Take part in mapping the future

Eighteen homes in northeast Ohio are abandoned every day. By 2040, if just 30 percent of these abandoned homes are demolished, that cost will be more than a half a billion dollars.

Imagine what else we could do with that much money if we simply avoided housing demolition.

At the current pace of population shift from urban centers to suburbs, northeast Ohio will construct 3,700 miles of new roads without any significant population increase or tax base growth. The additional cost to maintain this infrastructure will run in the millions of dollars per county across the region.

Imagine what else we could do with that money if we revived city centers and controlled urban sprawl.

We may not have to imagine.

Round Two of Vibrant Northeast Ohio comes to Trumbull County on Aug. 6. Widespread participation is important so that as a community we can turn imagination into reality.

VibrantNEO is a product of the Northeast Ohio Sustainable Communities Coalition. The coalition received a $4.25 million federal grant from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development’s Partnership for Sustainable Communities Initiative. The initiative was created by HUD, the U.S. Department of Transportation and the U.S. EPA to construct a long-term vision for a region. Our region encompasses 12 northeast Ohio counties, including Trumbull, Mahoning, Portage, Geauga and Ashtabula. Surrounding counties, such as Columbiana and those in Western Pennsylvania are encouraged to participate as well.

VibrantNEO began with a series of community forums to present information about where we are headed. Based on the two facts above, we’re headed toward an unsustainable future that will result in either massive tax increases or drastic losses of service.

The most prosperous of the 12 counties in 2040 will be worse off than the worst county today. Even communities that experience growth (actually, a shift from urban to suburban) will require large tax increases to maintain the new infrastructure.

VibrantNEO is accepting input from the public through an online game called ImagineMyNEO. More than 900 people so far have played ”master planner,” setting priorities, spending tax dollars and establishing public policies. By the end of the month, hopefully, thousands or even tens of thousands will play.

Then, VibrantNEO will synthesize the information and take it on its second road show for public consumption and input on creating a common path. Locally, the road show will be Aug. 6, 11:30 a.m. to 2:30 p.m., at the Raymond John Wean Foundation in downtown Warren and 4:30 p.m. to 7:30 p.m. at the OH! WOW Children’s Center for Science and Technology in downtown Youngstown.

This level of widespread public participation in guiding the region’s future, perhaps any region, is not believed to have ever been previously attempted. Mahoning Valley residents should jump into the game, imagine what our future could be, and work on making it a reality.