Gary Benjamin runs for Cleveland Heights City Council
As a resident of Cleveland Heights I am struck by its vibrancy. With colleges, strong small business districts, Severance Center, great public schools and wonderful public services, Cleveland Heights is a strong city.
We also have an electorate which wants its leaders to tell it the truth!
The truth is that, despite our vibrant city, we are losing population. In 1970 we had 60,767 residents. In 2000 that had dropped to 49,558. Estimates for July of 2008 are 45,827 – a loss of almost 4,000 people in 8 years. That’s a 7.5 percent loss in the last eight years., and a 25 percent loss since 1970! As population drops the tax base shrinks, and in Cleveland Heights, since 1970, we not only lost 25 percent of our people, our median income also dropped 25 percent.
But the geographic size of the city remains the same and the need for police patrols, fire protection and garbage collection does not drop nearly as much as the population or median income drops. So as population drops the pressure to increase taxes rises. As taxes rise population drops. This inner ring suburb spiral is a well recognized phenomenon all over America.
So how do we combat it? Not by raising taxes to balance a budget.
- Do an analysis of spending to make sure we are getting the best value for our tax dollars; and
- Look at other cities that have turned the inner ring cycle around such as Kalamazoo, Michigan with its “Kalamazoo Promise” and Ferndale, Michigan with its business investments; and
- Work closely with the CH-UH schools as they are a major reason people with families live here; and
- Invest in building private sector jobs such as in health care; and
- Work regionally to share costs of services and to slow regional population and business losses; and
- Make sure the ‘story’ of living well in Cleveland Heights is widely known.
Most of all we need a long range plan to turn this around!