Saturday, May 12, 2018

Cleveland officials offered Amazon both Terminal Tower and the adjacent Post Office Pavilion for Amazon's new headquarters, according to papers forced into public view by court order. They also offered all Amazon workers a 25 percent discount on RTA bus and rail line fares.

It's rather pathetic, isn't it?

Amazon was quite clear about what they wanted:
  • A city with extensive mass transit (bus and light rail).
  • A city with a very, very strong commitment to education.
  • A city with the potential to attract and retain well-educated, entrepreneurial technical talent.
  • A city with an active, young labor force.
  • A city with a strong pro-business environemtn
  • A city with an international airport.
What did Cleveland have to offer? It has little mass transit, so Cleveland offered the only mass transit hub it has: Terminal Tower and the adjacent, nigh-empty Post Office Pavilion. Cleveland's Downtown has many empty industrial buildings which can easily be converted into apartments, which Cleveland believed would help overcome the lack of mass transit because Amazon could house its potential 40,000 workers right nearby. Downtown has a lot of restaurants, and some shopping as well.

City and county leaders believed this would overcome the city's flailing school system, lack of a strong research university, aging and ill-educated workforce, and inability to attract people to live in either Cleveland or Cuyahoga County.

One can't really blame the city for trying. It's school system is struggling not because of crappy buildings or poor teachers but because it is swamped with kids from poverty-stricken backgrounds. Nearly half (46 percent) of all kids in the Cleveland Public Schools comes from poverty. Two-thirds are from single-parent families, and a quarter have no working parents. Poverty is directly linked with illness, malnutrition, behavioral problems, poor vocabulary, poor preparation for entry into school, a lack of family support for high-achieving educational attainment, and more. Just 60 percent of kids graduate from high school. Just less than 40 percent of high school graduates go on to college of some sort. Tri-C is a good community college but has a large number of students seeking fine or liberal arts degrees. Cleveland State University is primarily a commuter school, serving the same function as Tri-C. CSU is trying to become a regional university, but that process has only begun. The percentage of Cleveland adults with a bachelor's degree is the fifth lowest among the nation's 100 largest cities.

Since 1970, Cleveland proper has lost more than half its population. That's a loss of about 79,370 people a year. Cuyahoga County fare only somewhat better, losing 28 percent of its population in the same time-frame. That's a loss of 10,275 people a year. Cleveland isn't attracting jack-squat, much less "well-educated, entrepreneurial technical talent".

Cuyahoga County is immensely car-dependent and suffers from extensive sprawl. Nearly the entire county is built-out, despite having lost a third of its population over the past 46 years. Major highways tend to be jammed: Two-thirds of all workers travel to work alone, and the area's manufacturing base uses semi-trailer trucks rather than rail or ship to move goods and raw materials. Recent studies show that the commuting time for automobile drivers is 22 to 44 minutes -- about 50 percent longer than for comparably-sized cities. That's due to sprawl. Commuting time for mass transit-dependent workers is a whopping 90 minutes, a massive penalty for the poorest workers (who cannot afford a vehicle).

Without major early-childhood intervention and family support, Cleveland cannot hope to change its educational outcomes. Without a major expansion in mass transit (particularly light rail and rapid-bus), Cleveland cannot hope to change its car-dependent culture.

Yet, Cleveland thought Amazon would bite. How awful...

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