Cleveland was one of America’s 10 largest cities in 1950. By the 2000 Census it wasn’t in the top 30. And from 2000 to 2007, only New Orleans - devastated by Hurricane Katrina - lost more of its population. Today, the remaining residents face unemployment rates from 10 to 12 percent across the Cleveland area. Comedian Drew Carey, host of The Price Is Right, has seen enough and wants to revitalize his hometown. “I would like everybody in Cleveland to have rich kids’ syndrome, where they feel guilty that they had all of these opportunities,” Carey says.
To help create those opportunities and set the stage for a Cleveland renaissance, Carey and Reason Foundation found policies and ideas that have already been tested and proven in other cities. Reason Saves Cleveland With Drew Carey offers the city a path to fix its public schools the way inner-city Oakland did; to generate infrastructure revenue and reduce the cost of government through public-private partnerships like Indianapolis and Chicago; and to attract skilled workers, entrepreneurs and Fortune 500 companies like Houston, one of the country’s fastest growing cities.
“We began looking for ways to improve Cleveland,” says Reason.tv’s Nick Gillespie, host of the videos. “But the lessons here can also help renew other struggling American cities like Detroit and Pittsburgh.”
Reason Saves Cleveland With Drew Carey will release videos and solutions all this week at http://reason.tv/cleveland. Here is an overview of each episode in the series:
The Decline of a Once-Great City
Episode 1, Released March 15
In the opening video, Carey describes his love for Cleveland, its history, its woes and why he launched this project: “As you know, I’m from Cleveland, Ohio. I love Cleveland, Ohio. I based my whole career on being from Cleveland, Ohio. And you also might know that Cleveland, Ohio, is going through some tough times right now. The economy is in trouble, the schools are in trouble, and people have been leaving the city in droves for a long, long time. And it is not just Cleveland. It’s a lot of cities in the country that are having the same problems. I went to the folks at the Reason Foundation and I said is there any way we could come up with some ideas to help save Cleveland. And we looked at some best practices of cities across the country and we wanted to know if we applied them to Cleveland, would it do any good? The series is called Reason Saves Cleveland. I hope you like it.”
The video can be viewed online at http://reason.tv/video/show/1040 and http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=096pjEOrdK4.
Fix the Schools
Episode 2, Released March 15
The Cleveland Municipal School District spends over $14,000 per student. Yet only 54 percent of students graduate from high school and the district is failing to meet 27 out of 30 Ohio performance standards.
“Your choice is go to a Catholic school or get the hell out of town and raise your kids somewhere else. That’s not much of a choice at all,” Carey says in the Reason.tv video. “It would be best for the parents and families to have a choice to send their kids where they want. Make the schools compete against each other.”
Reason Foundation’s new policy brief, Ten Ideas to Fix Cleveland’s Schools, calls for turning all failing schools into charter schools, giving principals complete control over school budgets and “backpack” funding that follows kids to the school of their parents’ choice. The complete policy brief is online at http://reason.org/news/show/fix-cleveland-schools.
The video is online here: http://reason.tv/video/show/1041.
Episode 3, March 16
With all of its problems should Cleveland’s government be running shopping markets and golf courses? “No, of course not,” Carey says.
A Reason Foundation policy brief accompanying this video calls for privatizing 10 government-run services and facilities in Cleveland, including:
- Cleveland-Hopkins International Airport. Several U.S. airports, including Chicago’s Midway, are examining this option. Heathrow and Gatwick in London, Rome, Sydney, Melbourne and Frankfurt are some of the major private airports in the world.
- Downtown parking meters and garages. Chicago received a $1.1 billion upfront payment from a private company who leased the city’s garages and meters for 75 years.
- Garbage and Solid Waste Services. Over half of all US cities have already privatized all or some of their solid waste services.
The policy brief, Ten Privatization Opportunities for Cleveland, is here: http://reason.org/news/show/cleveland-ten-privatization.
Improve the Business Climate
Episode 4, March 17
Take Cleveland’s municipal income tax, add a lot of burdensome regulations and red tape and you’ve found why so few businesses set up shop in Cleveland and why so many are leaving town.
This video compares Cleveland and Houston. The latter is one of the fastest growing cities in America and home to 29 Fortune 500 companies (second only to New York City). Houston is thriving without any state or local income taxes and very few zoning rules or restrictions.
“It’s a bottom line thing for businesses. They want lower taxes and less red tape. Simple as that.” Carey states in the Reason.tv video. “My only experience in running a city is Sim City, the computer game. I know that when you raise taxes, all the Sims leave the city. ”
Encourage Bottom-up Redevelopment
Episode 5, March 18
While the city crumbled, Cleveland taxpayers were paying huge amounts to subsidize stadiums. The next big taxpayer-funded boondoggle is the new convention center. “I didn’t know Cleveland was such a bustling convention city,” Carey points out. “Take that Vegas!”
“Spending billions on big-ticket redevelopment has utterly failed to revitalize the city’s economy,” says Gillespie. “It’s time for Cleveland to realize that bottom-up projects driven by the actual residents and private-sector investors are the best was to build a vibrant city for the long haul.”
“We can all make our own decisions. We all want to live our own kind of life,” Carey declares. “We don’t need a centralized government tell us what to do all the time and tell us, you know, what color to paint our house and what we can put where. We’ll decide on our own. We’ll work it out with our neighbors on our own.”
Bring Back the People
Episode 6, March 19
Cleveland has lost more than half its population since the 1950s. Yet the city still boasts affordable neighborhoods, a rich history, and diverse ethnic and cultural scenes. This video shows there is still hope for Cleveland to once again become a destination where people flock to pursue the American Dream.
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Chris Mitchell, Director of Communications, Reason Foundation, (310) 367-6109