The Northeast-Midwest Congressional Coalition, formed in 1976 to unite legislators on the complex issues particular to the states within the Northeast and Midwest region of the United States, established the Revitalizing Older Cities (ROC) Congressional Task Force in the last year. Spawned from an initiative that focuses on older declining communities, the task force shares a strong interest in revitalizing the centers that were affiliated historically with manufacturing and transportation. Several legislators realized that the campaign to renew older cities hinged on the incorporation of several key policy areas. Cross-sector collaboration, among a broad range of fields, was the appropriate catalyst for significant change. Thus, the ROC Task Force was born, with bi-partisan membership composed of legislators with different concerns and different specialities.
Recently, the ROC Task Force drafted a letter to the House Financial Services Committe, requesting a hearing for the Community Regeneration, Sustainability, and Innovation Act of 2009, which would create a new grant program to assist metropolitan areas experiencing property vacancy due to population losses. The bill will address the problems of cities such as Allentown and Bethlehem – communities that have seen a major change in their workforce over the last ten years and are now struggling to retain residents.
Over the next few weeks, I will focus on the specific policy areas of the Revitalizing Older Cities Initative and relate each policy to the Lehigh Valley’ s cities. The six areas are:
- Transportation and Infrastructure
- Energy and Environment
- Economic and Workforce Development
- Healthy Livable Communities
My hope with this ROC series is to highlight some of the pertinent issues affecting our local communities and connect these issues to the broader national discussion. More importantly, it will draw attention to our region’s valuable assets, and the preservation of these assets as crucial to the Lehigh Valley. The first part of this series will focus on transportation and infrastructure within the Valley’s cities. Stay tuned.