Tuesday, February 27, 2007

I shall defend

I shall defend
the house of my father,
against wolves,
against drought,
against usury,
against the law,
I shall defend
the house of my father.
I shall lose
pine groves;
I shall lose
but I shall defend the
house of my father.
They will take away my weapons
and with my hands I shall defend
the house of my father;
they will cut off my hands,
and with my arms I shall defend
the house of my father;
they will leave me armless,
without shoulders,
without chest,
and with my soul I shall defend
the house of my father.
I shall die,
my soul will be lost,
my descendents will be lost;
but the house of my father
will endure
on its feet.

Nire aitaren etxea
Gabriel Aresti (1963)

original post (in Euskera) here.

Sunday, February 25, 2007

full text of HR 932 (111th Congress) of 2009

note: this version of text was downloaded on feb 24, 2009.

final bill may be amended from this form

- - - - - - - - - -


1st Session

H. R. 932

To authorize the Secretary of Housing and Urban Development to make grants and offer technical assistance to local governments and others to design and implement innovative policies, programs, and projects that address widespread property vacancy and abandonment, and for other purposes.


February 10, 2009

Mr. RYAN of Ohio (for himself and Mr. HIGGINS) introduced the following bill; which was referred to the Committee on Financial Services


To authorize the Secretary of Housing and Urban Development to make grants and offer technical assistance to local governments and others to design and implement innovative policies, programs, and projects that address widespread property vacancy and abandonment, and for other purposes.

Be it enacted by the Senate and House of Representatives of the United States of America in Congress assembled,


This Act may be cited as the `Community Regeneration, Sustainability, and Innovation Act of 2009'.


(a) Findings- The Congress finds that--

(1) many older industrial cities have experienced significant population loss due to large-scale employment losses--especially well-paying jobs in basic industry and manufacturing;

(2) beginning in the 1940s, Federal policies established by the Federal Housing Administration and the Department of Transportation promoted suburban flight, which also caused population and income loss in many older cities;

(3) by 1970, these trends were clearly evident in decennial data produced by the United States Census Bureau;

(4) population loss and economic decline in such cities has caused widespread housing vacancy and abandonment, resulting in a landscape of gap-toothed streets where many homes have been demolished, vast numbers of unattractive, dilapidated properties that pose a threat to public safety, and underused, crumbling public infrastructure, that cities cannot afford to maintain;

(5) by 2000, such conditions had spread beyond the central cities to adjacent suburbs in many metropolitan areas;

(6) as these trends continued after 2000, conditions were exacerbated by the subprime lending crisis, which led to unprecedented rates of mortgage foreclosures resulting in even more abandonments in many of the most vulnerable neighborhoods in the most distressed cities and suburbs;

(7) unmanaged vacant property and land causes community abandonment, crime, further depopulation, and despair;

(8) unmanaged vacant property and land can also have a detrimental impact on adjacent residential property values, while the creation of green space and infrastructure on vacant land, even on an interim basis, can increase property values;

(9) experience has demonstrated that land banking, undertaken by public entities and accompanied by other innovative strategies, is a rationale and efficient way for local governments to assert public control and management over vacant and abandoned property in order to stabilize neighborhoods and real estate markets, rationalize land use, provide new public amenities, including open space and green infrastructure, and renew, strengthen, and reposition for the future communities that have experienced significant population loss;

(10) beginning in 1999, the State of Michigan reformed its property tax foreclosure processes and enacted new land banking legislation which opened the door for communities to reclaim, reinvest in, and rebuild their neighborhoods by creating a highly successful land banking model that has proven effective in removing dilapidated structures, redeveloping abandoned properties, creating new open space, and increasing property values in communities hard-hit by employment and population losses such as the City of Flint and Genesee County, where thousands of parcels have been returned to productive use or set aside as green, open space; and

(11) the Federal Government can assist State and local governments by providing financial support to establish and maintain land banks, including, where appropriate, multi-jurisdictional land banks, and to develop innovative strategies to convert such land to productive use or for long-term strategic public purposes.

(b) Purposes- The purposes of this Act are--

(1) to provide Federal assistance, through grants and the provision of technical assistance, to establish land banks in communities and metropolitan areas that have experienced significant population loss due to large-scale employment losses which have resulted in widespread abandonment of real property;

(2) to encourage innovation, experimentation, and environmentally sustainable practices through collaborative efforts to reuse and rehabilitate land bank property in ways that will provide long-term benefits to the public;

(3) to encourage the creation of green infrastructure;

(4) to encourage the creation of new employment opportunities, especially in areas related to environmental sustainability and green infrastructure directly related to the implementation of regeneration plans assisted under this Act; and

(5) to encourage the strategic use of other Federal, State, local, private, and nonprofit resources not provided under this Act to stabilize and improve neighborhoods not presently experiencing widespread vacancy and abandonment, but whose stability is or may be threatened if current demographic or employment trends continue.


(a) In General- The Secretary of Housing and Urban Development shall carry out a demonstration program under this section to encourage and test innovative vacant property reclamation and urban infrastructure renewal strategies in older industrial cities, suburbs of such cities, and metropolitan areas having a history of severe population and employment loss, blight, and decay caused by vacant properties.

(b) Eligibility of Units of General Local Government- A unit of general local government, or a consortia of such units, shall be eligible for selection for participation in the demonstration program under this section only if the unit or consortium meets one of the following two requirements:

(1) SUBSTANTIAL POPULATION LOSS- The applicant unit of general local government, or the most populous unit of general local government of the applicant consortium, has experienced at least 20 percent population loss since 1970, as measured by data from the 2000 decennial census.

(2) CONCENTRATED HOUSING VACANCY AND ABANDONMENT- The applicant unit of general local government, or the most populous unit of general local government of applicant consortium--

(A) has experienced prolonged population, income, and employment loss resulting in substantial levels of housing vacancy and abandonment; and

(B) such housing vacancies and abandonments are concentrated in more than one neighborhood or geographic area within a jurisdiction or jurisdictions.

(c) Multiyear Cooperative Agreements-

(1) AUTHORITY- In carrying out the demonstration program under this section, the Secretary shall enter into multiyear cooperative agreements with units of general local government, or consortia consisting of units of general local government, selected for participation pursuant to subsection (h) in the demonstration program under this section, to design and implement regeneration plans to address problems associated with vacant and abandoned properties.

(2) TERMS- A cooperative agreement entered into under this subsection--

(A) shall have a term of not less than 3 years;

(B) shall provide for the Secretary to make grants under subsection (d) to the unit of general local government or consortium;

(C) shall provide for interaction between the Department of Housing and Urban Development and the unit of general local government or consortium to implement a regeneration plan; and

(D) may reference the responsibilities of third parties, such as State governments, universities, and non-profit organizations, and in such instances, each such entity shall enter into a memorandum of understanding with the unit of general local government or consortium.

(3) DETERMINATION OF EFFECT ON HISTORIC PROPERTIES- Notwithstanding that a unit of general local government, or consortium of such units, has been selected for participation in the demonstration program under this section, the Secretary may not enter into a cooperative agreement under this subsection until the Secretary has complied with the requirements under section 106 of the National Historic Preservation Act (16 U.S.C. 470f) and the regulations issued under such section (36 C.F.R. Part 800) to take into account the effects, on historic properties, of the regeneration plan of the participant approved by the Secretary under subsection (h) of this section.

(d) Grants- To the extent amounts for grants under this section are made available in advance in appropriation Acts, the Secretary shall make a grant under this section to each unit of general local government, or consortia of such units, selected to participate in the demonstration program under this section, for each fiscal year covered by the multiyear cooperative agreement entered into by the unit or consortium pursuant to subsection (c).

(e) Eligible Uses- Amounts from grants provided under this section may be used for any of the following purposes:

(1) VACANT PROPERTY AND PROGRAM CAPACITY ACTIVITIES- For the following vacant property and program capacity activities:

(A) Establishment or expansion of local or regional land banks.

(B) Establishment of recovered building materials reuse and recycling infrastructure, facilities, and technical support.

(C) Establishment of local government purchasing requirements for deconstruction to make use of existing building materials stock in new and rehabilitation construction.

(D) Expansion and improvement of code enforcement capabilities.

(E) Development of data and information systems such as comprehensive real property systems, early warning systems, and vacant property inventory and tracking systems.

(F) Establishment or strengthening of the ability of State courts, local courts, and administrative agencies to address problems caused by vacant and abandoned properties, and to facilitating, where feasible, such properties' transfer to public control under a local or regional land bank.

(G) Amendment or reform of State and local property tax foreclosure procedures.

(2) STABILIZATION ACTIVITIES- For the following stabilization activities:

(A) Deconstruction and demolition of vacant and abandoned properties.

(B) Demolition and removal of public infrastructure.

(C) Relocation of structures.

(D) Reconfiguration of existing infrastructure.

(E) Protection and limited maintenance of vacant or abandoned properties for the purposes of stemming the spread of blight.

(F) Assessment and remediation of property.

(G) Relocation under the Uniform Relocation and Real Property Acquisition Policies Act of 1970 (42 U.S.C. 4601 et seq.) or applicable State and local relocation statutes and policies.

(3) DESIGN, DEVELOPMENT, AND REUSE ACTIVITIES- For the following design, development, and reuse activities:

(A) Creation of open space and networks of green infrastructure.

(B) Establishing and maintaining urban agriculture and farm markets.

(C) Adaptive reuse, rehabilitation, or improvement of architecturally, historically, or culturally significant structures, or other structures of community significance, in areas targeted for conservation under a regeneration plan.

(D) Development of infrastructure to produce renewable energy on vacant land, including solar energy, wind power, and geothermal power.

(4) PLANNING AND POLICY INNOVATION ACTIVITIES- For the following planning and policy innovation activities:

(A) Strategic planning, neighborhood planning, brownfield plans, vacant property plans, city and neighborhood typologies, and collaborative vacant property assessment processes that identify and target Federal, State, local, and nonprofit resources for neighborhoods and communities.

(B) Reforms of existing State and local codes, policies, and processes to promote vacant property reclamation and reuse through flexible, performance based standards, regulations, and development processes.

(5) OTHER USES- For such other uses in accordance with the purposes of this Act as the Secretary may designate.

(f) Ineligible Uses- Amounts from grants provided under this section shall not be used--

(1) to demolish public housing, as such term is defined in section 3 of the United States Housing Act of 1937 (42 U.S.C. 1437a);

(2) to demolish any property listed, or eligible to be listed, in the National Register of Historic Places under the National Historic Preservation Act (16 U.S.C. 470 et seq.), or designated as historic under State or local law;

(3) to alter or modify any property listed or eligible for listing in the National Register of Historic Places, unless the proposed alteration or modification is determined to be consistent with the Standards for the Treatment of Historic Properties of the Secretary of the Interior pursuant to section 106 of the National Historic Preservation Act (16 U.S.C. 470f) and the regulations issued under such section (36 C.F.R. Part 800);

(4) to clean-up any brownfield site, except for planning activities related to the clean-up of a brownfield site; or

(5) to redevelop any brownfield site, except for planning activities related to the redevelopment of a brownfield site.

(g) Limitation on Use for Administrative Costs- Of any amounts received from a grant under this section in any fiscal year, a participant in the demonstration program under this section may use not more than 20 percent for any administrative costs of the jurisdiction in carrying out the regeneration plan of such participant and in carrying out the responsibilities of the participant in connection such program.

(h) Selection of Participant Regeneration Communities-

(1) APPLICATION- To be eligible to participate in the demonstration program established under this section, a unit of general local government or consortium of such units shall submit an application for assistance under this section in such form and in accordance with such requirements as the Secretary shall establish, together with a regeneration plan under paragraph (2) for the community or region of the unit of general local government or consortium.

(2) REGENERATION PLAN- A regeneration plan under this paragraph for a community or region shall meet the following requirements:

(A) MANDATORY ELEMENTS- The plan shall include, for such community or region, the following elements:

(i) A comprehensive land use plan that reflects the population loss the community or region has experienced, reflects future population trends, including any anticipated further losses, using the most current data available, and provides for the efficient and sustainable use of land, structures, neighborhoods, and resources within the community or region.

(ii) A plan for creation of green infrastructure to be set aside in the community or region for recreation, open space, agriculture, park use, educational use, or purposes related to future economic or residential development.

(iii) A detailed implementation strategy for the plan, including modifications to a comprehensive or master land use plan, neighborhood plans, and zoning and building codes.

(iv) A plan for integrating related programs and strategies funded through other sources, including Federal, State, local, and private sources, into the implementation strategy pursuant to clause (iii).

(v) Any other elements, as determined by the Secretary.

(B) OTHER INCLUDED ELEMENTS- The plan shall include as many of the following elements as may be appropriate or feasible:

(i) Good urban design principles.

(ii) Sustainability principles.

(iii) Integration and targeting of funding provided under the community development block grant program under title I of the Housing and Community Development Act of 1974 (42 U.S.C. 5301 et seq.).

(iv) Use of other funds and resources, Federal, State, local, private, financial, or otherwise.

(v) Brownfields remediation and redevelopment funded through other sources.

(vi) Smart growth principles, including, complete streets, new urbanism, affordable housing, mixed uses, infill development, public infrastructure improvements, and form based codes.

(vii) Deconstruction activities with measurable outcomes.

(viii) To the extent necessary, improvement of real property data and information systems with respect to property conditions, and streamlining and improvement of code enforcement procedures to expedite the process of asserting public control over vacant and abandoned properties.

(ix) Promotion of energy-use efficiency, green collar jobs, natural systems storm water management, and other ecological services.

(x) Neighborhood plans developed through a community-based process for component communities within the applicant's jurisdiction or jurisdictions.

(xi) The potential to create new employment opportunities, especially in areas directly related to the implementation of the regeneration plan, including building deconstruction, removal of buildings and infrastructure, creation of green infrastructure, environmental remediation, and long-term employment in environmentally sustainable activities, including urban agriculture, open space maintenance, and renewable energy production.

(xii) Adaptive reuse, rehabilitation, or improvement of architecturally, historically, or culturally significant structures, or other structures of community significance, in areas targeted for conservation.

(xiii) Any other elements as the Secretary may prescribe.

(C) CITIZEN PARTICIPATION REQUIREMENTS- The Secretary shall, by regulations issued under section 7, provide for citizen participation requirements relating to the development and implementation of regeneration plans as necessary to ensure, to the extent practicable, that affected citizens and community groups, including environmental organizations, and any others who would be impacted by the adoption of a regeneration plan, have notice of, and the opportunity to effectively participate in, the development of such a plan through public hearings, community workshops, charrettes, town hall meetings, or other means.

(D) IMPLEMENTATION OF REGENERATION PLANS- To the extent practicable, the Secretary shall, by regulations issued under section 7, ensure that processes are established and maintained providing for the continued implementation and periodic updating of regeneration plans for a reasonable amount of time following the full expenditure of assistance received under this Act.

(3) COMPETITION- The Secretary shall select applicants for participation in the demonstration program under this section on a competitive basis using the evaluation and selection criteria established pursuant to paragraph (5) and in accordance with section 102 of the Department of Housing and Urban Development Reform Act of 1989 (42 U.S.C. 3545).


(A) NUMBER AND CATEGORIES OF PARTICIPANTS- During each of the first three fiscal years for which amounts are first made available for grants under this section, the Secretary shall select units of general local government, or consortia consisting of units of general local government, to be new participants in the demonstration program under this section, from each of the following categories as follows:

(i) SMALLER UNITS OF GENERAL LOCAL GOVERNMENT- During each such fiscal year, the Secretary shall select not more than five units of general local government having a population of 150,000 or less, as measured by decennial census data, or in the case of consortia of units of general local government, consortia in which the largest unit of general local government has such a population, except that at no time may there be more than a total of 15 participants in the demonstration program pursuant to this clause.

(ii) LARGER UNITS OF GENERAL LOCAL GOVERNMENT- During each such fiscal year, the Secretary shall select not more than five units of general local government having a population of exceeding 150,000, as measured by decennial census data, or in the case of consortia of units of general local government, consortia in which the largest unit of general local government has such a population, except that at no time may there be more than a total of 15 participants in the demonstration program pursuant to this clause.

(B) SUBSTANTIAL POPULATION LOSS- The Secretary shall ensure that at least five applicants selected pursuant to subparagraph (A) in each fiscal year in which new applicants are selected for participation meet the eligibility standard set forth in subsection (b)(1).

(5) EVALUATION OF APPLICATIONS AND SELECTION CRITERIA- The Secretary shall establish evaluation and selection criteria for participation in the demonstration program under this section, which shall include the following criteria:

(A) REGIONAL COLLABORATION- If feasible or appropriate, the extent to which an applicant proposes to foster regional collaboration among and across governments, and with private and non-profit organizations, in addressing vacant and abandoned properties, such as the establishment of one or more--

(i) regional vacant property reclamation strategies;

(ii) regional land banks to gain public control of such properties;

(iii) regional real property data systems; and

(iv) regional vacant property action plans that target and coordinate other Federal, State, local and nonprofit funds and resources to identified communities and neighborhoods.

(B) TARGETING FOR SUSTAINABLE URBAN NEIGHBORHOODS AND GREEN INFRASTRUCTURE- The extent to which an applicant proposes to reposition for the future its jurisdiction or the jurisdictions within a consortium, by targeting resources and investment in clusters of sustainable urban neighborhoods and by establishing networks of green infrastructure.

(C) PARTNERING TO IMPLEMENT REGENERATION PLAN- The extent to which an applicant proposes to partner with institutions such as universities, museums, historic preservation organizations, neighborhood and community organizations, Federal, State, and local governments, and other organizations or entities whose participation would promote the successful implementation of a regeneration plan.

(D) VACANT PROPERTY RECLAMATION- The extent to which an applicant proposes to design and develop policy and programmatic innovations that foster vacant property reclamation, such as code reforms and performance-based regulatory approaches.

(E) SEVERITY OF VACANT AND ABANDONED PROPERTY PROBLEMS- The severity of the problem of vacant and abandoned property within an applicant's or applicants' jurisdiction or jurisdictions.

(F) CAPACITY TO IMPLEMENT- The capacity of an applicant or applicants to implement a regeneration plan, including its ability to demonstrate quantifiable outcomes such as the potential to enhance property values, improve ecosystems, and benefit public health.

(G) COMMITMENT- The level of commitment of an applicant or applicants, and any organizational partners, to the implementation of a regeneration plan.

(H) POTENTIAL FOR LIVABILITY- The potential for a regeneration plan to promote the overall livability of a jurisdiction or jurisdictions for current residents.

(i) Accountability and Reporting-

(1) REQUIRED PERFORMANCE PLAN- A unit of general local government, or consortium of such units, selected for participation in the demonstration program under this section may not enter into a cooperative agreement with the Secretary or receive any grant under this section unless the unit or consortium has prepared, submitted to the Secretary, and had approved by the Secretary, a performance plan for implementing its regeneration plan, which shall include provisions for public participation and such other elements as the Secretary may prescribe.


(A) REQUIREMENT- Each participant in the demonstration program under this Section that receives grant amounts under this section shall submit to the Secretary, in such form and by such deadlines as the Secretary may require, an annual performance and evaluation report concerning the use of funds made available under this Act, which shall include financial disclosure information and any other information as the Secretary may prescribe.

(B) PUBLIC AVAILABILITY- Before submitting an annual performance and evaluation report to the Secretary, a participant shall be make the report publicly available in the participant's jurisdiction or jurisdictions in sufficient time to permit citizens of such jurisdiction to comment on such report before its submission, and in such manner and at such times as the participant may determine.

(3) REVIEWS- The Secretary shall periodically make such reviews as may be necessary or appropriate to determine the progress of demonstration program participants in meeting their performance objectives identified in their performance plan pursuant to paragraph (1) and identified in their reports pursuant to paragraph (2).


(A) IN GENERAL- With respect to assistance made available under this section and subject to paragraph (3), if the Secretary determines that a participant in the demonstration program under this section grantee has substantially failed to meet its performance objectives and outcomes, the Secretary may determine that the grantee is no longer in good standing and may reduce or limit the assistance under this section to the participant, or take other action as appropriate in accordance with the Secretary's review and as provided in regulations issued by the Secretary to carry out this Act, except that any grant amounts already expended on eligible activities under this section shall not be recaptured or deducted from future assistance to such participant.

(B) REMEDIAL PLANS- In cases where the Secretary takes action against a grantee pursuant to paragraph (1), the grantee shall submit a remedial plan for approval by the Secretary that outlines the actions the grantee will take to ensure it meets its performance objectives in the future.


(a) Authority- To the extent that amounts are made available in advance in appropriation Acts, the Secretary may make grants to units of general local government and consortia of units of general local government as follows:

(1) PLANNING GRANTS- Grants under subsection (c) for development of regeneration plans.

(2) SUSTAINABILITY DEMONSTRATION PROJECT GRANTS- Grants under subsection (d) for carrying out sustainability demonstration projects.

(b) Terms-

(1) AMOUNT- A grant made under this section in any fiscal year to any one unit of general local government or consortium of units of general local government shall not exceed $250,000.

(2) INELIGIBILITY- A participant in the demonstration program under section 3 shall not be eligible to receive a grant under this section.

(c) Regeneration Communities Planning Grants- A grant under this subsection shall be used to develop a regeneration plan in accordance with the requirements of section 3(h)(2), except that such amounts may be used for the purposes listed in section 3(e)(1)(E) and for providing technical assistance.

(d) Sustainability Demonstration Grants-

(1) COMPETITION- Grants under this subsection shall be made on a competitive basis.

(2) ELIGIBILITY- Grants under this subsection shall not be made to units of general local government and consortia of such units that are participants in the demonstration program under section 3.

(3) ELIGIBLE USES- Amounts from a grant made under this subsection shall be used for carrying out specific short-term demonstration projects that are in accordance with the sustainability goals of this Act, which may include one or more of the following projects:

(A) Design and creation of interim and permanent open space and networks of green infrastructure, low impact development, and storm water management activities.

(B) Establishment of recovered building materials, reuse and recycling infrastructure, facilities, creation of incentives, and technical support.

(C) Development or expansion of urban agriculture initiatives, including community supported agriculture and farmers markets.

(D) Development of infrastructure to produce renewable energy on vacant land, including solar energy, wind power, and geothermal power.

(E) Creation of workshops and training for green collar jobs to support sustainability demonstration projects.

(F) Development of any other innovative, sustainability projects that would further the purposes of this Act, as determined by the Secretary.

(4) MATCHING REQUIREMENT- A grant under this subsection may not exceed 4 times the amount that the grantee certifies to the Secretary are committed for use for the eligible uses under paragraph (3) to be carried out by the grantee using grant amounts.


(a) Establishment- The Secretary shall convene a Federal Interagency Regeneration Communities Coordinating Council whose members shall include--

(1) representatives of Federal agencies, including designees of the Secretary of Energy, the Secretary of Commerce, the Secretary of Housing and Urban Development, and the Administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency; and

(2) representatives of non-Federal entities, such as academic institution, nonprofit organizations, and lending institutions.

(b) Duties-

(1) FEDERAL AGENCY SUPPORT PLANS- The Council shall develop Federal agency support plans for communities receiving grants under this Act that shall include--

(A) offering technical assistance to grantees under this Act through a network of local and national vacant property assistance providers;

(B) assigning staff through intergovernmental personnel agreements;

(C) offering guidance and technical assistance to program applicants on leveraging and coordinating funding from other Federal sources in regeneration plans, especially assistance provided by the Economic Development Administration, the Environmental Protection Agency, and the Department of Housing and Urban Development, particularly the community development block grant program under title I of the Housing and Community Development Act of 1974 (42 U.S.C. 5301 et seq.); and

(D) to the extent feasible, instituting alternative performance-based regulatory approaches and standards.

(2) ALTERNATIVE REGULATORY APPROACHES- To the extent feasible and appropriate, the designee of the Secretary of Housing and Urban Development shall work with the designees of the other Federal agencies to institute alternative regulatory approaches and standards by such other Federal agencies in order to better facilitate the implementation of regeneration plans.


For purposes of this Act, the following definitions shall apply:

(1) COMPLETE STREETS PRINCIPLES- The term `complete streets principles' means transportation laws, policies, or principles that ensure--

(A) all users of the transportation system, including pedestrians, bicyclists, and transit users as well as children, older people, motorists, and those with disabilities, are adequately accommodated in all phases of project planning and development; and

(B) that the safety and convenience of all users are considered in all phases of project planning and development.

(2) DECONSTRUCTION- The term `deconstruction' means the selective dismantlement of building components for reuse and recycling.

(3) GREEN INFRASTRUCTURE- The term `green infrastructure' means the interim and permanent reuse of vacant properties for an interconnected network of open spaces, trails, and natural areas, such as greenways, wetlands, parks, forest preserves, and native plant vegetation that can naturally manage stormwater, reduce flooding risks, improve water quality, and reduce urban heat islands.

(4) LAND BANK- The term `land bank' means a governmental, quasi-governmental, or non-profit entity established, at least in part, to assemble and manage surplus property for eventual conversion to productive use, or for holding for other strategic long-term purposes.

(5) NEW URBANISM- The term `new urbanism' means neighborhood design that incorporates concepts that promote community function, environmental balance, social integration, pedestrian-friendly streets, and dense development, among other things, in order to encourage a sense of community among neighborhood residents.

(6) PARTICIPANT- The term `participant' means a unit of general local government, or a consortium of units of general local government, that has--

(A) been selected for participation in the demonstration program under section 3; and

(B) entered into a cooperative agreement with the Secretary pursuant to section 3(c).

(7) PERFORMANCE-BASED REGULATION- The term `performance-based regulation' means regulation focused on results or outcomes of performance, rather than a prescriptive process, technique, or procedure.

(8) REGIONAL LAND BANK- The term `regional land bank' means a land bank controlled by an entity comprising of, or representing more than, one unit of general local government.

(9) SECRETARY- The term `Secretary' means the Secretary of Housing and Urban Development.

(10) SMART GROWTH- The term `smart growth' means concentrating resources and new development in areas in or near existing urban and neighborhood centers served by public transportation and other existing infrastructure.

(11) SUSTAINABILITY PROJECT- The term `sustainability project' means a program or project that integrates innovative ways to conserve resources, reduce harmful emissions, protect public health, enhance the natural and built environments, and facilitate social equity.

(12) UNIT OF GENERAL LOCAL GOVERNMENT- The term `unit of general local government' has the meaning given such term in section 102 of the Housing and Community Development Act of 1974 (42 U.S.C. 5302).

(13) VACANT AND ABANDONED PROPERTY- The term `vacant and abandoned property' means any residential, commercial, or industrial property (including structures, the underlying site, and vacant lots) that has not been legally occupied for six months or longer, and exhibits one or both of the following conditions or circumstances:

(A) The site presents a threat to public safety or constitutes a public nuisance, as defined by State and local law.

(B) The owners, managers, or any other responsible party, have neglected the fundamental duties of property ownership including failure to pay taxes or utility bills, or have defaulted on mortgages.


(a) Regulations- Not later than 180 days after the date of the enactment of this Act, the Secretary shall issue regulations necessary to carry out this Act.

(b) Notice of Funding Availability- Not later than 30 days after publishing a final regulation to implement this Act, the Secretary shall publish a notice of funding availability in the Federal Register stating that funds are available to units of general local government and consortia of units of general local government in accordance with the provisions of this Act.

(c) Use of Performance-Based Regulatory Concepts- To the extent feasible, the Secretary shall employ performance-based regulatory concepts in promulgating regulations under this section.


(a) Regeneration Communities Implementation Grants- For grants under section 3(d), there is authorized to be appropriated $100,000,000 for each of fiscal years 2010, 2011, and 2012.

(b) Planning Grants and Sustainability Demonstration Project Grants- There is authorized to be appropriated for planning grants under section 4(c) and for sustainability demonstration project grants under section 4(d)--

(1) $25,000,000 for fiscal year 2010; and

(2) $12,500,000 for each of fiscal years 2011 and 2012.

(c) Federal Interagency Regeneration Communities Coordinating Council- For costs associated with the establishment and operation of the Federal Interagency Regeneration Communities Coordinating Council under section 5, and technical and staff assistance under section 5(b), there is authorized to be appropriated $24,000,000 for each of fiscal years 2010, 2011, and 2012.


Friday, February 23, 2007

turning comedy into winners

This past Saturday at the Oakland, a "Comedy Showcase" was held, highlighting stand-up comedians from throughout the region.

I sat in the back.

As you can see in the picture, the stage is being set up for the upcoming show "Misery" this weekend and next (his feet are cut off in a bloody fashion in their version). Click here for additional details about the show.

Here's a clip of local comic Murad Shorrab explaining what you gain when you date him:

Local talent such as Murad will be performing at the next "Stage" at the Oakland on friday, march 16th.

Several other singers, belly dancers, performance artists, sword swallowers, and circus freaks will be there as well.

- - -

Fast forward to this week, where the "Funniest Penguin" contest was held at Peaberry's on Youngstown's campus.

What's cool about this event is that they incorporated technology from the Youngstown Business Incubator into the voting process. To judge each of the ten comedians who performed on stage, the audience was provided with wireless keypads from Turning Technologies, one of the companies in downtown's growing cluster of software development companies.

Along with other "professional" judges, the audiences' opinions were factored into the final score and choosing a champion.

stand-up comedy + technology + public engagement = a new way to connect to people

It makes one wonder about all the different scenarios by which Turning's technologies can be incorporated into other forms of entertainment and public engagement . . .

Wednesday, February 21, 2007

time for a dean with extensive TBED experience?

Over the past month, the ol' Youngstown University has placed advertisements in publications such as the Chronicle of Higher Education to fill the position of the Dean of the newly constituted College of Science, Technology, Engineering, & Mathematics (STEM). You can find additional information about the position here.

To review, the university is reorganizing its academic structure to contain all of the STEM disciplines under one college, to be headed by one dean. And so the search is on for a dean to lead the college . . .

According to the job description, this dean will be:

"responsible for leading the college and providing a bold vision for its future and national reputation. The ideal candidate will be a creative, collegial, and visionary individual who understands the importance of STEM research and scholarship, and its role in community engagement and regional economic development."

some selected key words: visionary, research, regional economic development

- - -

I won't beat around the bush here. Our university drastically needs someone who will be not just a good manager, someone who will be not just a good fundraiser, but someone who has extensive experience with developing distinguished research and technology transfer programs and will be a catalyst for future economic growth.

We have seen in recent years how great leaders (a good local case study is the University of Akron) can dramatically impact a region's technology based economic development (TBED) potential.

As the role of a university is expanding beyond more than just scholarship and service, let's hope the members of the selection committee choose a new leader with business experience, in addition to academic and research experience.

The position will be available on July 1, 2007. Applications received by February 21, 2007 are guaranteed full consideration.

Thursday, February 15, 2007

en un hermoso cielo de hollín y arcilla

YouTube is an interesting way to peer back into the history of a city. Here are some gems that were recently posted online:

Springsteen with Spanish subtitles...

Downtown in the 70s...

Shooting a french music video near the cathedral...

Singing Mount Calvary style in the 80s...

Son bordel est très sympa...

Jamming through Mill Creek Park...

Tuesday, February 13, 2007

now that the bids are in, a few considerations

Last week, the Business Journal reported that six companies submitted bids to build the Youngstown Technology Center downtown. The building, which is slated to open by December 2007 will house companies that are looking for room to expand from the current solitary Youngstown Business Incubator building. As this second building is built, the renovation of buildings three and four for the complex is anticipated to begin.

The bids received ranged in cost from...

Indicating there is a gap of about $1.5 million between the highest and lowest bid.

Let's hope the final choice incorporates not just the lowest cost, but also good design.

- - -

Sure, cost is important. In fact, it's very important.

But looks are important as well.

I try to host architects and city planners in downtown youngstown on a fairly regular basis.

To borrow a line from the Princess Bride, when they see the design of the Childrens' Services Building, they claim: "Dear God, what is that thing?"

Maybe a below the belt comment, but really...a lot could have been done to make that building a little more inviting.

People don't necessary dislike all aspects of the entire building (the brick is kinda nice) , but most criticism is centered on the windowless ground floor and the sheer feeling of nothingness as one walks from the DeYor center to Hazel Street. It hard to believe that building is now a fixture on our main street for what will probably be at least 50 years.

And that's what I would like to stress upon those making the decision, if they ever read this blog, or if their buddies do: that the Technology Center will probably be on our main street for a long time.

A real long time.

Maybe the extra cost associated with a nicer building if it makes the site more attractive, that is actually welcoming to pedestrians and tourists, is money well spent.


well, coming on the heels of this blog entry, the news broke that the CIC rejected all 6 of the bids.

According to the Business Journal, "The technology center is funded by a $2.5 million grant through the state of Ohio Board of Regents, a $2 million grant from the U.S. Department of Commerce’s economic development administration, $248,000 from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development and $750,000 already spent on demolition and remediation from the states Clean Ohio Fund." These values add up to about $5.5 million dollars.

Alternatively, the Youngstown Vindicator had the amount come to $5.9 million in state and federal funding.

So when you figure in the cost of demolition ($768,500) between $4,729,500 and $5,131,500 seems to be remaining.

The executive committee of the Youngstown CIC, rejected the proposals Monday because they “omitted required characteristics and/or were in excess of the amount available for construction.”

wow. Maybe we'll be getting a big box store on Federal Street now.

And the second round of bidding may be much more interesting now that all of the other initial bids are known.

I guess we should just hope that some respectable design emerges from all this. Maybe the city can throw in a few bucks from their pool of money for facade grants. Or maybe another 200K is floating around out there.

Brother, can you spare a dime?

Monday, February 12, 2007

the polder model

Posted this week at the Meet the Bloggers website was an entire two-hour interview with Hunter Morrison. A recent story on this site featured the video of the last ten minutes of the interview.

If you have the time one evening or weekend, please listen to it.

There are numerous statements thoughout the conversation which thread into the issues facing Youngstown and the region: no-growth sprawl, the power structure of Cleveland leadership, building consensus, learning best practices from other communities, sustainable development, how today's living density was affected by public health, the safety of the housing stock, and the joy of pierogies.

After listening to it all, I started thinking about the path dependency of a city.

Some might argue that in order to experience a great change and rebirth, a city first needs to decline to the point where has shaken off the old guard. That is, only through the departing of the steel industry and old-school corporate bosses, exiling the vestages of organized crime, and jailing corrupt politicians - that so little is left, except for the chance to begin anew.

That to live again, one must first die.

And the other bloggers from Cleveland during the interview seem to think that old-school mentality has not left their city, and is holding it back. Perhaps the same could be said of Youngstown, or that only a small percentage of the population here is ready to move forward, compared to other mentioned communities like Portland or Seattle whose aggregate sentiment of the population is one of pride, collaboration, and progress.

But not all the paths of a heavy industrial region need to recover in the same way, even if their historical paths are similar.

Mr. Morrison admitted to his amazement when 1,300 people showed up for the the first public Youngstown 2010 planning meeting, since about 200 to 300 were expected. The community just said, "enough, we're moving on" and became part of the planning process.

But this city is still no utopia because a bunch of people showed up one night.

There is much work to be done, and its progress is a process.

But the process has shown that engaging the community is extremely important, the lack of which may be creating future difficulities.

- - -

Inefficiency vs. Inclusivity.

When I first started working in good ol' Netherlands, a colleague wanted to impress upon me how the Dutch think, and how the Polder Model works in that country.

"so what the heck is the polder model?"

A polder is a space of low-lying land, usually surrounded by dikes. The Netherlands is pretty much like the Louisiana of Europe. A great number of rivers meet the North Sea there, and primarily the topology of the country was one giant flat and soggy delta.

But the people of that area continually engineered their landscape to make it more inhabitable. Canals were built, as were windmills to pump the water from one place and shift it to another. And thus, the land was reclaimed. Here's a picture from just outside the city of Rotterdam.

So as the saying goes, "god schiep de wereld, maar Nederlanders creëerden Nederland."

or "God created the world, but the Dutch created the Netherlands."

As the country developed further, more and more land needed to be claimed from the sea and the swamps. So polders were constructed to begin the process of dehydrating more land. And we're not just talking about a farm here or there. Entire new regions in that country are now dry land where once it was not.

Connected to this development was the notion that many, many parties needed to come together to create the best solution. Not just the power brokers, and not just the politicians were needed, but also the farmers, the shippers, the railroads, and the public.

Whether you agree with this statement or not, it was descibed to me that the American process is more like "power pluralism", where only the business interests and the politicans come together and push their agendas through, without the consultation of all the other diverse stakeholders, even if they are less significant in size.

And so the polder model stresses that optimal solutions, which maybe not be efficiently reached in a short amount of time, come about when the opinions of everyone are included, eventually reaching a consensus.

- - -

Perhaps the polder aspect of the Youngstown 2010 preparation is what attracted all these people to it.

And perhaps the lack of input from all the diverse stakeholders is what's creating some of the problems for casino development in ohio, the reconfiguration of Federal Street in downtown Youngstown, and the extension of YSU's campus towards the central business district.

In all three cases, people feel (by fact or perception) that they have been shut out of the process: that casinos in Cleveland benefit only a small minority and not the entire region; that planning for federal street reconfiguration is heavy in engineering but lacks asthetic consideration and public input; and that not all the landowners were not properly consulted before as the university initiated its growth south.

For these projects, and for future ones, maybe the people with the plans should ask themselves, "have we incorporated the polder model enough to arrive at the best solution?"

It might serve as a good exercise every once and a while.

For if it's good for working to reclaim the sea, maybe it's good for reclaiming a downtown.

Friday, February 09, 2007

shrinking cities symposium: today and tomorrow in SF

Here's a question: what do Youngstown, Paris, and Leipzig have in common?

Well, according a news story from the San Francisco Chronicle that trickled into my inbox ealier this week, these three regions are what's being labeled as a "shrinking city" by academics and practitioners.

In the Youngstown case, as in many American cities, the urban core is left hurting while industry and residential development quickly escape to the suburbs, creating a doughnut of wealth.

In the Paris case, as in many European cities, the inverse happens as rings of poverty and crime surround the relatively affluent center.

And in the Eastern Germany case, the pattern of deindustrialization and urban flight resembles a checkboard as its structure.

These typologies, and other issues, will be discussed on February 8th and 9th at the University of California Berkeley. There, the newly-formed Center for Global Metropolitan Studies within the academically-recognized Institute for Urban and Regional Development will be hosting a symposium named "The Future of Shrinking Cities".

Click here to see their two-day agenda.

- - -

More than 20 scholars from a dozen countries will be presenting at the symposium (which is free and open to the public in case anyone wants to make a quick roadtrip).

Presenting some research about Youngstown will be the organizer of the event, Professor Karina Pallagst (Ph.D. City and Regional Planning - University of Kaiserslautern) in her paper, "The End of the Growth Machine."

(side note: Kaiserslautern is a cool place - I did a blog about this part of Germany and its similarities to Youngstown as we were there for the USA World Cup matches some months ago.)

All of the abstracts of the speakers at the symposium can be seen here.

- - -

It's always interesting to see how academics are looking at Youngstown. From Sean Safford's (now at University of Chicago) work on social network theory contributions to economic development, to some of the speakers at the San Francisco event, our city is a unit of analysis - sometimes for better or for worse reasons.

In this case, Youngstown is being recognized as a global leader in sustainable development strategies, and many of today's researchers will be looking at us in the future to see how our strategy paid off.

And as the story concludes, some places are being noticed by the world.

"Examples of shrinking cities fighting back include Youngstown; Dresden, Germany; and South Korea's Taeback Mountain region."

Perhaps something we can stand on a pole and be proud of!

Wednesday, February 07, 2007

Urban Gardens

I recently received the following e-mail from a friend who is pursuing his degree in City Planning at The Ohio State University. The excitement in the e-mail is contagious and it sounds like an idea worth exploring:

Ben, Ben, BEN!!!!
Today we learned about urban garden contests in class. I wanted to contact Janko and suggest that he write an article on how they would benefit the city of Youngstown. Perhaps if you are out of ideas or interested you could. They have many benefits such as building community, learning (people have been known to research gardening ideas in local libraries), a sense of pride, bringing more people out of their homes and even greater security (more eyes on the street). I believe it happened in either St. Louis or Chicago.
The study was on teenagers and they were given neighborhood gardens to tend and compete with. The teenagers ended up cleaning up the areas around the garden, researching gardening techniques and protecting their neighborhoods because of it.
Just a thought...it would even help in a market way...in which ppl could grow food locally and perhaps a co-op could be created to sell the produce. The contest would provide healthy competition and could become a yearly activity that people look forward too. At the end there could even be a large fall harvest and festival perhaps. People could show pumpkins, sell cider and the like.
The best thing about it is that it's a cheap, cheap way to foster pride, education, community, security and to bring food (though I admit maybe not a significant amount) to give to the less fortunate. The best thing is that Youngstown has TONS of land around the city...these urban gardens could become the social gathering place of the neighborhood and could also include (down the road) playgrounds so that parents can watch their children while gardening or small stands (or actual shops/buildings nearby) to see the produce. What do you think? There are many holes in the idea but it is cheap and do-able in a city such as Youngstown.

I did a little bit of digging on the subject and found numerous hits when searching for "Urban Garden Competitions." The New York Times had a nice article on the subject and I especially like the different categories that are offered on the City of Sydney website.

here is a story . . . to be saved forever

A few weekends ago I had a great evening downtown.

It began with a meeting to "Save the State Theater" at Cedar's Lounge. Then moved to The Upstairs Lounge for some italian greens and stuffed hungarian peppers. Then we finished up the night at the new Boxcar Lounge, located down by the river next to the Old B&O banquet hall/train station.

Lots of lounging going on I guess. So then we sat up at the bar and start telling stories.

Three other bloggers were at the bar with me. Six months ago, I didn't know any of these people.

We were talking about the State Theater when the bartender chimes in about how he used to be a projectionist there. In fact, he used to be a projectionist all over Youngstown, and told four stories about the different movie houses in the city where he used to work.

The talk of blogging came up, and a discussion about how to immortalize all of these stories.

A new face at the bar, noticing our passion for history, went out into his car and placed this upon the counter:

It turned out to be a collection of postcards from the early 20th century - all featuring scenes in Youngstown.

He had a postcard someone sent from 1919, and the postage was 1 cent. ( Yo., O. )

Some of the postcards pre-1920s showed buildings downtown, with most of them still standing to this day.

We talked of speakeasies in the prohibition era, and Ytown's title as "Little Chicago" since it was a hangout at some point for Al Capone and others from those days. The bartender told of another story, how back in the day, there were some stores downtown that contained secret entrances, with access rooms beneath the sidewalk on federal street. One of them was a ladies' clothing store, and inside one of the dressing rooms was the secret entrance.

And so the stories kept coming.

And the relization that a blog would be a great place to archive all of these stories.

- - -

Fast forward to the next day. I made my first trip to the archives of the Mahoning Valley Historical Society.

It was an awesome place.

Filled with ancient photos, fire insurance books with maps of the downtown as large as a kitchen table, industrial archaeology artifacts, and many many other pieces - each with a story behind it.

And so I asked the staff while I was there about the possibility of bars under the sidewalk back in the day.

A possibility perhaps, but a component of our downtown's history makes the possibility all the more interesting.

For it turns out that when John Young planned out the town over 200 years ago, Federal Street was two different widths as the road continued away from the central square. It was 100 feet across from the center of town, and then somewhere around Phelps Street, the road narrowed to 60 feet.

So then as the city exploded in size, more space was needs for roads to accomodate more trollies, cars, and pedestrians. The rest of federal street was "widened" to 100 feet, but the problem was, all of the buildings were still there.

So they cut off the tip.

Many of the buildings then which were now facing federal street had 20 feet of the building chopped off, and a new facade put in place. That is why so many buildings along that street have terra cotta facades. When the buildings were "resized", the en vogue material at the time was terra cotta.

We have kept many terra cotta buildings throughout the years, and we have lost some. One was slowly demolished recently, chunk by chunk, piece by historical piece, to make way for the new Youngstown Technology Center. Here is one of the last pictures ever taken of this building before it disappeared from the streetscape of the city:

And the strange thing is, the foundations of the old buildings remained. As the facades pushed back, walls to the sides remained, but placed under the sidewalk. Where previously there was a front staircase entrance (think nyc bodegas), was now paved over, with possible space underneath.

So quite possibly, the story about the underground and hidden drinking establishment is true.

In fact, check out these photos from the demolition of the buildings for the new court of appeals from the Downtown Youngstown website:

Can you see the doors that are below the street level?

But if it wasn't for that night in the bar, that story may have been totally lost to my memory.

- - -

Fast forward to three weeks ago. The kid I met in the bar with the postcards created a new blog after our conversation: youngstownhistory.blogspot.com

check it out, and add it to your bookmarks...

- - -

Fast forward to the future.

This blogging thing can be a great way to record stories like this forever. So today begins a new blogging project:

The Youngstown Stories - History Blog Project

Its objectives will be:

    - to link to blogs that feature written stories submitted by individuals;
    - to post video via You Tube of oral histories; and
    - to perform outreach and education for starting a blog to those looking to share their stories, but do not have the experience in doing so

Other programs recording the oral histories of individuals have been a success, but are located on more traditional forms of media, often archived in a library.

This project may enable us to share Youngstown's stories around the world, and for generations to come - and all one needs is an internet connection. Here is a good one from the Center of Historic Preservation at YSU that seems to have run from 1974 to 2003.

Youngstown Stories is a new site, and a work in progress.

Let the recording begin!

Saturday, February 03, 2007

"the authentic qualities of a youngstown"

how to market the assets of northeast ohio.

That's the question recently posed to Hunter Morrison, Director of the Center for Urban and Regional Studies at that ol' University in Youngstown. You can watch his response here:

"(northeast ohio) is a phenomonally rich place."

but how to connect ". . . the networks that are there around which you build a unique regional identity - a unique sence of place that had to find strength in diversity" ?

Thanks to George for posting it to his website today.

- - -

Mr. Morrision mentions over and over again in this short clip the substantial amount of assets spread throughout the non-Cleveland cities of northeast ohio. But how to get those folks from Akron, Cleveland, Lorain, etc., to hear about our events, and to get in the car and drive here is an extra challenge.

A previous post on this subject lamented the poor design of a local site, city-arts.net, to do just that.

The site serves as a gateway to other websites, but as of today, there are plenty of links contained within it which are broken. Many other fine and performing organizations and events out there are simply not a part of City Arts. Maybe it's time to either change the format of the site, or retire it.

In the meantime, here are two of the better sites displaying what is going on in Youngstown:

Defend Youngstown contains things to do every week in the city, including hikes through Mill Creek Park, hockey, arena football, and the performing arts. His list might be the best one out there, but to be sure there are many other little smaller events which may be of interest to special niche groups which are too numerous for one person to report.

Maybe an open-source format would work best, like the calendar at the Mahoning Valley info site. A site like this though, is only as good as the regular contributors make it to be. So if you are a reader of this blog from around the state (which I know there are) and you are a reader of the blog associated with groups who do not have updated events on this site (which I know there are), maybe this site could become the best starting point for all those out there who want to see just what in the heck is going on in Ytown.

I checked the schedules and here's my list of recommendations of things to do outside of the sports-music-theater categories in the month of march:

Lewis Black - march 2nd - Powers Auditorium 7pm
Alvin Toffler/Revolutionary Wealth book lecture - march 8th Stambaugh Auditorium 6pm
Blue Man Group - march 8th - Chevy Centre 7:30pm
Steven Levitt/Freakonomics book lecture - march 26th - Stambaugh Auditorium 6pm

perhaps I will see you there...

Friday, February 02, 2007

it's been a while . . .

. . . since I posted some photos for the weekend. Enjoy.

- - -

In the highlands, in the country places,
Where the old plain men have rosy faces,
And the young fair maidens
    Quiet eyes;
Where essential silence cheers and blesses,
And for ever in the hill-recesses
Her more lovely music
    Broods and dies.

O to dream, O to wake and wander
There, and with delight to take and render,
Through the trance of silence
    Quiet breath;
Lo! for there, among the flowers and grasses,
Only the mightier movement sounds and passes;
Only winds and river,
    Life and death.

from "In the Highlands" by Robert Louis Stevenson (1850-1894)