Turn That Frown Upside Down

Buffalo Mayor Byron Brown still has work to do on his demolition plan.

And Mayor Carty Finkbeiner recently bulldozed Toledo's 300th vacant house.

But restoration and reconstruction will be the compelling theme for America's Great Lakes region in 2008. Not degradation and deconstruction.

Clearly, we still face historic economic, environmental, and social challenges at the outset of the New Year. But the negativity is tired. A healthy society can only worry so much about factory closings, polluted waterways, partisan gridlock, and other troubling trends. At some point more positive pursuits are in order.

What's wired these days is transcending the hardship with fresh ideas and opportunities, partnerships and coalitions, specific solutions and, more and more, action. That's why, I predict, this will be a good year for the campaign to revitalize the economy, ecology, and civic spirit in the Great Lakes region.

Sure there will be bumps along the way. Pay attention to the alternative energy debates maturing in Ohio and Michigan. But signs big and small continue to prove the ship is turning in a more promising direction. Not sinking.

Cooperation and rejuvenation in long-divided and decaying Detroit.

Innovation and job creation in deindustrializing Cleveland.

Environmental and urban restoration in grimy Toledo.

And around Gary.

In other words we're building something new here. Something bigger and better and light years more profitable than the assembly line. We just have to push aside a few more outdated ideas, practices, prejudices, and buildings to take another leap forward.

"We have a demolition plan," said Buffalo Mayor Brown. "In some cases, we will be able to demolish enough of these structures so we can add new infrastructure."

And polling reveals people there see progress.