Cuyahoga River Achieves Important Milestone for Improved Aesthetics

It may be too cold and dreary to be in a boat for most of us just yet. But, we are not all that far away from spring and will soon be making plans to get back on the water!

And for those of us with such thoughts, we have some really good news. The United States Environmental Protection Agency recently approved the removal of “Degradation of Aesthetics” from the list of Beneficial Use Impairments (BUIs) in the Cuyahoga River Area of Concern (AOC). This action acknowledges that aesthetics have improved dramatically in the decades since the Cuyahoga and nearby Lake Erie tributaries were named one of the 27 federally-designated U.S. waterways that have experienced severe environmental degradation. The aesthetics BUI was one of 10 specific problems identified for the Cuyahoga and its watershed in accordance with the 1987 Great Lakes Water Quality Agreement (GLWQA) – a bi-national accord between the United States and Canada focused on cleaning up the most polluted tributaries draining into the Great Lakes.

In a letter to Ohio Environmental Protection Agency Director Craig Butler, Great Lakes National Program Director Tinka Hyde said, “Removal of this BUI will benefit not only the people who live and work in the Cuyahoga River AOC, but all the residents of Ohio and the Great Lakes basin as well,” and congratulated Ohio EPA staff and “the many federal, state, and local partners who have worked so hard and been instrumental in achieving this important environmental improvement.”

Environmental improvement has been dramatic in the Cuyahoga River Area of Concern.

Surveys and observations over the past few years have shown that persistent “occurrences of sludge, oil, scum or other objectionable materials that produce color, odor or other nuisances,” which are the measure of aesthetic quality set forth in a Remedial Action Plan (RAP) completed for the Cuyahoga, are now either nonexistent in the Area of Concern or are being remediated by long term control plans to reduce combined sewer overflows. Litter and woody debris are not considered persistent impairments in this category.

“This is a significant step forward on the path to delisting the Cuyahoga. It’s great to know that the progress we’re making to restore the AOC can now be recognized. With lasting support from state and federal agencies, and local partners, we can see a future when we reach all our restoration goals,” said Jennifer Grieser, Chair of the Cuyahoga River AOC Advisory Committee.

Restoration along the Cuyahoga River bank.

The next BUI to be delisted – hopefully in the spring of 2018 – is “Public Access and Recreation Impairments,” which has been helped by the development of trails, rowing clubs, fishing areas, boating and paddle sport amenities, residential areas, and dining and entertainment facilities that now allows its removal and signals full recovery. All one needs to do is stroll along the east bank of The Flats in Cleveland, or take a cruise on the Cleveland Metroparks Water Taxi, to see examples of community development on shore and restoration actions along the river’s banks.

If you want to track the progress of the Cuyahoga River as more BUIs are delisted, check out the website for the AOC’s facilitating organization, Cuyahoga River Restoration and the Cuyahoga River Area of Concern Advisory Committee. There is also plenty of information on the web page of the Ohio Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), as well as that of Ohio Sea Grant, which is one of the organizations along with nonprofit community groups, businesses, government agencies, and local residents that collaborate to help guide restoration actions throughout the watershed. For more detail on the GLWQA and Cuyahoga AOC, as well as some of the restoration actions taking place, see my CD Blog post from March of 2017 titled: “We all know the Cuyahoga River caught on fire.  What’s being done to clean it up?”

See you on the river!


Scott Hardy is an Extension Educator for the Ohio Sea Grant College Program.

Recognizing Excellence: Contributions and innovations in Extension CD

How do we achieve excellence? We stop what we are doing, stand back, and assess efforts. We then recognize those special accomplishments.

The Raymond A. Schindler Excellence in Community Development Extension Award is named in honor of Raymond A. Schindler, one of the first Extension CD professionals in Ohio. Hired in 1962 as an Area Extension Agent, Ray began his career in southern Ohio, based in Highland County. He took a collaborative approach to his work, focusing on tourism development, comprehensive planning, planning commissions, and business retention and expansion programs until his retirement in 1988.

Today, we recognize Extension CD professionals with The Raymond A. Schindler Excellence in Community Development Extension Award. The annual award seeks to recognize:

  • long term strengths in teaching and research
  • a long-standing record of teamwork and collaboration in program planning, implementation and evaluation
  • a successful track record in grant awards, cost recovery, or other external funding

In January 2018, we recognized Becky Nesbitt with the Raymond A. Schindler Excellence in Community Development Extension Award for her ability to develop and deliver multidisciplinary, evidence-based programs in collaboration with colleagues, stakeholders, private industry and state and federal funding partners that empower others to affect positive change. Since joining Ohio State University Extension in 1987, she has truly demonstrated a record of excellence in creative and scholarly work, teaching and service to community and profession.

Click here to learn more about Becky and her work.Congratulations, Becky!


Greg Davis is a professor and assistant director for OSU Extension Community Development.

Small Business Innovation Research – New Initiative to Launch in Ohio!

Did you know that nearly half (46%) of Ohio’s workforce is employed by small business enterprises? According to the Small Business Administration, Ohio is home to 927,691 small businesses, roughly 80% of all business in Ohio.

In 2018 I will be working with other Extension professionals from across the United States to bring the Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) programming – coaching and support – to Ohio. I will be learning about the intricacies of the program and will be disseminating that information to each of our county offices. The ultimate goal: to attract and support Ohio’s entrepreneurs via SBIR funding.

The mission of the SBIR program is to support scientific excellence and technological innovation through investment of Federal research funds in key U.S. technologies. The ultimate goal is to support a strong economy through small business innovation and application. SBIR is a highly competitive program that encourages small businesses to engage in federal research and research and development efforts with potential for commercialization.

Car of the future?

SBIR specifically targets entrepreneurs, innovators, idea guys and gals, because this group is where most innovation and innovators thrive. The problem for this population historically has been the expense of conducting research and development. Many are boot strapping or funding their projects and start-ups. To combat this challenge, funds have been earmarked for these innovators and are distributed to qualified candidates through the competitive approval process.

The SBIR program blends four goals:

  • nurturing technological innovation
  • meeting federal research and development needs
  • extending special attention to under-represented groups (women, socially or economically disadvantaged individuals)
  • and driving private sector commercialization.

In short, the SBIR program offers an “incubator” of sorts that begins with innovation and ends with commercialization.

Annually, SBIR recognizes success stories from their alumna companies. I reviewed the list of those recognized by SBIR in 2015 and 2016. Of those 23 recognized by SBIR in 2015, only one was located in Ohio (Frontier Technology Inc.). And none were from Ohio in 2016. During 2015 and 2016 only 20 states had any companies recognized through SBIR for their work. But SBIR funding is available! Perhaps entrepreneurs are not aware?! It is my goal to present the SBIR challenge/opportunity throughout the state of Ohio and encourage would-be techies to give it a shot. Look for the date of the upcoming training, coming soon and plan to join us!

Here are two examples of the types of companies that received SBIR program funds:


Kyle White is an Extension educator, Medina County.

Food Label Lingo

Reading food labels

All food products have five standard components regulated by the FDA.

Each time you enter a supermarket, you are faced with nearly 40,000 products to choose from[1]. Each product brightly colored, strategically placed and wordsmithed perfectly to convince you not to leave the store without it. So, how as consumers can we decipher all the information food packages provide and use it to make better purchasing decisions for our families? We have to learn the food label lingo. First, it is important to recognize that all food products have five standard components regulated by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA).

  1. Product Identity (product name that accurately describes the package contents)
  2. Net Content (product quantity or weight)
  3. Nutrition facts
  4. Ingredients/ allergen statement
  5. Signature Line (including company name and address of the manufacturer or distributor)

But most packages contain a slew of additional information that highlights anything from farm practices, to health benefits, to social and economic practices. There are three possible origins of food label claims and statements, 1) government agencies like the USDA and FDA; 2) third-party organizations like American Grassfed®, Non-GMO Project Verified, Fair Trade Certified, and Certified Angus Beef®; and 3) food manufacturers or producers.

Government issued labels were created to: ensure fair competition among producers, provide consumers with basic product information, and most importantly to reduce health and safety risks[2]. Government labels always have the agency from which the standards originate listed, for example USDA organic or Dolphin Safe, United States Department of Commerce. Government standards and record of companies holding their certifications can be accessed online or by contacting the respective agency.Dolphin Safe Seal

Third-party labels were created to enhance the intelligibility and credibility of certain food attributes through the use of standards, verification, certification, and enforcement[2]. Each organization is responsible for determining their own set of standards that producers must follow to use their trademarked seal. Third-party labels can vary from very strict standards that require yearly audits to very loose standards that are more like a subscription with no verification process. I encourage consumers to do additional research on labels they think align with their values to ensure they match.

Lastly, producers and manufacturers create a number of food label claims and statements to entice consumers. A few of the more current statements include: natural, 100% pure, all, made with real fruit, made with whole grains, lightly-sweetened, a good source of fiber, local, and strengthens your immune system[3]. Be wary of these statements because they are unregulated and defined entirely by the manufacturer.

To learn more, visit my website Understanding Food Labels. Here you will find hundreds of food labels, videos and educational resources that can be used in Extension program efforts.


Resources:

[1] Food Marketing Institute. (2017, November 13). Supermarket Facts. Retrieved 2017, from https://www.fmi.org/our-research/supermarket-facts

[2] Golan, E., Kuchler, F., & Mitchell, L. (2000). Economics of Food Labeling. Washington: Economic Research Service, U.S. Department of Agriculture. Retrieved from https://www.ers.usda.gov/webdocs/publications/41203/18885_aer793.pdf?v=41063

[3] Silverglade, B., & Heller, I. R. (2010). Food Labeling Chaos. Washington, DC: Center for Science in the Public Interest. Retrieved from https://cspinet.org/sites/default/files/attachment/food_labeling_chaos_report.pdf

Carol HamiltonCarol Hamilton is an Extension Educator (Delaware County).

OSUE CD: In the beginning…

Learn more about Memories and Milestones of OSU Extension 1905-2013. If you are interested in obtaining a copy of the book, please contact us.

In 1955, OSU Extension organized a Rural Development Committee to establish a Rural Development Extension Program. The goal: to more effectively address needs of 25 economically depressed counties in southeast Ohio.  The effort was funded by USDA and by 1957, pilot projects were established in Monroe and Guernsey Counties. In these two counties, the County Extension Agricultural Agent worked with the County Rural Development committee to facilitate the development of a comprehensive economic development strategy over a two-year period.

To see real-life application of “The Adoption Process,” OSU Rural Sociology Professor Dr. Everett Rogers took his class to Monroe County to learn from Howard Phillips, the Rural Development Agent based there. As a member of this class, I was so impressed that I told Dr. Rogers I’d like to pursue a Master’s Degree in Rural Sociology specializing in Community Development. I was so excited that I told him I wanted him to be my advisor. Rogers replied that he would be glad to be my advisor if I would agree to be the “guinea pig” to help him develop a curriculum in Community Development since none yet existed in the Rural Sociology program. Of course, I eagerly agreed!

The pilot projects in Guernsey and Monroe Counties demonstrated the effectiveness of this CD approach. Consequently, in 1960, twenty-five economically depressed southeastern Ohio counties were grouped into four areas, each of which were served by an Area Extension Rural Development Agent. Each agent was tasked with assisting community leaders in the same manner as in the pilot projects. These first Area Extension Rural Development Agents included Howard Phillips, William Shaw, Ralph Moore and Norman Burkett. Their comprehensive economic development strategies were completed by the summer of 1962. When Norman Burkett left Extension, I eagerly filled his position upon obtaining my degree at the August commencement – the first OSU Rural Sociology MS degree with a CD specialization.

State program leadership was provided by OSU Rural Sociology Professor Dr. Everett Rogers; the first State Leader, Community Development, from 1962 to 1964. Interestingly, in 1963, one of the first two CD agents (Howard Phillips) became the first Assistant Director for Community Development. A post he held into 1966.

There was much CD work to be done and these early Area Extension Agents were very much engaged. For example, Ralph Moore worked with a group of community leaders to develop proposed strip-mine regulations including eliminating high walls (20 to 100 feet). William Shaw organized an Absentee Landowners Education Program and conducted it in the area of the absentee landowners’ primary residence (i.e. Cleveland-Akron-Canton); an annual offering that went on for years. Howard Phillips organized a southeastern Ohio Vacation Farms Association; an ideal tourism program. And I worked to extend water lines to service over 2000 families in sections of Highland, Adams and Brown Counties. That membership sign-up campaign resulted in over 200 miles of water lines!

The early success of this Area Extension approach very much impressed then-Director, Roy Kottman!

Raymond SchindlerRaymond Schindler is an Associate Professor Emeritus and an OSU alum.

“Ice Ice Baby”

In light of the recent stretch of below average temperatures, I thought it might be of interest to share some facts about ice on the Great Lakes. The NOAA Great Lakes Environmental Research Laboratory, or GLERL, has been studying ice coverage on the Great Lakes for over 30 years. Their data help us to understand ice’s role in water level changes, water temperature, and even plankton blooms in Lake Erie. Why should we care so much about ice? Read on to find out more about ice and its impacts.

Ice Generation

Lake Erie’s long term average ice concentration compared to current (2017-2018 winter) ice production.

During winter months, lakes lose energy to the atmosphere as the water near the surface cools. The cold, dense water sinks to the bottom of the lake while warmer water rises, and this cycle continues until the surface water reaches 32 degrees. Freezing begins and then extends down into the lake as the ice thickens. On average, it takes until early February for Lake Erie to achieve over 60% ice coverage. The recent stretch of cold temperatures across the Great Lakes has made for some record-breaking ice generation – Lake Erie went from 1.5% coverage on December 24 to over 85% coverage on January 8. For comparison, last year in early January, Lake Erie had only 7.6% ice coverage.

Ice and Lake Effect Snow

More ice on Lake Erie generally means less lake effect snow. When Lake Erie freezes over, less water is readily available to be drawn up from the lake to the air above. The ice acts like a cap, preventing moisture from evaporating and/or condensing and therefore creating lake effect snow. While those in the “snow belt” may appreciate the decrease in snowfall once Lake Erie starts freezing over, this usually comes at a price – colder weather!

Ice and Lake Levels

Increased ice coverage means more protection from evaporation in the winter and theoretically higher water levels – but the connection between ice coverage and water levels is not that simple. While the amount of available open water in the winter for evaporation plays a role, data have shown that evaporation peaks in the fall, before ice cover forms. In extreme ice cover years, the thermal structure of the lake could be impacted for the rest of the year, potentially leading to less evaporation from the lakes (and possibly higher water levels) in the following fall. It is important to note that evaporation and precipitation are the major drivers of seasonal water level changes in the Great Lakes. A winter of low evaporation due to ice cover could be negated by a dry spring with little rainfall.

Ice and Harmful Algal Blooms

Harmful algal blooms typically require a water temperature of at least 60 degrees to bloom. The percentage of ice coverage does play a part in water temperatures later in the year – the spring temperatures will have to melt the ice first before the water below the ice is able to warm up. In a year with a greater extent of ice cover, it will take longer for the lake to warm up to 60 degrees, and this could lead to a shorter harmful algal bloom season. However, factors such as nutrient runoff and spring/summer weather patterns can impact the extent of harmful algal blooms as well.

Want to learn more about ice? Check out NOAA GLERL’s Coastwatch program – with real-time observation of ice on the Great Lakes.

Ice coverage across the Great Lakes. Lake Erie has the largest coverage with over 85% as of January 8, 2018.

Resources:

NOAA GLERL Great Lakes Ice Cover page: https://www.glerl.noaa.gov/data/ice/#overview

National Weather Service Great Lakes Ice Analysis: https://www.weather.gov/cle/GreatLakesIce_Analysis

Great Lakes Coastal Forecasting System Annual Ice Cover Comparison: https://www.glerl.noaa.gov//res/glcfs/compare_years/

Sarah Orlando is the Ohio Clean Marinas Program Manager, Ohio Sea Grant College Program. You can contact her at: 419-609-4120, orlando.42@osu.edu, @SarahAOrlando.

Why Money Has Value and the National Debt

In my last blog post, which you can read here, I explained the difference between the federal budget deficit and the national debt and showed how they are related to each other.  I severely criticized the Republican party for the way its leaders used the issue of the national debt to try to humiliate President Obama throughout his presidency.  The Republicans claimed that a $14 trillion dollar debt and then a $16 trillion dollar debt etc. were grave threats to the national economy.  I showed that the national debt at these levels was in fact not a threat at all, and that the Republicans and some rogue economists either knew or should have known that this was the case.

Update: Now that the Republicans control both houses of Congress and the White House, they recently passed “tax reform” that will cause the debt to soar to well above $21 trillion.  This of course proves that Republican political leaders have simply been opportunists and hypocrites all along, confirming the charges I was making in the previous blog piece.  For the purposes of my point, the timing could not have been more ideal.

I ended the previous blog piece by asking the questions: If the national debt is not the problem that “deficit hawks” claim it is, then why should the federal government levy taxes at all?  Why not just borrow the money?

How the Modern Monetary System Works

Before I give you the answers to these questions, let me remind you that modern economies use as money what is called fiat currency.  This means that the currency is not backed by any physical commodity like gold or silver, it is only backed by government fiat – Latin for “let it be done.”  The American dollar, the Chinese yuan, the euro, the yen, the British pound, the Russian ruble are all fiat currencies.

Now we are ready to answer the questions about taxes and debt.  The answer to these questions is that taxation is what gives a currency its value.  If you ever thought much about it, you probably have considered the horrors of living in a barter economy – where you have to find somebody who has what you want and also happens to want what you have and then strike a deal.  So money, of course, ends this problem.  But money (read: currency) such as the US dollar must have a foundation in taxation in order to have intrinsic value so that people will accept it in lieu of a good or a service (barter).

The best explanation I have ever heard for this reality comes from Warren Mosler.  He was giving a seminar at the time and the story runs something like this.  Suppose someone is in a room giving a seminar and holds up his business card and asks who wants one.  Many in attendance will take a pass and turn down the offer.  After all, you can probably get the presenter’s contact information from the Internet, so the card has little to no value.  Now suppose the presenter says, “There is an armed man outside the door who is going to escort you to jail if you attempt to leave the room without handing him one of my cards.”  Suddenly everybody wants a card!  They simply must have it.  Now the presenter says that you must do something like tidy up the room a bit in order to acquire a card.  People went from being indifferent about having a card, to wanting one, to even being willing to work to obtain one.  That’s quite a turnaround.  And it happened because they were coerced by the threat of losing their freedom if they did not hand over the card upon leaving the room.

This is precisely why fiat money has value.  As Benjamin Franklin once said, “Nothing is certain except death and taxes.”  One way or another, you are going to have to pay your taxes, and since the issuer of a currency (in this case the United States government) only accepts payment for taxes in dollars, you must obtain dollars, just as the folks in the seminar must obtain the business cards.  And since everybody ultimately needs dollars to pay their taxes, there is simply no substitute for them.  You can talk about gold, silver or even bitcoin all you want, but in the final analysis, you must obtain money in the form of the currency with which you pay your taxes.

Pushing the analogy a little further, imagine what might happen if there are 50 people in the room but the presenter only brought 40 cards.  Everyone may be willing to work, but there are simply not enough cards to go around.  So some people are just not going to make it out of the room. These people are stuck.  In economic terms they are unemployed.  No matter how genuine their intentions, they are in dire straits – not because of anything they did wrong, but because of something the presenter did wrong – not bringing enough cards.  In other words, the root cause of unemployment is that the government has not produced enough currency.  It needs to issue and spend more in order to make it possible for everyone to get out of the room (read: to be employed).

Suppose the presenter brought 60 cards.  Some people might be willing to do some extra work to obtain extra cards and they may “employ” someone in the room to do a task for them to in order to obtain a card that they have earned.  So now cards are circulating among attendees, just as money circulates between consumers and businesses in the economy.  Some attendees may work to gain extra cards so that they will have them when they come to a future seminar. This is the equivalent of economic growth, and is of course desirable.  But at some point, if the presenter has brought and hands out an overabundance of cards, attendees who want others to do tasks for them are going to have to offer more cards per chore. The value of the cards will eventually decline in this circumstance. This is inflation, and it comes about when the government issues too much currency for the amount of economic activity people need or desire.

So there you have it.  Money has value, not because it is shiny or aesthetically pleasing.  It has value because government taxation gives it the traction it needs to have value.  And you and I reap the benefits of a stable currency within a stable economy.  The challenge is to manage the supply of currency in order to prevent unemployment and inflation.  Artificial restrictions on the federal government’s ability to manage the money supply (like a gold standard, fixed exchange rates, a debt ceiling or a balanced budget amendment) are counterproductive and must be avoided.  It took decades of the recurrence of devastating depressions, culminating in the catastrophe of the Great Depression of the 1930s before countries such as the USA learned that using a currency backed by metals such as gold was a recipe for continued needless hardship – hence the move toward fiat currencies.

Two Kinds of Entities in the World: (1) The One Who Issues a Currency and (2) Everybody Else

With its own fiat currency, concern about the federal government “running out of money” because of debt is unfounded because the federal government alone creates currency and therefore can never run out.  Note that this is NOT true however for state and local governments because they cannot create currency like the federal government can.  If they get into debt, it can mean very serious trouble.  That is why many states and municipalities have balanced budget requirements.

The same thing is true for a country that does not issue its own currency, like those in the eurozone, such as Greece, which has been facing a national debt crisis for nearly a decade now.  Read my blog on a comparison between the debts of a country with its own currency like the USA and one that does not have its own currency like Greece here.

So when the economy of a country that issues its own currency slows down, goes into recession, and unemployment rises, the government has a duty to respond by producing and spending more currency.  This will cause the deficit and the debt to rise.  Sayings such as, “businesses and families are tightening their belts, so the federal government must tighten its belt too” are erroneous because as we have seen, the entities are not comparable.  If the government fails to increase spending in such circumstances, more people will become unemployed and the recession will get worse, just as more people will be stuck in the room if the presenter failed to bring enough cards.

On the other hand, tax cuts when the economy is strong, as it is now, make no sense at all and will increase the debt for no reason other than to transfer wealth from the middle and working classes to the wealthiest, which has really been the Republican economic agenda all along.

A Government That Issues its Own Currency Does Not Need Tax Revenue to Fund its Operations, But it Does Need to Levy Taxes

Another point of the business card analogy is that the federal government does not tax anyone because it needs the money.  When you think about it, it would be absurd to imagine that the US government needs dollars from anyone, since it literally can create all the dollars it wants out of thin air.  In fact, every dollar you have in your possession or ever have had was literally created by the federal government and then spent.  Otherwise you simply would not have it.  On the other hand, when the federal government obtains the currency back, it just destroys it – literally, and then creates new currency in its place.  It doesn’t need your money any more than the person presenting the seminar needs the business cards collected by the man at the door.

Moreover, notice that taxes do not come first – federal government spending comes first.  If the presenter in the seminar analogy does not bring cards and spend them into circulation, then there would be no cards available for the man at the door to collect from the attendees.  Similarly, if the government does not spend first, there would be no dollars in circulation among businesses and consumers to collect in taxes.  Think about that the next time you hear a person complain about “tax and spend.”  They have it backwards – it is spend and tax – and without that, we simply could not have a modern economy at all.

I encourage you to watch the video where Warren Mosler gives the analogy to business cards and money in a debate he had with a “libertarian” economist. Including what I have discussed in the blog, Warren describes the differences between private and sovereign government debt, the benefits of a currency not backed by gold or other metals, and why US government spending, which is often vilified by right wing politicians and the media, is imperative to maintaining a sound economy.

Warren Mosler and Tom Blaine

Warren Mosler and Tom Blaine, 2015, Saint Croix

I had the opportunity to meet Warren personally in 2015 near his home in Saint Croix.  Here is a photo of the two of us talking economics on an 80 degree January day.  Not only is Warren a formidable thinker, he is a gracious host.

So of the two questions I posed near the beginning of the blog, we definitely have an answer to the first: why the federal government must levy taxes.  But now a question may have entered your mind that flips the second question (about borrowing) on its head: Why does the US government have to borrow money at all?  In other words, if the government can issue dollars out of thin air, why does it borrow money in the form of dollars (from, say China) to finance the debt?  We know it really does not need to levy taxes to obtain dollars, so why does it need to borrow to obtain them?

The US undertakes borrowing primarily by selling bonds to banks, pension funds, other governments, etc. with a promise to repay the money with interest by a certain date.  As we have seen, the value of the outstanding US federal debt is now approaching $21 trillion.  But if we go back to our analogy from Warren Mosler, that would be like the seminar presenter offering bonds to anyone who would lend him his own business cards with the promise that he would pay them back with interest in the future.  Why would he do that?  It doesn’t seem to make sense, does it?  Well it may not make sense, but it is the way the system works, and I will explain why in my next blog.

Tom Blaine is an Associate Professor, OSU Extension.

Communities that Rock! NACDEP Conference coming to Cleveland!!!

During the holiday season a lot of planning takes place, whether to ensure a successful holiday dinner party or finding the perfect gifts for family and friends.

NACDEP 2018 logo

Logo photo courtesy of:
ThisisCleveland.com and Larry E. Highbaugh, Jr.

Just like the holiday season, Extension Community Development professionals have been busy planning activities for the upcoming NACDEP Conference (#nacdep18). June 10-13 we will be hosting over 250 Extension professionals in Cleveland, Ohio. And in the midst of planning, we continue to uncover neat things about our host city, most recently that Cleveland has been named as one of the ‘Best of the World’ places to visit by the National Geographic Traveler Magazine! Read more about that here.

Rock & Roll Hall of Fame

Rock & Roll Hall of Fame

Exciting mobile learning workshops are planned that include a trip to the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame, the Great Lakes Science Center, Mitchell’s Homemade Ice Cream, and a visit to Stone Laboratory (on Gibraltar Island) just to name a few. How about joining us for a guided bike tour of the Cleveland Metroparks‘ recent community development projects (the Rivergate Park Riverfront Development Project and the Edgewater Beach Park Improvement Project)?

Mitchell's Ice Cream

Mitchell’s Homemade Ice Cream

If a boat ride sounds more your style, you can enjoy a scenic trip up the Cuyahoga River on the Cleveland Metroparks water taxi. The journey will start at Merwin’s Wharf, a Metroparks-owned pub located on the river in the heart of the city, and wind up the ‘Crooked River’ pausing to observe areas where river restoration actions have been implemented.

Merwin’s Wharf

Still not sure if you want to come to Cleveland? Check out this video.

If you want to learn more about NACDEP 2018 or help with the conference, visit the NACDEP website or contact conference co-chair David Civittolo, Associate Professor and Field Specialist, Community Economics (civittolo.1@osu.edu).

 

Smart Cities, Healthy People: Community Development that Builds Social Capital

Have you ever stopped to consider your work as that of a ‘communal doctor’ whose efforts are designed to impact individual quality of life, mental health, and ultimately, overall community health?

There is a growth in recent scientific research that reinforces the correlation between how communities are designed and built and the mental health of their residents.[1] Our built cities have become urban ecosystems, biological communities of living things in a given area interacting with each other and the non-living environment. In a healthy ecosystem, each organism or element of the system has its own niche or contribution. There is a natural order of things that interconnect with each other, but many of our urban cities have failed to reach this harmony. It is becoming very apparent that social cohesion, relationships, and personal investment in the community – often referred to as ‘social capital’ – is an important determinant of overall community health, and therefore should play a bigger role in urban design.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention found that “The way that we design our communities and the commuting distances and times that result can affect the amount of time that is available for: extracurricular activities for our children, recreation/rejuvenation time for adults after work, community involvement activities such as neighborhood improvement projects and neighborhood association events, and time for family members to spend together. Circumstances that prevent or limit the availability of ‘social capital’ for a community and its members can have a negative effect on the health and well-being of the members of that community. These negative effects on health and well-being can in turn have negative effects on the community as a whole.”[2]

Figure 1: The Chief Public Health Officer’s Report on the State of Public Health in Canada 2017.  

Community development and urban planning fields originated in the early 19th century over concerns of public health problems created by overcrowded slums and dirty industries.[3] But the connection to public health and the built environment shortly thereafter began to diverge; public health focused more on genetics, biology, and behavior with an epidemiological, evidence based approach, while community development was preempted in designing its built environment around the automobile over the socioeconomic-wellbeing of its people. However, there seems to be a renewed interest in rejoining community development and public health to help address mental health, obesity, cardiovascular disease, depression, homelessness, violence, social inequality, affordability, mobility, etc.[4] Two centuries later, technology and innovation dominate everything, including community development.

In this new era of city building, people are seeing more tech industries involved and changing the metrics of community design, public health, and increasing inclusivity of its residents in the development process. The tech industry is actively developing an array of digital tools that are trying to make the community development process more transparent and interactive for people. Cities like Santa Monica, California are exploring smartphone technology that employs a Tinder approach, called CitySwipe, to influence community development decisions. Residents can swipe left or right and provide instant feedback on urban design decisions such as street furniture, green infrastructure, parking, proposed developments, murals, bike lanes, etc. The software is fairly basic, but it’s rapidly advancing and working to get the public more involved in the development consultation process without using lengthy mail-out response forms, wordy PDFs, online surveys, or asking people to attend inconvenient public comment hearings.

Google’s parent company, Alphabet, will be redeveloping the initial 12-acres Quayside District of Toronto’s waterfront. The project is called the Sidewalk and has an additional 800-acres from the adjacent district for future expansion. Its vision is to create a brand new mixed-use urban district “from the Internet up,” merging the physical with the digital while applying high-tech design concepts at scale. The community design is data-driven and connected, monitored with sensors, and generates big data collections to become the first “programmable public realm.” It is truly an urban district planned and programmed to build new societies and solve public health dilemmas of our age.[5]

Toronto’s Eastern Waterfront Map (Credit: Sidewalk Toronto)

To engage the public realm, Google offers a mix of traditional uses in flexible spaces with a system of asset monitoring. The company plans to design for ‘climate-positive living’ using smart appliances managed by remote sensors that support a range of commercial, institutional, and residential uses with diverse co-housing possibilities. The proposed timber-frame modular construction will use onsite assembly techniques that will allow for quick and easy structural adjustments that could accommodate a temporary change in use or living arrangement, such as a café expanding into a restaurant co-working space; or a parent, sibling, or friend moving in or out of the home. The company proposes to design a district-wide thermal energy grid, including underground garbage, waste, and composting infrastructure, deep-water cooling system, robotic package delivery, sensors for air and noise quality control, as well as sensors to manage wind, sun, and rain that could double the number of daylight hours and outside comfortability around the district.

Housing Vision (Credit: Sidewalk Toronto)

Self-driving and/or car-sharing vehicles are the only automobiles that will be permitted, providing point-to-point convenience without the safety risks and high costs of owning and maintaining private vehicles. (Americans can spend approximately $7,000 or more per year to own, maintain, insure, and drive a car and often choose their car over paying for adequate health insurance or needed medical care.) This feature will also eliminate the need for on and off-street parking requirements that dominate traditional urban design and zoning requirements. Additionally, the pedestrian and bike pathways in the tech-district are designed to melt snow, promoting safe year-round usage with the sole purpose of bolstering renewed street life and active multi-purpose public spaces.

Google is not the only tech company that has shown interest in the city building industry. Lyft, a transportation network company based in San Francisco, California has proposed street redesigns for a driverless future (e.g. Wilshire Boulevard in Los Angles); proposing transportation concepts that eliminate traffic lanes while doubling the transportation capacity of the street.

Proposed underground waste, recycling, and compost infrastructure (Credit: Sidewalk Toronto)

Studies have shown that mixed-use neighborhoods, with shops, schools, libraries, workplaces and homes designed around easy walking distance tend to support higher levels of physical activity and have lower rates of obesity.[6] People working in community development fields can utilize new technologies to engage communities and start retrofitting cities to strengthen their social capital and increase community health through urban design that is more responsive to needs of people, rather than cars.

One tool used in helping people visualize new developments and changes in their community is the augmented reality technology UrbanPlanAR. It overlays a 3D picture planned development within an actual urban environment in real-time. The technology enables one to hold their mobile device and use its camera to see what the proposed development would look like.

Mobility Vision (Credit: Sidewalk Toronto)

The tech industry is challenging how community development and urban planning has been done for decades. To improve quality of life, strengthen economies, and protect the environment, organizations like Future Cities Catapult in London, England are working in city labs to develop and test new technologies and prototype tools to make the planning process fit for the 21st century. Their efforts are designed to spread the innovations to cities and community development departments and practitioners across the world. Such developments excite people working in community development fields who are frustrated with old-school planning and community engagement tactics. Such innovations could both streamline the bureaucracy and make the whole community development process more transparent for community members. Such tech-tools could also help answer complex questions about trade-offs.

To aggregate the city’s physical, social, and green infrastructure, the city of Manchester in the UK has created an interactive tool called Greater Manchester Open Data Infrastructure Map using GIS technology. It shows transportation networks, real estate information, brownfields, proposed development sites and more, enabling interested individuals to see how the community is developing and be involved in the design process.

Physicians have focused on individual patient needs and health problems for decades, but when so many people start having similar problems, such as anxiety, cardiovascular disease, diabetes, and depression, people must realize that poor health is not entirely caused by lack of personal governance, but may be the result of the built environment in which people live. In a way, people working in community development fields have to learn to become communal doctors powered by high-tech tools to improve urban design and community development programming.

 

Meghan Thoreau is an OSU Extension Educator for Pickaway County (Heart of Ohio EERA).

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[1] Frumkin, H. 2016. Environmental Health: From Global to Local (Public Health/Environmental Health). 3rd Edition. San Francisco, CA: Jossey-Bass.

[2] Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. n.d. Healthy Places: Social Capital. Accessed November 29, 2017. https://www.cdc.gov/healthyplaces/healthtopics/social.htm.

[3] Rosen G. A History of Public Health. Baltimore, MD: Johns Hopkins University Press; 1993.

[4] Jackson, Richard J. 2003. “The Impact of the Built Environment on Health: An Emerging Field.” American Journal of Public Health 93 (9): 1382-1384.

[5] Rider, David. 2017. Google firm wins competition to build high-tech Quayside neighbourhood in Toronto. 10 17. Accessed 12 1, 2017. https://www.thestar.com/news/city_hall/2017/10/17/google-firm-wins-competition-to-build-high-tech-quayside-neighbourhood-in-toronto.html.

[6] Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health. n.d. Environmental Barriers to Activity: How Our Surroundings Can Help or Hinder Active Lifestyles. Accessed November 29, 2017. https://www.hsph.harvard.edu/obesity-prevention-source/obesity-causes/physical-activity-environment/.

Beet Food Waste: Turnip at the Farmers’ Market

Did you know that more than 38 million tons of food waste was generated in the U.S. in 2014? To help address this issue, OSU Extension Cuyahoga County teamed up with two local partners this past summer to launch a Food Waste, Recovery, & Education pilot program at the Tremont Farmers’ Market. OSUE Cuyahoga County, Rust Belt Riders, and Stone Soup Cleveland piloted a community composting program, modeling the efforts of cities such as Washington, .D.C. and New York City. The pilot program aimed to help reduce food waste and divert scraps from landfills while providing education about food insecurity and food recovery systems.

So, how did it work?

The partners spent 4 weeks at the farmers’ market doing outreach and promotion before beginning 8 weeks of scrap collection. The pilot offered free sunflower planting for children (and adults!) with compost from Rust Belt Riders to help spark community engagement and begin dialogue about food waste in the county.

Residents who signed up for the free program 8 week were provided one-gallon containers with lids that they could take home and use to collect their compostable food scraps over the course of the week. Residents could bring their scraps to the farmers’ market to be weighed and recorded, helping them gauge their waste production and environmental impact. The containers were emptied into a larger bin that would be later delivered to Rust Belt Riders to be composted.

Over 30 community members actively participated in the Food Waste and Food Recovery pilot project at the Tremont Farmers’ Market. Over 8-weeks, residents were able to drop off their compostable food scraps and engage in food waste education. In just 8 weeks, over 750 pounds of food scraps were diverted from landfills. 88% if participants were surprised by how much food waste they were producing, and 94% of participants stated the program helped them become more conscious about the amount of food waste they produce.

While the program was designed to serve apartment dwellers, almost 30% of participants were homeowners with access to a yard who noted they did not know how to properly compost. Through this pilot, we learned that there may be a significant number of households in Cleveland who are not composting simply because they do not know how. Composting workshops have been set up to serve those participants and other homeowners who are interested.

As with any pilot project, you set out not really knowing what will happen and inevitably encounter a variety of challenges and valuable lessons. We were pleasantly surprised by the level of community engagement and support, but we did not consider any potential drawbacks such as odors. We quickly learned that we needed to ask program participants to place their containers in the fridge or freezer to slow decomposition and eliminate any unpleasant smells. A few very ripe containers caused some of our market neighbors to be a bit upset.

The pilot was well received by community members and market vendors, being seen as a valuable addition to the farmers’ market, but we did not have any next steps planned. As the pilot ended, program participants were anxious to know what they might do with their scraps. We had created a group of food waste conscious community members, but did not have a long-term solution for them. When we surveyed participants after the pilot ended, 41% said they would participate in fee-based residential compost services in the future. This finding sparked Rust Belt Riders to create a Community Supported Compost Program, where residents can pay for an annual membership that allows them to drop their scraps off at their facility to be composted at any time through the year.

The partners plan to host the program at the Tremont Farmers’ Market again next summer, extending the programming to be offered for a longer duration of 16-20 weeks!

What will you do to reduce your food waste? To learn more about food waste and food recovery systems, contact Amanda Osborne, County Extension Educator, Cuyahoga County & Western Reserve EERA.