By Doug Oplinger
Your Voice Ohio
What’s your future, Green?
Communities across Ohio are asking a similar question in a state economy that is chaotic and culture that seems unusually tense.
Are people of Green most concerned about college debt? Artificial intelligence taking jobs? Addiction? Taxes? Political acrimony? Record temperatures and rainfall?
People of Green will have the opportunity June 30 to begin a conversation about how the community can provide everyone with fulfilled lives now and into the future.
The conversations come as Ohioans prepare for local elections and local journalists pledge to better represent Ohioans as the 2020 national elections approach.
The sessions are sponsored by a news media collaborative called Your Voice Ohio, which seeks to gain better understanding of what Ohioans think is a path to improving life. With that information, journalists create representative and solutions-oriented news coverage on the issues that matter most to Ohioans.
Green will be different from the 12 meetings held so far because the city is different from most of the state. There may be other thriving stretches of highway like the Massillon and Arlington corridors, but that’s not the norm in Ohio.
A once-robust state that took one of the biggest economic tumbles in the last 20 years, Ohio languishes economically with declining household incomes and wages. The state is far below the nation in education and health, and in some cases going in the wrong direction. Ohio routinely places in the top five states for opioid overdose deaths.
Will Green be consumed by Ohio’s decline?
The media project asks people to discuss how they envision a vibrant community, and then, what are the necessary steps to sustain that vibrancy?
What others have said
The conversation in Green is expected to be very different from those in such places as Akron, Dayton, Warren, Lima and the city of Springfield – although there are likely to be some consistencies as well.
In Akron, about 200 people met in April in conversations sponsored by the Akron Beacon Journal, WKSU public radio, The Devil Strip and the Center for Marketing and Opinion Research. The conversations were designed and facilitated by Your Voice Ohio.
There was overwhelming concern in Akron for relationship-building, economic equity, safety, education for all ages and meaningful wages. Statewide, common themes were relationships and respect, pride in communities, living wages and education.
Some of those cities are among the state’s and country’s most economically stressed. Warren in Northeast Ohio, for example, saw median household income tumble 20 percent since 2000 — $11,000 stripped from household incomes every year. And this year, the nearby GM Lordstown plant closed, permanently eliminating more than 5,000 high-paying jobs. Warren also experiences one of the highest drug-overdose death rates in Ohio.
People in Warren talked about taking control of their own future by thinking about a sustainable living standard – one that provides happiness and fulfillment from within. In other words, they talked about redefining happiness.
A Green future
Green is not a highly educated and wealthy community like Hudson or Bath, but by many measures it ranks in the top quarter in the state.
With median household income of $66,656, Green is 10 percent higher than the national median, more than 20 percent higher than Summit County and Ohio, and 84 percent higher than Akron.
Yet, the percent of Green residents in poverty is 10 percent, not much lower than the U.S. rate of 12 percent.
Green residents who do not have a four-year degree or more account for 63 percent of the people over age 25, whereas in the U.S. it’s 69 percent and Ohio 73 percent.
What sets Green apart most significantly is race.
Only seven percent of the local population is non-white or Hispanic compared with 39 percent in the country. Ohio is 15th-lowest in the country for diversity at 21 percent non-white or Hispanic.
The city also has a high home-ownership rate and very high percentage of homes with broadband access – critical to education, work and social structure.
Green residents enjoy a tax base that plays a major role in its success. Three expressway interchanges allowed for rapid retail and industrial expansion generating property and income tax income that allows the city to set aside a surplus for emergencies. School district students benefit from commercial and industrial properties that account for 20 percent of the tax base, compared with a state median of about 13 percent.
Casual conversations heard in Green suggest there are concerns for addiction, college debt, living wages for young people, artificial intelligence taking jobs of those with and without college, long-term record temperatures and rainfall at the Akron-Canton Regional Airport, a natural gas transmission pipeline and daily annoyances such as traffic and roundabouts.
Are there remedies that address one or more of those concerns?
The Your Voice Ohio project will hold three conversations to discuss what must be done to help all people live fulfilled, happy lives and to make that goal sustainable.Questions should be directed to Doug Oplinger at email@example.com.
Greensburg United Methodist Church, 2161 Greensburg Road, has agreed to host the conversations and provide light snacks.
So that there is an estimate of number of people, those who are interested in participating are asked to go to Eventbrite to sign up.
The first session on creating a vibrant, sustainable community will be:
1:30-3:30 p.m. Sunday June 30. Click here to sign up through Eventbrite.
Follow-up sessions will be:
6-8 p.m. Wednesday July 17. Sign up through Eventbrite.
6-8 p.m. Tuesday Aug. 6. Sign up through Eventbrite.
The follow-up sessions may be similar to the first or dive into one of the topics discussed in the first session.
Doug Oplinger is a 46-year veteran of the Akron Beacon Journal where he worked until 2017, retiring as managing editor. He now leads the statewide Your Voice Ohio media collaboration among more than 50 news organizations from his home base in Green. The Jefferson Center, a non-partisan non-profit civic engagement organization in St. Paul, secures the funding and provides the management of Your Voice Ohio. Oplinger can be emailed at firstname.lastname@example.org
Median household income (2017)
- Green $66,656
- Akron $36,223
- Summit County $55,419
- Ohio $54,021
- U.S. $60,336
(In Green, 30 percent of households earn $100,000 or more, same as the U.S. but
more than Ohio at 20 percent.)
- Green 74 percent
- Akron 51 percent
- Summit County 66 percent
- Ohio 66 percent
- U.S. 64 percent
Households with broadband internet connections
- Green 86 percent
- Akron 71 percent
- Summit County 77 percent
- Ohio 77 percent
- U.S. 78 percent