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December 01, 2004

OneCleveland and the War on Poverty

The headlines scream a frank and brutal reality. The OpEd pages are predictable with "I told you so" insights.

The number of children living in poverty has increased by 11 percent over the past three years. The number of children receiving welfare has declined by 10 percent over the same period. Adding to the gloom, median family income - $44,853 in 2000 - fell by $1,535 over the past three years while the number of Americans without health insurance, according to the Census Bureau, grew by 5.2 million, to 45 million in 2003. And beyond the statistics, we know that the City of Cleveland and its nearly half million residents struggle to maintain their dignity, hope, and aspirations for a better, healthier, more prosperous tomorrow. We certainly are hurt and have a growing sense of powerlessness as our city finds itself at the very bottom of the barrel, a civic platform increasingly disparate in our pursuit of strategies for reinvention and a sprit of renewal.

Our biggest enemy is the culture of poverty. As our leaders meet this week, we will reaffirm the central role of our education and religious institutions in the new war on poverty. We will hear the coalition of the opportunists calling for a war on poverty by creating construction jobs to create new edifices to the last century. Our generous Foundation community will be identified as a key source of investment to address the war, with or without a plan. Some will, no doubt, remind us that the consensus regarding the social contract developed over a 40 year period beginning with Roosevelt and ending with Johnson is all but dead. Federal transfers to the States have sharply declined since the early 80s. State transfers to cities and regions have also declined precipitously since the 90s. And now, as we know in Cleveland, the City can not continue with business as usual. Some will, by their implicit silence, write off the City and call for the emergence of a new phoenix from the ashes of the rusted out industrial ghost town that represented the spirit of greatness in a bygone era.

The central public policy opportunity is not to report the facts, bemoan them, debate them, parse their meaning, point fingers, or invoke sentimentality and choruses of "if only…". Rather, if ever there was a clarion call for a third-way (non-partisan), a new coalition (not just the rehash of business versus government with or against organized labor), a new generation of leaders who are attuned to the 21st century rather than being preoccupied with the view from the rear view mirror – this would be the opportunity. The central organizing point for this new coalition could be the connecting, enabling, and transformative power of information technology. Those who are afflicted by comfort will reject the idea of embracing a new currency for our future. Others who preach that we need to retool our manufacturing workforce are quick to de-personalize the analysis rather than ask how prepared they themselves are to invest their remarkable talents with new 21st century tools to address the burning issues of today. There is, in this hour of structural crisis, a very human response to reject the new, untried, and risky option of strategic deployment and use of information technology to reinvent our city as a prototype of the connected digital city. While we embrace and affirm the key role of schools, religious and other 19th century institutions, we need to look forward to establishing, nurturing, and grow new institutions relevant to the challenges of the information age.

OneCleveland, is our region’s platform for innovation and creativity. OneCleveland is committed to not only connecting our key institutions with next generation Internet networking technology, OneCleveland is committed to working with public policy makers in Cleveland and other cities in NorthEast Ohio to bring broadband internet connectivity and technology to affordable housing. All our residents should be empowered with internet access and computing power in order to benefit from the goods and services available to them. Leveraging the power of networking relationships with Cisco, Intel, and Sun Microsystems OneCleveland hopes to roll out model services to residents later this year. Our hope is that our pilot efforts will inspire public policy makers to work with builders and developers to integrate technology into their building plans. More promotion and support needs to be directed to Ohio’s low income housing tax credits for providing high-speed Internet access in the living area of every unit via a data network.

Our city’s future is intimately tied to inviting and absorbing tens of thousands of new Americans to Cleveland over the next twenty five years. OneCleveland advocates adding a new computer and network connection to every family that moves to the City. The value is not only to create an incentive at less than $500 per family, but also to facilitate English as a second language training, linkages to job searching sources, communication with family and friends in their home countries, and linkages to critical information regarding their new home in Cleveland. The computer and network services could be enabled by OneCleveland and implemented through cooperative agreements with ESL providers who could provide families with the technology until they land their first job along with an option to buy.

Cleveland should work to create a Connect in Cleveland program to target a home connection for every resident of the City. This offering can be facilitated by OneCleveland and its "last mile" partners including dsl, cable modem, and wireless service providers. Following successful experiences elsewhere, the Connect in Cleveland program for residential broadband dialup should be priced at $10/month. We should target no less than 70% of Cleveland being connected by 2010 and 90% by 2015.

Financial security and planning is now a critical on-line experience. OneCleveland, calls upon local banks, financial planning firms and insurance companies to come together to develop and provide intensive training and education opportunities to make sure that our residence understanding of how to use on-line tools to become better consumers. Filing claims online, completing banking transactions online, setting up small businesses on-line, interacting with government offices online are all part of today’s reality and our residences need to become comfortable with that reality.

OneCleveland is about the power of opportunity – today. Single mothers, heads of households are now nearly 30% of all households in Cleveland. Helping kids with homework, accessing timely health care information, sharing parenting issues, on developing and maintaining a family budget and having time for exchanges with others in similar circumstances can make all the difference. Getting connected to broadband services is no longer a luxury, it is an imperative as we redefine the core value of the social safety net.

The health profile of our City will vary directly with its ability to develop a meaningful strategy for addressing the culture of poverty. OneCleveland calls on Cleveland’s world class health care facilities to use the power of ultra broadband connectivity to support mobile healthcare clinics connected to hospitals via a community health grid. Bringing diagnostic tools to the community and allowing health care practioners to exercise their skills with expert support at the hospitals for advanced service support is just the beginning of our ability to model for the nation, next generation public health care policies.

We are not so idealistic or presumptuous to assume that OneCleveland is the solution to Cleveland’s war on poverty. However, there can be no sustainable and meaningful future for Cleveland without an engaged and integrated strategy for leveraging technology to beat the culture of poverty and form the foundation of a culture of innovation, creativity, and hope.

Posted by lsg8 at December 1, 2004 06:20 PM and tagged Bytes 

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