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Published: 8/17/2004

The mayors hit the road

YOU can t miss it, that huge red bus emblazoned Battleground Mayors Fighting for Jobs. The big rig has been rolling through the cities and the countryside of the Buckeye State.

If presidential candidates regard Ohio as a key to the November election, the United States Conference of Mayors is using similar campaign tactics to push the presidential candidates to address urban issues such as losses of jobs, deteriorating infrastructure, public safety and domestic security, and cost-shifting from federal and state governments to municipal governments.

In a sense the bus will be chugging up a steep slope. The presidential campaign so far has been vapid at best, irrelevant at worst, to urgent problems facing the 80 percent of Americans who live in urban metropolitan areas. (In this state the top six metro areas, including Toledo, make up 70 per cent of the state s economy.

Along the way on their journey, the bipartisan group of mayors, hosted here by Mayor Jack Ford on Friday, distributed a report showing that the Buckeye State lags behind all other states is job losses during the years 2000 to 2003.

Ohio lost $13.9 billion in wages as a result of job cutbacks. The average wage of new jobs created during those years is $6,500, or 15.6 percent lower than the average wage lost in those years. Cities like Toledo and Cleveland will not see pre-recession levels of unemployment until 2009 or beyond.

Akron, Cincinnati, and Columbus are somewhat better off; they might only have to wait until 2006 to reach that level of recovery. That situation is intolerable.

As to the vexing problem of infrastructure, Mayor Don Plusquellic of Akron, president of the U.S. Conference of Mayors, said that these aren t Republican and Democratic children crossing bridges that need repair. How is it our society has changed in 20 years that these have become Democratic and Republican issues?

Good question. However, in a superheated election campaign, the White House does not look favorably on the mayors efforts to call attention to the plight of the 318 metro economies made up of cities and suburbs that are the strength of the nation, according to the mayors press release.

U.S. urban areas rank higher than whole American states or whole nations. With an $82.3 billion gross metro product (GMP), Cleveland outranks Colombia and the Philippines. Columbus ($64 billion) outranks the United Arab Emirates, Cincinnati ($63.1 billion) outranks Hungary, and Toledo ($21.5 billion) outranks Syria. In fact, Toledo s GMP is only slightly lower than that of the whole state of Montana.

Attention to the plight of urban America is paid more with lip service than policies that spell tangible gains.

Ohio mayors have every reason to take their show on the road to campaign for space on the agenda of a federal government whose neglect of cities hardly qualifies as benign.



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