Friday, June 19, 2009

Westwood Residents Considering De-Annexation from Cincinnati


Westwood Residents are considering the possibility of De-annexation from the city of Cincinnati and reincorporation into the City of Westwood. Now while some would consider this mere "folly', the facts are that Westwood Residents would realize a great deal of advantage by this move. The idea is gaining steam . In fact, Channel 12 has already done a story on this:



And this has been the subject of a lively debate on the city-data website:



Now while de-annexation is rare, there is legal precedent for it and it has been done successfully throughout the country. The process 'could' be lengthy. You would need the signatures of over 1/2 of the residents. That might be considered an impossible task but consider this. Clearly this is an issue that Cincinnati officials do not want to talk about and wish would go away but it apparently isn't and there appears to be much support from residents for this. So lets look at the situation.
Most Westwood residents feel disenfranchised, they are paying their taxes but they see little benefit from the city, especially in the area of elimination of blight and code enforcement, two issues residents must live with everyday. It is a big "quality of life" issue and has an economic impact through reduced property values.

ADVANTAGES TO WESTWOOD AS A CITY: Some are tangible some are intangible but they are there. Despite the fact that the town of Westwood was annexed by the city in 1896, most who live here identify themselves as a resident of Westwood not Cincinnati, there is a sense of community pride in being from Westwood. Westwood also has a different "architectural identity" from Cincinnati. Most of its historic architecture dates from about 1890-1930 and the area has some of the finest buildings in the state. Most neighborhood are remarkably well maintained and there are several neighborhoods within Westwood that could qualify for Historic District status and if Westwood were its own city, "Preservation Districts'. Preservation districts would ensure that homes remain single family and would prevent their conversion to multi-family and would preserve the external appearance of their neighborhood. The conditions and covenants for the districts could be determined by the residents, approved by the Westwood city council, and would ensure the preservation of Westwood architecture for years to come. Another benefit, historic districts usually see a rise in property values because of the stability and prestige a neighborhood has when conferred with Historic status.



MARKETING: The city of Westwood can "market' itself. By that I mean an independent Westwood can market itself in a different manner than Cincinnati does. Westwood Business leaders could start a Main Street program Through the National trust for Historic preservation for example. The Main street center has a wealth of proven programs to revitalize business districts and attract a historic tourism oriented business to underutilized buildings. Imagine Westwood's business district full of antique shops, art galleries, and coffee shops. Imagine Westwood being a 'destination to visit and shop, perhaps see a museum house,stay at a B&B, tour a historic neighborhood. Many small cities have brought in millions of Historic Tourism dollars through effective use of Main Street Programs and have revitalized their business districts and greatly increased city tax revenues. http://www.preservationnation.org/main-street/



FOCUS AND CONTROL: The city of Westwood can control its own destiny. The city can revamp its zoning regulations, eliminating the conversion of single family homes into multi unit apartments. It can control its own code enforcement process and be able to respond faster that the City of Cincinnati who is so short staffed it can take months for an abandoned property to go through the system. Response time can be shortened on high weeds and litter as well. While the City of Cincinnati is focused on "The Banks" and a new container port, Westwood residents can focus on the things that are important to them.



CRIME REDUCTION: If you take a look at the crime stats for Westwood it does consume allot of District 3 resources, 20,484 (calls for service) 2,364 (Pt. 1 Crime) 4 (Murder) 24 (Rape) 157 (Robbery) 55 (Agg Assult) 623 (Burlary) 1,308 (Larceny) 193 (Auto Theft). What is interesting to note is that there are clear patterns on where the crime is committed. Mostly in Rentals and mostly along Harrison Ave and some cross streets. If you have stricter zoning regulations that reduce density, you reduce problems. We know that when people are packed together in close conditions there is greater crime. By eliminating illegal conversions of houses and reducing blight by demolition of abandoned and deteriorated apartment buildings you reduce density, reduce crime and eliminate a vehicle for that criminal activity to take place. A Westwood Police Department could better focus on high crime areas. Large parts of Westwood have little or no crime. The city could initiate an expanded crime watch program as well.



COST BENEFIT: It HAS to be expensive, right? Not necessarily. The biggest cost is assuming the current bonds that the city of Cincinnati hold on the street improvements. You would have to find a way to separate the fire and police units from the city. Chances are there might be Federal monies to do that. The Obama administration is looking at ways to "shrink" the size of many cities that have large abandoned housing stock. Taking Westwood out of Cincinnati would better allow Cincinnati to focus on that issue. The city of Westwood could "direct apply" for state and federal grants. No more would they have to go through Cincinnati and its many layers of departments to do anything. Westwood compared to other areas of Cincinnati has a rather strong and stable property tax base ( in fact one of the reasons, Cincinnati would want to hold on to it). Through effective management and being able to deal more quickly with blight and code violations, it is very likely that Property values would rise. As property values increase due to requiring proper maintenance of blighted structure in the long term Property taxes could actually be reduced due to the fact that Westwood would have a smaller, more cost effective city government.


WHAT WOULD A WESTWOOD CITY GOVERNMENT LOOK LIKE?: No different that any other small town, you would have a mayor, a part time council. Consider for a moment that Cincinnati City councilmen make 62,000.00 a year for what many argue is a part time job. Westwood could accomplish the operation of the city with a small council, probably 4, and these are essentially part time jobs so the city wouldn't be paying tax dollars to support the huge salary paid to Cincinnati council persons. Many functions, such as zoning and historic Preservation could easily be handled by volunteer appointed boards.



In short, Westwood seceding from Cincinnati is a very viable option. It is one that Cincinnati's first reaction would be to fight vigorously, But when consideration is given to the "negative publicity" that would result Cincinnati might want to reconsider. A separation of Cincinnati and Westwood would make economic sense in the long run and possibly benefit the Urban neighborhoods of Cincinnati as the could focus them on a smaller area and perhaps respond better. Westwood can address their needs and issues in a faster more cost efficient manner as well. This could be a 'win-win' for both cities

7 comments:

Bob said...

Cincinnati, OH
---------------------
Population: 332,458

Westwood, OH
---------------------
Population: 35,473


If more than 10% of an American city's population feels so disenfranchised that they'd like secede from that city, it ought to be a national news story.

Efforts to combat blight put forth by certain members of city council have been squashed by other members of council and a disconnected mayor who cares more about how his suit fits and where his next junket will be.

How would a 1/10th drop in population feel on the next census, Mayor Mallory? Probably wouldn't help your cause when begging for the next round of "stimulus" money...

Radarman said...

Is the issue in Westwood truly crime or is it race? Or class? Or religion? Westwood was an all white enclave through the eighties. It lost some of its attraction for one big population segment when policemen were allowed to move outside the city. The migration of West End residents to Western Hills has proven very unsettling for the aging Westwood population who were used to uniform blondness on the sidewalks.

Radarman said...

Is the issue in Westwood truly crime or is it race? Or class? Or religion? Westwood was an all white enclave through the eighties. It lost some of its attraction for one big population segment when policemen were allowed to move outside the city. The migration of West End residents to Western Hills has proven very unsettling for the aging Westwood population who were used to uniform blondness on the sidewalks.

Paul Wilham said...

Radarman, I have had the occaison to talk to many Westwood residents both Black and White. Maybe you did not know that Black people actually own homes in Westwood.

The issues of safe streets, and decent place to live are universal and not 'race exclusive'. Many would probably try to make this a racial issue but from what I have seen, most people regardless of color do not tolerate open air drug dealing, prositution, and buildings that are so unkept that you wouldn't want your dog to live in them, much less families with children.

From what I have seen, there are many new young people who are moving into Westwood, both black and white who are attracted by the historic architecture and quality of life.

From my perspective if you are a gang banger, a prostitute or drug dealer, I personally want you out of my neighborhood and I don't care what your color is. It isn't a "racial thing" its a "common sense" thing. Everyone wants a safe place for their kids and a decent quality of life.

Bob said...

@Radarman-

The issues have nothing to do with race. It doesn't matter what color skin you're wearing -- if you act responsibly (have a job, pay your taxes, maintain your property, respect yourself and your community, obey the laws, etc.) -- then any neighborhood would welcome you. We are all part of the human race.

Westwood is a diverse community of all kinds of people: the color of your skin, your religion, your sexual orientation -- none of those things matter. What matters is living your life in a responsible manner.

The city has turned its back on our community (and other Cincinnati neighborhoods). The conga line of criminal activity begins in OTR and marches straight up Harrison Avenue to Westwood.

Is it that difficult for you to understand that residents of Westwood simply want the same things every decent citizen wants? A clean, safe neighborhood? We are tired of watching our property values plummet as the city turns a deaf ear to our plight. It often feels as if our elected leaders are annoyed that we refuse to go away or be silent.

We fight because we care. We care about each other, we care about our community. We care about our city.

But it seems they don't care much about us.

There are lots of new faces in Westwood that care, too. It isn't just the "old guard" anymore. There is energy here, and momentum is building. We have the most effective Citizens On Patrol and Good Guy Loitering programs in Cincinnati. Our local community organizations are seeing their membership numbers (and donations) grow.

It is time for our city (and our country) to stop rewarding, encouraging, and perpetuating irresponsible behavior. It is time for our city to begin rebuilding our neighborhoods and restoring faith in its ability to listen to those it has been called to serve.

Paul Wilham said...

The supporters of the current Mayor will try to make this issue about race because they have no defense to their lack of action on neighborhood issues.

It is not just Westwood that is upset. Fairmount, Price Hill, OTR Dayton Street, Northside, Clifton, Walnut Hills, Avondale , I do not see ANY neighborhood in this city singing the "praises" of this administration or this mayor.

steve-o said...

Call me skeptical, but I would be shocked— completely shocked— if residents could get the signatures needed to get the wheels going.

I fully understand the frustration of these citizens but I suspect the state of the majority of Westwood's residents is general apathy.

Rather than deannexation, I would suggest frustrated Westwood residents rally to gain more seats on city council or perhaps even the mayor's office. It's the path of least resistance.