National Welcoming Week and News Updates

Today, on National Citizenship Day, President Obama launched the “Stand Stronger” Citizenship Awareness Campaign to celebrate immigrant and refugee contributions to our country’s social and cultural fabric, and to provide critical resources for those on the path to becoming American citizens. Noting the vital role immigrants have for our country’s continued economic prosperity, President Obama released a video message to encourage residents to commit to US Citizenship today.

In conjunction with this announcement, the White House Task Force on New Americans is coordinating with local partners who are holding over 70 citizenship outreach events across the country this week. Many of America’s legacy cities are taking the lead in creating a welcoming environment for immigrants to thrive and contribute back to their communities. The campaign was launched in conjunction with community partners and civic leaders across the country. The #StandStrongerUS campaign is also working with organizations like the PVBLIC Foundation, an in-kind grant making organization, to harness the power of donated advertising space from leading media companies.… Read More

Brain Gain in Legacy Cities

By Nicholas Hamilton

My fellow urban policy thinker and sometimes debating partner Aaron Renn at the Manhattan Institute just released a report on Brain Gain in America’s Shrinking Cities. Next City ran an article on Thursday on the topic with some interesting examples of the types of programs Renn advises against. Renn makes some essential points to which every leader in a legacy city should take note. It boils down to this: “brain drain” isn’t happening in your city or it isn’t happening the way you think it is, so change your strategy. (Update: See Renn’s latest article about this in Syracuse.) His main points are pasted below, but the full report is well worth the read and is packed with insightful charts and tables that unpack these observations.

  • Every major metro area in the country that has been losing population and/or jobs is actually gaining people with college degrees at double digit rates.
Read More

What’s New(s) in Legacy Cities

2015 is off with a bang!

Announcing three upcoming events plus our media round-up covering legacy cities news this month. It’s already been a busy year.

EVENTS

Urban Sustainability Meetups in Detroit, NYC (and SF and LA)
Meetups under the banner of “urban sustainability” have formed as informal groups of dedicated urbanists of all ages in cities around the country.  Staff from the American Assembly helped to organize the Meetup in New York which has an event this Sunday, January 25th at the Queens Museum on Urban Renewal, and its every-other month happy hour on Thursday, February 5. Also scheduled is an Urban Sustainability Meetup in Detroit on Thursday, February 5th.

Next City Vanguard Leadership Conference
Next City’s 6th annual Vanguard Leadership Conference will be in Reno, NV from May 6th to 8th. Applications are due on Feb. 8th, but you can save $10 on the application if you apply before Feb.… Read More

Let Them In. Bring Them Here.

fleischerBy Peter Fleischer

For our second post in honor of National Welcoming Week, Peter Fleischer joins us from Empire State Future to highlight the various imperatives of immigrant integration in legacy cities.

If it were only a case of 50,000 destitute children interned for trying to enter the United States, we would not still be reading about this ongoing sadness. Many right-minded, good people fear that where there are 50,000 today, there will be 500,000 or perhaps five million refugees before long. So what should one do? I say bring them here. They are kids. They are not a threat, economically or otherwise.

We have room here in the Lake Belt (formerly dubbed the Rust Belt), and soon we will need these brave and oh so familiar strangers, fleeing poverty, hatred and violence, wanting a better life. From Duluth, Minnesota through Milwaukee, Kankakee, Gary, Detroit, Toledo, Cleveland, Erie, Buffalo, Syracuse, Albany, all the way to Springfield, Massachusetts and Hartford, Connecticut, our legacy cities have room.… Read More

The Future of Legacy Cities in an Era of Welcoming

rachelheadBy Rachel Peric

In honor of National Welcoming Week, Rachel Peric, Deputy Director of Welcoming America, joins us to discuss opportunities to embrace and engage immigrant communities in legacy cities like St. Louis and Dayton.

Immigration has dominated news headlines for much of this summer, with little progress made in the debate on Capitol Hill. Yet, regardless of what is happening in Washington, immigrants are being welcomed across the country into communities that recognize that their greatest strength comes from their diverse residents. In Legacy Cities, there is a growing recognition that a wellspring of resilience resides not only in the untapped assets of infrastructure and longstanding institutions, but in the people who have and will continue to shape the future. As in centuries past, New Americans should be welcomed as vital partners in expanding prosperity for our nation’s cities.

Today marks the start of National Welcoming Week, an event that celebrates the growing movement of communities and leaders across the United States that fully embrace immigrants and their contributions to the local and national fabric of our country.… Read More

Preservation as Change of Mind

margoBy Margo Warminski

I grew up in 48205. (Google it.) I lived in a place where the American dream went into reverse, and kept going backward. Eventually I moved to a calmer zip code but kept the Rust Belt DNA. Which is why I couldn’t wait to spend three days at the Historic Preservation in America’s Legacy Cities conference in Cleveland.

And I wasn’t disappointed. Throw so many bright, engaged, outspoken urbanists in a (big) room and you can’t help but be inspired, and challenged by tough truths (Looking for happy talk? Keep looking.) like:

1. For years, much of preservation was oriented toward controlling growth: a manifest destiny of new restoration districts, better ordinances and more wood windows. But what happens when the wheels come off and, in some neighborhoods, you can’t even give houses away? Preservationists, not just in rusty cities, need a change of mind: learning to live within limits.… Read More

Sacred Landmarks: The Jewish/African American Connection

kathleenheadBy Kerri Broome and Dawn Ellis

Nationally, the relationship between Jewish and African American communities is complex, nuanced and richly textured. Throughout the years, both groups have been able to find similarities in their history and to empathize with the other. When it comes to housing, both groups have faced discrimination and restriction, and have, consequently, found themselves sharing neighborhoods. The Great Migration of African Americans and the second wave of Jewish immigrants (Eastern European) partially overlapped, resulting in large numbers of these two groups locating in prescribed areas of northern American cities, such as Chicago, Philadelphia and Cleveland.

The first Jewish immigrants arrived in Cleveland from Germany in the 1830s, settling primarily in the Central area and gradually moving eastward towards the suburbs through the end of the 19th century and into the middle of the 20th century. The subsequent wave of Jewish Eastern Europeans to move into Cleveland in the 1870s and 1880s entered into areas already inhabited by the earlier Jewish immigrants.… Read More

Redeveloping Commercial Vacant Properties in Legacy Cities

A HOW TO MANUAL for Legacy Cities friends/leaders/advocates: this set of specific guidelines, tools and strategies for redeveloping commercial vacant properties and business districts in legacy cities is now available for download here.

The Greater Ohio Policy Center, in partnership with the German Marshall Fund of the United States and with support from the Center for Community Progress, has developed the guidebook including the following tools:

  • Guidance on planning & partnering for commercial revitalization
  • Methods for analyzing the market
  • Advice on matching market types & strategies for commercial revitalization
  • Legal tools for reclaiming commercial vacant properties
  • Funding sources for overcoming financial gaps
  • Menu of property reuse options
  • Ways to attract & retain business tenants
  • Methods and models for managing a commercial district
  • Strategies for building markets in legacy cities

Please share this comprehensive resource with people in your LC network!… Read More

The Shrinking Services Problem

ericscorsoneBy Eric Scorsone

Legacy cities often face the difficult task of providing critical public services like police and fire protection and code enforcement, just when their tax base and fiscal capacity are shrinking. These very problems are occurring just as state and federal governments are reducing their support to city governments to balance their own budgets. Higher tax rates often become necessary just to try and maintain revenue streams. Cuts to public services, which are often an important element in attracting and maintaining population, are also implemented.

Witness the city of Saginaw, MI where a shrinking tax base and falling state support has led to the police force being the same size as it was in 1900. Saginaw also faces a huge underfunded liability related to retiree health care that will force further cuts or higher taxes in the future. Public services were over-consumed in the past and the city did not set aside enough funds for pensions and health care.… Read More

Community Gardens as Arenas of Change

marouhBy Marouh Hussein

Community gardens are not a new phenomenon but they have received increased attention in recent years because of their proven benefits. Whether they are spaces of food production, leisure, or recreation, the presence of a community garden in a distressed neighborhood often catalyzes change beyond these usages. The community garden movement in the mid-1970s and 1980s in Harlem, a neighborhood in New York City that, like legacy cities, experienced dramatic population decline, was a powerful tool that residents used to reclaim their neighborhood.

The first community gardens were used as a defense against the dilapidation and poverty that were plaguing Harlem in the 1970s. They were a means for residents to turn vacant lots that had become playgrounds for drug dealers, prostitution, gangs and rodents into spaces for the community to gather. Community gardens became arenas of change — spaces where residents could meet, collaborate, celebrate, protest and more.… Read More