Advancing Urban Policy:
City Management  April, 2013

This edition of Advancing Urban Policy, the monthly e-newsletter of the Maxine Goodman Levin College of Urban Affairs at Cleveland State University, features research and thought leadership from across the country related to City Management. It highlights articles on economic conditions of cities, innovative models, effective firefighting, 311 service, leadership priorities, incarceration rates, closing of correctional facilities, urban violence around alcohol outlets, opportunities for police cost savings, graduation rates, and more. We are especially proud to focus on this topic as the Levin College is ranked 2nd in the nation for the graduate specialty of City Management & Urban Policy by U.S. News & World Report.  Future editions will feature topics related to Environmental Policy/Management (May), Public Finance & Budgeting (June), Economic Development (July), Community Development & Housing (August), and Nonprofit Management (September). We welcome your ideas and submissions. They may be sent to:

Edward (Ned) W. Hill, Ph.D., Dean


Effectively Deploying Firefighters

A new study released last week by the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) concluded that firefighting crews of five or six members--instead of three or four--are significantly faster at putting out fires and completing search-and-rescue operations when responding to fires in high-rise buildings. Thomas Wieczorek, Director of the ICMA's Center for Public Safety Management, noted that the NIST studies point to the need to evaluate risks, hazards, and likely outcomes when deploying resources. "NFPA 1710 and NFPA 1720 both start with the premise that communities and their fire departments have conducted a comprehensive, all-hazard risk and hazard assessment. From that assessment, tasks for handling incidents can be determined and staffing models developed. The NIST study provides likely tasks that will be required on any high-rise fire, and communities should use it as a guide for determining what resources are deployed, how they are deployed and what outcomes are likely to result." While much less frequent than house fires, about 43 high-rise fires occur in the United States every day, according to the NFPA. "Rather than providing a one-size-fits-all answer, our study provides a scientific basis for discussions in communities as they consider matching resources deployed to their particular risk levels," says lead researcher Jason Averill, a NIST fire-protection engineer.

Consolidated Safety Dispatch Could Save Public Dollars

As cities around the country explore ways to conserve and effectively use resources, a series of studies by the Maxine Goodman Levin College of Urban Affairs at Cleveland State University provide a replicable model of research that can help communities determine how to improve services while saving hundreds of thousands of public dollars. Their primary focus is assessing the feasibility of developing consolidated public safety dispatch centers--that is, a public entity responsible for dispatching police, emergency medical service (EMS), and fire personnel to respond to calls for help. The reports were prepared by the Levin College's Center for Public Management. According to Project Manager Daila Shimek, "The case studies we conducted could be the first of their kind in the U.S. We have been contacted by 911 officials in other states, citing the work we've done in Ohio."  All three reports, as well as executive summaries, may be found online:




Economic Conditions of Cities

According to the nation's city officials, the performance of local, regional and state economies have improved over the past year. Despite improvements, cities are still struggling in significant ways, signaling that growth is not keeping pace at a level that is needed for a sustained recovery. Even worse, economic indicators that reflect the condition of cities' most vulnerable populations have resisted even a modest rebound in the face of broader national recovery. The National League of Cities annual Local Economic Conditions Survey of city officials gauges the performance of local economic indicators and drivers of local fiscal health. Findings from this year's survey include: tepid improvement in housing starts, commercial and residential property values, business activity and health of the retail sector; persistent lack of growth in incomes and employment; workforce skills not keeping pace with employer demand, as well as basic needs of most vulnerable populations not being met; and decrease in the number and scope of investment projects if a federal limitation is placed on the tax-exemption of municipal bonds.


Development of Models of Innovation to Tackle Urban Issues

"Emerging Innovations from the Front Lines of Urban Development" explores how cities are developing innovative models for tackling complex urban issues and strengthening  local economies. The series is produced in partnership with Next American City, and includes: The Rise of the New Baltimoreans; Embracing the Immigrant Engine; Gig City, U.S.A.; Bringing Google Fiber to Kansas City; Gigabits Around the Country; Bringing Chinese Investment to American Cities; Foreign Investment for Local Growth: The Case of Toledo; and more.

Graduation Rates Reach New High

In January, the Department of Education reported that, during the 2009-2010 academic year (the most recent year for which national figures are computed), the estimated average freshman graduation rate (AFGR) reached a 40-year high of 78.2 percent. This is up 2.7 points from 75.5 percent during 2008-2009. While this is welcome news, the big picture remains that the dropout situation in many public high schools persists at epidemic levels, leaving plenty of room for future progress. Most importantly, the recent progress is part of a decade-long trend in improving graduation rates. The trend is due in part to the No Child Left Behind Act, passed in the early 2000s, which began forcing states to better measure and improve their graduation rates. These efforts, along with others, have resulted in substantial progress, taking the AFGR from nearly all-time lows in the late 1990s to nearly all-time highs in the current release.

Innovations in Sharing Data for Civic Purposes

The Chicago area benefits from state, county and local governments committed to open data and a wealth of institutions working with neighborhood-level data for civic purposes. To enhance the area's community information infrastructure and reduce the current fragmentation, "An Assessment of the Community Information Infrastructure in the Chicago Metropolitan Area" recommends a set of actions based on the experiences of the National Neighborhood Indicators Partnership. These include additional convening opportunities, increased public communication, and selected new services. A new regional cross-sector network for community data stakeholders could be hosted by an existing organization, manage the recommended activities, and plan for the future as the city's policy and technological environment evolves.

Using 311 Systems to Inform the Public in Emergencies

A new, free multi-media toolkit, "Integrating 311 into Disaster Response & Recovery," is designed to assist local governments in using their 311 or CRM customer service systems to get information to the public in the event of an emergency. First established in the mid-1990s, 311 non-emergency service enables citizens to easily connect with their local government for information or to make a service request with a focus on providing excellent customer service. However, during a crisis when residents want information and want it fast, 311 systems also can help deliver it and take the burden off of 911 in the process. The toolkit features articles, interviews, webinars and other tools and resources for communities wanting to make the best use of their 311 system before, during, and after an emergency or disaster. Over 30 agency and local government representatives from around the country provided material for the project, the first of its type in the field. Produced by ICMA and the 311 Synergy Group with technical advice and support provided by the U.S. Department of Justice-Office of Community Oriented Policing (COPS Office).

Future Roles & Strategies of Local Government in the U.S.   

Research by International City/County Management Association (ICMA) suggests that five major drivers will be the leading forces that greatly influence the future roles and strategies of local government in the United States: public sector fiscal crisis, demographic changes over the next two decades, impact of technology, increasingly polarized politics, and increasing gap between the haves and have-nots. They appear to be of such force that they will affect every local government in the United States; some form of the drivers either have impacted or will impact local governments internationally. Concurrently, six issues emerge as most important to the people of the United States. The status of each issue and the way in which it is framed will vary by community. The priority order of the issues will also vary. Regardless, all local governments at some level appear to confront these issues: jobs and economy; education; safety; health care; environment; and infrastructure, including transportation. This article notes what all six of them have in common: Each issue requires a multisector, multidisciplinary, and intergovernmental strategy to produce the outcomes that matter most to people in their communities.

Traffic Ticket Distribution Patterns Demonstrate Disparity

 Based on ticketing distribution patterns in selected jurisdictions within Cuyahoga County, Ohio, Dr Ronnie A. Dunn and graduate assistant Douglas Riebel at the Maxine Goodman Levin College of Urban Affairs found that, in comparison to whites, black drivers are two and a half times as likely to be ticketed by police. With a driving population of 3,239,555 motorists traveling the streets within a 24-hour period, whites make up 54.6 percent of driving population and blacks make up 38.4 percent. Essentially blacks and, to a lesser degree, other minorities received a disproportionate share of traffic tickets written citywide given percentage of driving population. Further examination showed that black males were the majority of those cited for traffic violations at 37 percent followed by white males and black females at 22 percent and white females at 11 percent. This study, conducted for the Cuyahoga County Prosecutor's Office, may be useful in policy decisions (i.e., use and placement of traffic cameras) in the future.

Reducing Costs of False Alarms for Police  

In many cities, false alarms from home and business security systems number in the tens of thousands each year, waste millions of dollars of officer time, and detract from attention to reducing crimes. In this report, options are presented on ways to substantially reduce the effects of such false alarms and the police responses to them. The authors analyzed experiences of Montgomery County, MD; Seattle, WA; and Salt Lake City, UT, which reduced false alarms by 66-90% and saved 10-30 police officer-years annually.

Reducing Fuel Costs of Police Departments

Police vehicles burn a great deal of fuel while patrolling continuously. Various approaches have been proven to significantly reduce the amount of fuel used and its cost. Hybrid vehicles typically get two to three times higher mileage per gallon than conventional vehicles and have proven viable for policing in many cities, including New York. Computers in vehicles that reduce trips back to stations, fuel-saving driving techniques (such as reducing idling), good vehicle maintenance (such as maintaining proper tire pressures), use of on-line reporting, and other strategies such as community policing that require fewer vehicle trips also can reduce fuel consumption and costs.

Addressing Violence & Disorderly Conduct around Bars 

This January, 2013, report by the Urban Institute identifies methods for addressing violence and disorder around bars. The authors find that safe drinking environments and strong community partnerships are key buffers against alcohol-related crimes. Safer drinking environments can be fostered by training bouncers in conflict resolution, ensuring bar design does not create overcrowding, and enforcing laws restricting service to intoxicated persons aggressively. Building partnerships with local businesses and neighborhood groups creates public support both for setting bar safety standards and for closing bars that are chronically problematic.  

Fighting Drug Addiction without Incarceration

Governor Andrew Cuomo of New York plans on mothballing two more correctional facilities in downstate New York this year. This is part of an effort to battle drug addiction without incarceration. Reducing the number of people behind bars means experimenting with diversion programs for non-violent drug addicts: in addition, states are offering counseling programs, rehabilitation and therapy, and opening alternative drug courts.Marc Mauer, executive director of The Sentencing Project, says drug courts are one tool that states are trying to reduce the pressure and costs of mass incarceration. He says trying treatment before incarceration just makes sense.

Global Cities Help Reorient Local Economies

The Global Cities Initiative of the Brookings Institute, is a five-year project that aims to help leaders in U.S. metropolitan areas reorient their economies toward greater engagement in world markets. Brookings and JPMorgan Chase hosted major U.S. regional conferences. View details of the events here or visit Brookings' media room for project-related articles from these events: Atlanta, 3/20/13; São Paulo, 11/30/12; Miami, 6/19/12; Columbus, 5/9/12; Los Angeles, 3//21/12. 

Join the conversation on Twitter using the hashtag #globalcities.


Our Mental Models Must Match Realities: Immigration Not a Magic Bullet for Rebuilding Cities

A decade ago, Cleveland Mayor Frank Jackson's task force on immigration approached the Maxine Goodman Levin College of Urban Affairs for data and analysis to help city officials explore immigration as a means of growing the city. Based on our research, we concluded that investing public resources to attract immigrants is not a magic bullet for economic development and might not be a wise use of scarce public resources. That is because of how immigrants really make their location decisions. Instead, a people-focused approach to accommodating everyone's needs, including immigrants, is more likely to be successful.
On the whole, immigrants are entrepreneurial and contribute to their local economies. However, contrary to popular thought, job availability in a particular area does not tend to be the primary consideration as immigrants decide where to go. Most are resilient and expect to adapt to whatever job opportunities they find within their new community. When they have a choice, immigrants go where they can find others like themselves who are already established--others who share similar customs, beliefs, values, and language and who might provide a safety net, especially during difficult economic times. The number of immigrants coming to the U.S. for specific high-skill jobs (i.e., health care professionals) is a small fraction of the yearly total, and would not suffice on its own to significantly reverse the population trends in declining cities. In other words, chain migration is critical to the success of immigrant attraction efforts.
In Cleveland's case, our relatively large foreign-born communities are not from countries currently experiencing noteworthy out-migration. Our neighbors came mostly from Eastern Europe, which is not where most outward migration is happening currently. Cleveland does not have sizeable immigrant communities from Hispanic and Asian countries--the ones from which a large proportion of immigrants are coming to America now. Therefore, Cleveland has not been attracting a significant share of the immigrants coming to the U.S. in the past 3-4 decades. Given Cleveland's current population makeup, a strategy aiming to rapidly grow immigrant communities may be an uphill battle; it will not significantly bolster the economy in the short-run. Instead of thinking of immigrants as a quick-fix to the city's population decline, we should invest in making an open, accepting, and supportive community for all newcomers--domestic and international--and in building a cultural foundation that will allow chain migration to build population over decades.

Since we can't afford to waste scarce public resources, we have to hope that decision makers' mental models of where immigrants choose to go and what attracts them match reality and are supported by data. It is important to make the best use of what we have and know what we are reasonably likely to attain in the short- and longer-run, manage resources effectively, and measure success in quality-of-life terms rather than just changes in population size. Taking care of our own, no matter their origin or ethnicity, is a good first step toward attracting others. Then, if and when needed immigration reform occurs, we will be better positioned to welcome any groups who want to call Cleveland home.


Sanda Kaufman, Ph.D.

Professor & Director, Master of Arts in Environmental Studies Program

Maxine Goodman Levin College of Urban Affairs

Cleveland State University

Advancing Urban Policy: City Management was created with counsel from Ronnie Dunn, Ph.D., Nancy Meyer-Emerick, Ph.D., Vera Vogelsang-Coombs, Ph.D., and Nicolas Zingale, Ph.D.; compiled by Hama Bbela, graduate assistant; edited by Roslyn Miller, consultant.

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