Thursday, February 12, 2009

Rating the Suburbs

Maybe it just seemed like June yesterday, especially with the 60 degree temperatures.

But, alas, it's only February ... and yet, I appeared on WMJI with Lanigan & Malone, Mix 106.5 with Brian & Joe and 90.3's Sound of Ideas with Michael McIntyre talking about our June Rating the Suburbs issue. The dust-up came after Mayor Martin Zanotti of Parma Heights sent a letter on behalf of the Cuyahoga County Mayors and City Managers to the magazine. "We hope that you will recognize that the time has come to end this rating system and consider a better way to highlight the communities that contribute to the Greater Cleveland lifestyle."

McIntyre picked up the item in his Monday Tipoff column a few weeks back and then followed up again this week.

We're continuing to work on gathering the information we need for the issue, but it was energizing to use the issue as a jumping off point for a larger discussion about what makes a great place to live and how we can continue to improve our region. As I mentioned on WCPN, it used to be that the most difficult question I received about this issue was East vs. West. We've moved well beyond that now, even if there aren't any easy answers.

"Suburbs are middle-class family values expressed in stucco, brick, and carpet grass," writes Bruce Katz and Jennifer Bradley in the Jan. 26 Newsweek. "They're all the things that America's noisy, diverse, striving, poor cities are not. But the suburbs as we think of them are vanishing."

Clearly, this is a challenging time for many suburbs. So we're going to continue talking with the mayors, even if we're not going to discontinue our ratings. Check back here for updates or wait until the issue comes out -- in a few more months.


Christopher said...

Several years ago, EcoCity Cleveland (the predecessor to GreenCityBlueLake) came up with suggestions for metrics that would reflect a more balanced rating system. Alas, year after year, the system employed by Cleveland Magazine reflects the preferences of just one segment of society, namely the automobile oriented upper-middle-class (or its aspirants) that appears to prefer to have neighbors who are very much like them. Perhaps this is by design and that this is reflective of the demographic that subscribes to Cleveland Magazine, but I would argue that the "Rating the Suburbs" issue contributes to the perception that First Ring suburbs (or, heavens!, Cleveland neighborhoods) and their attributes are not valued by Cleveland Magazine and its narrowing readership.

Predictably, the 2009 top ten will consist entirely of outer-ring suburbs, two or three communities removed from Cleveland or Akron, all automobile oriented, and all relatively homogeneous in income and other factors.

Steve Gleydura said...

Actually, last year we added "walkability" to our rating system based on research by Triad Research Group in 2006. Their survey of Northeast Ohioans found that walkable neighborhoods are "extremely important" to 59% of people. That same survey found that their most important factor in choosing a place to live is safety (29%), schools (19%), home value (11%) and affordability (7%). This matches up well with our ratings criteria.

Though I haven't looked at the housing numbers yet, Newsweek made an interesting point in the same issue I referenced in the original post. Suburbs (any place adjacent to the central city) have gained ground vs. the exurbs in the past seven years. In 2000, 28.3% of people lived in suburban areas, while 1.7% lived in exurban and 2.5% in other areas with no commuter relationship to the central city. By 2007, suburban dwellers were up to 33.6%, while the exurbs had fallen to 1.2% and other down to 0.1%.

TechNoodles said...

I am curious as to "why" Cleveland Magazine's "Rating the Suburbs" does not include Lake County and Lake County Schools information.
The statistics and charts for the last few years covered Cuyohoga, Geauga, and Portage counties. Is Lake County not a major viewing area. I want to see the stats on Painesville, Perry, and Madison school districts.

Any chance of Lake County being included in this year's article?

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