Monday, April 27, 2009

Ronayne calls for metro government, state plan to fight sprawl

Chris Ronayne, president of University Circle Inc., writes in Sunday's Plain Dealer that Cleveland and Cuyahoga County should merge to fight sprawl.

"Since 2002, we've consumed more than 100,000 acres of farmland in Cleveland's metropolitan area without any growth in population," writes Ronayne, who was former Mayor Jane Campbell's chief planner and chief of staff.

Like Indianapolis and Louisville, Ronayne says, our city and suburbs should merge into a larger Cleveland 0f 1.3 million people. He says it would save taxpayer money and encourage "sustainability" -- investing in our older cities instead of abandoning them. "What if Westlake's mayor became a borough president like in New York City?" he asks.

Since our urban sprawl extends beyond Cuyahoga County, Ronayne also says our region should share tax revenue, like in the Minneapolis-St. Paul area. He wants Ohio to follow Maryland's lead by "requiring new exurban developments to build sewer lines, roadways and schools without state aid unless urban core communities were fully built-out."

I could easily get cynical here and say that Ronayne's proposals are radical for Ohio, that mayors won't want to give up their power, suburbanites won't want to attach themselves to the city, and nothing is likely to stop people from moving to big homes on big lots with low tax bills in Lorain County and Bainbridge and Sagamore Hills.

But metro government is the logical end point of our area's fashionable but vague talk about regionalism. It's an obvious idea to examine as we decide how far to take county government reform. Ronayne's op-ed is significant because he's Cleveland's first prominent political figure (that I can recall) to say all these ideas could work here. The question is, will any more join him?

I wonder if supporting metro government will help or hurt Ronayne's political ambitions. He has said he's interested in being mayor of Cleveland someday. See Andy Netzel's Cleveland Magazine profile, from last year, for more about him. (If you'd like to link to Netzel's story, use this shortened link:

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