Table of Contents | Appendix C
This appendix includes examples of sustainable communities activities in municipalities throughout the United States. The task force learned much from the work of these communities; the presentation of these case studies in this report is for informational purposes only and should not be construed as endorsement by the Sustainable Communities Task Force or the President’s Council on Sustainable Development.
New Bedford, Massachusetts
Northampton County / Cape Charles, Virginia
Piney River, Virginia
CASE STUDY DEVELOPMENT AND FACTCHECKING. Each case study was written and factchecked by representatives of the focus community. The task force requested that each community work with a diverse group of individuals representing different sectors to reflect a broad-based comprehensive understanding of the lessons they had learned in their efforts to implement sustainable development locally.
Brownsville is located at the southern-most tip of Texas on the Rio Grande River. It has a rich culture, which arises from a mixture of Mexican and American traditions, and an exciting historical past. The city’s semitropical climate, scenic oxbow lakes, and proximity to Mexico and South Padre Island draw thousands of visitors each year.
While Brownsville enjoys these cultural and natural advantages, it labors under some negative economic, social, and other trends that are highlighted by five major problems. First, the city has insufficient supplies of basic public facilities and of health and human services. With Brownsville’s population expected to grow from 117,000 in 1995 to 150,000 in the year 2000, the demand for these facilities and services is expected to rise. Second, many of the city’s residents live in substandard housing. Population growth has outstripped the construction of housing units, and according to the U.S. Census, 2,093 single-family dwellings or 15.1 percent of all such dwellings in the city in 1990 were substandard; another 1,154 dwellings were dilapidated, making almost 25 percent of the single-family housing stock below standard. Third, 70 percent of Brownsville’s population is living at or below the poverty line. The per capita annual income is $8,316; the median household income is $15,890. Fourth, the city’s unemployment rate is high. According to the U.S. Department of Labor, unemployment in the Brownsville area averages 12.8 percent versus 6.3 percent for the state and 6.0 percent for the nation. And fifth, the city has higher-than-average school drop-out rates. More than one-third of Brownsville students quit school before the 5th grade, and nearly one-quarter of local high school students drop out before graduation. Lack of education, poverty, and unemployment combine to increase pressure on Brownsville’s already-overburdened health and human services.
To overcome these problems and attain sustainable development, Brownsville will have to work with its sister city, Matamoros, Mexico, with which it has many characteristics in common, including a majority population of Mexican descent, bilingual communications, large numbers of migrant farm workers, and extreme poverty. Because the cities share some of the same economic, environmental, and social assets and liabilities, realization of their economic, environmental, and social goals depends on their mutual cooperation. For example, efforts in Brownsville to improve water quality and prevent water-borne diseases must be implemented with reference to Matamoros and the other U.S.-Mexican border towns with which Brownsville shares water supplies. Brownsville and Matamoros already cooperate on the development of transportation infrastructure and policy. Plans are under way for the construction of international bridges that would bypass Brownsville’s downtown area, drastically reducing truck traffic on its main streets. More recently, the shared economic development needs of Brownsville and Matamoros have prompted Brownsville’s development council to recognize the advantages of actively promoting the construction of maquiladora plants in Matamoros, providing economic gains for both cities.
Brownsville’s economic and environmental challenges and sustainable development initiatives are summarized below.
Brownsville faces several economic challenges: capitalizing on the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) and reducing unemployment.
NAFTA is expected to accelerate economic growth by increasing trade between the United States and Mexico. Because Brownsville is the only border city that has the facilities to handle water, air, rail, and road traffic, it can take full advantage of the formal relaxation of trade restrictions. But the current devaluation of the peso is expected to decrease significantly Brownsville’s commerce over the short term.
While the Texas Employment Commission ranks Brownsville as the most economically disadvantaged city in the state, many believe that, based on very recent growth, the city’s economic outlook is good. In the period 1994-95, Brownsville’s commercial trade increased 11 percent, retail trade by 7.1 percent, wholesale trade by 1.5 percent, and service-related sales by 11 percent. Local industry, however, appears to be experiencing a downward spiral. Sales for manufacturing concerns have decreased 77 percent since 1990.
Despite increases in trade and some types of sales, unemployment remains a serious problem. The average unemployment rate in the city already is nearly double that in the state as a whole, and two phenomena are cause for concern. First, manufacturing industries, which have been one of the city’s largest employers, are not doing well. Second, because of increasing demands for social services, the city government has become an even larger employer than manufacturing industries. Obviously, increases in the provision of social services strain city finances.
Attention to Brownsville’s environmental challenges was heightened by a spike in the incidence of neural tube birth defects from 1989 to 1991. Some of the city’s worst pollution problems have been mitigated somewhat since that time. But use and protection of the environment is a growing concern.
One of the most critical environmental issues for Brownsville is water. Almost all of the city’s water comes from the Rio Grande River. While demand for this water is growing, access to it is limited. Water rights from the Texas share of Rio Grande water have been completely allocated, and no new water rights will be offered. Moreover, the two million acre-feet allocated for the entire Rio Grande Valley exceeds the river’s current, firm annual yield of 1.3 million acre-feet.
To meet the growing demand for water, Brownsville’s Public Utilities Board has proposed that a dam be built to capture Rio Grande water that flows past the city into the Gulf of Mexico. The local Audubon Society is worried, however, that increasing the amount of water that is already impounded would disrupt the ecological balance. The society has suggested that the city focus on expanding water conservation efforts and improving water management practices.
In 1993, the American Rivers Association voted the Rio Grande the most endangered river in the United States. This distinction owes to high levels of water withdrawals and to municipal, industrial, and agricultural contamination. A study conducted in 1993 revealed that the Rio Grande contained 5 chemicals in amounts exceeding health-screening levels and that its tributaries contained 17 chemicals in amounts exceeding these levels. River water contained chemicals such as toluene, copper, lead, arsenic, chromium, mercury, and nickel, while fish tissue contained heavy metals and pesticides.
Other studies have found high levels of fecal contamination in the Rio Grande. The contamination comes from the million gallons of untreated, or partially treated, wastewater that enters the river from U.S.-Mexican border cities. Matamoros, which has no municipal sewage treatment plant, discharges around 15 million gallons of untreated wastewater a day into open canals. This sewage eventually flows into the Rio Grande.
Protecting the underground water table and the oxbow lakes ("resacas") is also of paramount importance for Brownsville. To mitigate threats to these water bodies, the city must reduce oil, agricultural, chemical, and toxic waste.
Unregulated growth of Brownsville’s "colonias"—residential areas that are not incorporated in Brownsville but lay just outside its city limits—contribute to other environmental problems. These neighborhoods usually lack trash collection services and sewage treatment facilities. They often are in areas prone to flooding and poor drainage, and when heavy rains occur, septic tanks often overflow, leaving families at risk of contracting water-borne diseases, such as hepatitis, diarrhea, typhoid, and parasitic infection.
In April 1989, the city initiated a process called Vision 2000 to articulate its goals for the future. Following a series of public meeting and hearings, a committee representing educational, economic, health and human service, and community concerns drafted "Brownsville Vision 2000," a plan for making Brownsville a place where people can prosper.
The plan appeals for efforts to meet increasing demands for facilities and services. For example, it calls for new and expanded transportation systems and parking facilities, enhanced police and fire department services, and an increase in the number of Emergency Medical Service stations and personnel. The plan also calls for businesses to restore and preserve existing buildings to protect the historic character of the city and to attract economic development there. In addition, it urges improvements in city management through the development of a capital improvement program, the creation of new partnerships between the private sector and the city to fund public improvements, and the promotion of sustainable development through tax credits and other incentives.
A steering committee and five citizen task forces have been formed to find ways of implementing the plan. The steering committee acts as a liaison between the city and the five task forces: education, economic development, basic public services, health and human services, and community spirit. Despite the efforts of these task forces, the level of public involvement in the Vision 2000 process has not yet reached the critical mass necessary for significant progress.
Major sustainable development projects
Sustainable development initiatives are not lacking in Brownsville. Three local institutions are working toward economic development goals. And various local projects have been undertaken to meet environmental and social goals.
The Brownsville Economic Development Council attracts industry to both Brownsville and Matamoros. Working with local banks, the council created the Brownsville Community Development Corporation (BCDC) to create a pool of funds that can be reinvested into community development initiatives to support projects like affordable housing. The BCDC recently created "Project Casa" to provide vocational training for low-income teenagers.
Greater Brownsville Incentive Corporation (GBIC) provides incentives for industries to create and maintain jobs. In addition, it provides majority loans and guaranteed loans for small business and industry. It gave the University of Texas-Brownsville a $2 million grant to develop a technology school to reach the unskilled.
The Development Service Center is a new project created by the city. The center will provide the business community with easy access to local government, as well as financing, permitting, business counseling, and other services.
Environmental and social goals are being pursued through several local projects. One of the environmental goals is effective waste management. The city promotes recycling through work with schools and civic groups and through the provision of a recycling center and several drop-off locations for glass, paper, and used oil. About 17 percent of the city’s solid waste is thought to be recycled. (Other waste management activities are described below.)
Another environmental goal is effective responses to accidents involving hazardous materials. Since its formation in 1987, the Local Emergency Planning Committee (LEPC), which is active in Cameron County, has been providing emergency planning for accidents involving the transport of hazardous materials through Brownsville’s port, an industrial park with Foreign Trade Zone status. Indeed, LEPC has become an international leader in emergency planning and a primary source for information on environmental issues that arise along the U.S.-Mexico border. In 1990, LEPC hosted the first full-scale, international, hazardous materials training exercise in which more than 200 emergency preparedness experts from the United States and Mexico participate. LEPC and its Matamoros counterpart are recognized among the 14 border cites as leaders in international chemical training exercise programs.
Both environmental quality and quality of life are the focus of a recent effort to deal with Brownsville’s traffic problems. In partnership with the Texas Department of Transportation and the general public, the city developed a 20-year transportation plan. In anticipation of the transportation needs of a growing population, the city also developed a public bus system. Among other benefits, the system will mitigate the adverse environmental effects of reliance on cars and trucks.
Progress toward meeting social goals often depends on education. To lower its school drop-out rate, the Brownsville Independent School District (BISD) created an alternative middle school 0for academically-at-risk students. The school features computer-based instruction and work-study programs.
A vocational project, the Pharr Vocational School (PVS), illustrates how local businesses can help their community fight social ills. Once constructed, the school will house job skills training and placement services, retail operations, household goods, and a food bank for the homeless and indigent. WalMart, Levi Strauss, Texas Surplus Agency, and the Cameron County Extension Service (through the auspices of Texas A & M) will donate food and provide nutritional and health counseling. They also will administer the school’s sewing establishment and provide supplies for sewing and arts and crafts. Volunteers from the University of Texas-Brownsville and BISD counselors will develop classes in the building trade and printing operations as well as provide business counseling.
Other sustainable development projects
Three other projects that have been implemented, at least in part, by organizations outside Brownsville will contribute to sustainable development in the city. One has been undertaken by the National Audubon Society, one by the one by the Center for Entrepreneurship and Economic Development, and one by the Texas Natural Resource Conservation Commission.
The National Audubon Society raises awareness about the natural world and its importance to human well-being by promoting environmental education and activism. In 1992, the society founded the International Youth Alliance (IYA) to engage high school students in Brownsville and Matamoros in investigations and discussions of environmental problems and solutions with local health experts, natural resource managers, and environmental activists. The students learn about the relationships among habitat protection, natural resource consumption, and development. Some of the IYA students have had their work aired on local public television. Others have developed environmental education projects for classmates and younger children.
The Center for Entrepreneurship and Economic Development supports economic development activities in low-income communities. The center developed a community empowerment project that helps colonias residents locate employment opportunities and gives them technical and other assistance in creating small businesses. The project is being implemented through a public-private partnership of county government, universities, and local community organizations and is being financed through local banks and a combination of federal HUD funding and foundation grants. The Texas Natural Resource Conservation Commission has made both economic development and environmental protection the focus of another project. The commission is working on a proposal to create an eco-industrial park. The park would house an oil refinery and an asphalt plant that is designed to recycle products such as used tires and used oil. By focusing on pollution prevention rather than end-of-the-pipe pollution control and cleanup, the park could mitigate industrial pollution in the Brownsville-Matamoros area, support jobs in the recycling industry, and augment workers’ technological skills. The goals of the proposed park are to provide a forum for developing innovative, cost-effective ways to meet mandated environmental standards and to improve local capacity to design and manage environmental protection programs according to industrial ecology and pollution prevention principles.
Binational sustainable development efforts
The Border Information and Solutions Network (BISN) was chartered on December 6, 1994, in response to the need for more community involvement in the planning and implementation of sustainable development projects along the U.S.-Mexican border. The network seeks to promote a pattern of economic development that protects natural ecosystems along this border and that improves the quality of life of people residing in border communities. BISN applied for the 1995 EPA Environmental Justice/Sustainable Communities (EJ/SC) Grant and requested funding for a project that will support the development of the above-noted eco-industrial park. This project will build a network of Brownsville and Matamoros residents to participate in important decisions about municipal solid waste management.
BISN will accomplish its goals by providing:
• • • leadership in involving local volunteers in sustainable development efforts,
• • • resource development via assistance in taking advantage of grant opportunities,
• • • research for the analysis and implementation of sustainable development policy,
• • • on-the-job training for individuals who wish to become sustainable development professionals,
• • • education on sustainable development and industrial ecology concepts and strategies for leaders and managers in the public and private sectors and students in the Brownsville area.
For more information about sustainable communities activities in Brownsville, please contact Rick Luna at the Brownsville Economic Development Council, 1205 North Expressway, Brownsville, TX 78520, 210 541 1183.
Chattanooga’s commitment to sustainable development has emerged from the lessons of its past. Suburban development since World War II drained the city’s downtown area of much of its retail and almost all of its residential development. The economic base collapsed as traditional manufacturing jobs moved overseas and many local companies laid off workers or closed down. Racial conflicts, poor schools, and an eroding infrastructure were all reflections of general urban decline. In addition, the city faced an environmental crisis. In 1969, Chattanooga was named the "worst polluted city" in America.
In recent years, the city has rebuilt its economy and reduced its air pollution, demonstrating that economic development and environmental stewardship can be achieved simultaneously. In 1990, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) recognized Chattanooga for attaining clean air standards. An article in Sports Illustrated featured the city as the nation’s best example of environmental improvement, which it described as a "nuts-and-bolts model of how tough government, cooperative businessmen, and a very alarmed public can make a dirty world clean again."
The collaboration among manufacturers, government agencies, and citizens that enabled Chattanooga to clean up its air has become part of the community culture. Public-private partnerships have become the norm. Numerous collaborative efforts have generated the capital resources, the political commitment, and the civic momentum to tackle complex problems, such as lack of affordable housing, substandard public education, few transportation alternatives, and the need to preserve parks and greenways.
Community involvement in planning efforts has been a key factor in Chattanooga’s revitalization. In 1983, a study by Batelle Corporation revealed that Chattanooga was a city in which many people felt socially isolated and powerless. The following year, the city invited every citizen to participate in shaping a new vision for the community. More than 1,700 people accepted the invitation, participating in a series of community visioning meetings called Vision 2000, which resulted in a "commitment portfolio" of 40 goals for the year 2000. These goals inspired many initiatives as well as the establishment of Chattanooga Venture, an organization to support the citizen task forces and public-private partnerships that emerged in response to Vision 2000.
By 1992, approximately 85 percent of the Vision 2000 goals had been fully or partially met through 220 programs. Along the way, 1,300 jobs and much needed social and educational programs had been created, and $793 million had been invested in the community. Chief accomplishments included the creation of a river park, an aquarium, a performing arts hall, a shelter for battered women, and a human relations commission, as well as the renovation of a theater, an auditorium, and a bridge.
In 1993, ReVision 2000 resulted in 27 new goals, the chief of which was the establishment of Chattanooga as a center for environmental initiatives. In 1994, the Vision Committee, which was made up of representatives of civic, neighborhood, political, and business groups, was formed to ensure citizen involvement in the meeting of ReVision 2000 goals.
The first major community project to result from the visioning process was the development of Chattanooga’s riverfront development. The Tennessee Riverpark Master Plan called for mixed use development, with a park and trail system to parallel the river for a 20-mile stretch. Since opening in 1986, the Tennessee Riverpark has exceeded all expectations as a community gathering place and money generator. By 1994, eight miles of river walk had been completed, $316.7 million had been invested in developments along the river, and one million people were visiting the park each year.
Ross’s Landing Park links the riverpark to the urban landscape. Built on the former site of abandoned buildings and dilapidated warehouses, the park surrounds the Tennessee Aquarium, which opened in 1992. Built with $45 million in private funds, the aquarium generated $133 million in documented economic activity in its first year alone and has attracted nearly 3.8 million visitors since its opening. Highlighting the region’s freshwater creatures and river system, the aquarium is not only the cornerstone of Chattanooga’s riverfront and economic development but also is an educational center, communicating the community’s interconnectedness and interdependencies with the natural systems of a richly diverse bioregion.
A Vision 2000 goal to rehabilitate substandard housing and revitalize neighborhoods led to the creation of Chattanooga Neighborhood Enterprise (CNE), which brings together the necessary public and private resources for affordable housing. CNE uses market-sector strategies to restore deteriorated, inner city, residential areas and to create new home ownership opportunities for low- to moderate-income families through lending programs. Using funding from all levels of government, as well as private contributions as leverage, CNE has been able to access the large amounts of capital needed for this scale of housing rehabilitation and neighborhood revitalization from conventional lenders.
CNE has become a model for innovative community financing for affordable housing. Its flexible lending programs allow even very low-income families to obtain better housing. Loan repayments and proceeds from the sale of loans on the secondary market provide a sustainable pool of funds for helping other families in the future.
Between 1987 and 1994, CNE rehabilitated more than 4,200 family housing units, representing an investment of $65.5 million. In the process, it has involved local residents in planning restoration efforts and supported them in projects that enhance their neighborhood’s appearance and safety. The educational and participatory nature of the program help increase the probability that residents and neighborhood associations will maintain these improvements.
High-quality education is at the core of Chattanooga’s vision of sustainable development. Public-private initiatives have given schools greater resources and resulted in the development of new organizational practices, curricula, and methods of instruction and training.
The Public Education Foundation brings private resources to public schools. The foundation emphasizes teachers’ professional development and supports their efforts to have a voice in the setting of schools’ priorities and practices. It also assists principals in developing a more collegial atmosphere and helps faculties better understand the challenges of cultural diversity.
Innovative educational organizations include a growing network of Paideia schools (now numbering six) that endorse the philosophy in Mortimer Adler’s Paideia Proposal, which advocates the elimination of tracking and stresses critical thinking skills in grades K-12; the Challenger Center, which provides advanced training in science and technology to teachers and students; and the Center for Arts Education at UTC, which is helping local schools embrace discipline-based arts education by encouraging the integration of the performing, visual, and literary arts into the core curriculum. The Middle Schools Project, which has received a national foundation grant, attempts to ensure that every student finishes the eighth grade on track for post-secondary education.
In a recent public referendum, the citizens of Chattanooga voted to merge the now separate city and county schools. The transition period will give the community an opportunity to set forth its vision of education in a bold new way.
Community-oriented, nonformal education programs have been essential to building broad-based public involvement and support in sustainable development initiatives. The Chattanooga Environmental Education Alliance, a network of educators, is one of the most action-oriented groups in the community. Alliance members including the Nature Center, Chattanooga Audubon, the Challenger Center, Greenway Farm, Tennessee Aquarium, and the Tennessee Valley Authority (TVA)have provided high quality educational programs for the public and training for teachers in schools.
Recycling and job training
Recycling initiatives are providing vocational training while helping protect the environment and conserve resources. One such initiative is the product of a partnership between the city of Chattanooga and Orange Grove Center, a nonprofit workshop for individuals with disabilities.
The facility provides jobs and job training for more than 100 mentally-challenged adults, who hand sort recyclable material from approximately 55, 000 Chattanooga homes as well as from municipal, community, and corporate drop-off centers located in the area. The sorted material is purchased by local businesses and made into products that are used regionally. By recovering materials from the community waste stream and returning them to the manufacturing stream, this process diverts millions of tons from the waste stream.
Electric bus technology
In less than two years, Chattanooga has put itself on the map as a world leader in electric vehicle technology. A local effort to find a transportation system that would boost the downtown area’s struggling retail economy led to the gradual replacement of old diesel buses with nonpolluting electric buses. The electric buses are manufactured in Chattanooga and sold to other cities, creating 35 new jobs.
There are two other components in Chattanooga’s electric vehicle story: Electrotek, an electric vehicle test facility previously owned by the Tennessee Valley Authority and privatized in 1988, and the Electric Vehicle Transit Institute, which was established in Chattanooga to promote the use and development of electric transit vehicles throughout the nation. Chattanooga’s electric vehicle program has led to the city’s involvement in more than a dozen technology development projects, including work with the U.S. Department of Defense, the Delco Remy/Allison Division of General Motors, and the 1996 Olympic Committee. These projects are helping remove the barriers to the broad commercial availability of electric vehicles. Purchase prices for the buses manufactured in Chattanooga are now comparable to those of diesel buses, and their life-cycle costs are substantially lower.
Parks and greenways
The citizens of Chattanooga have identified waterways, forested mountains, and lush valleys as some of the community’s most valuable resources. Protecting these resources is more than environmental stewardship; it’s an economic necessity.
In 1986, a group of Chattanooga citizens created the Tennessee River Gorge Trust in partnership with the Tennessee Nature Conservancy. Their intent was to protect a 25,000-acre area in the Tennessee River Gorge, the largest river gorge east of the Mississippi and home to more than 1,000 different plants and animals, including many threatened or endangered species. To date, the trust has protected more than half the targeted area.
The Chattanooga Greenways Program has established a countywide network of linear parks linked to the Riverpark. Its purpose is to protect critical natural areas along creek corridors and provide recreational opportunities in the wooded watershed. With the help of the Trust for Public Land and the National Park Service, this grassroots effort has already protected more than 1,500 acres of land within Hamilton County.
Greenway Farm, which is located within the city limits, Reflection Riding, and the Chattanooga Nature Center provide environmental educational programs. Maclellan Island, which is located within downtown Chattanooga, and other areas are designated nature preserves.
Together, these parks and greenways offer community residents and visitors an unparalleled opportunity to enjoy the natural beauty of the region and to develop a better understanding and appreciation of our natural resources.
Abundant forest and water resources enhance tourism and provide a manufacturing and industrial base for the regional economy. Chattanooga would like to manage the use of these resources for emerging environmental businesses while maintaining the current and future job base associated with manufacturing and forestry. But such management is complicated by the fact that large tracts of land on which the resources are found are privately or federally owned.
A recent request for the Tennessee Valley Authority to permit chip mill operations along the Tennessee River brought into focus the tug of war between federal regulatory responsibility and local government power as well as the relationship of private property rights and the social good. In Chattanooga, a coalition of city and county government, the chamber of commerce, the state legislative delegation, a congressional delegation, the Convention and Visitors Bureau, the Tennessee Valley Hardwood Alliance, and an array of environmental organizations asked that the request be denied. In this instance, the coalition prevailed. But the economic pressures in the global marketplace for forest products, especially hardwoods, remain high.
Chattanooga Creek cleanup
The cleanup of Chattanooga Creek, which was designated as a Superfund site in 1994, offers Chattanooga the greatest opportunity to implement the principles of sustainable development. Local residents would like to form a partnership with government agencies, industries, universities, schools, health centers, and environmental organizations to create a cleanup plan that goes well beyond remediation of contamination.
Industries and businesses, along with government agencies, already have worked with South Chattanooga neighborhoods on cleanup-related community advisory panels, community safety panels, park projects, greenway development, and educational and health programs. Local industries have reduced hazardous waste discharges and cleaned up some sites where such wastes were stored. Recently, the Mead Corporation incorporated vocational training and job creation for local residents into its pollution remediation efforts.
But progress is slow. EPA has not approved local initiatives to clean up the creek using bio-remediation methods. And liability issues threaten to undermine the kind of development that local residents would like to promote. Under current federal Superfund law, a new owner of any of the contaminated property in question can become liable for existing contamination and face open-ended cleanup costs should cleanup standards change at any time in the future. These possibilities promote the development of so-called greenfields at a high cost to the local tax base and discourage the development of brownfields, which ideally would complement local efforts to revitalize neighborhoods.
The Chattanooga metropolitan area is in the middle of an aggressive economic development effort that includes several eco-industrial parks, including one in the south central business district and one at a former Army munitions plant site.
The South Central Business District was formerly the site of metal foundries, mixed industries, warehouses, railroad tracks, and worker housing. Today it is dotted with abandoned and dilapidated structures, vacant buildings, and surface parking lots. Reclaiming this valuable land near the heart of the city for economically productive and environmentally sound activities has inspired the most ambitious and creative plan that the city has undertaken. The plan calls for the transformation of the South Central Business District into a zero-emissions zone, where the wastes of one business become the fuel for another. The district would host an ecological center, which would serve as a biological remediation, educational resource, and visitors center. It also would host an environmental conference and training center, a sports stadium with street parking, greenways, and businesses all connected with the downtown area through electric bus transit.
The South Central Environmental Technology Complex showcases sustainable development practices on formerly industrial sites, fosters the use of environmental technologies, leverages public and private investments, and attracts environmentally sound businesses and services. The Tennessee Valley Authority, the state of Tennessee, city and county governments, the University of Tennessee-Chattanooga, and the Carter Street Corporation are partners in the complex.
The eco-industrial park at the Volunteer Army Ammunition Plant has been designated as the strategic defense environmental center for the U.S. Army. This 6,500-acre site is intended for environmental research, recycling industries, and integrated municipal and commercial waste remediation and reuse. A $500,000 planning grant and a $2.5 million initial development grant have been committed to the project.
Integrated strategic plan
In 1991, years of environmental, economic, and educational efforts became the foundation for the plan to establish Chattanooga as a laboratory and model for sustainable development. Chattanooga’s mayor and the county executive appointed a task force that was broadly representative of the community; Partners for Economic Progress appointed an environmental director; and the chamber of commerce helped support the initiative to develop policy recommendations.
The initial plan, called “Target 96,” was made up of 94 recommendations, encompassing ecological, economic, educational, and community strategies. The timetable included short-range goals to be accomplished by 1996, mid-range goals to be accomplished by the year 2000, and long-range goals to be accomplished by 2005.
Target 96 has resulted in many initiatives and partnerships. For instance, RiverValley Partners has integrated public and private forces for strategic economic development, and in 1994 set forth an aggressive economic strategic plan with environmental protection as a central theme. The Chamber of Commerce has adopted “the business of the environment” as its operational theme and become the communication center for sustainable development activities. The Urban Design Studio has managed the overall development of these activities and provided a place where ideas can be turned into realities. And the Convention and Visitors Bureau has sought to promote tourism and conventions consistent with the environmental theme. Plans are in the works for an environmental convention center as part of the expansion of the South Central Business District Eco-Industrial Park.
All these activities are based on the recognition that Chattanooga’s economy, its social institutions, and the quality of its environment are closely intertwined. Without paying careful attention to each of these important elements, the decline of one has the potential to affect the vitality of the others. In the words of Mayor Gene Roberts, "Chattanooga is embracing a new civic attitude . . . our businesses, our industries, and all our citizens are doing what they can to . . . achieve economic growth and to respect the resources that make growth possible.”Copies of the full text of the Chattanooga case study can be obtained from the Chamber of Commerce, 1001 Market Street, Chattanooga, TN 37402, 423 756 2515, fx 423 267 7242.
The City of Cleveland is located on the Southern edge of Lake Erie in Cuyahoga County, Ohio. The 1990 Census reports Cleveland’s population at 505,616, a total which has declined steadily since its 1950 population of approximately 900,000 residents. At the same time the suburbs around Cleveland have expanded dramatically; suburban Cuyahoga County grew 96% from 1950 to 1970. Now, Cuyahoga County is also losing population and adjacent counties are gaining. Where Greater Cleveland used to be completely contained within Cuyahoga County, it now extends into portions of 6 additional counties.
Historically, Cleveland’s economy has been industrial and manufacturing based. The economy grew from the 1950’s to the early 1970’s. In 1979, Cleveland entered a recession and a period of economic restructuring. From 1979 to 1983, 90,000 jobs were lost in the Greater Cleveland area, mostly in the manufacturing sector. While the region gradually regained these jobs over the next 7 years, their character had changed. Most new jobs were white collar service jobs located in the suburbs. Cleveland’s economy continues to shift away from a goods-producing towards a services-producing economy.
In addition to Cleveland’s economic and demographic challenges, the city also witnessed the default of its government in 1978; and the burning of the Cuyahoga river in 1970- the result of uncontrolled pollution. Changes were needed, changes have occurred. Cleveland advocates adopted the name “the comeback city” and now though daunting problems remain, Cleveland appears to have turned a corner.
At the request of the Sustainable Communities Task Force, the US EPA’s Urban and Economic Development Division talked with Clevelanders to find out which issues are critical to sustainability, how they have addressed them, and what can be learned from Cleveland’s experience. The product of this effort, is based on studies of the Cleveland area and interviews with residents of Greater Cleveland from a variety of fields including businesses, communities, non-profits, environmental groups, community development corporations, county government, academics and the Chamber of Commerce.
Sustainable development issues
Interviewees identified eight issues that Cleveland must address to become a more sustainable community: urban sprawl, concentration of poverty, brownfields education, crime, environment, regional cooperation, and economic development.
Cleveland’s Relation to Surrounding Areas and Urban Sprawl
Interviewees sited the continued movement of people and industries out of Cleveland to increasingly distant suburbs as unsustainable for the Greater Cleveland area. Their reasons included the increased infrastructure cost required to support sprawl, abandonment of current investments, consumption of rural lands, increased tax burden for remaining city residents, and degradation of the center city’s economic viability. Many interviewees cited this as a primary problem and believe that the region will suffer without a strong center city.
Contaminated urban sites, or “brownfields,” were identified as a major barrier to Cleveland’s ability to draw businesses. Patterns of infrastructure spending were also identified as promoting migration out of Cleveland by making suburban areas more accessible and diverting resources from needed infrastructure improvements in Cleveland. Other reasons sited for out-migration include crime, quality of education, increased regulatory burden of development in Cleveland, and politics.
Concentration of Poverty
Concentration of poverty was named as a barrier to sustainability almost unanimously by those interviewed. There was also agreement that current programs are not sufficiently targeted, flexible or comprehensive. Nor do they provide dignity or respect for program participants. Census data indicate that Clevelanders living in poverty rose from 17.1% in 1970 to 29.33% in 1990. A study by the Center for Urban Poverty and Social Change showed that 46% of poor people live in areas of high poverty.
Contaminated industrial sites, known as “brownfields,” were a concern to businesses, community development corporations and county officials. The increased cost and uncertainties of cost, liability, cleanup standards, regulatory burdens, and future actions, were identified by one business representative as the single largest barrier to redeveloping Cleveland. Vacant parcels in Cleveland increased from 9% of all parcels in 1977 to 12.5% in 1987 (Center for Urban Poverty and Social Change).
Community leaders indicated a need for improved education in schools, and business representatives discussed an ongoing mismatch between job requirements and skills in the labor force. Interviewees indicated that schools are not preparing students for the workforce and job training programs are also failing in this role. In a 1990 survey of Clevelanders, the Citizens League Research Institute found that 38% of respondents named education as an important problem facing Cleveland (the largest percent for any subject).
Crime was sighted as a driver of population migration as well as business location decisions. Twenty percent of those surveyed in the Citizens League Research Institute research on general attitudes of Greater Clevelanders named crime as a major problem facing the area. Significant differences of opinion emerged between city residents and suburban residents. Clevelanders felt less safe in the streets of their neighborhood alone at night than their suburban counterparts by a 34% margin. Clevelanders are 13% more likely to report that someone in their house was the victim of crime during the past year.
In addition to brownfields, open space, air quality, solid waste and water quality were sighted as barriers to sustainability by some interviewees. Air quality is a concern because Cleveland is a non-attainment area for ozone under the Clean Air Act. Open spaces for recreation in urban areas was sited as an important focus for building communities. County landfill space is projected to run out in the next five years leading to increased disposal costs. Pollutant releases into Greater Cleveland waterways amounted to roughly 1,400,000 pounds in 1991, according to the US EPA. Some interviewees said regulations are too inflexible and fail to address the greatest environmental risks, thus diverting industry resources which could be used more effectively. According to the Citizens League Research Institute, Clevelanders believe the environment has improved over the last 5 years, 80% believe protection laws still have not gone far enough, and 48% believe that the environment should not improve at the expense of employment.
Many of those interviewed stressed that urban sprawl, environmental protection, population movement, job location and economic development are regional issues that require regional coordination and planning. Competition for resources and redundant production of services and amenities was identified as ultimately destructive for the region. A Citizens League Research Institute study showed that 75% of Greater Clevelanders believe that local elected officials should make decisions based upon what is good for the Greater Cleveland area. Seventy-one percent of respondents also supported cooperative efforts between local governments to solve problems.
Economic Development/Internationalization of Economy
Economic development was identified as a key to sustainability. In the Marshfield, WI, News-Herald article of October 8, 1994 “Is all well in Cleveland?” Cleveland Mayor Michael White is quoted as saying “Take care of economic problems, and two-thirds of social problems go away.” Cleveland Tomorrow, a committee of more than 50 chief executive officers from the region’s largest companies, states that “a stronger economy boosts the community’s ability to cope with its problems and government’s capacity to respond to emerging needs.” Interviewees stressed that any effort to address economic development and sustainability must account for the increasing role of the international marketplace. Over 1,600 Greater Cleveland companies are engaged in international trade. Exports account for approximately 80,000 jobs and 175 area companies are foreign-owned (The New Cleveland Campaign).
Cleveland Sustainability Initiatives
Cleveland has a large number of ongoing initiatives addressing the issues discussed above, some of these are described below.
The County’s focus on reuse of brownfields is “one effort by the Cuyahoga County Planning Commission to counteract the sprawl of our urban region.” The Brownfields Working Group, a multi-stakeholder group, was convened to follow up on the work begun in the 1992 Brownfields Symposium Conference. The Working Group analyzed the brownfields problem and made recommendations to the County Commissioners in July of 1993. Since then, a voluntary cleanup law has been enacted in Ohio, and Cleveland received funding from the US EPA to do two demonstration projects. Working Group members have been involved in the voluntary cleanup laws’ rulemaking and in efforts to create a County revolving loan fund.
The North Cuyahoga Valley Corridor
The North Cuyahoga Valley is a river valley running north from the Cuyahoga National Recreation area to Lake Erie. The area offers riverside recreational opportunities but also has a rich history of economic activity. The County Planning Commission has proposed to develop this area in a way that highlights its history of mixed use development and provides multiple benefits. The plan calls for:
• • • maintaining and expanding the valley’s mix of heavy and light industry
• • • development of heritage education facilities and interpretive river walk paths
• • • preservation of approximately 150 acres of natural habitat
• • • development of new recreation-based economic opportunities.
Access to these areas will be provided by an extensive network of bike trails, a trolley system, and existing towpaths. These forms of access will have low impact upon the environment, enhance the aesthetic appeal of the area and serve as attractions themselves. By basing development of the river valley on its multiple roles as heritage touchstone, economic center, recreational area, and distinct feature of the Cleveland landscape the valley can create a sense of “place” and “community” in Greater Cleveland.
Solid Waste Management Planning
In 1994, Cuyahoga County reached the state’s 25% recycling goal. The County’s Solid Waste Management District recognized the “importance of continuing to increase the diversion of waste from landfills in order to reduce our reliance on landfills and to cost-effectively manage waste and conserve natural resources.”(Plan summary) The District set an ambitious 46% recycling goal for the year 2002. This goal has the support of the community and recycling has increased 145% over the past two years. To bolster the program’s success the recycling plan calls for community outreach, education in the schools, expansion of a cooperative marketing program, provision of on-site technical assistance for business waste reduction/recycling initiatives, development of public recognition of innovative initiatives, establishment of a waste exchange, and cooperative recycling and recycled product procurement plans for small businesses. The plan anticipates using the large volume of recyclables to attract recycling firms and promote economic development. Funding for the District’s plan will come from a fee levied on all waste delivered to landfills, transfer stations, and waste to energy facilities. There will be no fee at recycling or composting facilities.
Established in 1983, MidTown Corridor is a “non-profit economic development organization which assists in all aspects of neighborhood revitalization, including marketing, real estate development, visual quality, security and employment.” MidTown was formed by local businesses in response to security concerns and deterioration of the “midtown” corridor between downtown and University Circle. MidTown has been successful by many measures. Through its marketing efforts and provision of technical assistance over 275 new businesses and $275 million dollars have been brought to the corridor since 1983. With crime reduction efforts that stressed vigilance, prevention, and coordination with police, crime in Midtown has been reduced 40% since 1983. To improve the neighborhood’s appearance, MidTown sends letters to landowners to request voluntary upkeep, offers a Design Review Committee to assure appropriate and attractive exterior improvements, and works with the City to enforce housing codes. MidTown and Vocational Guidance Services partnership “Jobs: Neighborhood-By-Neighborhood” sums up MidTown’s dual commitment to MidTown businesses and the local community. The program surveys business employment needs and matches potential employees to these needs. One hundred people have been placed, virtually all Cleveland residents and 50% of which live in the Central neighborhood.
Time Shares Exchange
Begun in 1993, Time Shares is a non-profit organization founded in Cleveland’s Broadway neighborhood and in West Boulevard Estates. Time Shares provide a way for people to meet their basic needs while giving something in return. Workers earn credits through performance of community service. Every hour of service is equal to one credit or “Timeshare.” The credits can be exchanged for services, (baby-sitting, yard work, etc.) or goods (fresh vegetables, diapers, mattresses, etc.).
To date, the organization has over 300 members, has logged 30,000 hours of direct community service and connected neighbor to neighbor. In addition, there has been a sizable benefit to the community’s sense of place which is best captured in Time Shares members’ quotes “ When others see you working and out there and being useful, it’s going to rub off on people”, “I just love helping people. It’s fulfilling.”Build Up Greater Cleveland (BUGC)
BUGC is a public-private partnership coordinated in conjunction with the Greater Cleveland Growth Association- Cleveland’s Chamber of Commerce. Established in 1983 by local leaders, BUGC’s mission has three components:
• • • to identify the infrastructure rehabilitation and expansion needs of Greater Cleveland,
• • • to secure the financing necessary to meet those needs, and
• • • to expedite implementation of infrastructure projects.
Public infrastructure was deteriorating rapidly in 1983 when public and private sector leaders teamed up. The partnership resulted in cooperation from officials throughout Cuyahoga County, helped influence the Cleveland City Council to address the decay of the water distribution system, significantly reduced the time necessary to fund infrastructure projects, and opened up new funding sources. From 1983 to 1990, BUGC generated $694 million dollars which would not have been available otherwise. The resulting rehabilitation of infrastructure enables the community to focus on the sound infrastructure management that is essential to community well being.
Broadway Area Housing Coalition (BAHC)
The BAHC is a non-profit housing organization in the Broadway Area of Cleveland, an inner-city, integrated low-income and working class neighborhood just south of downtown Cleveland. The BAHC is working to revitalize the neighborhood and restore a sense of community by revitalizing the communities’ housing. One such project is the Mill Creek redevelopment. Located on 100 acres of contaminated property, the BAHC is cleaning and redeveloping the Mill Creek site into 219 single and double family homes and a neighborhood park. The redevelopment will retain the character of the neighborhood by echoing the area’s housing style. The project’s 35 acres of new parkland will be a focal point for the community, providing a hiking and biking trail leading to a 45 foot waterfall. BAHC’s Bobbi Reichtell, attributes their success to the cooperation of the State, City, public and private sectors, and work of the neighborhood residents. Reichtell said “It is an honor to work with the folks in the neighborhood. . . . They weren’t willing to write it off but had a vision for the future.”
Earth Day Coalition
The mission of The Earth Day Coalition is to build a healthy, safe, and sustainable Earth by developing and promoting a common regional environmental agenda with the people of Northeast Ohio. Established in 1990 to organize the EARTHfest commemorating the 20th anniversary of Earth Day, the Coalition serviced crowds as high as 40,000 people in 1990 and over 20,000 people for EARTHfest 1993. The Earth Day Coalition has worked providing information, educational materials and forums on recycling, and a variety of other environmental issues through a Town Meeting Series presenting reduce/reuse/recycle information at inner city town meetings and other presentations at area schools. Recycling was also the focus of The Blue Bag Drop-off Program which served as a forerunner to curbside recycling and introduced Cleveland residents to the Blue Bag concept of curbside recycling. The program has served over 2100 Clevelanders and collected over 64,000 pounds of recyclables. Other coalition activities include the Environmental Health Neighborhood Network and The Energy R.A.C.E. The first program works with contaminated communities and neighborhoods facing new and existing sources of toxic, hazardous or radioactive pollution to empower their residents through advocacy and education. The latter, a new program, advocates the use of Renewable and Alternative energy resources along with energy Conservation and Efficiency to reduce dependence on less environmentally friendly sources of energy.
EcoCity Cleveland is a nonprofit, educational organization. It’s mission is to stimulate ecological thinking about the Northeast Ohio Region (Cuyahoga Bioregion), nurture an EcoCity Network among local groups working on urban environmental issues, and promote sustainable ways to meet basic human needs for food, shelter, productive work and stable communities. To accomplish its mission EcoCity Cleveland publishes a monthly newsletter and sponsors events to promote information exchange and connect people and groups working for a sustainable bioregion. David Beach, EcoCity Cleveland’s Editor, believes that systemic changes in the region’s economy are needed to achieve sustainability. Starting points would include internalizing environmental costs and realigning incentives to coincide with environmental protection as has been done with demand-side management in the utilities industry.
The Lake Erie Alliance
The Lake Erie Alliance is a consortium of organizations in existence around the shores of Lake Erie in the United States and Canada. The mission of the Lake Erie Alliance is to act as a coordinating and facilitating international network for communication among non-governmental organizations in the Lake Erie watershed to identify and address common issues impacting environmental integrity in the Lake Erie bioregion. Implementation efforts include educational talks, a newsletter, conferences and articles. Issues of primary concern for the group include maintaining public access to Lake Erie (which is 80-85% privately developed), wetlands protection, and ensuring that the State complies with the Great Lakes Initiative.
Cleveland Tomorrow is a committee of more than 50 chief executive officers from the region’s largest companies. It was formed in 1982 and is committed to focused initiatives that improve the region’s economic vitality. Cleveland Tomorrow recognizes “the deeply rooted social concerns facing Cleveland and the region and believes that “social and community strength grows only through creating economic strength.” At the same time there is recognition that “over the long run, quality of life determines much about a region’s ability to compete.” Some of Cleveland Tomorrow’s specific strategic initiatives are discussed below.
Increase management and technology assistance to the region’s manufacturing base. Specific initiatives include enhancement of the region’s technology base through the Technology Leadership Council, with emphasis on increased biomedical research, and emerging environmental technologies. In addition, this strategy calls for creation of a manufacturing learning center to: prepare a more practically trained workforce, educate companies in employee involvement, and partner with the Cleveland Advanced Manufacturing Campaign (CAMP) for provision of technical assistance (to groups such as MidTown Corridor) in pollution prevention and advanced manufacturing technologies. Foster additional efforts to stimulate new businesses.
This strategy employs a multi-faceted approach. It seeks to: stimulate entrepreneurship through Enterprise Development Inc., by building public awareness, capital formation, technical assistance and, in particular, technology transfer, stimulate minority capital formation with emphasis on minority entrepreneurs and where possible emphasizing opportunities in Cleveland, help launch the Neighborhood Economy Initiative which aims to create jobs by recycling a million square feet of industrial buildings in Cleveland neighborhoods as economic incubators.
The incubators would recruit neighborhood entrepreneurs, hire neighborhood residents through a job training and recruiting network, and assist in mobilizing growth capital for these young neighborhood ventures.
Stimulate Market Driven Neighborhoods
This strategy is premised upon the fact that patchwork progress leaves too much of the community behind and that everyone has a stake in improving neighborhoods. To address this Cleveland Tomorrow will continue support for Neighborhood Progress Inc., a partnership of neighborhood organizations, corporations, banks, foundations and government, which Cleveland Tomorrow helped found. In addition, the strategy intends to explore creation of a large scale land assembly and environmental remediation system. This may include a public-private fund to address land assembly issues. To date, over $30 million dollars have been invested.
Gateway Sports Complex Development and Inner Harbor Redevelopment
The city of Cleveland and Cuyahoga County have supported the development of aggressive, visible economic development in downtown Cleveland in the form of a new baseball park, a new arena for basketball and hockey, and the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. The county guaranteed the bonds for the development of these facilities and they have leveraged investment and redevelopment in adjacent downtown areas. Traditionally, this type of development is seen as strictly economic development, however, there are other important benefits which should not be overlooked. Its downtown location reduces sprawl, makes it accessible to area residents who do not own cars, attracts suburban residents, and serves as a focal point for the community. Equally important, the size of the development has made it a very visible project. In 1990, 72% of Greater Clevelanders identified downtown development as the best thing happening in Cleveland(CLRI). The success of these projects have become a source of community pride and serve as evidence of their “comeback” for many area residents.
Learning From Cleveland’s Initiatives
There appear to be two primary factors driving sustainability activity in the Greater Cleveland area. The first is the broad consensus, expressed by the interviewees, on the nature of the problem. Non-profits, business representatives, environmental groups and government representatives consistently identified a core set of issues as critical to making Greater Cleveland a desirable place to live and conduct business (e.g. the city’s relationship to surrounding areas, brownfields, etc.). The second factor is the belief that individual businesses, and residents of the Greater Cleveland area (not just the City) have a direct self-interest in correcting these problems; referred to by Cleveland Tomorrow’s Joe Roman as “enlightened self-interest.” This belief makes the link between individual, corporate and regional health. Agreement on Greater Cleveland’s problems and “enlightened self interest” create an environment in which a diverse set of groups act towards common goals.
In this environment, individual initiatives were leveraged and made more effective through cooperation, partnerships, and the creation of synergistic benefits. The Mill Creek project required cooperation between the Broadway Area Housing Coalition, MetroParks, the community, the city, and the state; MidTown corridor partnered with Vocational Guidance Services to more effectively match employers and employees. Synergistic benefits have resulted from geographically targeted efforts. For instance, by targeting Midtown for crime prevention, job creation and building restoration, each initiative benefited from the impacts of the others. Increased safety meant a better climate for business and more jobs. In turn, job matching increased the income of city residents giving them access to more resources.
Implications for the Sustainable Communities Task Force
Though this case study has been limited in scope and largely anecdotal, Greater Cleveland’s experience with sustainability initiatives offer valuable insights to the Sustainable Communities Task Force. The Task Force should attempt to build community consensus on the nature of the problems they face and the stake community members have in solving them. In Cleveland, it is likely this consensus resulted from a variety of factors: the severity of the economic problems Greater Cleveland faced in the early 1980s, the massive population outflow of the past four decades, the dramatic concentration of poverty in the last two decades and the documentation of this information by local academic institutions. In addition, information has been disseminated in the context of supporting specific initiatives and actions. The Task Force could attempt to build similar consensus through documentation of experiences such as Cleveland’s, community visioning processes, creation of tools to compare different development patterns, and by supporting specific initiatives with contextual sustainability information.
Cleveland’s experience also identifies opportunities for the Task Force to remove barriers to community action. Regional task forces, groups, coalitions and authority’s have coalesced to address some of the regional problems facing Cleveland but interviewees indicated that many issues requiring regional coordination still receive too little attention. Brownfields, due in some degree to perverse outcomes of environmental regulations, are neither cleaned nor redeveloped. Other environmental regulations are overly prescriptive and do not allow businesses to make the changes which maximize benefits. Education and job training programs focus on numbers of participants moved through the system rather than results. The Cleveland community has initiatives addressing these issues but better incentive systems and increased flexibility would make these more effective
The Task Force can make action easier by recommending changes, such as providing more incentives/opportunities for regional action, removing brownfields barriers, making closer links between educational system/jobs training and the business world, and providing greater flexibility in meeting environmental goals. If these changes are made, and communities can agree and act upon their problems, they will be increasingly successful in enhancing their sustainability.
For more information about sustainable development activities in Cleveland, contact
Paul Alsenas, Director
Cuyahoga County Planning Commission
323 Lakeside Avenue, West
Suite 400, Cleveland, OH 44113
216 443 3700, fx 216 443 3737