Cleveland Heights Census Shows Population Drop: Danger of Losing Funding

Janet Babin- Northeast Ohio's meager spring sun is setting and Saturday night is taking over Coventry Road in Cleveland Heights. Some call this part of town the city's answer to San Francisco's trendy Haight District. It's a magnet for some, a pariah to others -- like Carmen, a 20-year Cleveland Heights resident.

Carmen- I see (a lot of) kids on drugs, the different color hair, they're piercing -- I mean, it's just weird, you know.

JB- While plenty of families stroll Coventry next to the tattooed teens and twentysomethings, Carmen sees the street as an example of demographic changes in Cleveland Heights that are making her think of moving.

Carmen- I'm seeing (a lot of) parts of Cleveland Heights starting to look like Cleveland as far as people moving in and out. It's getting bad in certain areas.

JB- Census figures claim that 4,000 morepeople moved out of Cleveland Heights than in during the last decade. The latest numbers make the city just 42 people short of 50,000, the number needed to keep $2 million of federal funds. Mayor Ed Kelley says the money has paid for a slew of services he won't be able to provide.

Ed Kelly- Some of that goes to a lot of the housing issues and housing projects you see around, low income housing, senior citizen programs, the Open Door which is an AIDS intervention place.

School Teacher- I want quiet people....I'm going to read you a story....quiet!!!"

JB- The money also pays for this latch key program. It furnishes a brown bag snack and story time to about 35 active 5- to 10-year-olds, who slowly become engrossed in the book their teacher reads aloud. One by one the kids leave as their parents come by to pick them up after a day's work. Youth Center Director Linda Cross runs the program. She says if the census calculations are correct, the $80,000 it takes to keep the kids here after school will be lost.

Linda Cross- It will really be important for a lot of these families because there's nowhere for these kids to be otherwise.

JB- Cross says smaller cities have fewer resources to find replacement dollars for these programs. Mayor Kelly agrees. He's reviewing every part of the city looking for Census Bureau mistakes.

EK- we know for instance that in Cleveland Heights in the past ten years we haven't had a loss of a lot of apartments, a loss of houses or abandoned houses. If anything we're shifting the other way, and building new houses.

JB- The city is collecting address lists and maps in an effort to appeal the numbers. But James Hughes of Rutger's University suspects Cleveland Heights has suffered from a population trend seen in other Rust Belt cities and inner suburbs. He's Dean of the Edward J. Bloustein School of Planning and Public Policy.

James Hughes- Many of those inner suburbs were really geared toward the industrial big city and as the economy changed, the attractiveness of those suburbs has also declined.

JB- While Cleveland Heights continues to hunt and hope for 42 residents who didn't get counted, the city won't have to work too hard to change many residents perceptions. For every Cleveland Heights naysayer worried about population loss, there's someone like Tanya Seals.

Tanya Seals- It's expanding. I think the population is upgraded to me, you have a lot more people who's trying to come up in their lives, and trying to come up to the Heights area.

JB- Also, James Hughes doesn't think the city will have to deal with low numbers for the next census. He says flight from metropolitan areas has peaked, and predicts that aging baby boomers will join immigrants and young people in flocking to cities and inner suburbs, as long as they offer entertainment, diversity, and a sense of community. In Cleveland, Janet Babin, 90.3.

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