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Perspective

How to Save a Dying Suburb

For older, inner-ring suburbs in the Northeast and Midwest, the best hope often lies in merging with the city.
In East Cleveland, annexation might be the best hope for reversing the area's decline.
In East Cleveland, annexation might be the best hope for reversing the area's decline. Tony Dejak/AP

East Cleveland, a suburb contiguous to Cleveland, Ohio, has lost 36.7 percent of its population just since 2000. Its population is 93 percent black and its poverty rate is 42.6 percent. The city is classified as fiscally distressed by the state of Ohio. Its budget has fallen from $16 to $10 million in about six years, and nearly half the city’s workforce was laid off during that time. In 2016, the city petitioned the state to be allowed to file for Chapter 9 bankruptcy.  Last winter, the state department of transportation had to lend the city two salt trucks because its own fleet was inoperable. The nearby community of Oakwood Village donated an ambulance to East Cleveland, whose last ambulance broke down. Facing serious chronic challenges, East Cleveland considered a previously unthinkable solution: merging with the city of Cleveland.

Merger with the central city is an option more physically contiguous inner-ring suburbs should consider: That’s the argument I lay out in a new Manhattan Institute study.