franklin County's 1.38% growth rate was the fastest in Ohio, and Geauga and Medina counties also gained population.

The proposed Eastside Greenway would connect 14 communities in eastern Cuyahoga County through a network of parks, greenspace, and trails.

The U.S. Census Bureau used American Community Survey data to publish commuting flow information, and reported that Cuyahoga County "has among the highest number of commuters coming from another county in the nation." The Census Bureau also noted that 80.3% of Cuyahoga County workers drove to work alone in 2011, higher than the national average of 76.4%. WNYC used the data to map average commute times, and The Washington Post mapped the commuting patterns.

CEOs for Cities looked at the potential for new transit-oriented development in Greater Cleveland, and predicted that in "10-20 years from now Cleveland's rapid transit system will turn some heads while possibly serving as a TOD beacon that helps stabilize the inner city population."

Cuyahoga County Executive Ed FitzGerald gave his third State of the County address on February 19. In addition to highlighting his achievements, he announced that the Medical Mart in Cleveland is now named the Global Center for Health Innovation. He also called on leaders to consider staging a second Great Lakes Exposition in 2016. The speech is online as video, audio (MP3, 53.7 MB), and text (PDF). His slideshow (PPT, 15.3 MB) is also available.

HUD reached a new nine-month agreement with the Cuyahoga Land Bank, and will continue to sell low-value houses to the Land Bank for $100. Late last year, HUD announced it would end the program, but Sherrod Brown helped facilitate its extension. Christopher Evans of The Plain Dealer visited a distressed HUD-owned house in Cleveland to highlight the importance of the partnership.

Governor Kasich's two-year budget plan calls for investing $500 million from Ohio Turnpike-backed bonds by 2015. The governor initially said that 90% of the funds would be spent in northern Ohio, but ODOT Director Jerry Wray called the figure a "foolish expectation." Statehouse Democrats accused the administration of misleading Ohioans and said that the percentages should be specified in the bill. Streetsblog's Angie Schmitt said that the proposal is not good public policy, and U.S. Represenative Tim Ryan called it short-sighted and risky. The Turnpike Commission is preparing to issue the bonds.

The budget includes a provision that would return control of Cleveland Lakefront State Park to the City of Cleveland (PDF) and provide $14 million for the parks. Plain Dealer columnist Mark Naymik said that legislators should embrace the proposal, and an editorial called it a win-win deal.

Proposed changes to state sales tax laws could affect RTA's finances.

An ESOP summary of foreclosure rates reports that although the total number of foreclosure filings in Cuyahoga County declined in 2012, residential mortgage foreclosures rose from 9,405 in 2011 to 9,905 in 2012. It says that the 5.3% increase means that the "foreclosure crisis is still thriving in Cuyahoga County and many years from fully resolving." Meanwhile, new research from the Federal Reserve Bank said that mortgage delinquencies continue to decline in Ohio, while figures from the Mortgage Bankers Association indicated that levels remain elevated in Greater Cleveland.

Cleveland City Council voted to contribute $50,000 to a study designed to evaluate the relationship between foreclosure rates and housing demolition initiatives in Cuyahoga County. Richey Piiparinen described the need for the study, which is being championed by Jim Rokakis. Councilman Brian Cummins shared some of the City's housing strategies, and a Plain Dealer editorial said that a "plan to deal with the vacant and abandoned properties that crater Cleveland neighborhoods is long overdue."

Update: members of Greater Cleveland's Congressional delegation introduced legislation that would provide federal funding for housing demolition. A Plain Dealer editorial cheered the news.

Update 2: Researcher Richey Piiparinen said that "demolition and preservation are not mutually exclusive."

As of late January, all of Cuyahoga County's 59 cities, villages, and townships have adopted the County's anti-poaching pledge. Middleburg Heights was the final community to sign the agreement. The Greater Cleveland Partnership applauded the announcement, and an earlier Sun News editorial said that "Cuyahoga County needs its communities to work together".

The Greater Cleveland Regional Transit Authority provided 48.2 million rides in 2012, about 2 million more than in 2011. The 4.3% ridership increase included a 9.1% increase in Red Line ridership. The Red Line served 525,000 riders in December, its highest monthly figure in over 40 years.

Data from the U.S. EPA's 2011 Toxics Release Inventory shows that 4.09 billion pounds of toxic chemicals were released into the environment, an 8% increase over 2010 levels. Toxic releases into the waters of the Great Lakes Basin grew by 12%. In Ohio, releases declined from 154 million pounds to 150 million pounds, a 2.6% decrease. Cuyahoga County's largest emitters were the Charter Steel and ArcelorMittal facilities.

Update: The Columbus Dispatch reported on the figures.

Cuyahoga County named the nonprofit Center for Governmental Research of Rochester as the lead consultant for the merger/shared services study for Moreland Hills, Orange, Pepper Pike, and Woodmere. The study will be supported by a $100,000 state LGIF grant and a $34,130 NOACA grant. A Plain Dealer editorial said it "could turn out to be among the most important public dollars [the county] spends this year."

The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development informed the Cuyahoga Land Bank that it would cancel a program that allowed the land bank to acquire low-value houses for $100 each. The agreement kept distressed housing away from flippers, but HUD says it can no longer afford the program. A Plain Dealer editorial denounced the decision, while the Northeast Shores Development Corp. urged residents to contact their congressional representatives.

The Cleveland Foundation awarded $10.5 million in grants during the fourth quarter of 2012. The awards included $250,000 to LEEDCo and $75,000 to the OSU Extension, Cuyahoga County. The foundation posted a complete list of recipients (PDF).

Steven Litt of The Plain Dealer looked back at the defeat of the Cleveland-Cuyahoga County Port Authority's levy in November, and concluded that "the port's plan and the levy to support it deserve a second chance." A Crain's Cleveland Business editorial spelled out the challenges facing the Port Authority.

Cuyahoga County was one of 22 communities selected by Smart Growth America for free technical assistance in 2013. The program is funded through the U.S. EPA's Building Blocks for Sustainable Communities program.

RTA's $237.6 million operating budget for 2013 includes a 5% service increase on its bus and rail lines. The growth follows a 4% increase in 2012. The agency issued new schedules for 29 bus routes and its rapid lines, and will resume weekday Waterfront Line service in May.

Election recap

This month's election included the following issues (PDF):

In Summit County, Green residents voted to ban casino gambling and horse racing.

Visit the Cuyahoga County Board of Elections for complete results.

The U.S. Census Bureau released findings from the 2011 American Community Survey. The one-year estimates feature data on more than 40 topics for all counties and places with populations of 65,000 or more. The Census Bureau also published several briefs on specific topics. Between 2010 and 2011 at the national level, the number of people in poverty grew, income inequality increased, and median household incomes declined. Elizabeth Kneebone of the Brookings Institution examined the patterns by metropolitan area. In Ohio, median household income decreased and poverty rates rose, remaining high in the state's largest cities. Cuyahoga County experienced a slight decrease in median household income and a slight drop in its percentage of families in poverty.

Voters on Tuesday will decide Issue 108, a five-year, 0.67 mill tax levy for the Cleveland-Cuyahoga County Port Authority. Will Friedman, the Port's CEO, spoke with Mark Naymik of the Plain Dealer and with Fresh Water's Douglas Trattner. He and other stakeholders participated in a Sound of Ideas show on the levy, and he answered questions at the Civic Commons. Editorials in the Plain Dealer and Sun Newspapers endorsed the levy, while Michael D. Roberts criticized it in Cleveland Magazine, Inside Business, and Scene.

Cuyahoga County released a list of the 31 bidders who responded to the County's property consolidation RFP, but did not share any details. County officials hope to reach deals with bidders by the end of the year.

Cuyahoga County Executive Ed FitzGerald marked the one-year anniversary of the County's anti-poaching pledge by reporting that 45 of the County's 59 communities have signed on. Recent adopters include Bay Village, Beachwood, North Royalton, Rocky River, and Strongsville. Mayfield Heights rejected the agreement.

The U.S. EPA awarded Great Lakes Restoration Initiative grants for two Greater Cleveland projects, giving $996,902 to the Ohio EPA and $770,250 to the Chagrin River Watershed Partners. The Ohio EPA will use its award to implement green stormwater control practices in Cuyahoga County, and the Chagrin River Watershed Partners will use its for green infrastructure projects in Lake County. Meanwhile, the Healing Our Waters - Great Lakes Coalition issued a report that highlights successful environmental restoration projects in Greater Cleveland.

A survey conducted for the Natural Resources Defense Council gauged public opinion about transportation options. The national telephone survey was supplemented by focus groups in four cities, including Cleveland. Cuyahoga County residents (PDF) said they favored greater investments in public transportation rather than building new roads.

Cuyahoga County awarded nearly $1.5 million in competitive municipal grants. The CDBG-based funding includes $350,000 for infrastructure improvements in Maple Heights, $350,000 for sewer separation in Newburgh Heights, and $150,000 to Parma Heights for a connector trail.

Cuyahoga County's Jack Schron and Larry Benders discussed the County's role in economic development at a recent City Club forum. Audio (MP3, 54.1 MB) and video of the talk are available.

Through its new Owner Occupant Buyer Advantage Program, the Cuyahoga Land Bank is offering houses in its inventory to prospective owner-occupants. The selected houses require renovations, but not major repairs. A Plain Dealer editorial said that "it's homeowners, especially those with sweat equity in their properties and plans to stay for the long term, who really rebuild neighborhoods."

The Cuyahoga County Prosecutor Office's announced that 12 suburban communities will share $1 million of the $5 million the office committed as a local match for housing demolition funding from the national mortgage settlement. The communities receiving grants between $50,000 and $100,000 are Cleveland Heights, Euclid, Garfield Heights, Lakewood, Newburgh Heights, North Olmsted, North Royalton, Parma, Parma Heights, Shaker Heights, South Euclid, and Warrensville Heights.

Cuyahoga County officially launched its property consolidation effort, offering 13 properties for sale and requesting proposals for new office and storage space. The buildings for sale include the County Administration Building, the Ameritrust complex, and the former Juvenile Justice Center. They are being presented to potential purchasers at a series of open houses. The County is seeking 225,000 square feet of downtown office space and 200,000 square feet of storage space. County officials intend to discuss the proposals in private, but County Executive FitzGerald pledged to make public all proposals before presenting them to County Council. County leaders are also considering a real-estate consulting contract.

Erick Trickey of Cleveland Magazine wrote about the lack of transparency and compared the process to old county government practices. A Plain Dealer called it "a huge opportunity for the county to secure its own bottom line and to boost downtown."

Update WKSU's Kevin Niedermier explored how the building sales could affect downtown Cleveland.

RTA reports that ridership figures continue to increase. Overall ridership in the first half of 2012 was 6% higher than the same period last year. The system has experienced 15 consecutive months of ridership growth.

The board of the Cleveland-Cuyahoga County Port Authority voted to place a five-year, 0.67 mill tax levy on the November ballot. The levy would increase a property owner's tax from $3.50 per $100,000 of assessed value to $20 per $100,000 of assessed value. The new funding (PDF) would be used to implement recommendations (PDF) in the strategic plan the port authority adopted last year, including capital improvements to port facilities, a new sediment disposal program, and Cuyahoga River ship channel restoration and slope stabilization. Steven Litt said it is "a credible, well-conceived plan to rethink and rebuild critical pieces of infrastructure on the lakefront and along the river," while Erick Trickey called it "pretty smart political packaging and coalition-building."

Tom Bier continues to deliver his message about urban sprawl and the need for Cuyahoga County to focus on redevelopment, saying that "the only way it can grow its tax base is to redevelop its old core and renew the old places." Meanwhile, Marc Lefkowitz considered what a national shift in housing preferences means to Northeast Ohio.

In its annual Testing the Waters report, the Natural Resources Defense Council ranked water quality at Ohio beaches as the second-lowest of the 30 states with coastlines. Villa Angela and Euclid Beach were included in the report's list of "repeat offenders" for having contamination problems in each of the past five years. Most Great Lakes states scored poorly. The NRDC released the report at the Great Lakes Science Center to recognize the area's investments in green infrastructure. Previous reports: 2011, 2010, 2009, 2008, 2007, 2005.

Update: Northeast Ohio Regional Sewer District Executive Director Julius Ciaccia wrote about his agency's efforts to improve the situation.

At their Tuesday meeting, Cuyahoga County Council members offered a variety of ideas for investing the County's share of casino tax revenues. Council will continue to discuss the issue.

Update: in an editorial, the Plain Dealer reiterated its support for County Executive FitzGerald's proposal to use the funds to support downtown Cleveland projects.

Update 2: County Council members introduced five different proposals for the money, and another Plain Dealer editorial supported County Executive FitzGerald's suggestion.

In its trail planning process, the Cuyahoga Valley National Park prepared and considered eight alternatives and selected a preferred alternative. The plan's objective is to balance the needs for active recreation opportunities and environmental stewardship over the next 15 years. The Draft Trail Management Plan and Environmental Impact Statement is available online and open to public comment until August 20. The National Park will hold three public meetings in late July.

Update: the Akron Beacon Journal published more information about the trail plans and reported on the public meetings.

Natural gas drilling continues to be a source of conflict and tension in places like Broadview Heights. Nearly 400 wells have been drilled in Cuyahoga County since Ohio eliminated local controls in 2004.

The Cuyahoga Land Bank will provide $6.8 million and the Cuyahoga County Prosecutor's Office committed $5 million as the local match for housing demolition funding from the national mortgage settlement.

Update: a Plain Dealer editorial says it "initiates a regional strategy that encourages collaboration and sets priorities."

On June 18, RTA will launch its NextConnect service. Bus and rapid riders will be able to obtain real-time arrival information on their mobile devices.

Update: RTA described the service, which is now available at nextconnect.riderta.com.

In its first round of funding, Ohio's Local Government Innovation Council awarded $3.4 million in grants and $2.9 million in loans (PDFs) to a total of 51 projects. Cuyahoga County received a $100,000 grant to support the merger/shared services study for Moreland Hills, Orange, Pepper Pike, and Woodmere. South Euclid received a $51,386 grant for a five-city emergency services dispatch study, and the Chagrin/Southeast Council of Governments received a $55,000 grant for a joint communication center. Jill Miller Zimon of the EfficientGovNetwork discussed the awards with Randy Cole of the Ohio Controlling Board.

At a recent Northeast Ohio City Council Association meeting, Tom Bier urged Cuyahoga County leaders to focus on redevelopment efforts.

Update: NOCCA posted video of the talk.

With the opening of the Horseshoe Casino Cleveland, local leaders hope it will generate new jobs and new tax revenues. A Plain Dealer editorial said that "if all goes as planned, the casino will give downtown a jolt of jobs, energy and excitement," while WCPN's Around Noon examined the casino from historical and urban planning perspectives. Owner Dan Gilbert said that the casino's planned second phase behind Tower City Center "is definitely happening."

Meanwhile, Cuyahoga County leaders discussed priorities for the County's share of the tax revenues at a recent work session. County Executive FitzGerald has proposed using the funds to support downtown Cleveland development, while some members of County Council would prefer to spread the investments over a broader area. A Plain Dealer editorial supported the County Executive's approach.

Under guidelines released by the Ohio Attorney General's office, Cuyahoga County is eligible to receive $11.85 million of the $75 million the office budgeted to assist communities in the demolition of abandoned houses. The funds will be awarded on August 1. A Plain Dealer editorial said that the Cuyahoga Land Bank is the "perfect entity to administer the demolition grant."

On March 26, the board of the Cuyahoga Metropolitan Housing Authority appointed Jeffery K. Patterson as its new CEO (PDF). Former agency head George Phillips-Olivier was recently sentenced to 10 months in prison for lying to the FBI. A Plain Dealer editorial said that the board has suffered from a "lack of oversight and accountability".

The American Lung Association's annual State of the Air report again gave Cuyahoga County an F for its ozone levels, while the county's grade for particulate pollution improved to a D. Air quality in the eight-county Cleveland metropolitan area continued to improve, but was ranked as having the nation's 14th-highest level of year-round particulate pollution. Nationwide, cities reported the lowest levels of air pollution in the 13-year history of the report.

Cuyahoga County selected CBRE Group Inc. to market up to 22 buildings, evaluate potential new office space, and negotiate sales or leases. The process may begin next month.

RTA ridership figures continue to rise, increasing by 5.3% between March 2011 and March 2012, and the agency is working to attract discretionary transit users. In Cleveland Heights and University Circle, consultants are developing plans for improving non-automobile transportation options and are conducting a survey. Marc Lefkowitz said that they face challenges and opportunities.

Cuyahoga County's scores improved slightly in the third annual County Health Rankings from the University of Wisconsin and the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation. Among Ohio's 88 counties, Cuyahoga County was 65th in heath outcomes and 53rd in health factors. Geauga County and Medina County were among the top-ranked counties in the state. The report also supplied data on nationwide trends.

The U.S. Census Bureau's release of metropolitan area and county population estimates showed a trend of population growth in core counties and decreases in exurban counties. Cuyahoga County's estimated population fell from 1,278,000 in July 2010 to 1,270,294 in July 2011. It was one of only two counties with a population greater than 1 million people to register a decrease. Of Ohio's six large urban counties, only Franklin and Montgomery counties showed growth. The Census Bureau also released Census 2010 Summary File 2 data for Ohio. It includes detailed population and housing data by race and ethnicity.

Cuyahoga County Executive Ed FitzGerald announced that eight more suburbs, including Brecksville and Lyndhurst, have signed the County's anti-poaching pledge, bringing the total to 28 communities.

New maps from the Ohio Geological Survey illustrate the portions of the state where Utica shale deposits are expected to yield the most oil and gas. Previous maps included Cuyahoga, Lake, and Lorain counties in this area, but they are mostly excluded in the revised maps.

Policy Matters Ohio's annual analysis of foreclosure statistics says that while foreclosure filings in Ohio declined in 2011, the levels remain elevated. Cuyahoga County had both the largest number of filings and the highest rate of filings per capita.

On Thursday, Jeff Finkle, Lee Fisher, and Joe Marinucci participated in a panel discussion, the annual State of Downtown forum at the City Club (MP3, 54.0 MB). They expressed optimism about the future of downtown Cleveland. That morning on WCPN's Sound of Ideas, Joe Calabrese of RTA and Bob Pfaff of Akron METRO talked about public transit in Greater Cleveland.

Update: video of the State of Downtown forum is now online.

Figures released by the Ohio Supreme Court show that foreclosure filings in Ohio decreased by 16.3% between 2010 and 2011. It was the second consecutive year with a decrease. Filings in Cuyahoga County fell from 12,825 in 2010 to 11,544 in 2011, a 10% drop.

A report (PDF) from the National Park Service says that in 2010, the 2.5 million visitors to the Cuyahoga Valley National Park spent $54.7 million in and around the park, supporting 829 jobs.

Last week, the Cuyahoga Land Bank marked its 1,500th property acquisition and completed its 750th demolition. The land bank was organized in 2009.

RTA officials presented the Blue Line Corridor Extension Study to the NOACA Governing Board on Friday. RTA's board is scheduled to discuss the plan later this month.

Outgoing MetroHealth Chief Executive Mark Moran shared his vision for the health system. It includes an overhaul of its main campus in Cleveland and the construction of four new health centers.

Ohio will receive a $335 million share of the $25 billion federal settlement with mortgage companies, and Attorney General DeWine intends to set aside $75 million to demolish abandoned properties across the state. Cleveland and Cuyahoga County hope to receive at least $12.5 million from the fund. Former Cuyahoga County Treasurer Jim Rokakis, now head of the Thriving Communities Institute, is working with Representative LaTourette on legislation that would supply federal funding for additional demolitions. Rokakis advocated for the proposal in a recent Washington Post op-ed. Editorials in the Plain Dealer support both efforts, while the National League of Cities reflected on "the lessons that brought the country to this situation."

In his second State of the County address, Cuyahoga County Executive Ed FitzGerald highlighted his accomplishments and introduced the Western Reserve Plan. He presented its 12 principles and his long range vision to an audience of more than 850 people. A Plain Dealer editorial said that County Executive FitzGerald deserves "credit for setting big goals when he has the political capital to pursue them." Audio (MP3, 53.0 MB) and a transcript (PDF) of the address are available.

Update: some suburban leaders expressed interest in sharing services.

Update 2: an Akron Beacon Journal editorial supports County Executive FitzGerald's approach. Video of the address is now online.

The final recommendations of RTA's Blue Line Corridor Extension Study (PDF) include the construction of a new intermodal transit center, a new express bus line, and new park-and-ride lots. It does not recommend extending rail service or adding new bus rapid transit routes. All Aboard Ohio offered some suggestions, and Marc Lefkowitz considered what would be required for successful transit-oriented development.

In a presentation to Cleveland City Council about the region's housing market, Tom Bier said that Cleveland and its inner-ring suburbs must work together on redevelopment efforts.

At its January 24 meeting, Cuyahoga County Council approved the establishment of a $100 million economic development fund. Creating the fund was one of County Executive FitzGerald's campaign promises. The County will use $5 million from the fund as loan guarantees, which will leverage an additional $100 million in small-business loans from seven area banks.

Cuyahoga County Executive FitzGerald announced that the County will prioritize and select which major road projects it will finance, and instituted a two-year moratorium on the required local funding match.

The Federal Transit Administration awarded $40.8 million to improve access to the country's national parks, forests and wildlife refuges. The FTA funds will support 58 projects, including $3.2 million for five Cuyahoga Valley Scenic Railroad projects. The largest of the five awards is a $1.4 million grant for a pedestrian bridge across the Cuyahoga River.

RTA reports that it served more than 46 million riders in 2011, an increase of almost 4% over 2010.

The U.S. EPA introduced its Greenhouse Gas Inventory. It provides public access to 2010 greenhouse gas emissions data from large facilities for the entire United States. Ohio's largest group of emitters were power plants, and the largest single emitter in Cuyahoga County was the ArcelorMittal steel mill in Cleveland. Meanwhile, ArcelorMittal announced that it would reopen the west side of the plant.

Policy Matters Ohio reported that Ohio housing foreclosure filings decreased slightly in 2010, but remained at historically high levels. Bill Callahan looked at the 2011 totals for Cuyahoga County, and noted that last year was the county's sixth consecutive year with over 10,000 foreclosure filings.

A real estate study conducted for Cuyahoga County leaders provided recommendations for each property in the county portfolio, and divided them into opportunities for investment, holding, or divestment. The study (PowerPoint) recommended the sale of the Ameritrust complex, the County Administration Building, and the former Juvenile Justice Center, among other structures. A Plain Dealer editorial says that the "upshot of all this is that the county may soon become an important player in the local real estate market."

The U.S. EPA issued its annual analysis of data from the national Toxics Release Inventory. After several years of decreases, U.S. toxic chemical releases increased by 16% from 2009 to 2010. Releases in Ohio shrank by 1.8%. Cuyahoga County's largest emitters were the ArcelorMittal and Charter Steel facilities.

A 60 Minutes segment looked at the impacts of the housing crisis in Cuyahoga County and at how local governments and residents are responding to foreclosures, abandonment, and underwater mortgages. The Plain Dealer's Brent Larkin also described the struggles. Rob Pitingolo said that exurban housing construction and regional population declines contributed to the problems.

Update: Businessweek also looked at the local housing market.

Public transit usage increased nationally in the third quarter of 2011. RTA experienced the largest ridership increase in the country, with a 9.7% increase over the same period in 2010.

Update: Ben Wickizer of the Sierra Club Ohio Chapter says that state leaders "should take bold action and commit Ohio to becoming a leader in the development of transit infrastructure."

The Cuyahoga Land Bank and the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development renewed their agreement for a second one-year term. HUD will continue to transfer low-value properties (PDF) to the land bank for $100.

The land bank will also partner with the International Services Center in the new Discovering Home program (PDF). Through the program, the land bank will provide houses to refugees settling in the county, and the refugees will participate in renovating the houses. The first house in the program is on Hopkins Avenue in Lakewood.

Longtime Cleveland Metroparks Commissioner David Whitehead announced that he will step down from the board. Judge Russo said he will name a replacement soon.

Update: Judge Russo appointed Debbie Berry to the Metroparks board of commissioners.

RTA's proposed 2012 Service Management Plan (PDF) calls for adding service on 20 bus routes, plus the creation of two new trolleybus routes and a shuttle route.

RTA's budget projections (PDF) for 2012 show an improved financial outlook. It may allow the agency to increase service on several lines, including the Red Line and HealthLine.

The Cuyahoga County Land Bank adopted new bylaws and selected a new board chairman and vice-chairman (PDF). The changes resolved a dispute with County Executive FitzGerald.

Update: a Plain Dealer editorial called it "a reasonable compromise that will enable the land bank ... to focus on its critically important mission".

Cleveland-Cuyahoga County Port Authority President William Friedman testified before the U.S. House Transportation Subcommittee on Water Resources and Environment. He urged Congress to take up a comprehensive reform of the Water Resources Development Act. The port authority would like the ability to manage its dredge material without waiting for approval from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers.

The New York Times used Greater Cleveland as an example of the increasing suburbanization of poverty. The authors of a new Brookings Institution report said that the shift in housing voucher usage "shouldn't be a huge surprise."

The West Shore Commuter Rail Task Force held a series of public meetings to present public transit options for the corridor between Cleveland and Sandusky. The lack of funding for public transit in Lorain County presents a challenge.

Update: the Morning Journal summarized the meeting in Lorain.

The Federal Transit Administration awarded $928.5 million for more than 300 transit projects across the nation. RTA received three grants for a total of $7.1 million.

Cuyahoga County Executive Ed FitzGerald promoted his anti-poaching protocol in a Plain Dealer op-ed, calling the agreement "an eminently reasonable step toward fostering cooperation in the interest of economic development."

Cleveland-Cuyahoga County Port Authority President William Friedman spoke at the City Club (MP3, 52.1 MB) about the Port's plans and accomplishments. The Port Authority has also identified a preferred provider for the planned Lake Erie ferry.

Update: Bill Callahan posted more information about the ferry plans.

The Cuyahoga County Land Bank continues to gather national attention, as the Washington Post explored the agency's approach to the foreclosure crisis.

Update: the newspaper also published an article on local deconstruction and salvage operations.

The St. Luke's Foundation awarded $1.8 million in grants (PDF), including $37,063 to the City Club to conduct a series on the geographic aspects of health disparities. The first event in the four-part Why Place Matters series will feature Dr. Gail Christopher (PDF) of the W.K. Kellogg Foundation on October 21. The Levin College Forum will host an event on health disparities on October 20.

Update: audio (MP3, 52.8 MB) and video of Dr. Christopher's talk are now available.

Update 2: guests on WDOK's Cleveland Connection show also discussed the topic.

Consultants working on the West Shore Corridor project said that the potential commuter rail line would take 10 to 15 years to realize.

Leaders in Berea anticipate adopting Cuyahoga County Executive FitzGerald's anti-poaching agreement, while Highland Heights City Council rejected the agreement. Strongsville officials are considering the proposal.

Update: the Sun Messenger says that Highland Heights City Council wants more information on the plan before deciding.

On Monday, the Cuyahoga County Juvenile Court opened for business in the new Juvenile Justice Center at East 93rd Street and Quincy Avenue in Cleveland. The $189 million complex's first full day of business will be October 11.

In East Cleveland, the new Cleveland Clinic Stephanie Tubbs Jones Health Center also opened on Monday. The three-floor, 50,000-square-foot facility is on Euclid Avenue adjacent to the former Huron Hospital. The hospital permanently closed on Friday.

Over the next three years, the Cuyahoga County Public Library will invest $100 million to implement its facilities master plan. The work includes construction and renovation at 15 of its 28 branches. New libraries will be built in Garfield Heights, Mayfield Village, North Royalton, Olmsted Falls, Parma, and Warrensville Heights.

Last Wednesday, the board of the Cleveland-Cuyahoga Port Authority voted to adopt its new strategic (PDF) action plan, despite a late objection from developers of the Flats east bank project.

Cuyahoga County Council did not vote on a proposal for a new funding formula for the Cuyahoga County Land Bank. Members want to wait until a dispute about the land bank's board composition is resolved.

Cuyahoga County Executive Ed FitzGerald announced his revised Business Attraction and Anti-Poaching Protocol. It's intended to reduce incentives for business relocations that that do not add to the region's economic output. The proposed agreement is less ambitious than the initial concept.

Update: the Plain Dealer provided more details, and in an editorial, said that the agreement "embodies two principles critical to the future of this area."

Update 2: reactions from suburban leaders have been mixed.

Update 3: Mayor DePiero of Parma signed and Pepper Pike City Council approved the agreement.

The public response was positive at a Wednesday meeting on the Cleveland-Cuyahoga County Port Authority's draft strategic plan. The Port Authority board may vote to adopt the plan at its September 21 meeting.

A new report from the Planning and Community Health Research Center offers an overview of food policy councils and how planners can participate in them, based on the experiences of efforts in four cities, including the Cleveland-Cuyahoga County Food Policy Coalition.

At GreenCityBlueLake, Marc Lefkowitz wrote about the green zoning initiative in Cleveland Heights and about sustainability efforts at RTA.

Officials with the Cuyahoga County Land Bank want to enhance its revenue stream by adding funding from delinquent property taxes. The change would need approval from County Council. County Executive Ed FitzGerald and Neighborhood Progress Inc. CEO Joel Ratner praised the land bank in a Plain Dealer op-ed, while NPR's Morning Edition and Time highlighted the land bank's activities.

Cuyahoga Valley National Park Superintendent Stan Austin spoke at the Akron Roundtable last week. He talked about the park's assets, plans, and areas for improvement.

Participants on Monday's Sound of Ideas program discussed Northeast Ohio invasive plant issues. The guest on Tuesday's program was Cleveland-Cuyahoga County Port Authority President William Friedman.

At a meeting on Thursday, local mountain bikers urged the Cleveland Metroparks Commissioners to provide them with greater access in the park district. An environmental impact study is currently underway.

NOACA's governing board approved a $34,100 grant to Cuyahoga County to support a study of the potential merger of Moreland Hills, Orange, Pepper Pike, and Woodmere. The Cuyahoga County Planning Commission will conduct the study.

The U.S. Census Bureau released Census 2010 Summary File 1 data for Ohio. It includes detailed tables on "age, sex, households, families, relationship to householder, housing units, detailed race and Hispanic or Latino origin groups, and group quarters," and showed a 51% increase in same-sex partner households in Ohio between 2000 and 2010. Demographic profiles of Cuyahoga County communities are now available.

A new study from the Federal Reserve Bank of Cleveland says that in Cuyahoga County, "foreclosed homes go through more than a year of very high vacancy rates following the auction and are substantially more likely to be vacant up to 60 months after the foreclosure."

The Cleveland-Cuyahoga County Port Authority released (PDF) a draft of its strategic action plan. Its recommendations include ways to "deliver on community ambitions for waterfront renewal, job creation, and economic vitality." If adopted, it would replace the earlier port relocation plan. Steven Litt said that its suggestion to concurrently plan for the future of the Lake Erie and Cuyahoga River waterfronts "is embarrassingly close to a head-slapping moment of blinding clarity." The public can provide feedback through a survey and at the Civic Commons. The Port Authority also announced that it will relocate its offices to a building on West 9th Street and the hiring of Jim White (PDF) as its first director of sustainable infrastructure programs.

Update: a Plain Dealer editorial says that the plan "actually makes sense for the port and the region," but that implementing it may be a challenge.

Update 2: WKSU's Kabir Bhatia spoke with Port Authority President William Friedman.

With funding provided by the Northeast Ohio Regional Sewer District, communities in Cuyahoga County are creating rain gardens, bioswales, and other projects to control stormwater and create neighborhood greenspace.

U.S. House Transportation Committee Chair John Mica proposed a six-year transportation reauthorization bill that would reduce federal transportation spending by about one-third. RTA General Manager Joe Calabrese said that if the proposal is approved, it would force the agency to make a 7.5% cut in bus and rail service. Yonah Freemark of the Transport Politic said that transit agencies would have no good options.

Two banks will donate vacant foreclosed properties to the Cuyahoga County Land Bank for demolition or rehabilitation. Wells Fargo has donated 26 properties so far and Bank of America will donate up to 100 properties. The banks will contribute $3,500 or $7,500 per property to cover demolition costs.

After two years of ridership decreases, RTA ridership figures are stabilizing in 2011. Through May, bus ridership fell by 2.9% and rapid ridership grew by 9%. Officials attribute the changes to the improving economy and high gas prices.

Cuyahoga County received a $500,000 grant for community-wide brownfield remediation from the U.S. EPA. It was part of the $76 million the agency awarded for cleanup projects (PDF) in 40 states.

Governor Kasich said that he and legislative leaders intend to appoint a commission that will study governmental consolidations. The budget bill approved by the Ohio House included $250,000 to encourage collaborations, but the Ohio Senate did not include the funding in its bill. In a Plain Dealer op-ed, Tom Bier calls for Cuyahoga County communities to adopt a new principle of shared responsibility.

Update: the Plain Dealer's Joe Frolik says that collaborations and consolidations should be an important issue in municipal elections.

On Thursday morning, County Executive FitzGerald met with representatives of about 20 Cuyahoga County communities to present a draft of a new anti-poaching protocol (PDF). Under the agreement, communities would not actively recruit businesses located in another Cuyahoga County community. He hopes to finalize the agreement by the end of September. Communities that sign on would be given an advantage when seeking support from the County's planned $100 million economic development fund.

Update: a Plain Dealer editorial says that cities should sign the pact.

The Plain Dealer scrutinized Judge Anthony Russo's role in determining whether the Cleveland Metroparks expands its scope to include lakefront parks.

The Plain Dealer provided updates on the experimental wind turbine initiative at Cleveland State University and the status of trail planning for the Cuyahoga Valley National Park.

On Wednesday, the Cuyahoga County Economic Development Commission approved an initial five-year economic development plan. County Council's Economic Development and Planning Committee will review and discuss the plan on June 6.

Update: the Plain Dealer provided more information about the draft plan and posted the document (PDF).

Update 2: the plan is available from the Cuyahoga County Department of Development.

Cleveland State University Provost Geoffrey Mearns will mediate the dispute between the Northeast Ohio Regional Sewer District and suburban mayors over fees associated with the District's stormwater management program.

The American Lung Association's 12th annual State of the Air report says that Cuyahoga County's air quality continues to improve, but it again gave the County failing grades for its levels of ozone and particulate pollution. The eight-county Cleveland metropolitan area was ranked as having the nation's 12th-highest level of year-round particulate pollution. Previous reports: 2010, 2009, 2008, 2007, 2006, 2005, and 2004.

Cleveland Metroparks Commissioner Dan T. Moore, appointed in January, is interested in public access to Lake Erie and lakefront parks. The Metroparks are in the midst of a master planning process, which includes an examination of a greater lakefront presence.

Dan Moulthrop and Luke Frazier of the Civic Commons spoke with Cuyahoga County Deputy Chief of Staff Nathan Kelly about the County's recently-announced $100 million economic development fund. The Foundation Center's Cynthia Bailie talked to Christine Amer Mayer of Akron's GAR Foundation about the foundation's involvement in economic development. With the State of Ohio poised to spend $1.4 billion on economic development this year, USA Today compared Ohio's approach with those of other states.

The May issue of Cleveland Magazine includes a profile of Cuyahoga Valley National Park Superintendent Stan Austin and a piece by Michael Roberts on the history of downtown Cleveland planning problems.

Cuyahoga County Common Pleas Judge Thomas Pokorny ruled that the Northeast Ohio Regional Sewer District has the authority to implement its stormwater management program, but did not rule on a challenge by several suburban communities. The district filed for a declaratory judgment in January 2010. Judge Pokorny's decision (PDF) removes seven Summit County communities from the program. The Summit County Engineer's Office continues to develop its own stormwater management program.

Update: an Akron Beacon Journal editorial encourages communities to work cooperatively instead of through the courts.

Putting Artists on the Map, a five-part research series from the Community Partnership for Arts and Culture, examines the housing and space preferences of Cuyahoga County artists. The first three parts are available. Part one (PDF) is a summary report, part two (PDF) describes the neighborhoods that have concentrations of artists, and part three (PDF) focuses on survey results.

Update: Part four (PDF) presents a model of neighborhood characteristics. Part five (PDF) looks at artists' housing preferences.

Update 2: Fresh Water summarized the findings.

The Center for Public Management at CSU's Levin College of Urban Affairs prepared a study (PDFs: executive summary, complete report) on the feasibility of developing an aerotropolis around Cleveland Hopkins International Airport. It says that the area "has potential as an aerotropolis, but its particular challenges require the development of a strategy that fits the Cleveland area's unique strengths and needs."

Cleveland-Cuyahoga County Port Authority President William Friedman outlined a new strategic business plan to the Port's Maritime Committee. It identifies four markets for growth, which Crain's Cleveland Business describes as "land- and marine-based wind energy development, especially in light of plans for a wind farm in Lake Erie north of Cleveland; new ferry service across Lake Erie from Canada; a shuttle service that would bring containers from Europe and beyond into the Port of Cleveland; and an increase in steel and other traditional lake cargo." He expects that the plan will be completed in the next 60 days.

In a meeting facilitated by Cuyahoga County Executive FitzGerald, local mayors met with NEORSD officials to discuss the agency's contentious stormwater management program. Both sides agreed to to participate in mediation.

In the first State of the County Address, Cuyahoga County Executive Ed FitzGerald laid out plans to create a $100 million economic development fund, facilitate municipal collaborations, and support education and community safety programs. He said that his agenda represents "a sweeping and ambitious plan for the recovery of Cuyahoga County."

Update: the text and presentation from County Executive FitzGerald's speech are now online. The City Club posted audio (MP3, 52.1 MB) and video of the event.

The City of Cleveland Heights completed work on four houses it was renovating through the use of Neighborhood Stabilization Program funding. The houses are now on the market, and proceeds from the sales will be used to renovate or demolish other neglected houses. The City of South Euclid is finalizing the sale of the first house renovated through its Green Neighborhoods Initiative.

Update: information about renovated homes in 11 Cuyahoga County cities is available through the Ideal Homes Program.

The second annual County Health Rankings from the University of Wisconsin and the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation ranked the health of counties by state. In Ohio, Cuyahoga County again ranked well in health factors and lower in health outcomes. Both rankings were improvements over last year's scores. Geauga and Medina counties appeared near the top of both lists.

Update: an Akron Beacon Journal editorial and PBS's The Rundown weblog reflected on the report.

A Plain Dealer editorial supports Cuyahoga County's exploration of utilizing local hospitals for mental health care, in light of the state's decision to abandon plans for a regional psychiatric hospital in Cleveland. Tracy Plouck, director of the Ohio Department of Mental Health, says that the decision "was based on the rationale that the state will be able to offer the same amount of inpatient hospital capacity to the region at $4 million less per year."

On Friday, NOACA awarded $845,000 in Transportation for Livable Communities Initiative grants to 13 transportation projects (PDF) in Cuyahoga, Lake, and Lorain counties. Eight of the selected planning studies are in the City of Cleveland, and the others are in Cleveland Heights, Shaker Heights, Euclid, Eastlake, and Elyria. Eastlake City Council refused its grant.

Update: the Sun Press described the projects in Cleveland Heights and Shaker Heights.

Cleveland Metroparks leaders anticipate that the system's revenue will rise in 2011 due to its acquisition of Seneca Golf Course and the completion of the zoo's African Elephant Crossing exhibit.

RTA reports that Red Line ridership grew by about 9% in January and February. The increase may be related to rising gas prices.

Governor Kasich's proposed fiscal year 2012-2013 budget includes higher than anticipated cuts to the state's local government fund. Cuyahoga County leaders are promoting cost-saving regionalism initiatives.

Update: a Plain Dealer editorial says that the budget will force local governments to collaborate.

The U.S. Census Bureau today published the first set of detailed Census 2010 demographics for Ohio, redistricting data that covers population, race, Hispanic origin, and housing occupancy. Between 2000 and 2010, the population of Cuyahoga County fell by 113,856 to 1,280,122, a decrease of 8.2%. The City of Cleveland's population declined by 17.1% to 396,815, and most of its inner-ring suburbs also lost population. The populations of Cleveland Heights and Euclid each fell below 50,000, putting their status as entitlement communities into question. Lakewood's population remained over 50,000. We have posted population figures for Cuyahoga County communities and will provide other tables soon.

The eight-county Cleveland-Akron CSA's population declined by only 2.2%, as Geauga, Lake, Lorain, Medina, and Portage counties gained population. The City of Columbus grew by 10.6%, but all of Ohio's other major cities saw population decreases. The Census Bureau will release additional data in the coming months.

Update: area newspapers reported on the release, including the Plain Dealer, Akron Beacon Journal, News-Herald, Morning Journal, Chronicle-Telegram, Record-Courier, and the Medina County Gazette. In addition to posting the Cuyahoga County population figures, we posted data and maps on the county's racial distribution, Latino population, and housing occupancy.

Update 2: Ohio's Office of Policy Research and Strategic Planning compiled population data for every county, city, village, and township (PDF) in the state.

Update 3: the Plain Dealer published a corrected population change map.

Cuyahoga County Executive Ed FitzGerald selected Larry Benders to lead the Cuyahoga County Department of Development. He will begin work in April and will succeed Dorothy Baunach, who has been serving as the department's interim director.

Update: the Plain Dealer has more information.

American Greetings leaders announced on Monday that the company will keep its headquarters in Northeast Ohio, but added that they have not decided on a location in the area. The company is considering its current location in Brooklyn and four other sites in suburban Cuyahoga County. Ohio legislators passed a tax incentive aimed at keeping the company in the state, and Governor Kasich signed the bill (PDF) on Monday. A Plain Dealer editorial called it "a win for the home team."

Update: Ed FitzGerald does not want to encourage the company to relocate from one Cuyahoga County city to another, and will not offer any financial incentives.

After 15 years of increases, Ohio's foreclosure rate declined in 2010. There were 85,483 new foreclosure filings in 2010, down from the record-high 89,053 filings in 2009, a 4% decrease. Some of the drop can be attributed to the robo-signing moratorium. Filings in Cuyahoga County fell by 9.5% over the same period, but the county had 12,825 filings, the most of any Ohio county. An Akron Beacon Journal editorial says that the "task to drive down the risk of foreclosure in Ohio is no less urgent than it has been the past decade."

A new study from Enterprise Community Partners "examines the value of parcel-level real estate data for neighborhood stabilization programs in general, and looks specifically at how the Northeast Ohio Community and Neighborhood Data for Organizing system (NEO CANDO) is used in Cleveland."

Ohio Department of Transportation leaders announced that the agency will rescind a large portion of the funding it pledged for public transportation, reducing the three-year, $150 program to $80 million. RTA will lose the $2.2 million in funding it received in January, and will not be able to initiate planned new services.

ODOT Director Jerry Wray added that Ohio will not be participating in the proposed new $53 billion federal high-speed rail initiative. U.S. Secretary of Transportation Ray LaHood said that the state's absence will not harm the program.

Update: a Plain Dealer editorial said that the decision to cut public transit funding is a mistake. A Blade editorial said that it "may cost the state tax revenue from business activity in the long run."

A new report from the Center on Urban Poverty and Community Development at Case Western Reserve University examines bank walkaways and "stalled foreclosure cases in Cuyahoga County in order to describe the factors involved in delayed foreclosure cases."

A piece by the Plain Dealer editorial board highlights positive news about Cleveland and offers a set of goals for this year. It proposes ways to rebuild human capital, rebrand the city, and reform government and civic life. The newspaper also published a set of ideas from readers.

The Cuyahoga County Economic Development Commission held its inaugural meeting on Tuesday. At the meeting, County Executive FitzGerald announced more than $1 million in loans for three development projects.

Update: a Plain Dealer editorial offers the Commission some advice.

The newly-established Cuyahoga County Economic Development Commission will meet for the first time on January 25. Seven of its nine seats have been filled. At the state level, Governor Kasich revealed more details about his plans to privatize the Ohio Department of Development and create the JobsOhio development corporation.

Update: an Akron Beacon Journal says that Governor Kasich should be alert to the hazards of privatization. The Cincinnati Enquirer interviewed Mark Kvamme, director of the Ohio Department of Development.

Update 2: legislation introduced in the Ohio House to create JobsOhio would allow the development corporation to operate in private. An amendment would give the Ohio inspector general the ability to investigate the corporation.

The Greater Cleveland RTA is seeking public input on Re: imagine RTA, its 2010-2020 strategic plan, and will hold a community meeting on January 13 at its offices on West 6th Street. The agency is also conducting a survey. Officials in Lorain County and the the Morning Journal encourage Lorain County residents to participate.

Cuyahoga County Executive FitzGerald's latest appointments include Ed Jerse as Regional Collaboration Director and Nathan Kelly as Deputy Chief of Staff for Economic Development.

Update: in addition, FitzGerald named former ODOT District 12 Deputy Director Bonnie Teeuwen as the County's first public works director.

The Coral Company is resuming construction of homes at its Westhampton at Crocker Park development in Westlake. Other local residential developers have also revived stalled projects.

Update: the Coral Company anticipates completing the 125-unit Westhampton development in four to five years.

The Ohio Department of Transportation awarded $2.2 million through its 21st Century Transit Partnerships for Ohio's Next Generation program to RTA to create and operate new services for one year. RTA will use the funds for several new routes.

Update: the Plain Dealer has more information.

Cuyahoga County Executive Ed FitzGerald appointed Dorothy Baunach as the County's interim Director of Development. She succeeds Paul Oyaski, who did not continue through the county government transition. Baunach led NorTech from 1999 to 2009, and is now its president emeritus.

Judge Russo appointed businessman Dan T. Moore to succeed Fred Rzepka as one of the three Cleveland Metroparks commissioners. Moore joins Bruce Rinker and David Whitehead as members of the board.

Update: a Plain Dealer editorial says that "Moore seems like a good fit".

Jim Rokakis, the outgoing Cuyahoga County Treasurer, was the sole guest on Tuesday's Sound of Ideas program. He talked about his work, his 33 years of public service, and the changes in county government. After leaving office, he may lead a new urban land institute at CSU's Levin College of Urban Affairs.

A Plain Dealer editorial supports Cuyahoga County Executive-elect FitzGerald's call for increased municipal collaboration. Mayor DePiero of Parma also backs the idea.

The U.S. EPA released its annual analysis of data from the Toxics Release Inventory. Nationwide, releases of toxic chemicals fell by 12% to 3.37 billion pounds from 2008 to 2009. Releases in Ohio fell from 224 million pounds in 2008 to 159 million pounds in 2009, a decrease of over 29%. Cuyahoga County's top polluter in 2009 was the Charter Steel mill in Cuyahoga Heights. The ArcelorMittal steel plant in Cleveland was idled for much of the year.

Update: businesses in Ohio continued to emit more toxic air pollutants than those of any other state. Officials attribute the decreases to pollution control equipment, the recession, and new processes.

The RTA Board of Trustees approved a budget that maintains current levels of service and fares for 2011. The agency's revenue was bolstered by a $5.4 million allocation from the Ohio Department of Transportation.

Longtime Cleveland Metroparks Commissioner Fred Rzepka announced that he will step down at the end of the year. The Plain Dealer's Brent Larkin recently profiled Rzepka, and said that he may be the best commissioner in Metroparks history.

Update: Rzepka served on the board for 24 years, longer than any other commissioner.

The Cuyahoga Valley National Park Association will change its name to the Conservancy for Cuyahoga Valley National Park. An official announcement is expected in January.

The Cuyahoga Valley Scenic Railroad expects to serve a record-high 180,000 passengers in 2010. Since 2006, the National Park Service has invested close to $9 million in capital improvements for the railroad.

WKSU's Jeff St. Clair interviewed Stan Austin, the superintendent of the Cuyahoga Valley National Park.

American Greetings revealed that company officials are considering seven sites for its corporate headquarters. The locations include the current headquarters in Brooklyn, four other suburban Cuyahoga County sites, and two locations in the Chicago area. The company wants to make a decision by the end of February.

Update: a Plain Dealer editorials says that retaining the company should be a priority for Greater Cleveland.

Brian Zimmerman, executive director of the Cleveland Metroparks, spoke at the City Club on Wednesday (MP3, 53.1 MB). He talked about what he has learned in his time in Cleveland and the future of the park district.

The new leaders of the Cuyahoga Valley National Park and Cleveland Metroparks appeared on Tuesday's Sound of Ideas program. CVNP Superintendent Stan Austin and Metroparks Director Brian Zimmerman spoke about the future of the parks.

In the first round of the Ohio New Markets Tax Credit program, the Ohio Department of Development made $10 million in credits available to four Ohio entities. About half of the credits were awarded to two Cuyahoga County recipients, one affiliated with KeyBank and the other associated with the Cleveland-Cuyahoga County Port Authority. The credits may be used to support the Allen Theatre renovations and the Evergreen Cooperatives, among other initiatives.

In addition to the two funding announcements made earlier this week, RTA received $4.2 million from the Federal Transportation Administration. The award was part of the $776 million State of Good Repair discretionary grant program. RTA will use its funds to upgrade equipment and facilities at three garages.

Through a program called 21st Century Transit Partnerships for Ohio's Next Generation, the Ohio Department of Transportation will provide $150 million over the next three years to public transit agencies in Ohio. RTA will receive $5.4 million each year, for a total of $16.2 million.

Update: the Columbus Dispatch has more information.

While Cleveland Metroparks employees are working to restore natural habitats and reintroduce native species, new Executive Director Brian Zimmerman is helping to guide the park district's strategic planning process. He will speak at the City Club on November 17.

NOACA conducted counts of bicycle traffic at 17 locations in Cuyahoga County in 2006 and 2010. Over the four-year period, bicycle counts increased by an average of 50%.

Update: Channel 5 reported on the figures.

Update 2: the Plain Dealer published more information.

The six candidates for Cuyahoga County executive discussed regional transportation issues at a Cleveland State University forum on Tuesday evening. They expressed different views about priorities and funding.

A commuter rail study being conducted as part of the Westshore Corridor Transportation Project should be completed by the end of the year. Potential users of the proposed line between Cleveland and Sandusky can complete a survey.

Data compiled by the Housing Research & Advocacy Center indicates that in 2008, Clevelanders received subprime mortgages at a rate more than twice the national average. They also found that minority homebuyers in Cuyahoga County are more likely to obtain high-interest mortgages than whites.

The 12 Cuyahoga County suburbs that are challenging NEORSD's stormwater management program jointly issued a statement. It characterizes the program as an "involuntary tax disguised as a fee."

Update: a Plain Dealer editorial criticizes the cities' decision to fight the program.

The National Park Service developed six alternatives for the Cuyahoga Valley National Park Trail Management Plan. They range from no action (alternative one) to an overhaul of the park's trail network (alternative six). The draft alternatives will be presented at public meetings on September 22, 23, and 26 at the Happy Days Lodge in Peninsula. The public comment period is open through October 30.

Cuyahoga Community College's new Center for Creative Arts in Cleveland is the first of the college's seven building projects currently underway. The work includes new campuses in Westlake and Brunswick, both scheduled to open in January.

Erick Trickey interviewed new Cleveland-Cuyahoga County Port Authority CEO William Friedman for the September/October issue of Inside Business.

In the third round of the federal Neighborhood Stabilization Program, the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development awarded $970 million in grants. Allocations in Ohio totaled $52 million, including $6.8 million to the City of Cleveland, $2.6 million to Cuyahoga County, $1 million to the City of East Cleveland, and $1 million to the City of Euclid.

The Plain Dealer's Brent Larkin described how the Cleveland Foundation is funding the Northeast Ohio Local Food Assessment and Plan, which is intended to "create a significant economic development strategy for the region based on the production, processing, and distribution of local food."

The Center for Community Solutions and Cleveland State University jointly published An Analysis of Health Disparities in Northeast Ohio (PDF). They found that "African Americans, and to a lesser extent, Hispanics, have significantly poorer health status, access to care and health care utilization than do Whites" in the eight-county Greater Cleveland area. Earlier this year, the Cuyahoga County Board of Health released an update of its Child and Family Health Services Indicators Report (PDF). It includes an analysis of maternal and child heath indicators for each community in the county.

Participants on Thursday's Sound of Ideas program discussed the future of the Cleveland-Cuyahoga County Port Authority and shipping issues in Cleveland. The guests, including new port CEO William Friedman, also discussed dredging plans.

In this week's issue of Scene, Michael Roberts revisits the history of the Cleveland-Cuyahoga County Port Authority's fruitless lakefront planning efforts. He attributes many of the problems to the machinations of board member John Carney.

Tuesday's Sound of Ideas program on WCPN featured a spirited debate about municipal revenue sharing and the 16-county Regional Prosperity Initiative. The guests were Medina County Commissioner Stephen Hambley, Aurora Mayor Lynn McGill, and Professor Tom Bier, who recently wrote an op-ed about ideas for improving Northeast Ohio's older cities.

Richard M. Todd of the Federal Reserve Bank of Minneapolis examined residential foreclosure trends for non-owner-occupied properties in Cuyahoga County. Building upon research conducted by Case Western Reserve University, he concluded that "the incidence of non-occupant foreclosures in Cuyahoga County was very high by national standards and was even higher for loans to minority borrowers made by non-local lenders in low-cost, low-income, minority neighborhoods" for loans originated in 2005–2006.

(via the Federal Reserve Bank of Cleveland)

The West Shore Commuter Rail Task Force named Jeanette Corlett McGovern of MAC Development Associates as an adviser for a study of the proposed passenger rail line between Cleveland and Sandusky.

Marc Lefkowitz considered the priorities of RTA's transit waiting environment program and its attempts to balance design and functionality. In addition to rethinking bus shelter designs, the program is funding the installation of four covered bike shelters at transit stops.

Work on the Chagrin Falls Region Alternate Transportation Study is nearing completion. A final public meeting took place on July 6, and a final stakeholders meeting will be held on August 4.

In the first six months of 2010, foreclosure filings in Cuyahoga County increased by more than 12%, compared to the same period last year. Levels in Cleveland remained similar, while levels rose in both inner-ring and outer-ring suburbs.

The Premcor Refining Group of San Antonio reached a settlement with the State of Ohio. The company agreed to clean up leaking underground storage tanks at 55 former Clark gas station sites in 26 counties and to pay $4 million in penalties. Nine of the locations (PDF) are in Cuyahoga County.

In a Plain Dealer op-ed, Cuyahoga County Treasurer Jim Rokakis said that the Cuyahoga County Land Bank is "the most effective and comprehensive program in the country to deal with vacant properties due to its entrepreneurial transactional capabilities and funding." Officials in South Euclid are pleased with the Land Bank's recent agreement with HUD. Next American City cited Cleveland's experience with HUD as an example of "the real danger of this newfound culture of thrift and austerity in Washington."

"Facing the Foreclosure Crisis in Greater Cleveland" (PDF, 29.7 MB) is a new report from Case Western Reserve University, Cleveland State University, and the Federal Reserve Bank of Cleveland. It "spells out what happened here, relating the symptoms and progressive stages of the crisis as it played out across the region" and "points to representative examples of programs developed and implemented locally to address particular aspects of the crisis."

Will Friedman, the new CEO of the Cleveland-Cuyahoga County Port Authority, spoke about the future of the port on Sunday's Between the Lines program.

RTA budget officials expect that fares and service levels will remain unchanged in 2011, but anticipate a $15 million deficit in 2012.

After being criticized for ending a program with the City of Cleveland, the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development reached an agreement with the Cuyahoga County Land Bank. Under the new agreement, the land bank can acquire distressed HUD-owned houses for as little as $100. Officials with the land bank, which recently celebrated its first anniversary, anticipate that they will need to demolish at least 80% of the properties they purchase. Sherrod Brown praised the agreement, calling it "a victory for Cuyahoga County."

Update: a Plain Dealer editorial congratulates the land bank on its productive first year.

The Plain Dealer looked at how local government agencies intend to use Great Lakes Restoration Initiative funding to reduce bacteria levels at area beaches. Meanwhile, the ODNR Office of Coastal Management awarded $311,835 in Coastal Management Assistance Grants.

Fortune highlighted the efforts of the Cuyahoga County Land Bank and similar initiatives in other cities to increase levels of urban greenspace.

The Cuyahoga County Public Library's board of trustees unanimously voted to adopt the system's facilities master plan.

The Bainbridge Township Trustees raised several questions about the Chagrin Falls Region Alternate Transportation Study.

Update: the Chagrin Valley Times has more information.

Cleveland Hopkins International Airport recently released a draft (PDF, 46.5 MB) of its noise and land use study, and last week (PDF) held two open houses where residents shared their concerns. The document is open to public comment through June 30.

Update: the Sun Post-Herald has more details.

Thirteen water quality improvement projects (PDF) in Cuyahoga County will receive a total of $2.3 million in grants (PDF) from Ohio's Surface Water Improvement Fund and the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative.

Consultants have prepared a preliminary concept plan for the Chagrin Falls Region Alternate Transportation Study. The study should be completed by August or September. Two public meetings have been held, and the final one take place on July 6.

Stan Austin (PDF) will be the new superintendent of the Cuyahoga National Park. He is currently the superintendent of the Glen Canyon National Recreation Area in Arizona and will become the National Park's fourth superintendent on August 22. He succeeds John Debo, who retired last July.

Update: Austin spoke with WKSU's Jeff St. Clair.

The closed Kellstone Quarry on Kelleys Island is being considered as an alternative to building a confined disposal facility for dredge material from the Port of Cleveland and Cuyahoga River. Cleveland-Cuyahoga County Port Authority officials estimate that the 200-acre quarry has enough capacity to last 28 years.

Update: the Ohio EPA rejected the proposal and said that the site is unsuitable for storing contaminated sediment.

Update 2: a Plain Dealer editorial said that "the quarry warrants further study."

The Cleveland Clinic is expanding its community health outreach efforts by opening more farmers markets its health centers. The Clinic has had a market at its main campus since 2008, recently opened a second in Solon, and plans to open a third at Hillcrest Hospital.

Outgoing Cleveland-Cuyahoga County Port Authority interim CEO Peter Raskind shared his observations about the port in a Plain Dealer op-ed. He wrote about the port's priorities, finances, and said that the "plan to move the port to East 55th Street was ill conceived and built upon layers of questionable assumptions." Cleveland Magazine's Erick Trickey believes that Raskind was "throwing out the old regime's troubled ideas so the new guy can start with a clean desk" and "may also be providing cover for the port board."

The Cuyahoga County Public Library's Facilities Master Plan provides "background data to support future decisions about capital improvements within the system." Branch libraries may be consolidated, expanded, repaired, or replaced. The plan is open to public comment through June 16.

Update: the Plain Dealer has more details.

As part of the Cuyahoga Valley National Park's trail management plan update, park staffers and volunteers are exploring potential locations for new trails.

This week's issue of Scene presents a "Beginner's Guide to Dead Zones," a look at five vacant Cuyahoga County landmarks, plus several local examples of successful adaptive reuse.

A Plain Dealer editorial says that incoming Cleveland-Cuyahoga County Port Authority CEO William Friedman has many challenges awaiting him.

Two state legislators from Greater Cleveland intend to introduce legislation that would make it easier for communities to collaborate on municipal services. The changes would allow the City of South Euclid to contract with the City of Cleveland for trash collection. Cleveland may be able provide the service at a lower cost than a private company.

The Cleveland-Cuyahoga County Port Authority named William Friedman (PDF) as its new president and CEO. Previously, he worked at the Port of Seattle from 1990 to 2000 and served as the CEO of the Ports of Indiana from 2000 to 2004. Friedman will succeed interim CEO Peter Raskind when he begins on June 1.

Update: the Plain Dealer approves of the Port Authority's choice.

Marc Lefkowitz describes the Re-Imagining Cleveland process as "a surgical first strike that aims to put vacant properties back into productive use."

The American Lung Association's annual State of the Air report shows that the air quality in Cleveland and other Midwestern cities has improved, but that pollution levels remain dangerously high. Greater Cleveland was ranked as having the country's 19th-worst year-round particulate pollution, an improvement over last year. Cuyahoga County again received failing grades for its its levels of ozone and particulate pollution.

The Cleveland Catholic Diocese will sell more than 50 closed churches, and placed 17 of them on the market. The properties in Cuyahoga, Lorain, and Summit counties have a total asking price of $11.8 million.

On Friday, Cuyahoga County Treasurer Jim Rokakis spoke at the City Club about foreclosure problems in Greater Cleveland (MP3, 52.5 MB) and the ways that the Cuyahoga County Land Bank is addressing the issues.

Chagrin Falls officials and consultants with Behnke Associates have begun work on the alternative transportation study for a group of Chagrin Valley communities. The first public meeting will be held on Tuesday evening.

Ed FitzGerald, the mayor of Lakewood and a candidate for Cuyahoga County Executive, proposed establishing a county Office of Regional Collaboration. It would have a cabinet-level director and would encourage collaboration (PDF) within the county and the region.

The Cleveland-Cuyahoga County Port Authority narrowed its list of CEO candidates to three: Diane Downing, William Friedman, and James Weakley (PDFs). The Port Authority's board expects to make a selection by May.

Update: the Plain Dealer is impressed with the finalists.

The U.S. EPA today announced $78.9 million in brownfields grants to communities in 40 states. The Cuyahoga County Land Bank received a $400,000 grant to conduct brownfield assessments.

Update: the Plain Dealer has more information.

Marc Lefkowitz described the latest happenings in the Re-Imagining Cleveland process and the growth of a new green movement in Cuyahoga County.

Stormwater runoff from developments surrounding the Cleveland Metroparks creates extensive erosion problems within the reservations.

A grant from the Ohio & Erie Canalway Association will fund the fourth year of the Cuyahoga Valley Scenic Railroad's Bike Aboard program in the Cuyahoga Valley National Park. The program drew a record 21,500 cyclists in 2009.

The U.S. Census Bureau's annual county population estimates say that Cuyahoga County's population fell by 7,171 people between July 2008 and July 2009. The decrease of 0.56% was smaller than in previous years, but Cleveland State's Tom Bier believes that outmigration will increase once the economy improves. The eight-county Cleveland CSA lost an estimated 2,990 residents over the same period. Many of the decade's fastest-growing counties were in Texas.

Update: the Plain Dealer looked at the trends.

Cleveland-Cuyahoga County Port Authority Interim CEO Peter Raskind and Vice Chairman Robert Smith were the guests on Monday's Sound of Ideas program.

The March issue of Cleveland Magazine describes the extent of the challenges posed by abandoned houses in Cuyahoga County.

Chagrin Falls Village Council voted to accept a $68,000 TLCI grant for the Chagrin Falls Region Alternative Transportation Study. The $85,000 study will be conducted by Behnke Associates.

At its meeting on Wednesday, the board of the Cleveland-Cuyahoga County Port Authority reappointed Chairman Steven Williams, but did not reappoint Vice Chairman Richard Knoth. Robert Smith was selected to replace him. Much of the meeting was conducted in private, and a Plain Dealer editorial again urges the board to be less secretive.

A Plain Dealer editorial challenges the leaders of the Cleveland-Cuyahoga County Port Authority to be less secretive.

At a recent public meeting, consultants for RTA described the five alternatives being studied in the Blue Line Corridor Extension Study.

Update: a Chagrin Solon Sun editorial says that the line should be extended to the Chagrin Highlands.

Brent Larkin believes that Cleveland needs to close Burke Lakefront Airport and turn it into "a world-class development that could transform downtown." An editorial in the Sun Messenger encourages Cleveland and Cuyahoga County officials to coordinate their positions on the region's airports.

In a Plain Dealer op-ed, Dominic LoGalbo criticizes the disarray at the Cleveland-Cuyahoga County Port Authority, and encourages local leaders to reconsider the agency's roles.

The Greater Cleveland Partnership outlined its agenda for the year at its annual meeting on Thursday. The chamber's priorities include county government reform, renewal of the county health and human services levy and the state Third Frontier program, and investing in downtown Cleveland projects. Roldo Bartimole was indignant at the suggestions.

An article in this week's issue of West Life offers more information about the Aerotropolis study being conducted by Cleveland State University. The study should be completed by the end of the month.

The Plain Dealer again called for reform of the Cleveland-Cuyahoga County Port Authority's board, this time saying that its size should be reduced by one-third.

A new report from the University of Wisconsin's Population Health Institute and the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation ranked health outcomes and health factors in the United States by county for each state. In Ohio, Geauga and Medina counties were among the state's healthiest. Cuyahoga County ranked highly in clinical care, but poorly in morbidity, social and economic factors, and physical environment.

Update: the report was the subject of a Sound of Ideas program on WCPN.

The Greater Cleveland RTA's board of trustees approved the revised 2010 budget. It includes service cutbacks, workforce reductions, and it made permanent earlier temporary fare increases.

The Plain Dealer highlighted claims that the Cleveland-Cuyahoga County Port Authority leadership needs more representation from maritime interests.

While many communities are using their federal Neighborhood Stabilization Program grants to rehabilitate foreclosed homes, the majority of the local $40.8 million award will be used to demolish abandoned houses.

(via Community Research Partners)

Trail users provided input at public open houses last week for the Cuyahoga Valley National Park's trail management plan.

An RTA board committee yesterday approved service cuts that will eliminate 12% of the agency's bus routes. Some of the changes were modified in response to comments made at last month's public hearings. The reductions will be implemented on April 4.

Update: RTA listed the revisions to the service changes.

Frank Jackson named Paul Hoogenboom (PDF) of RPM International in Medina to fill one of the two vacant seats on the board of the Cleveland-Cuyahoga County Port Authority. A Plain Dealer editorial says that Mayor "Jackson needs to find someone with extensive maritime experience" to fill the remaining vacancy.

In conjunction with the planned reconfiguration of the Warrensville-Van Aken intersection in Shaker Heights, RTA is revisiting its plans to extend the Blue Line corridor into southeastern Cuyahoga County. The study area of the Blue Line Corridor Extension Study includes all or parts of 10 municipalities. RTA will hold a public meeting on February 22 at the Warrensville Branch of the Cuyahoga County Public Library, and has a Blue Line Extension Analysis Survey.

Update: a Plain Dealer editorial notes that the study's timing is awkward.

The Cleveland-Cuyahoga County Port Authority laid off two more employees: Sustainability Manager Pam Davis and Human Resources Director Nancy Spelman.

Brian Zimmerman of Milwaukee was selected to succeed Vern Hartenburg as executive director of the Cleveland Metroparks. He's scheduled to start work in March.

Mayor Jackson reappointed Cleveland-Cuyahoga County Port Authority Chairman Steven Williams to another four-year term, but board member Rose Rodriguez-Bardwell chose not to seek reappointment. Board member Brian Hall is also stepping down (PDF).

On February 11, the Levin College Forum and the First Suburbs Consortium will host the Cleveland premiere of The New Metropolis, a two-part documentary series on America's inner-ring suburbs. The screening will be followed by a panel discussion.

Planners of the proposed aerotropolis around Cleveland Hopkins International Airport began receiving feedback at the first of the aerotropolis stakeholder sessions yesterday.

At its first meeting (PDF) of the year, the board of the Cleveland-Cuyahoga County Port Authority today set its priorities for 2010. The board also approved $34.8 million in bonds for the Flats east bank project. Board member Rose Rodriguez-Bardwell was recently fired from her position at the Spanish American Committee, and the Plain Dealer again urged Mayor Jackson to replace Rodriguez-Bardwell and Chairman Steven Williams when their terms expire on January 28.

Update: the Plain Dealer found the meeting encouraging.

The Ohio Housing Finance Agency used federal stimulus funds to approve more than $53 million in tax credits. Three projects in Cuyahoga County were among the recipients: Emerald Alliance V on Euclid Avenue in Cleveland, Independence Place at the Prospect Avenue YWCA in Cleveland, and the Library Court senior housing development on Chagrin Boulevard in Shaker Heights.

The Cleveland Metroparks commissioners, including new Commissioner Bruce Rinker, have narrowed the list of prospective new executive directors to three. Current Executive Director Vern Hartenburg announced his retirement last September.

The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development awarded $2 billion in the second round of Neighborhood Stabilization Program grants. Ohio governments received $175 million, and $40.8 million of that went to a consortium (PDF) led by the Cuyahoga County Land Revitalization Corporation. The land bank will invest the funds in 15 Cleveland neighborhoods and parts of five inner-ring suburbs.

The Plain Dealer asked if Cleveland still needs a port authority. It looked at the arguments for retaining the port authority and the arguments for dismantling it.

On Thursday, the board of the Northeast Ohio Regional Sewer District unanimously approved the new stormwater management program. The district has identified more than $220 million of critical stormwater projects, which will be financed by the new impervious surface fee. Once the board adopted the plan, NEORSD asked the Cuyahoga County Court of Common Pleas to confirm the district's authority to implement the plan.

About 1,000 people attended the 10 public hearings held by RTA last week to share their thoughts about the agency's proposed service changes. RTA is accepting comments until January 21, and will finalize the changes around March 1.

At the first of this week's public hearings, RTA riders shared their displeasure about the proposed service reductions. RTA has proposed cutting 12% of its routes in order to balance its budget. The public hearings will continue through Thursday.

With the Northeast Ohio Regional Sewer District expected to vote on the proposed stormwater management program on Thursday, the Summit County prosecutor asked a court to issue a permanent injunction against any fees. Leaders in outer-ring Cuyahoga County suburbs also dislike the proposal. NEORSD Executive Director Julius Ciaccia discussed the approach on Channel 3's Between the Lines.

Update: the Akron Beacon Journal and WKSU have more details. Joe Koncelik considered the implications of the proposed regulations.

Although it obtained federal dollars to preserve transit service, Lorain County Transit may reduce its number of routes from 12 to two. Officials in Cuyahoga and Lorain counties have begun to discuss the potential for a partnership between RTA and Lorain County Transit. Meanwhile, a coalition of organizations unveiled the Save Transit Now, Move Ohio Forward! campaign to advocate for public transportation.

Update: the Columbus Government Examiner has more details about the campaign's objectives. A Morning Journal editorial says that a Cuyahoga County-Lorain County public transit partnership is "worth talking about".

The Chagrin Falls Region Alternative Transportation Study was one of the 13 projects awarded a TLCI planning grant earlier this month. The study will begin in January, and will develop a plan for a trail network in eastern Cuyahoga County and western Geauga County.

Judge Anthony Russo shared his vision for the Cleveland Metroparks in a Plain Dealer op-ed: "As the advent of regionalism looms on the horizon, the time has come to develop and implement a master plan whereby the Cleveland Metroparks undertakes stewardship of all available public property on the lakefront, creating a new Cleveland Lakefront Metroparks."

Three local investors are purchasing and rehabilitating distressed houses in Cleveland's inner-ring suburbs. The partners have bought 38 houses since July.

The Greater Cleveland Regional Transit Authority's trustees rejected a proposed 2010 budget and associated service reductions. The board passed a three-month budget, and the proposed cuts will be discussed at public hearings in January. A statewide coalition is organizing a campaign to advocate for increasing investments in public transit.

In a first-of-its-kind agreement, Fannie Mae will sell distressed houses to the Cuyahoga County Land Bank for $1. For each house deemed beyond repair, Fannie Mae will contribute $3,500 towards its demolition. The land bank will acquire the first 25 properties under the agreement later this month.

Cuyahoga County Probate Judge Anthony Russo, the judge who appoints the three Cleveland Metroparks commissioners, has been active in the search process for the park district's new executive director. Judge Russo also chose not to reappoint William Ryan as a commissioner, selecting Mayfield Village Mayor Bruce Rinker to replace him. A Plain Dealer editorial says that Judge Russo should back off.

Update: Brent Larkin added that "Russo has to get this right or risk being forever remembered as the guy who messed with the Metroparks and damaged one of Greater Cleveland's most cherished assets."

The U.S. EPA released its annual analysis of Toxics Release Inventory data. In 2008, pollution releases at the national level fell by 6% from 2007 levels. Ohio reduced its releases of toxic air pollutants by 22%, but remained the nation's top emitter of toxic airborne compounds. Toxic releases in Cuyahoga County fell from 12.2 million tons in 2007 to 9.9 million tons in 2008. The ArcelorMittal steel mill in Cleveland was the County's top polluter.

The Cleveland-Cuyahoga County Port Authority continues to undergo changes. The Port Authority's board laid off four employees and named former National City CEO (PDF) Peter Raskind (PDF) as the port's interim CEO. He expects to serve for three to six months and will be paid $1.00. Raskind spoke with WCPN's Rick Jackson and WKSU's Kevin Niedermier. The Port Authority's board will not see changes, as Mayor Jackson intends to reappoint board Chairman Steven Williams and board member Rose Rodriguez-Bardwell when their terms expire in January. A Plain Dealer editorial said that "Jackson is passing up the chance to help restore public confidence in the port authority board by introducing fresh faces and new ideas."

The efforts of the Great Lakes Energy Development Task Force to build offshore wind turbines expanded beyond Cuyahoga County, as Lorain County joined the Lake Erie Energy Development Corp. (LEEDCo).

In addition to proposed service reductions, RTA is pursuing cost-savings measures that include several methods of reducing utility expenses and reducing service levels for the final week of 2009. A Plain Dealer editorial says that the state and federal governments need to provide more financial support.

On Monday, Governor Strickland announced that 25 Ohio energy projects will receive more than $13 million in federal stimulus grants. Seven of the wind and solar projects are in Cuyahoga County.

Update: Middleburg Heights leaders continue to discuss the proposed wind turbine at the Cuyahoga County Fairgrounds.

The Cuyahoga Metropolitan Housing Authority is using the $69 million it received in federal stimulus grants to improve conditions at its Garden Valley Estates, Woodhill Homes, and other public housing estates.

Local officials remain disenchanted with the way HUD manages its inventory of vacant houses. Earlier this month, HUD Assistant Secretary for Community Planning and Development Mercedes Marquez defended the department's practices in a Plain Dealer op-ed.

Update: a Plain Dealer editorial says that "the problems could be resolved if HUD had open and frequent communication with cities and housing groups".

In order to balance its 2010 budget, the Greater Cleveland Regional Transit Authority proposed cutbacks of between 12% and 21% of current service levels. A 12% reduction would entail the discontinuation of all or most of 32 bus routes. RTA will hold eight public hearings in early January.

In the wake of Adam Wasserman's departure from the Cleveland-Cuyahoga County Port Authority, a Plain Dealer editorial said that "the port has to change, and it will change if it wants its trajectory to be up, not down and out." Brent Larkin thinks that more dramatic changes are necessary.

The Northeast Ohio Regional Sewer District issued two reports: a survey of water quality and habitat in the middle Cuyahoga River (PDF) and an assessment of West Creek (PDF).

The Cleveland Metroparks are using geographic information systems technologies to help manage their 22,000-acre network of parks.

In order to balance its 2010 budget, RTA leaders are considering additional service cuts and extending earlier temporary fare increases.

Update: WCPN has more details.

The board of the Cleveland-Cuyahoga County Port Authority is being criticized for its silence about the departure of CEO Adam Wasserman and his $300,000 buyout. A Plain Dealer editorial says that "Wasserman's exit puts the onus for more transparency and accountability on the nine-member Port Authority board to which he supposedly answered."

Update: Channel 3's Tom Beres spoke with Cuyahoga County Commissioners Hagan and Jones.

Cleveland-Cuyahoga County Port Authority President and CEO Adam Waserman stepped down today. The Port Authority board spent hours in closed-door meetings over the past week. Wasserman had held the post since 2007. Maritime Director Patrick Coyle resigned last month after only three months on the job. CFO Brent Leslie will oversee the Port until a new president is named.

The Lorain County Commissioners hired Parsons Brinckerhoff to conduct a study of the proposed West Shore Corridor commuter rail line.

The Ohio Department of Natural Resources awarded $6.25 million in grants from the Clean Ohio Trails Fund to 25 projects, including three in Cuyahoga County. Bedford Heights received $374,726 for the Richmond Road All-Purpose Trail, Cuyahoga Heights received $500,000 for the Cuyahoga Heights Multi-Use Trail, and the West Creek Preservation Committee received $103,125 for the O'Malley-Henninger Greenway.

The Cuyahoga County Commissioners are expected to approve a funding mechanism for the new county land bank today. The land bank will also be the subject of the next event in the Levin College Forum's Building Our Future Beyond Foreclosure series. Cuyahoga County Treasurer Jim Rokakis and land bank president Gus Frangos will participate in the form on November 19.

Marc Lefkowitz looked at proposals for multipurpose trails and greenways in suburban Cuyahoga County and described the process that led to the construction of the Lake to Lake Trail in Middleburg Heights

Rob Pitingolo examined the relationship between RTA ridership and some of the factors that may influence it, including fares, gas prices, population changes, and unemployment rates.

In a Plain Dealer op-ed, Terry Allan of the Cuyahoga County Board of Health highlights inequities in public health faced by residents in disadvantaged neighborhoods.

Projections of RTA ridership figures indicate that the transit agency will experience a record low number of riders in 2009. Through August, ridership was down 11.6% for the year.

CWRU's Center on Urban Poverty and Community Development mapped changes in food stamp recipients over time to illustrate the shifting demographics of Cuyahoga County.

The Cuyahoga Valley National Park's first step in updating its trails plan is an informal survey of area stakeholders. Backpackers, equestrians, and mountain bikers would all like to see more trails.

Members of the West Shore Commuter Rail Task Force intend to begin work on a study of the proposed line between Cleveland and Sandusky. They envision a multimodal transportation hub at Black River Landing in Lorain.

Cuyahoga County Treasurer Jim Rokakis and Dan Moulthroup of WCPN described the new Cuyahoga County Land Bank on The Take Away.

A draft of a study (PDF) by the Ohio EPA of 30 construction and demolition debris landfills found pollutants in their leachate. Each landfill had 3–29 pollutants at levels in excess of health or water quality standards. Five of the landfills surveyed are in Cuyahoga County.

The Cuyahoga Valley National Park Association and the National Park Service are launching the new Trails Forever initiative, an effort to repair and expand the park's trail network. One of their goals is to raise a $10 million endowment by 2016, the interest from which would be used to enhance the trails. Meanwhile, the environmental cleanup of the former Krejci Dump in the park was extended through the end of November 2011. Contamination at the site is more extensive than anticipated.

RTA is proposing a new Weekly Shopper Service, a scaled-back replacement of its eliminated community circulator service. The one-year pilot project would require partnerships to cover 50% of its operating costs, and could begin operations in January.

The U.S. EPA and a group of local partners are conducting the Cleveland Multiple Air Pollutant Study, a two-part air quality study of Cleveland and the surrounding area. The program is a national model intended to help identify the sources (PDF) of a variety of specific pollutants.

Cleveland Metroparks Executive Director Vern Hartenburg announced his retirement on Wednesday. He has held the position since 1988, and will stay on until a replacement is selected in the spring. A Plain Dealer editorial said that "he will be sorely missed".

The new Cuyahoga County Land Bank may acquire its first properties this week, and about 250 parcels by the end of the year. Cuyahoga County Treasurer Jim Rokakis thinks that it also can help prevent abandoned houses. The Land Bank's board adopted a new six-month business plan on Friday.

In spite of cutbacks and fare increases this year, RTA faces a possible $20 million deficit for 2010, which could force additional cuts in service. Transportation for America compiled the financial problems of public transit agencies across the country in a new report titled Stranded at the Station.

Update: RTA General Manager Joe Calabrese met with Cleveland City Council on Wednesday.

Berea leaders want the new Cuyahoga County Land Bank to be active in their city. A News Sun editorial says that the Land Bank could help Berea.

Over the last 10 years, the Housing Enhancement Loan Program has provided $103 million in low-interest loans to more that 7,500 Cuyahoga County homeowners.

NOACA's Executive Committee recommended allocating $34,600 to Lorain County for a study of the proposed West Shore Corridor commuter rail line. It would match funds raised by the West Shore Commuter Rail Task Force. The Governing Board may approve the funding on Friday.

Update: the board approved the funds.

RTA began operating its proof-of-payment system on the Red Line rapid today. The system was first introduced on the HealthLine. RTA also announced the 15 bus routes that will be cut back or eliminated on September 20. The reductions are in addition to the elimination of the community circulators.

An editorial in the newly-consolidated Chagrin Solon Sun says that "it's time for Chagrin Valley municipalities to put bike racks around town."

The discussion on this morning's Sound of Ideas program on WCPN was about the impending service cuts and fare increases by RTA and other local public transit agencies. The City of Lakewood objects to the elimination of its community circulator route, and Cleveland City Council asked RTA leaders to reconsider their decision to end circulator service. RTA will hold a community meeting in each neighborhood served by a circulator.

To help balance its 2009 budget, the Greater Cleveland Regional Transit Authority will eliminate its 12 community circulator routes and implement a 25¢ fare increase. RTA will also modify 12–15 other routes with low ridership. The fare increase will go into effect on September 1 and community circulator service will end on September 20. Transit agencies across the country are taking similar steps.

Update: RTA may adjust some of its bus routes to compensate for the loss of the circulators.

The Cuyahoga County Land Bank's site is now available. It includes information about the land reutilization corporation and its policies for demolition and vacant land, housing, property preservation, and land assembly.

In order to address its budget shortfall, RTA leaders are considering service cuts and fare increases. General Manager Joe Calabrese recommended eliminating the community circulators and instituting a temporary 25¢ fare increase. The agency's board held a special meeting last week, but did not reach a decision. The board's next scheduled meeting is on July 28. A Plain Dealer editorial says that RTA "has no choice but to look at some combination of fare increases and service cuts."

The six Cuyahoga County cities in the Westshore Council of Governments and the City of North Ridgeville hired Emergency Services Consulting International to study the proposed Westshore Regional Fire District. The proposal is one of nine finalists in the EfficientGovNow grant competition.

The Cleveland Memory Project scanned and posted the 17 volumes of highway Route Location Studies produced in the 1960s, plus the 1955 Comprehensive Arterial Highway Plan for Cuyahoga County. They detail plans for built and unbuilt sections of the county's freeway system.

RTA's budget projections (PDFs) indicate that the agency's sales tax collections will be $15 to $16 million less than anticipated. RTA ridership figures also fell in April and May after several years of increases. Officials attribute the drop to rising unemployment.

Family Homelessness in Cuyahoga County, a new paper from the Mandel School of Applied Social Sciences, examined data on families at risk of becoming homeless and on those using residential homeless services. The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development also released a pair of reports about changes in homelessness at the national level. The 2008 Annual Homeless Assessment Report (PDF) found increasing rates of family homelessness in suburban and rural areas. Cleveland and Cuyahoga County were one of nine areas studied in the agency's first Homeless Pulse Project (PDF) report.

Unlike Chrysler, General Motors intends to retain around 67% of its stores in the Cleveland-Akron area, including around 79% in Cuyahoga County.

Cleveland Hopkins International Airport is conducting an update of its Noise Compatibility Program. Work on the 18–24-month noise study, last completed in 2000, began in January.

Later this year, the Cuyahoga Valley National Park will begin work on a new trails plan. The current trails plan was prepared in 1985. Meanwhile, National Park Superintendent John Debo announced his retirement today (PDF), effective July 3. In August, he will become the chief development officer of the Cuyahoga Valley National Park Association. Debo has served as superintendent for 21 years.

Update: the Akron Beacon Journal and WKSU have more information about Debo's departure. The Beacon Journal also published a very positive editorial.

Local municipal officials welcome the new Cuyahoga County Land Bank, viewing it as a good tool for combating housing abandonment.

Cuyahoga County is distributing $1.3 million in federal funds to suburbs with populations below 50,000. The money is being used to demolish distressed housing.

The Plain Dealer's Year of the River series looked at the steadily improving health of the middle Cuyahoga River and the increasing quantity and diversity of its fish. Northeast Ohio Regional Sewer District staffers conduct electrofishing surveys to assess the fish populations.

Cuyahoga County Treasurer Jim Rokakis and Budget Director Sandy Turk disagree sharply about the projected costs (PDF) of the new Cuyahoga County Land Bank.

The proposed seven-city Westshore Regional Fire District is one of the projects competing for funding through the EfficientGovNow program. The Westshore Council of Governments would use the money to conduct a six-month study of the concept.

Update: the COG is interviewing consultants for the study.

A Plain Dealer editorial calls the new Cuyahoga County Land Bank "the most ambitious and aggressive weapon local leaders can use to push back against the foreclosure crisis and its profiteers."

While automakers have favored suburban locations for car dealers in recent years, the recently announced Chrysler dealer closings appear to indicate a preference for exurban dealerships. Of the 14 Greater Cleveland dealerships slated to close, eight are in Cuyahoga County. Only four will remain open in Cuyahoga County.

As the Cuyahoga County Land Bank prepares to launch, Steven Litt looks at the issues and expectations facing the new organization. The Land Bank's board will hold its first meeting on Friday morning.

When it begins work, the new Cuyahoga County land bank will first focus on Cleveland's Slavic Village and Glenville neighborhoods. The Plain Dealer looked at the efforts to reinvigorate Slavic Village with an op-ed by Marie Kittredge of the Slavic Village Development Corporation and a column by Joe Frolik.

Last week, the U.S. EPA announced $111.9 million in grants, of which $5.6 million will be for projects in Ohio. Cuyahoga County received a $1 million grant to conduct brownfields assessments at about 35 sites. The grants were "bolstered by funds" from the federal stimulus bill.

A panel of mayors of inner-ring Cuyahoga County suburbs discussed the impacts of the foreclosure crisis (MP3, 51.6 MB) on their communities at the City Club on Wednesday. County Treasurer Jim Rokakis was the moderator.

The City of Cleveland and a group of neighboring communities hope to create an aerotropolis around Cleveland Hopkins Airport. Mayor Jackson proposed the concept in 2007. Cleveland officials also want to build retail on City-owned property near the airport.

The American Lung Association's 2009 State of the Air report gave Cuyahoga County failing grades for its levels of ozone and particulate pollution. The 10th annual report listed Greater Cleveland as having the nation's 10th worst year-round particle pollution, but unlike last year, did not include the metropolitan area in the list of cities with the worst short-term particle pollution.

Update: the report (PDF) noted that Greater Cleveland's air quality has significantly improved over the past five years.

University Circle Incorporated President Chris Ronayne wrote a Plain Dealer op-ed in which he calls on local leaders to adopt a smart growth strategy that includes city-county consolidation, regional tax sharing, and changes to state policies that enable urban sprawl.

The new Cuyahoga County Community Planning GIS was unveiled at the Cuyahoga County Planning Commission meeting yesterday. Built upon the CEGIS platform, it succeeds our Brownfields GIS application and offers many data layers and spatial analysis tools. We will be working to enhance and improve the application and welcome your suggestions, comments, and questions.

The Ohio EPA yesterday announced plans to invest $1.1 billion in federal stimulus funds and low-interest state loans in water and sewer infrastructure projects. Approximately $46 million will go to projects in Northeast Ohio, including $5 million for two NEORSD sewer projects. On Wednesday, the U.S. Department of the Interior unveiled plans for $750 million in stimulus funds, of which the Cuyahoga Valley National Park will receive about $7.8 million. The award will fund five projects in the Park. An Akron Beacon Journal editorial says that the dollars (PDF) will help address the Park's maintenance backlog. Meanwhile, the Ohio Department of Transportation announced that it will reallocate $115 million of the $200 million in stimulus funds it recently assigned to the Innerbelt Bridge project in Cleveland to 52 other projects across the state. ODOT officials say that the funding will be replaced with other state and federal dollars.

On Tuesday, the Greater Cleveland Regional Transit Authority Board of Trustees awarded contracts for the construction of the new Puritas rapid transit station. A May groundbreaking is planned. General Manager Joe Calabrese also updated the board on the agency's projected budget shortfall.

Update: the Plain Dealer published more details about RTA's budget situation.

Council members from Beachwood, Cleveland Heights, Lyndhurst, Shaker Heights, South Euclid, and University Heights will meet next week to discuss a possible application to the EfficientGovNow program.

Update: the cities probably will not apply for a grant.

Prompted by the recent proposal from Cleveland Heights Councilman Mark Tumeo, this morning's Sound of Ideas program on WCPN was devoted to a discussion of municipal mergers and collaborations. Mayor Rothschild of University Heights remains strongly opposed to the concept.

The federal stimulus bill passed in February includes $3.2 billion for the Energy Efficiency and Conservation Block Grant Program. The grants are available to fund projects that reduce energy use or improve energy efficiency. Ohio's share of the allocations is $84 million. Cuyahoga County will receive $5.8 million and the City of Cleveland will receive $4.5 million.

Larger than anticipated declines in sales tax revenue have led to a $12–13 million budget shortfall at RTA. If the agency cannot find $9 million to offset the losses, it will have to cut 200–300 jobs and reduce service by by 9–12%. General Manager Joe Calabrese has asked Ohio and NOACA officials for assistance, and is exploring ways to redirect federal stimulus funds. The agency is not considering further fare increases.

The U.S. Census Bureau's annual county population estimates show that Cuyahoga County lost 11,262 people between July 2007 and July 2008. However, the rate of decrease slowed for the second consecutive year. The County's rate of population change peaked at -1.32% in 2006, was -0.97% in 2007, and was -0.87% in 2008. The other four counties in the Cleveland MSA continued to gain population, but their increases did not completely offset the decrease in Cuyahoga County. The metropolitan area's population fell by 6,594 between July 2007 and July 2008. Population losses slowed across the Midwest, while increases slowed in the South and West. Some attribute the changes in migration patterns to the poor economy.

Policy Matters Ohio's annual foreclosure report says that the 85,782 new foreclosure filings in Ohio last year were a record high. Cuyahoga County had the most filings for the fourth consecutive year, but the number of filings in Cuyahoga County was 7.3% lower in 2008 than in 2007. The largest increases in foreclosure filings were in the state's rural counties.

The New York Times Magazine focused national attention on Cleveland with a feature about how the foreclosure crisis has disrupted life in Slavic Village. National and international media outlets have used the neighborhood to highlight the weight of the problem, and many expect that the repercussions experienced in Cleveland will soon be felt in cities across the country. The Plain Dealer, meanwhile, posted maps and databases of the more than 45,000 foreclosures in Cuyahoga County since January 2006, and published a story about the implications of low housing prices. While Cleveland neighborhoods no longer have the nation's highest foreclosure rate, Cuyahoga County remains in the top 35. Rust Wire has a photo essay of the impacts on Cleveland's St. Clair-Superior neighborhood.

Update: Charles Buki says that the New York Times article illustrates the need to rethink community development processes and reimagine cities.

The outdoor advertising industry is using a pair of 2007 studies conducted in the Cleveland area in their efforts to gain authorization to install digital billboards elsewhere in the nation. A study of Cuyahoga County statistics (PDF) by Tantala Associates says that "digital billboards have no statistical relationship with the occurrence of accidents." A study of Cleveland drivers (PDF) by the Virginia Tech Transportation Institute says that "digital billboards seem to attract more attention than the conventional billboards" but that "no conclusions can be drawn regarding the ultimate safety of digital billboards."

The Plain Dealer examined the 2007 Census of Agriculture's figures for the seven-county Greater Cleveland area. The region lost 100,000 acres farmland between 2002 and 2007, 20% of the total supply. Cuyahoga and Summit counties saw some the most rapid drops in Ohio, while Lorain and Medina counties experienced some of the state's highest losses of agricultural land.

The Edgar Farm in Valley View, one of the farms in the Cuyahoga Valley National Park, will be offered for lease through the Countryside Initiative later this year.

The Cuyahoga Metropolitan Housing Authority will receive $35 million in federal stimulus funds, and eight other Northeast Ohio public housing agencies will receive an additional $18 million. Fifteen area cities and counties will also receive a total of $12.5 million in Community Development Block Grants. Nationwide, the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development has allocated $10.1 billion.

The Cuyahoga County Office of Sustainability launched a new website today. It features information about the County's climate change initiative.

Governor Strickland signed the county land bank bill in a ceremony at Cleveland State University on Friday. The bill, which creates a two-year pilot program in Cuyahoga County, was passed by the Ohio legislature in December.

While most government agencies are waiting to learn what they will receive from the federal stimulus package, RTA officials know that their agency will receive $42 million. The funds will be used to build the East Side Transit Center, replace two rapid transit stations, and to overhaul Red Line rail cars.

Scientists continue to collect data for the proposed demonstration Lake Erie wind farm. They recently positioned a sonar device that will gauge the thickness of ice on the lake and used a LIDAR unit to measure wind shear above the lake. The Great Lakes Energy Development Task Force announced the receipt of $672,000 from the Cleveland Foundation and that Steve Dever will take a leave of absence from the Cuyahoga County Prosecutor's Office to serve as the Task Force's executive director.

Two commuter rail advocacy groups merged to form the West Shore Commuter Rail Task Force, and together will promote a proposed line that would run from Vermilion to Cleveland. The group has raised half of the $68,000 needed as a local match for a $343,000 federal grant obtained by Representative Sutton in 2007. Meanwhile, ONN spoke with NOACA's Howard Maier about the prospects for high-speed rail in Ohio.

Update: GreenCityBlueLake has a roundup of intercity rail news, and Greater Ohio's Gene Krebs spoke at a Columbus Metropolitan Club event about the Real Reasons for Rail.

Cuyahoga County's $420 million wish list for federal stimulus dollars includes gray and green infrastructure projects, green energy initiatives, and social service programs. The State of Ohio is accepting suggestions for stimulus projects at a special website.

Update: this week's Sun Newspapers have more details about the requests made by Euclid and Broadview Heights leaders.

The Cuyahoga County Department of Development's 2008 Annual Report (PDF) highlights its programming, partnerships, and accomplishments.

Cuyahoga County leaders are seeking federal stimulus money for the proposed offshore wind turbine demonstration project in Lake Erie. A European wind turbine manufacturer is willing to pay for half of the project, so the County is requesting $28 million to erect the turbines and $17 million for a warehouse that would be used to assemble and ship turbines.

Preliminary work on the I-77 widening project in southern Cuyahoga County is nearing completion, and the first phase of construction is scheduled to begin in March.

RTA's ridership numbers grew last year, the sixth consecutive year with an increase. The 2008 ridership was 57.9 million, a 1.1% increase over the 57.3 million figure recorded in 2007.

Runoff from increased exurban development around the Cuyahoga Valley National Park continues to cause erosion problems along the Cuyahoga River. Park officials are developing natural systems approaches to controlling erosion.

The Ohio Department of Development will distribute more than $83 million in federal Neighborhood Stabilization Program funds to communities across the state. Cuyahoga County will receive $1.3 million, the City of Cleveland will receive $9.4 million, and Cleveland Heights, East Cleveland, Lakewood, and Parma will also receive awards. The dollars are in addition to the appropriations directly awarded to cities and counties in September. The Ohio Department of Development also announced that Cuyahoga County will receive a $2.15 million Clean Ohio Revitalization Fund grant. It will be used to remediate property along the Cuyahoga River's Old Channel and prepare it for Great Lakes Towing Company's $23 million ship building project.

Update: Cuyahoga County and the Great Lakes Towing Company will supply local matches for the Clean Ohio grant.

The Plain Dealer examined how Cleveland-Cuyahoga County Port Authority Adam Wasserman has transformed the agency's staff in an effort to make it a more powerful economic driver for the region.

The Ohio House of Representatives overwhelmingly approved the county land bank legislation on its final day of business last week, and the Ohio Senate concurred with the House version of the bill. The legislation was revised to so that it applies only to Cuyahoga County. Governor Strickland is expected to sign the bill, and Cuyahoga County officials hope to begin operating the land bank early next year.

Last week, the Cleveland Foundation awarded $18.8 million in grants and loans for the fourth quarter of 2008. The grants include $4 million to the Fund for Our Economic Future, $272,500 to Cuyahoga County for the Great Lakes Wind Energy Center, and $225,000 to ParkWorks.

RTA is counting on receiving a $5 million allocation from 2009 Ohio budget in order to avert further service cuts and fare increases. The agency is also considering entering the derivatives market in an attempt to stabilize its diesel fuel costs.

The Ohio Senate approved the countywide land bank legislation on Wednesday. It now moves to the Ohio House, where a vote may be held next week.

Update: WKSU has more information.

A group of Cleveland State University undergraduate history students assembled a collection of historic images from the Cuyahoga County Archives.

The First Suburbs Development Council's storefront renovation program has lost funding due to Cuyahoga County budget cuts.

Beyond REO, a new report from Case's Center on Urban Poverty and Community Development, tracked property transfers of Cuyahoga County houses following sheriff's sales. In 2005, 3.62% of these houses sold at extremely depressed prices. By June 2008, the proportion had grown to 42.26%. Many of these properties are in Cleveland's east side neighborhoods. The report identified the proposed countywide land banks as a potential method of returning distressed properties to productive use.

Meanwhile, a new policy discussion paper (PDF) from the Federal Reserve Bank of Cleveland describes the countywide land bank legislation. In addition, University of Missouri - St. Louis Professor Todd Swanstrom compared the ways that Cleveland and St. Louis have responded to the foreclosure crisis (PDF).

Frank Jackson did not reappoint attorney Michael Wager to the board of the Cleveland-Cuyahoga County Port Authority, and instead nominated attorney Marc Krantz. Wager, who has been serving as the board's chairmain, recently spoke about the future of the port at the City Club. Audio of his talk (MP3, 20.7 MB) is now available.

This week, the American Wind Energy Association held its national Supply Chain Workshop in Cleveland, and Case Western Reserve University will hold a conference on offshore wind turbine development. The Plain Dealer published an overview of the plans for a Lake Erie wind farm three miles north of Cleveland, WKSU examined the wind turbine industry in Northeast Ohio, and the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel looked at offshore turbine proposals from across the region.

Update: Governor Strickland addressed the workshop on Tuesday.

Mayor Kurtz of Independence proposed the creation of the Southern Suburban Communities Council, an organization that would facilitate cooperation among eight suburban municipalities in southern Cuyahoga County.

A USGS study of Tinkers Creek and its tributaries detected "a total of 12 antibiotic, 20 pharmaceutical, 41 wastewater, and 22 hydrophobic compounds" in the water at one or more sites. It did not identify whether their presence poses a threat to plants, wildlife, or humans. Further testing is planned.

A group of Greater Clevelanders traveled to Columbus yesterday to advocate for Senate Bill 353, the countywide land bank bill. Supporters hope that the Ohio legislature will approve the bill in this month's lame duck session.

Update: WCPN has more details.

The proposed seven-city joint fire district is down to two communities now that Brook Park has pulled out of the the study. The Cities of Parma and Parma Heights are the only remaining participants.

Officials from northern Summit County formed a working group to discuss whether they will oppose the Northeast Ohio Regional Sewer District's plans for a regional stormwater management program.

Legislation for countywide land banks was the subject of discussion on this morning's Sound of Ideas program. Hearings on the proposal are expected to begin soon in the Ohio legislature. The program also examined the topic in November 2007.

The Northeast Ohio Regional Sewer District's plans for a regional stormwater management program are controversial in northern Summit County. Some leaders worry that money from their communities will be directed to projects in Cuyahoga County.

Calling it "Greater Cleveland's last, best chance to end the foreclosure feeding frenzy that is consuming neighborhoods and eviscerating property values," a Plain Dealer editorial urges state and local officials to support countywide land bank legislation.

Update: Becky Gaylord feels that Cleveland needs "bold, strong action, such as creating a regional land bank."

Over 18,000 bicyclists used the Cuyahoga Valley Scenic Railway's Bike Aboard! program this year, nearly three times as many as in 2007. The service will resume in April with the same $2.00 fare.

The City of Middleburg Heights withdrew from the regional fire district proposed for southwest Cuyahoga County. A revised proposal reduced the number of participating cities from seven to four due to the City of Berea's earlier withdrawal (which automatically eliminated Olmsted Falls) and a lack of interest from Brooklyn leaders. Officials in Brook Park, Parma, and Parma Heights are reviewing the revised plan.

Homebuilder Rysar Properties is struggling in the poor housing market. The company has lost $4 million and is shifting its focus from construction to renovation.

Election recap

Ohio
Issue 2 (Clean Ohio renewal): passed
Issue 3 (water rights amendment): passed

Brecksville
Issue 14 (Pilgrim Inn zoning overlay): passed

Broadview Heights
Issues 15-16, 20-25 (rezonings): passed
Issues 17-19 (Zoning Board of Appeals changes): passed

Chagrin Falls
Issue 32 (Architectural Review Board changes): passed

Highland Heights
Issue 63 (development in parks): passed

Oakwood
Issue 83 (hazardous storage buffer): passed

Pepper Pike
Issue 86 (sign regulations): passed
Issue 87 (police station rezoning): passed

Solon
Issue 103 (O-2 district changes): passed
Issue 105 (retail rezoning): passed

South Euclid
Issue 106 (remove point-of-sale inspections): passed

Tri-City Joint Recreation District
Issue 136 (1 mill levy): failed

Avon
Issue 10 (retail rezoning): passed

Portage County
Issue 10 (Park District levy): failed

Twinsburg
Issues 32-35 (zoning code changes): passed

For more results, visit the Cuyahoga County Board of Elections, Openers, or the Sun News.

Tuesday's election will include the following issues in Cuyahoga County communities:

In neighboring counties, the issues include:

The Plain Dealer recounts the Cleveland Area Mountain Bike Association's dispute with the Cleveland Metroparks over building trails in the park system. Meanwhile, the National Park Service is preparing a rule that will transfer decision making-power about bicycle trails to local park administrators. The Cuyahoga Valley National Park will use funds from the Krejci dump settlement to study the possibility of building trails.

A protracted credit crunch could force delays or cancellations of proposed commercial developments in and around Cleveland, including downtown office towers, suburban retail developments, and mixed-use projects.

Yesterday, the RTA board approved adding a fuel surcharge to public transit fares. The surcharge depends on the price of diesel fuel, and will be 25¢ per ride until September 2009. The maximum surcharge is $1.00, and it will disappear if the price of diesel falls below $3.00 per gallon. It will go into effect on October 27. RTA will also implement a proof-of-payment system for the HealthLine on October 27.

The first of three reports revealed "no major hurdles" in the feasibility of building a demonstration wind turbine project in Lake Erie. The entire study should be completed by next April. Meanwhile, Case Western Reserve University hired Dianne Anderson as the first executive director of the Great Lakes Institute for Energy Innovation.

The Cleveland Area Mountain Bike Association reports that it has been unsuccessful in its efforts to get the Cleveland Metroparks to allow the expansion of a bike trail network.

(via Cool Cleveland)

Ohio received more than $258 million of the $3.92 billion allocated by HUD for foreclosure relief. Cleveland's share was $16.1 million, and Cuyahoga County's was $11.2 million. The cities of Akron, Elyria, Euclid, and Lorain also received funds, as did Lake and Summit counties.

In addition to the proposed southwest Cuyahoga County regional fire district, the cities of Bay Village, Fairview Park, Lakewood, North Olmsted, Rocky River, and Westlake have begun exploring the formation of a joint fire district.

The Cleveland-Cuyahoga County Port Authority hired Pam Davis to fill its new environmental/sustainability manager position.

On Tuesday, the RTA board approved changes that include a small reduction in service. Because it received $9 million in federal CMAQ funds from NOACA, RTA was able to make more modest cutbacks than initially proposed.

The Northeast Ohio First Suburbs Consortium is seeking funding from the state's Local Government Services and Regional Collaboration Grant Program for a new study.

Yesterday, RTA staff outlined their suggestions for more modest service cuts and fare increases. The recommendations include reducing service by 3% and adding a 25¢ fuel surcharge. If approved by the RTA board on September 23, the changes will be implemented on November 2.

The Ohio EPA is preparing to submit a plan for bringing into compliance the 27 counties that do not meet federal particulate pollution standards. Cuyahoga County is the only one expected to have problems meeting the standards by the April 5, 2010 deadline. The Ohio EPA will hold a public hearing on September 17 at the Twinsburg Public Library. Meanwhile, the U.S. EPA is in the process of designating nonattainment areas under new, more stringent particulate rules.

Brook Park City Council has begun discussing the proposed seven city regional fire district. Some members appear to favor a more modest regional dispatching center as an alternative.

Audio (MP3, 25.0 MB) and a transcript of Friday's City Club talk by RTA CEO Joe Calabrese are now online.

Yesterday, the U.S. Census Bureau released annual income, poverty, and health insurance coverage statistics from the 2007 American Community Survey. In Cuyahoga County, the median household income grew from $41,522 in 2006 to $44,358 in 2007 (a 6.8% increase), while the poverty rate rose from 14.8% to 15.5% (a 4.7% increase). The City of Cleveland's poverty rate also rose, from 27.0% in 2006 to 29.5% in 2007, the nation's second-highest figure among big cities. Detroit had the highest poverty rate for the second consecutive year.

Commissioner Jones scheduled two public forums to discuss the Medical Mart and convention center plans. The first will be held on September 2 at the Cleveland Heights Community Center, and the second will be on September 4 at the Middleburg Heights Community Center.

RTA's Joe Calabrese will speak at the City Club on August 29 about "the many challenges facing the public transit industry during a climate of increased ridership, both locally and nationally."

RTA leaders anticipate that the expected infusion of funds from NOACA will eliminate the need for major service cuts in the short term. The agency is now planning modest cuts and a fuel surcharge of 25¢ in place of the 50¢ surcharge proposed earlier. RTA will revisit the cuts next year if the state budget does not include increased funding for public transportation.

Update: Medina County Commissioner Stephen Hambley wants to see a greater percentage of the dollars allocated to the public transit agencies of Geauga, Lake, Lorain, and Medina counties.

Backers of the proposed seven city regional fire district are waiting for leaders in the southwest Cuyahoga County communities to decide if they want to continue their participation. The City of Berea may opt out of the process, which could affect the involvement of Olmsted Falls.

RTA leaders postponed a decision on proposed service reductions and fare hikes until next month. Unallocated local CMAQ funding may be diverted to RTA to help reduce the need for cuts.

U.S. Census Bureau population estimates by age, sex, race, and Hispanic origin indicate that between 2000 and 2007, Cuyahoga County's Asian population increased by 4,766 and its Latino population increased by 5,882, while the white population declined by 95,307 and the black population declined by 7,006. Nationwide, racial and ethnic minorities now comprise 43% of Americans under 20. The Census Bureau also projects that minorities will account for over half of the country's total population by 2042.

The nonprofit Fast Track Cycling will select a Northeast Ohio location for its proposed velodrome today. Once the location is named, the group will begin a capital campaign to raise funding for the $10 million project.

While many are upset over RTA's plans to increase fares and reduce bus service, its plans to cut service hours on the Waterfont Line have generated few complaints. RTA officials will revisit its schedule when parts of the Flats east bank development are finished.

The National Park Service is working to reduce automobile traffic in its parks. In the Cuyahoga Valley National Park, the Cuyahoga Valley Scenic Railroad's Bike Aboard service has tripled in popularity this summer. It offers cyclists the opportunity to bike the Towpath Trail in one direction and ride the train in the other for a $2 fare.

The Northeast Ohio First Suburbs Consortium is seeking an $80,000 grant from the Ohio Department of Development to assist with economic development efforts in its member cities. The funds would also be used to improve the organization's advocacy and outreach capabilities.

About 300 people attended the first of five public hearings about RTA's proposed service cuts and fare surcharge. Roughly 500 people attended a second hearing this afternoon, and additional hearings will be held on Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday evenings.

Update: Due to the intense public interest, RTA added another hearing to the schedule.

Renewable Energy World summarizes wind power initiatives in Greater Cleveland, including the Great Lakes Science Center's wind turbine and the potential for an offshore wind farm.

The housing bill signed by President Bush yesterday will eventually bring $26.6 million to Cuyahoga County communities for acquisition and rehabilitation or demolition of abandoned houses. The City of Cleveland is expected to receive the majority of the money.

Update: the Plain Dealer analyzed the legislation and clarified that the $26.6 million figure is only an estimate. The Christian Science Monitor also interviewed local officials about its likely implications.

At a public meeting in Lakewood yesterday, residents voiced their opposition to proposed RTA service cuts. Leaders in other communities are also concerned about the impacts of the cuts.

Update: mayors of Westshore suburbs expressed their concerns about the proposed cuts.

On Friday, the Cuyahoga Metropolitan Housing Authority pledged make at least 482 of its housing units fully accessible to disabled residents within seven years.

Backers of the proposed West Shore Corridor are raising funds for a feasibility study of the commuter rail line that would connect Cleveland and Lorain. They are also seeking a state grant to finance the study.

Update: an editorial in the Morning Journal backs the initiative.

GreenCityBlueLake cites a new study from the National Resources Defense Council to explain why RTA is experiencing financial difficulties, noting that Ohio was "ranked 40th in transit spending (.77% spent on transit compared to highway spending in 2006)."

RTA outlined its proposed service cuts and fare increases. The proposal calls for eliminating all of the community circulators and 12 regular bus routes, as well as reducing service on the Waterfront Line and 21 bus routes. Bus and rapid fares would be raised from $1.75 to $2.25-$2.50. RTA's board is scheduled to vote on the proposals on August 19, and the changes would become effective in October.

Enabling legislation for proposed countywide land banks was introduced in both branches of the Ohio Legislature yesterday. Cuyahoga County Treasurer Jim Rokakis has been promoting the concept since last year.

Update: WCPN has more information.

Leaders of a youth football program are interested in building a fieldhouse on a ten acre site in south or southwest Cuyahoga County. The group has met with officials in Broadview Heights and North Royalton to discuss a possible joint venture.

The Cuyahoga County Engineer's Office today announced the launch (PDF) of a beta version of the Cuyahoga Enterprise Geographic Information System, an online countywide GIS application.

Update: the Plan Dealer has more information about the site.

RTA may cancel routes to Brunswick and Avon Lake because of budget shortfalls. Most of RTA's revenue comes from a Cuyahoga County sales tax, and surrounding counties do not contribute. RTA's Joe Calabrese and Gale Fisk discussed the agency's fiscal challenges on this morning's Sound of Ideas show.

An RTA committee recommended this morning that the agency should consider making cuts in service and adding a $.50 fuel surcharge per ticket. RTA's projections indicate that it would lose $20 million next year if no changes are made. A Plain Dealer editorial suggests that fare increases are preferable to service cuts, and that "Ohio should find new, creative ways to funnel more money to public transit."

Update: The RTA provides budget scenarios in a summary of the meeting. A Morning Journal editorial says that transit funding shortages are a "financial challenge that can only be met by spreading the cost nationwide."

Rising fuel prices and falling sales tax revenue may force RTA to make cuts in service, despite recent ridership increases. General Manager Joe Calabrese anticipates that RTA will lose $8 million this year.

Collateral Damage, a new report from Policy Matters Ohio, says that renters in Cuyahoga County increasingly face evictions due to lenders foreclosing on their landlords. The report estimates that there were 3,918 foreclosure filings on rental units in Cuyahoga County last year, a 29% increase from 2006.

An editorial in today's Plain Dealer says that the proposed seven city joint fire district "should not be abandoned simply because some with parochial interests are voicing concerns."

Yesterday, the Subcommittee on Housing and Community Opportunity of the U.S. House Committee on Financial Services held a field hearing in Cleveland about the foreclosure crisis. Committee chairwoman Maxine Waters led the nearly five hour meeting, which was also attended by five members of Ohio's congressional delegation. Recent stories about Cleveland in the national media have drawn attention to the issue, and the Plain Dealer used East 144th Street in Mount Pleasant as an example of the impacts of foreclosures.

Update: an Akron Beacon Journal editorial says that the subcommittee's Cleveland appearance "reflects the severe financial and social repercussions across the country."

Cleveland Hopkins International Airport received an $880,000 grant from the Federal Aviation Administration to study noise pollution issues. The funds will be used to place sound monitors in communities near the airport. If areas with noise levels that exceed federal standards are found, Hopkins officials will seek federal funding for soundproofing homes.

RTA Park-N-Ride buses are becoming crowded due to recent ridership increases. High fuel costs and budget constraints prevent RTA from running additional buses.

Update: the Plain Dealer also covered the subject.

Concerned by the continuing increase in the number of new natural gas and oil wells, the Cuyahoga County Mayors and City Managers Association is examining what local communities can do to address noise and safety issues.

The fire chiefs of seven cities in southwest Cuyahoga County wrote a seven page letter listing their concerns about the proposed seven city joint district. They suggested a more gradual approach, starting with a two or three city district.

Audio of Cuyahoga County Treasurer Jim Rokakis's (MP3, 26.1 MB) recent talk about the foreclosure crisis and the proposed countywide land bank is now available from the City Club.

The Cleveland-Cuyahoga County Port Authority will present the port relocation plan at a second public meeting on June 16 at Our Lady of Mount Carmel School in Cleveland.

North Randall officials are preparing for the financial repercussions from the impending closure of Randall Park Mall, which accounts for 33% of the Village's general fund. Mayor Smith asked the Cuyahoga County Sheriff's Office for assistance with late-night patrols.

Update: a Plain Dealer editorial says that this is "a textbook case of why we need" a regional approach to governing.

The City of Berea is the newest member of the Northeast Ohio First Suburbs Consortium.

On Wednesday, Cuyahoga County Treasurer Jim Rokakis told a City Club audience that he is confident that state legislators will pass a law that will enable urban counties to create land banks.

Many questions surround the siting of a proposed new psychiatric hospital in Cuyahoga County.

Update: Cleveland Councilman Roosevelt Coates proposed building the facility in Collinwood.

Continued ridership increases led RTA to plan the purchase of 20 articulated buses. The 60 foot long buses can hold up to 110 people and will be used on the busiest routes.

The Cleveland Area Mountain Bike Association is trying to convince the Cuyahoga Valley National Park and the Metroparks systems in Cuyahoga and Summit counties to build a 100 mile network of unpaved trails.

A Plain Dealer editorial says that the biggest challenge facing the construction of a new psychiatric hospital in Cuyahoga County "will be making sure local officials don't get bogged down in a long, drawn-out fight over its location. "

On Friday, the Cleveland-Cuyahoga County Port Authority voted to issue $40 million in tax-exempt bonds for the Bridgeview Crossing shopping center in Garfield Heights. Some hope that the new center will create a regional draw when it is added to nearby retail development. Critics of the decision say that the Port Authority should not be subsidizing retail developments.

Plans for a new convention center and Medical Mart at the Tower City and Mall sites were presented at yesterday's Medical Mart Site Selection Forum. About 100 people attended the meeting, and most who spoke favored the Mall site. The Cuyahoga County Commissioners still intend to select a location in July.

Update: Jeremy Borger shared his thoughts about the forum.

WCPN concluded its series on the foreclosure crisis with reports on the roles of Fannie Mae and HUD in the crisis and possible solutions to the problem.

The June issue of Cleveland Magazine includes an extensive look at the decisions surrounding Cuyahoga County's purchase and eventual sale of the Ameritrust complex in downtown Cleveland.

WCPN continued its foreclosure crisis coverage with a report on the problems it has created in Cuyahoga County's outer ring suburbs and a discussion of the issues on this morning's Sound of Ideas program. In the Plain Dealer, Cleveland Chief of Regional Development Chris Warren wrote about the Jackson administration's approach to dealing with the foreclosure crisis and abandoned houses.

Citing concerns that construction costs may be too high for the new convention center and Medical Mart at the two leading sites (the Mall and Tower City), Commissioner Hagan asked the Greater Cleveland Partnership's site selection committee to consider a fifth potential location at East 55th Street and Chester Avenue in Midtown.

This week, WCPN is airing a series of reports about the foreclosure crisis. Yesterday's piece was an examination of the practice of purchasing Cleveland homes in bulk, and today's was a look at the impact of foreclosures in inner-ring suburbs.

A capital budget bill introduced in the Ohio legislature yesterday includes $83.7 million for a new psychiatric hospital in Cuyahoga County. The new 300 room hospital would replace the Northcoast Behavioral Healthcare facility on West 25th Street. The bill also includes funding for the Cleveland Museum of Art expansion, the Gordon Square Art Center, the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, the Cleveland Institute of Art, University Hospitals, and Cleveland State University.

Greater Cleveland Regional Transit Authority route information was incorporated into Google Transit yesterday. The agency also maintains its own trip planning service.

Some elected officials in Brooklyn reacted skeptically to the plans for combining the fire departments of seven southwest Cuyahoga County cities.

The Greater Cleveland Partnership hired three construction and engineering companies to evaluate the four locations that have been identified as potential sites for a new convention center and Medical Mart. The GCP's site selection committee plans to recommend a location by early June.

The Chicago Tribune looked at how the Medical Mart could pose a challenge to Chicago's McCormick Place and other popular sites for medical conventions.

Baldwin-Wallace College completed a study about merging the fire departments of seven cities in southwest Cuyahoga County. Councilmembers learned about the recommendations at a meeting yesterday evening, and a second meeting will be held tonight.

Next month, RTA and Laketran buses will begin driving on the shoulder of I-90 during traffic jams. If the test is successful, the concept could be applied to other local highways.

The Cuyahoga County Commissioners revealed that they are now considering a fourth potential location for the planned new convention center and Medical Mart. In addition to the Tower City, Mall, and lakefront sites, they are also looking at a mostly-vacant part of the Warehouse District north of Tower City and west of Public Square. It was one of several sites considered for a new convention center in 2003. Bob Stark also included the area in his proposed Warehouse District development. The Commissioners will hold a public hearing about the four sites on May 22.

The American Lung Association released its annual State of the Air report, and again gave Cuyahoga County an F in particulate pollution. The County received a C in ozone pollution, up from a D in 2007 and an F in 2006. Los Angeles was again ranked as having the nation's worst air, but for the first time, Pittsburgh was ranked first in short-term particulate pollution. Cleveland was number 15 in short-term particulate pollution and number 11 in year-round particulate pollution.

The Vulcan Project at Purdue University reports that for states, Ohio had the third-highest levels of carbon dioxide emissions. For counties, Cuyahoga County had the fourth-highest amount. The state and county fared much better when per capita emissions were calculated.

This spring, the Ohio Department of Transportation will begin a 3½ year, $90 million reconstruction and widening of I-77 in southern Cuyahoga County.

The U.S. EPA awarded $74 million in brownfields grants to projects in 43 states. The City of Cleveland received $200,000 for the cleanup of the nine acre Chemical and Minerals Reclamation site on Crescent Avenue. Cuyahoga County received $400,000 to perform Phase I and Phase II environmental site assessments at sites across the county and $1 million for its revolving loan fund.

Update: the Cuyahoga County Department of Development has more information.

Yesterday, Google Maps added Street View coverage for much of Cuyahoga County and a portion of Medina County. The feature offers 360° panoramic views of streetfronts across the County.

In a talk at the City Club on Friday, Cuyahoga County Commissioner Peter Lawson Jones spoke about the reopening of bids for the purchase of the County-owned Ameritrust complex and about the recent Medical Mart agreement. He revealed that the Commissioners are considering a third potential location for the Medical Mart and convention center, a lakefront site west of Cleveland Browns Stadium. Download the speech (MP3, 55.3 MB).

The U.S. Census Bureau's annual release of county population estimates shows that Cuyahoga County continued to lose population to its surrounding counties and to other states. Between July 2006 and July 2007, the county lost 13,304 people (about 1% of its population). Between 2000 and 2007, it lost 96,213 people (6.9% of its total), the biggest drop in the country. Ohio led the nation with seven of the 34 counties with the largest population declines.

A memorandum of understanding between Cuyahoga County and Merchandise Mart Properties, Inc. calls for the County to pay MMPI $103 million over 20 years to manage the planned new Cleveland convention center. The company could earn more if it meets performance standards. Cuyahoga County plans to sell the naming rights for the facility, and will retain all proceeds of the sale.

Update: the County Commissioners approved the MOU this morning.

RTA plans to implement a proof of payment (PDF) fare collection process on the Red Line and HeathLine routes later this year, and will hold public hearings about the proposal on March 25 and 26.

Forest City Enterprises proposed housing the Medical Mart in the Higbee Building and connecting it to a new riverfront convention center built on air rights purchased from the company. The Plain Dealer compared the advantages and disadvantages of the riverfront and mall sites.

A Plain Dealer editorial says that the public needs more information about last week's Medical Mart agreement. Bill Callahan also has questions.

Cuyahoga County and Merchandise Mart Properties, Inc. reached a tentative agreement to develop a Medical Mart in Cleveland. Full details were not revealed, but MMPI will contribute $20 million and operate the Medical Mart and new convention center. The complex should open in about three years.

The Medical Mart and convention center will be located in downtown Cleveland, and the County Commissioners will select a location in a month or two. The existing Convention Center and Tower City Center are considered the front-runners. The Greater Cleveland Partnership will hire a convention center expert to assist with site selection. Steven Litt says that the process should have public input and oversight.

Officials from Merchandise Mart Properties were in Cleveland yesterday to update the company's proposal to operate the proposed Medical Mart in Cleveland. A Plain Dealer editorial says that "it is imperative that both sides work hard to resolve their remaining differences". The Thursday deadline remains in place.

The News-Herald looked at the role of NIMBYs in Lake County and eastern Cuyahoga County.

The deadline set by the Cuyahoga County Commissioners for reaching an agreement with Merchandise Mart Properties regarding the proposed Medical Mart passed earlier this week, but the company requested and received a one week extension. The Commissioners now expect to have an answer by March 13. A pair of Cleveland councilmen, meanwhile, want the Commissioners to rescind last year's sales tax increase.

The Cuyahoga County Commissioners officially rejected the K&D Group's bid to purchase the Ameritrust complex today. A Plain Dealer editorial said they had no choice but to reject the offer. The K&D Group may submit a second attempt when bidding is reopened.

Cuyahoga County's self-imposed deadline for reaching an agreement with Merchandise Mart Properties is approaching. The Cuyahoga County Commissioners set a 60-day deadline in early January for completing negotiations to manage the proposed Medical Mart. They expect to know if a deal has been reached in about a week.

A Plain Dealer editorial about the Port Authority's proposed move concludes that "people who care about Cleveland's future must insist on a plan that allows the city to make the most of its priceless proximity to Lake Erie."

The Cuyahoga County Commissioners are expected to reject the K&D Group's bid to purchase the Ameritrust Complex, because the company proposed financing the deal through a $15 million loan from the County. The Commissioners will reopen bidding for the property.

Update: WCPN has more details.

At a public meeting yesterday, prominent Cleveland municipal and business leaders backed the Cleveland-Cuyahoga County Port Authority's proposed move to new facilities.

Roldo Bartimole shares his thoughts about the sale of the Ameritrust complex, Medical Mart negotiations, and Euclid Corridor reinvestment figures.

Reminder: at a public meeting this evening, the Cleveland-Cuyahoga County Port Authority will present plans to relocate the port from downtown Cleveland to a man-made site north of East 55th Street. The meeting will be held from 6:30 to 8:30 p.m. at St. Philip Neri Community Center.

The K&D Group proposed privately financing $20 million of the $35 million it bid to purchase the Ameritrust complex from Cuyahoga County, and asked the county for a mortgage on the remaining $15 million. County Commissioners are considering the request.

Adam Wasserman will celebrate his first year at the helm of the Cleveland-Cuyahoga County Port Authority on Tuesday. He has received good reviews from area political and business leaders.

On February 19, the Cleveland-Cuyahoga County Port Authority will hold a public meeting about the Port's proposed move to a new facility north of East 55th Street.

Since Ohio lawmakers removed local oversight of natural gas drilling in 2004, 240 permits have been issued for wells in Cuyahoga County. ODNR officials say that the house explosion in Bainbridge was "very rare" and "unlikely to happen again".

For the fifth consecutive year, RTA experienced a growth in ridership numbers. Ridership increased from 57.2 million in 2006 to 57.3 million in 2007.

Adam Wasserman, President and CEO of the Cleveland-Cuyahoga County Port Authority, was the guest on this morning's Sound of Ideas show on WCPN. He discussed the Port's role in economic development, as well as the proposed move, lakefront greenspace, and the port's foray into containerized shipping.

Tracey Nichols, Cuyahoga County's Assistant Director for Economic Development, was hired as the City of Cleveland's new Director of Economic Development. She will start on February 11.

The Cuyahoga County Department of Development published its Annual Report (PDF). Director Paul Oyaski says it "documents the many successes achieved during 2007."

If Cuyahoga County officials are unable to reach an agreement with Merchandise Mart Properties Inc. for the development of the planned Medical Mart, the County Commissioners say that they will consider other potential partners.

A Plain Dealer editorial says that Cleveland leaders must support a countywide land bank to help counter the "devastating impact on local property values" caused by the foreclosure crisis.

Foreclosure and Beyond, a new report from Case Western Reserve University's Center on Urban Poverty and Community Development concluded that rising rates of foreclosure are having a detrimental effect on home values in Cuyahoga County. It suggests that "greater efforts are required to protect the growing number of vacant homes and limit spillover effects to surrounding properties" and that "policies are needed that can speed the movement of these foreclosed homes into the hands of home owners or landlords who can occupy and maintain the properties."

The Cuyahoga County Commissioners approved a contract yesterday with a subsidiary of Juwi International to study the feasibility of offshore Lake Erie wind turbines. It will include research on a possible Cleveland-based wind turbine certification body.

On Friday, the Cuyahoga County Commissioners set a 60-day deadline for Merchandise Mart Properties Inc. to agree to a location for the planned Medical Mart and to commit to a specific investment. A Plain Dealer editorial says the deadline is "more than fair."

A press release from the Cleveland-Cuyahoga County Port Authority says that the Port's planned move to an East 55th Street site should result in "expanded maritime capacity, a dynamic and accessible waterfront, and the potential redevelopment of more than 500 acres of underutilized inner-city land".

The Plain Dealer's Becky Gaylord examined the Genesee County Land Bank in Michigan and how a similar land bank proposed for Cuyahoga County could help Cleveland.

At a press conference today, officials from Merchandise Mart Properties said that they have narrowed their list of potential Medical Mart sites from 13 to three: a downtown location, a site in Midtown, and one near University Circle. Local leaders prefer a downtown location for the Medical Mart and convention center. The Greater Cleveland Partnership posted the slides from the press conference.

Update: the GCP also provided audio of the event.

Planning for the seven city southwest Cuyahoga County Fire Services Efficiency Project continues to move forward, but the high level of complexity means that a plan will not be ready as soon as some had hoped.

The Cuyahoga County Commissioners intend to sell the 106 acre MetroHealth Center for Skilled Nursing Care site in Highland Hills to Cuyahoga Community College. The Commissioners had hired a real estate broker to market the property after rejecting a $11 million offer from Tri-C last year.

The K&D Group has filed for $1.1 million in loans from Cuyahoga County for the redevelopment of the 668 Euclid building in downtown Cleveland, which also recently received $16.4 million in state tax credits. The company does not yet own the building, but the sale could close in January. They want to redevelop the vacant structure as 47,000 square feet of retail and 215 apartments.

Increasing suburban development in the Furnace Run watershed in Cuyahoga and Summit Counties has created additional runoff, which is causing more erosion and sedimentation downstream, according to a report from the Ohio EPA (PDF).

Ohio State University's Center for Farmland Policy Innovation developed a new model to help identify areas with the highest need for farmland protection programming. The model examined all Ohio counties, including urbanized areas traditionally overlooked by agricultural preservationists. It identified 15 counties, including Cuyahoga County, as having relatively high needs for action.

RTA General Manager Joe Calabrese appeared on Sunday's Behind the Lines on WKYC to discuss the Euclid Corridor Project and other transit issues.

Yesterday, WCPN reported on the proposed West Shore Corridor commuter rail project, and then dedicated its Sound of Ideas program to a discussion of the idea.

WKYC's Tom Beres interviewed attorney Fred Nance about his negotiations with Merchandise Mart Properties on the planned Cleveland Medical Mart. Nance is Cuyahoga County's chief negotiator in the talks.

A projected budget shortfall led RTA to propose service cuts that would take effect on December 16. The RTA board is scheduled to vote on the proposal next week.

This morning's Sound of Ideas on WCPN was devoted to a discussion of the proposed countywide land bank. The show's guests were Genesee County, Michigan Treasurer Dan Kildee, Cuyahoga County Treasurer Jim Rokakis, and Cleveland Councilman Tony Brancatelli. Bill Callahan shared his reactions.

The Medina County Commissioners joined the Lorain County Commissioners in asking NOACA to consider eliminating weighted voting.

Election recap

Cleveland-Cuyahoga County Port Authority
Issue 14 (renewal levy): passed

Tri-City Joint Recreation District
Issue 19 (Berea): passed
Issue 27 (Brook Park): passed

Broadview Heights
Issue 26 (retail rezoning): passed

Highland Heights
Issue 61 (rezoning): passed

Seven Hills
Issue 76 (Rockside Terrace rezoning): passed

Westlake
Issue 80 (Lutheran Home rezoning): passed
Issue 81 (Crocker Park rezoning): passed

Avon
Issue 35 (rec center/stadium tax): passed

Brunswick
Charter Amendment 1 (eliminate planning director): passed

Streetsboro
Issue 23 (establish planning department): passed
Issue 25 (establish Master Plan Review Commission): passed

Boston Heights
Issue 51 (retail rezoning): failed
Issue 52 (permit big box retail): failed

Twinsburg
Issue 50 (zoning code changes): failed

For complete Cuyahoga County results, visit the Cuyahoga County Board of Elections or Cleveland.com.

A Plain Dealer editorial says that the proposed countywide land bank has the potential to "provide the heft needed to break the cycle of speculation, default and foreclosure".

John Debo, Superintendent of the Cuyahoga Valley National Park, says that the biggest problems the park faces are "flooding, flooding, and flooding." Increased runoff from recent exurban development in communities surrounding the Park has worsened the problem. In response, the Park has begun working with the communities to improve their stormwater management techniques.

The Lorain County Commissioners today asked NOACA to eliminate the weighted voting provision from the bylaws regulating its Governing Board. Meanwhile, Chris Thompson responded to yesterday's Morning Journal editorial, saying, "We need to fix our system, not break up the region."

(Update: The Chronicle-Telegram presents more details.)

Avon City Council adopted a resolution approving the joint economic development zone that was stipulated in the Nagel Road I-90 interchange agreement. Membership in the zone is open to 15 other Cuyahoga and Lorain County communities.

(Update: The Morning Journal also published an article and an editorial.)

Yesterday, a group of political and business leaders gathered to support Issue 14, the Cleveland-Cuyahoga County Port Authority's renewal levy. If approved, it will generate $3.2 million per year for the next five years.

A Plain Dealer editorial says that the new convention center and the Medical Mart belongs in downtown Cleveland, and not near University Circle.

As in 2005, local leaders are focusing their plans for a new convention center on two downtown Cleveland locations, a site near Tower City Center and the existing Convention Center. Officials with Merchandise Mart Properties are interested in exploring University Circle as a site for the convention center and Medical Mart.

The City of Cleveland and Cuyahoga County may form a joint agency that would buy abandoned houses and keep them away from real estate speculators. The role of the proposed countywide land bank will be identified in a new study.

The Cities of Berea, Brook Park, and Strongsville decided to withdraw from the Senior Transportation Connection of Cuyahoga County and will revert to their former municipal senior transportation systems.

County commissioners from Cuyahoga, Lorain, and Medina Counties were guests on this morning's Sound of Ideas show on WCPN, where they discussed regionalism and the fallout over the Avon I-90 interchange agreement.

Financial concerns and competing priorities have led the Cuyahoga County Commissioners to reconsider their plans for a new county administration building at East 9th Street and Euclid Avenue. If they can break even, they may sell the former Ameritrust complex to a private developer. The National Trust for Historic Preservation recently asked the Commissioners to investigate the sale of the Cleveland Trust Tower to "a preservation-sensitive developer".

A Plain Dealer editorial supports Issue 14, a renewal levy for the Cleveland-Cuyahoga County Port Authority.

While reactions to the Avon I-90 interchange revenue sharing agreement differ, county commissioners in Lorain and Medina Counties are pressing for the elimination of the weighted vote at NOACA, and continue to investigate the possibility of withdrawing from the MPO. The Cuyahoga County Commissioners have indicated that they're willing to talk about reforms.

Brad Whitehead urges local leaders to "use this as a moment to spur the real conversation about how we want to involve and what steps we might take to focus on growing the resources of the region rather than moving them from one place to another."

The compromise agreement on the planned new I-90 interchange in Avon prompted Medina County leaders to talk about withdrawing from NOACA. Lorain County commissioners threatened to withdraw from the MPO last week.

The NOACA Governing Board passed a resolution (PDF) approving the proposed I-90 interchange at Nagel Road in Avon, contingent upon the establishment of a revenue sharing plan. Prospective membership in the joint economic development zone was expanded to include eight Lorain County communities. Cleveland officials called the agreement "a giant step toward regional cooperation," but others feel that it may lead to NOACA's demise.

(Update: The Morning Journal and Plain Dealer have more details.)

Avon leaders offered a compromise agreement intended to end the controversy over the proposed I-90 interchange at Nagel Road. In exchange for approving the interchange, an 800 acre joint economic development zone in Avon would be created by Avon, Cleveland, and six western Cuyahoga County suburbs. Under the proposal, if a company with a payroll of more than $1 million were to move from one of the member cities to the Avon development zone, the two cities would evenly split its income tax revenue for five years. A Plain Dealer editorial says that the "region needs a coherent development strategy."

(Update: The Plain Dealer and Chronicle-Telegram report that officials are close to reaching a deal.)

Last week, the Cuyahoga County Commissioners officially dissolved the dormant Cleveland-Cuyahoga County Convention Facilities Authority, and is using its budget in an attempt to hire attorney Fred Nance to represent the county in Medical Mart and convention center negotiations.

Cuyahoga County Treasurer Jim Rokakis answered questions from Washington Post readers about his recent piece on the foreclosure crisis. The Economist also looked at the crisis in Maple Heights, describing it as "a community in collapse."

(via Callahan's Cleveland Diary)

The American Public Transportation Association gave its 2007 Outstanding Public Transportation Achievement Award to RTA, recognizing it as the best large transit agency in North America for 2007.

Cuyahoga County Treasurer Jim Rokakis, American City & County's County Leader of the Year, wrote an op-ed about the foreclosure crisis that appeared in Sunday's Washington Post. It begins, "Let me tell you about a place called Slavic Village and the death of a girl named Cookie Thomas. You've never heard this story before -- talk of housing markets and hedge funds, interest rates and the Federal Reserve has drowned it out."

The Plain Dealer examined John D. Rockefeller's relationship with Cleveland and identified the places where his impact can be seen.

Crain's Cleveland Business examined the Medical Forum in Birmingham, Alabama, an unsuccessful attempt in the early 1990s to establish a medical showroom facility similar to the planned Medical Mart in Cleveland.

The Cleveland Foundation awarded $13.5 million in grants, including $1 million to Case Western Reserve University for the development of the University Arts and Retail District, $150,000 to Neighborhood Progress Inc. to support its foreclosure prevention and abandoned property redevelopment initiative, and $70,000 to Baldwin-Wallace College for the southwest Cuyahoga County fire service regionalization project.

Channel 3 reports that one of the sites being considered for the Cleveland Medical Mart is the Cleveland Trust Tower in downtown Cleveland. It could replace the plans to demolish the tower for a new Cuyahoga County administration building.

The Plain Dealer compared Cuyahoga County's decision to use a sales tax increase to pay for a new convention center with funding mechanisms employed by other cities.

Adam Wasserman of the Cleveland-Cuyahoga County Port Authority appeared on Sunday's Between the Lines on Channel 3 to talk about the Port's new strategic plan.

If North Royalton officials are unable to generate about 100 low- to moderate-paying jobs at the York Road industrial park, the City may need to return a $181,597 CDBG grant it received in 1998.

The Greater Cleveland Partnership established and named chairs for four advisory committees to guide planning efforts for the Cleveland Medical Mart. They are the Industry Advisory Group, the Education and Workforce Development Advisory Group, the Community Development & Inclusion Advisory Group, and the Site Selection Group.

(Update: the Site Selection Group intends to recommend a site by the end of the year.)

About 80 people attended a public hearing on the Cleveland-Cuyahoga County Port Authority's proposed strategic plan last night. The plan has received a generally favorable response, but watchdogs continue to encourage the Port Authority to operate with increased transparency. The Port Authority will accept public comments on the plan until September 14.

The Plain Dealer continued its "A Region Uniting" series with a look at city-county consolidation, using Louisville, Kentucky as an example. They examined the history of Louisville's efforts, compared the demographics of Cleveland and Louisville and their metro areas, and mapped black population shifts.

Local activists were unable to obtain enough signatures in a petition drive to force a referendum issue on the recent Cuyahoga County sales tax increase. The quarter-percent increase will begin on October 1 and remain in place for 20 years. A Plain Dealer editorial says that "the real work on a convention center now begins."

While a U.S. House transportation bill includes $350,000 for a West Shore Corridor study, the Senate version did not include the funds. Local rail advocates are continuing to work on the proposal.

(Update: The Chronicle-Telegram summarizes a recent meeting.)

A Plain Dealer editorial says that the Cleveland-Cuyahoga County Port Authority's new strategic plan provides "a worthy goal for an organization whose board and former leader were defending themselves, just a year ago, against charges that the Port Authority was too secretive and unaccountable."

The Cuyahoga County Commissioners yesterday selected a team led by Juwi International of Germany to conduct a feasibility study for the Lake Erie Wind Energy Center, the proposed 20 megawatt offshore wind turbine demonstration project. The Commissioners also approved an agreement that authorizes CWRU to operate the research center.

A new report from Policy Matters Ohio says that foreclosures in suburban Cuyahoga County were about 17% higher in the first half of 2007 than in the first half of 2006. Foreclosures in Cleveland rose by 5%.

The Cleveland-Cuyahoga County Port Authority released a draft of a new strategic plan (PDF) yesterday. Among other objectives, it calls for the port to expand from its existing 130 acres to at least 200 acres. A public hearing on the plan will be held on August 29 from 5:00 to 7:00 p.m. at Tri-C's Unified Technologies Center on Woodland Avenue in Cleveland.

A a press conference this morning, 40 Cuyahoga County mayors endorsed the proposed Cleveland Medical Mart. WCPN examined the announcement and the recent Merchandise Mart tour. Significant negotiations are on hold while officials wait for results of the petition drive being mounted by opponents of the sales tax increase.

Merchandise Mart Properties is considering 13 possible locations for the proposed Cleveland Medical Mart, but company officials declined to identify the sites. Yesterday, a group of Cleveland business and labor leaders, government officials, and media members toured the Merchandise Mart in Chicago. Meanwhile, the Free Times attempted to determine if the projections identified by Medical Mart supporters are realistic.

The Cuyahoga County Community Mental Health Board was unable to align funding for their planned new building on Euclid Avenue in Cleveland.

Michael Schramm and Claudia Coulton of Case's Mandel School of Applied Social Sciences examined the impacts of the foreclosure crisis on the number of houses and condominiums in Cuyahoga County owned by financial institutions. As of February 2007, 9,175 of these properties are held by financial institutions, representing 2.05% of the County's residential properties. The highest percentage was in East Cleveland, where financial institutions own 8.09% of the houses and condominiums.

In regionalism news, Mayor Currin of Hudson and others continue to work on the 16 county governmental cooperative regional economic development initiative. They hope to release a report in January and a plan by March. Meanwhile, a group of seven east side Cuyahoga County suburbs may jointly select a company for garbage transfer and disposal (PDF).

Friday's City Club talk about the proposed Medical Mart is now available as a podcast (MP3, 19.7 MB). It featured Fred Nance, Dennis Roche, and Baiju Shah. Cleveland Clinic CEO Toby Cosgrove discussed the Medical Mart proposal with Tom Beres of Channel 3.

The Plain Dealer offered support to local regionalism efforts in a pair of editorials, saying that "the people of Olmsted Falls and Olmsted Township can help lead the way" in providing more efficient municipal services by studying a merger, and that the no poaching agreements between Cleveland and suburban communities signal that the region's "winner-take-all mind-set is starting to change."

By a vote of 2-1, the Cuyahoga County Commissioners awarded the contract for asbestos removal and interior demolition of the Cleveland Trust Tower to Precision Environmental Co. of Independence.

While community leaders continue to struggle with the ongoing foreclosure crisis, the Cuyahoga County Commissioners approved a new $3 million program aimed at keeping houses out of foreclosure. Half of the program will offer no-interest loans of up to $3,000 to nearly 500 homeowners threatened with foreclosure. The other half will supply $1 million to the City of Cleveland and $500,00 to 15 older suburbs for the demolition or renovation of abandoned houses.

Case Western Reserve University offered to lead research on the proposed Lake Erie Wind Energy Center and to pay $200,000 towards the $800,000 feasibility study. The Lake Erie Wind Energy Task Force has identified three teams as finalists to conduct the study.

As the Cleveland Metroparks celebrate their 90th anniversary, the Plain Dealer looked back at the history of the park district. The Metroparks posted eight "Parkways to the Past" historic audio tours at their new weblog.

The Cleveland-Cuyahoga County Port Authority placed a 0.13 mill property tax renewal levy on the November ballot. The current levy will expire at the end of 2008.

Yesterday, the Cuyahoga County Commissioners held a second public hearing on the proposed sales tax increase to fund the construction of a new convention center to compliment the proposed Medical Mart. Following the meeting, the Commissioners voted 2-1 to raise the sales tax by a quarter percent for 20 years. A group of politicians and citizens responded by starting a petition drive to force a voter referendum on the increase. Cleveland.com compiled some reactions from area bloggers, while a Plain Dealer editorial says that the Commissioners "made the correct but politically difficult vote".

Our website now includes a new section on Whiskey Island. It features information about the goals and plans for the lakefront peninsula, as well as photographs, directions, and contact information.

A Plain Dealer editorial urges Cuyahoga County officials to select a site for a new detention center for nonviolent felons in order to obtain state funding, saying that "the county cannot let this opportunity go."

All Aboard Ohio reports that U.S. Representative Betty Sutton secured $350,000 in the Transportation, Housing and Urban Development appropriations bill for the West Shore Corridor rail/bus transit alternatives analysis.

(Update: The Sun Herald offers more information.)

Cuyahoga County Commissioner Peter Lawson Jones says that the proposed Cleveland Medical Mart and convention center "clearly offers great promise", but he does not support raising the sales tax to pay for their construction. Cleveland Councilman Brian Cummins also endorses the concept, but would like to explore the reuse of the existing convention center site and "less burdensome" tax options. The second public hearing on the proposed sales tax increase will be held tomorrow morning, and following the hearing, the Cuyahoga County Commissioners plan to vote on the proposal.

If local officials can agree on a site for a detention center for nonviolent felons and establish advisory boards by January, the State of Ohio will contribute $10.6 million to build the 200 bed facility. Cuyahoga County officials are considering a four acre property at East 34th Street and Croton Avenue in Cleveland. Cuyahoga County is the only metropolitan county in Ohio without a center.

The Cuyahoga County Community Mental Health Board will vote on Wednesday on whether to proceed with plans to build a new headquarters on Euclid Avenue at East 69th Street.

A Plain Dealer editorial and Joe Roman of the Greater Cleveland Partnership both assert that the proposed Cuyahoga County sales tax increase is the only viable option for funding the construction of a new convention center.

The first of two public hearings on the proposed Cuyahoga County sales tax increase is being held this morning, and the Plain Dealer took a quick look at some of the County's other taxation options. The second hearing will be held on July 26.

The Plain Dealer explored the measures being taken by the City of Cleveland and some suburbs to confront the anticipated loss of their ash trees to the invasive emerald ash borer. Cleveland officials plan to remove over 400 trees this year, and 1,409 trees by 2009.

In the third part of their series on regionalism and municipal consolidation, the Plain Dealer listed the attitudes of local political leaders towards regionalism, offered suggestions about what they could be doing, named some potential roadblocks facing regional planning, and listed the achievements of other cities.

Cleveland.com and Roger Bundy cataloged the questions asked at yesterday's Cool Cleveland forum on the proposed Cuyahoga County sales tax increase (PDF). Photographs of the event are available at Cool Cleveland.

(Update: Meet the Bloggers provided audio of the session.)

(via Brewed Fresh Daily)

Cuyahoga County Treasurer Jim Rokakis is developing a plan to offer $3,000 loans to homeowners who are trying to avoid foreclosure. He hopes to have the program established by August.

A coalition of local labor leaders is backing the proposed Cuyahoga County sales tax increase that would fund the construction of the Medical Mart and a new convention center, while a group of Cleveland City Council members feel that tax increase should be put on the ballot. Tradeshow Week summarized the Medical Mart proposal.

Four suburban Cuyahoga County mayors say that their residents will support the proposed sales tax increase for the proposed Medical Mart only if all of the tax revenue goes directly to the project, and is not used to support other initiatives. Meanwhile, Plain Dealer columnist Kevin O'Brien thinks that the Medical Mart proposal is a good idea.

Michael Gill of the Free Times profiles several local entrepreneurs who use bicycles to create business opportunities.

Greater Cleveland Partnership Chairman Fred Nance will lead negotiations with Merchandise Mart Properties and Forest City Enterprises or another developer aimed at bringing the proposed medical mart to Cleveland.

The City of Shaker Heights plans to build a 1.5 mile multipurpose trail in the Shaker Boulevard median. It would form part of a trail network linking the Heights area with Cleveland's east side. Meanwhile, Bedford officials are preparing to begin work on a trail connecting City Hall to to Ellenwood Center.

Roldo Bartimole feels that the people who would profit from the construction of a medical mart and a new convention center should pay for it, and also laments the Cleveland City Planning Commission's decision on the Cleveland Trust Tower. The Plain Dealer and Channel 3 present additional details about the vote to demolish the downtown skyscraper.

The Plain Dealer explored how the Merchandise Mart concept operates in Chicago, and asked if the proposed medical mart could work in Cleveland. Also, Merchandise Mart Properties, Inc.'s presentation about the proposed downtown Cleveland development is available online.

Cleveland Mayor Frank Jackson supports the proposed sales tax increase to attract the proposed medical mart and build a corresponding new convention center, while a Plain Dealer editorial says that local leaders must persuade the public of the idea's value. This morning's Sound of Ideas program on WCPN was devoted to a debate about the proposal.

(Update: WCPN distilled the discussion into a short piece.)

RealtyTrac released foreclosure figures by ZIP code for a three month period ending June 15, and several Cuyahoga County areas were at or near the top of the list. The 44105 ZIP code (the Slavic Village area) had the highest number of foreclosure filings in the nation, 44112 (East Cleveland/Euclid-Green) was ranked 11th, 44108 (Glenville/Forest Hills) was ranked 20th, and 44120 (Buckeye-Shaker/Mt. Pleasant/Shaker Heights) was ranked 21st. ACORN published a series of reports titled "Home Insecurity" that present the data in more detail.

The Cuyahoga County Commissioners are creating a $13 million commercial redevelopment loan fund to promote the redevelopment of vacant commercial buildings. The program will be targeted at development in the City of Cleveland and its inner-ring suburbs.

(Update: a Department of Development press release presents more information.)

The Cuyahoga County Commissioners presented a plan to raise the sales tax by a quarter percent to support a new convention center that would accompany the proposed medical mart. The increase to 7.75% would raise a projected additional $42 million per year, of which $20 million would be used to pay for the convention center. Voter approval is not needed for the tax increase, but public hearings are required, and they will be held on July 19 and July 26.

(Update: The Plain Dealer examined the reactions of suburban leaders, and WKSU also reported on the proposal.)

On June 27, the City Club will host a panel discussion about plans to bring the Towpath Trail to downtown Cleveland. It will be held at the CanalWay Center in the Cleveland Metroparks Ohio & Erie Canal Reservation.

The Cuyahoga County Community Mental Health Board plans to build a $10-16 million headquarters building on Euclid Avenue in Midtown. The agency intends to move from their rented space on West 25th Street to the new 45,000 square foot building by fall 2008.

Areas of Cuyahoga and Lakes Counties were awarded $543,000 by the Army Corps of Engineers to conduct flood damage reduction studies.

(Update: The Plain Dealer has more details.)

By a vote of 2-1, the Cuyahoga County Commissioners decided to rescind $200,000 in funding for the Northeast Ohio Sourcing Office. The organization was recently awarded $335,000 by the Fund for Our Economic Future.

The nonprofit Fast Track Cycling is working to build a velodrome somewhere in Cuyahoga County, and is expected to select a site soon. The group hopes to raise $9-$14 million for a spring 2009 opening.

The latest County Business Patterns release from the US Census Bureau says that the number of businesses in the US grew by 6% between 2000 and 2005, but that Cuyahoga County lost 3.4% of its businesses over the same period. Some local economic development experts assert that the report would look rosier if it included more recent data. Cleveland.com illustrates the numbers with an infographic and an interactive map.

Yesterday, the Cuyahoga County Commissioners approved two $20,000 grants to create Innovation Zones in Beachwood and Mayfield Village.

In regionalism news, the proposed seven city fire district in southwest Cuyahoga County continues to gather support. Meanwhile, the cities of Richmond Heights, South Euclid, and University Heights, and the South Euclid-Lyndhurst School District are working to create the Hillcrest Heights Area Recreation Council, a council of governments that would examine the feasibility of constructing a regional recreation center.

The Parma Sun Post profiles the efforts of southwest Cuyahoga County communities to increase their tax bases by promoting retail, office, and industrial development.

A Plain Dealer editorial encourages the Cuyahoga County Commissioners to not provide financial support for the Northeast Ohio Sourcing Office, and suggests that they instead "should consider having the county take on NEOSO's task."

The Northeast Ohio Sourcing Office requested $200,000 from Cuyahoga County, but the County Commissioners are concerned about the organization's finances and the salaries of its top employees. NEOSO leaders expect it to be self-sustaining by 2010.

Cuyahoga County again received a failing grade in the American Lung Association's annual State of the Air report. The county's ozone grade improved, but the particulate figures were worse than last year. The metropolitan area's air was ranked as the sixth-worst in the nation for annual PM2.5 pollution.

(Update: WKSU has more details.)

Michael Roberts of Inside Business interviewed Sam Miller about his support for a unified Cuyahoga County Government. In his column, Editor Lute Harmon said that citizens must "step up and accept" Miller's challenge.

A Plain Dealer editorial praises the efforts of suburban Cuyahoga County mayors to promote regionalism, concluding, "We enthusiastically support the leaders who are trying to widen the scope of regionalism here. When communities in Northeast Ohio stop wasting resources on redundant systems and structures, all taxpayers will benefit."

In a Plain Dealer editorial, Parma Heights Mayor Martin Zanotti promotes the proposed seven-city fire district that is under study in southwest Cuyahoga County, saying, "The cost of government has become an albatross around the neck of our region." Editor Gloria Millner interviewed him about the proposal.

Scene editor Pete Kotz chastises Sam Miller for advocating regionalism while operating as "an insider who's always plucked for himself."

A group of nine suburban mayors from across Cuyahoga County agreed to support a regionalism effort. The plans have not been drafted, but will not call for municipal consolidation, and will recommend the formation of new countywide economic development agency.

Sun News columnist Joe Yachanin agrees with Miller's Sam Miller's call for a unified Cuyahoga County government. Roldo Bartimole takes the opposite view and also criticizes the Plain Dealer editorial board for its stand on the Cleveland Trust Tower.

The Towpath Trail Partnership Committee, a group of eight nonprofit organizations and government agencies, will host a public meeting about the proposed extension of the Towpath Trail from Harvard Road to Steelyard Commons. It will be held on April 17, from 4:00 to 8:00 at the Cleveland Metroparks Zoo.

The proposed downtown Cleveland medical mart would require both public and private funding. Estimates place the cost at around $350 million, and Merchandise Mart Properties says it could generate nearly $331 million annually in direct spending. The project remains tied to the proposal for a new convention center.

WKYC's Tom Beres interviewed Sam Miller about his push for a Cuyahoga County unified government, and Cool Cleveland's Thomas Mulready interviewed Brad Whitehead of the Fund for Our Economic Future on the launch of Advance Northeast Ohio: QuickTime (5.4 MB), Windows Media (8.5 MB).

Rocky River officials are waiting to hear if the proposed Cleveland to Lorain commuter rail project could affect their plans for a railroad quiet zone before they decide whether to support the commuter rail proposal.

Over 285 people attended last night's listening session at the Cuyahoga Valley National Park to offer suggestions on ways the Park could invest funds from the proposed NPS Centennial Initiative. Citizens can also provide feedback via the web until April 2.

A report by the U.S. Geological Survey and the Ohio EPA, to be released later this year or in early 2008, may answer some questions regarding unhealthy fish populations in upstream Tinkers Creek. The questions involve levels of turbidity, as well as the presence and effect of pharmaceutical products in the stream.

The latest US Census Bureau county population estimates show continued population losses in Greater Cleveland. Between July 2005 and July 2006, Cuyahoga County lost an estimated 16,187 people, and the seven county area lost 11,475. Medina County was again Northeast Ohio's fastest-growing county, with an estimated 12.1% population increase since 2000. Cleveland.com provides an interactive map showing population change in Ohio between 2000 and 2006.

(Update: Paul Oyaski and Mark Rosentraub discussed the figures with Regina Brett on Friday's Sound of Ideas show on WCPN.)

Cuyahoga County cities impacted by last summer's flooding have adopted a variety of policies and funding mechanisms to deal with the problem, but many of the efforts are too late to protect against possible flooding this spring.

Completion of the port study being conducted by URS Corp. for the Cleveland-Cuyahoga County Port Authority has been pushed back from February to this summer.

The Cleveland-Cuyahoga County Port Authority adopted a new disclosure policy, and board members will voluntarily disclose their sources of income and real estate holdings to the Ohio Ethics Commission. A Plain Dealer editorial says they did the right thing, "even if they were all but dragged into doing it."

The Cuyahoga County Board of Commissioners created an Office of Sustainability "to review the environmental impact of current operations and coordinate 'green' development across the entire region." Joyce Burke-Jones will serve as the County's sustainability officer.

The Cuyahoga County Commissioners created the Cuyahoga Innovation Zones program, based on a recommendation of the Blue Ribbon Economic Development Task Force. The program is intended to encourage economic innovation through building on the region's institutional and industrial strengths. Applications for the pilot program are due on March 30, 2007.

The student leadership program Look Up To Cleveland is seeking planning, urban design, and community development experts to serve as technical advisors (MS Word) to student teams from high schools across Cuyahoga County. If you would like to volunteer, please fill out the interest form (MS Word).

The city councils of Westlake and Cleveland passed resolutions in support of federal funding for a West Shore corridor alternatives analysis. The study would examine the proposed commuter rail line between Cleveland and Lorain and other potential transportation improvements.

Cuyahoga County may sell the 435 acre Youth Development Center in Hudson. The property was recently appraised at $15 million. Some judges and juvenile justice advocates are concerned about the fate of the approximately 200 children housed at the center.

A Plain Dealer editorial urges the Cleveland-Cuyahoga County Port Authority to adopt a financial disclosure policy for board members. "If board members expect the public to continue passing levies that support port operations, they should require disclosure of all financial interests they hold in the region the port serves."

By a vote of 2-1, the Cuyahoga County Commissioners reappointed John Carney to the Cleveland-Cuyahoga County Port Authority board after he voluntarily filed a financial disclosure statement. Commissioner Dimora dissented, citing his disagreement with Carney's stance on Whiskey Island. Earlier this week, Frank Jackson appointed Robert C. Smith of Spero-Smith Investment Advisers Inc. to the Port Authority board, replacing Sterling Glover.

Building a New Energy Future (PDF, 11.4 MB), the Cuyahoga Regional Energy Development Task Force's report recommending Lake Erie wind turbines, is now available online. In addition, Governor Strickland announced that $5 million in grants will be available for wind power projects.

The Cuyahoga County Commissioners bought several properties on Folsom Avenue in Cleveland to use as surface parking for the planned new juvenile detention center and courthouse. They are also in negotiations to purchase a two story parking garage on Prospect Avenue in downtown Cleveland near the Breuer tower.

As expected, the Cuyahoga Regional Energy Development Task Force officially proposed the Lake Erie Wind Energy Center, which would feature a demonstration project of up to ten wind turbines in Lake Erie as well as a research center. The Cuyahoga County Commissioners and the Cleveland Foundation pledged to help fund a study that will examine the project's feasibility and lay out a strategy for moving forward. The Task Force hopes to complete a global search for a project manager within six months.

Cuyahoga County communities are preparing to serve their aging populations by planning recreation center expansions to meet their needs.

Foresters and service departments in southwest Cuyahoga County are preparing for the loss of their ash trees to the invasive emerald ash borer. They have established detection programs, budgeted for tree removal, and identified replacement species.

President Bush's proposed federal budget includes a $1 million funding increase for the Cuyahoga Valley National Park. Park officials plan to use the funds to boost maintenance, educational programs, staffing, and security.

The growing problem of suburban poverty continues to attract attention, and several Cleveland suburbs served as examples in a recent Newsweek article. Meanwhile, the Plain Dealer examined how the problem is affecting Medina County.

This morning's edition of The Sound of Ideas on WCPN featured a discussion about regionalism through the sharing of municipal services, focusing on the seven-city fire district proposed for southwest Cuyahoga County. The guests were Parma Heights Mayor Martin Zanotti, Northern Ohio Fire Fighters Association President Jim Astorino, and Baldwin-Wallace College's Eric Fingerhut. It also examined a new plan for joint purchasing of municipal solid waste services, with guests Maple Heights Mayor Michael Ciaravino and Pat Holland of the Cuyahoga County Solid Waste District.

In light of the recent debate about the Cleveland-Cuyahoga County Port Authority and conflicts of interest, the Cuyahoga County Commissioners asked the Ohio General Assembly to expand financial disclosure rules to cover Port Authority board members and other appointed officials who receive taxpayer salaries.

The Cuyahoga County Department of Development published an Economic Development Assistance Handbook (PDF), an overview of the department's programs for residents, businesspeople, and developers.

(via the Cleveland Law Library)

An Ohio Department of Natural Resources biologist raised objections to the proposed Lake Erie wind turbines, citing concerns about their impacts on migratory birds. The Cuyahoga Regional Energy Development Task Force is reviewing research on the environmental effects of the turbines.

(Update: WKSU has more details.)

Developer John Carney has come under criticism for his dual roles as a downtown property owner and as chairman of the Cleveland-Cuyahoga County Port Authority. Although Port Authority board members are not required to file financial disclosure statements, Carney has recused himself from voting on Flats east bank eminent domain decisions in order to avoid the appearance of a conflict of interest.

RTA will begin deploying a new fare collection system starting early next year. The $23 million upgrade (PDF) will include nearly 800 replacement fare boxes, and beginning in summer 2008, a new proof-of-payment system for the Red Line rapid and the Euclid Corridor Silver Line.

Next month, the Cuyahoga Regional Energy Development Task Force will recommend the construction of a Lake Erie wind turbine demonstration project. It would consist of four to ten turbines located at least three miles offshore. In an Akron Beacon Journal op-ed, Amy Gomberg of Environment Ohio urges Ohio leaders to pursue wind power initiatives.

(Update: Channel 3 posted a video interview with Task Force Chair Bill Mason.)

For the fourth straight year, ridership on RTA lines increased. Despite fare increases, system-wide ridership grew by 0.3%, and ridership on the light rail Green and Blue Lines was up 5.1%.

Cuyahoga County prosecutors marked the start of a crackdown on mortgage fraud and predatory lending with a grand jury indictment of 59 defendants on charges of racketeering, forgery, and theft. Another 11 were indicted today.

(Update: The Plain Dealer published another story and an editorial on the subject.)

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