My name is Dave, I’m a Master of Community Planning and I have had the distinct privilege to do some really cool things in the past four years since getting to Cincinnati. Before I get into that though, let me tell you a bit more about myself.

I was born in Youngstown, OH to a wonderful set of parents that raised me in Columbiana, OH. Columbiana is a small town south of Youngstown that became a city right as I moved out to go to college. We had an interesting small town history and a movie theater. My father, David Sr. was the mayor of Columbiana for a while and, in my opinion, was a pillar of making decisions that made Columbiana better, not a particular person, party, or group.

I’m an avid fan of video games, and I sometimes wish that someone would re-release the NES from 1985 so that I could go back to playing Mario and the Duck Tales game all the time–they are certainly very different from the unrelenting violence and fast-action-pace of today’s video games. Sometimes I wonder, though, if that isn’t the same difference as “talkies” and modern movies. If that is the case then perhaps I should appreciate each decade of games the same way we appreciate change in the decades of film.

Beyond video games, I am a homebrewer and enjoy making my own beer and cider–not for the alcoholic content but for the science and experimentation that it allows. Some of the best beers I’ve made were ones that were incredibly low in alcoholic but really robust in flavor. I’m currently working on a Maple IPA, which was inspired by a Clover Honey IPA I had the chance to try at 3WiseMen in Indianapolis.

As for Cincinnati, I’ve been here for almost half a decade. In that time I’ve worked for a non-profit that I loved and a city that kind of reminded me of home, worked for the Associate Dean of Research in DAAP on a number of design and planning collaborations and projects, and found some of the best professional peers and friends anyone could ask for. I took some classes at UC that contributed toward a PhD in Regional Planning and Development, something I became interested in after completing a thesis on the problems of economic development at a local scale without deference and caution given to regional trends and decisions.

In 2011 I completed a few contributions to a project for the EPA that focused on environmental, social, and economic guidelines for sustainability. The project was interesting, but more importantly, I found a particular fondness for the way in which Kentucky does economic development and planning in general. I firmly believe that the District Development model that Kentucky utilizes is something that may be an example of how things could be done differently in Ohio. Not because they usurp power from local governments but because leaders in Kentucky had the foresight to understand that economic development cannot be done alone or without consultation with other places near by. The zero-sum game that results from such activity continues to hurt Ohio, especially Youngstown, as cities cherry pick strong businesses from one area to the next over economic development incentives.

In 2013 I started a job with the Northern Kentucky Area Development District and had the opportunity to be involved in a number of interested and exciting projects. In my role as a Public Administration/Community Development Specialist I’ve gotten to work with cities to provide public administration and planning support. The most rewarding thing about my job is the variety of work I get to do and the fast pace at which projects and problems come. I’m never bored at work, I’m always busy. After two years there I became the loan fund manager for the EDA Small Business Revolving Loan fund. I learned a ton about financing as well as small business development and job creation.

I currently work for Hamilton County, Ohio as a Program Manager. I’ve gotten to apply everything I learned about CDBG and Revolving Loan Funds to the work of the Community Development Office. I also work on programs to assist disabled renters and people who have trouble with their water and sewer lines with low/moderate income.

I think I can make a difference in people’s lives through community and economic development. That these things are not just for businesses and executives to talk about as “giving back.” Planning, especially community and economic development, must include and understand local populations more than it has.  We must strive to use the information gained from that inclusion and understanding in a way that benefits everyone, not just a few, not just a specific place, and not by hurting other places. Our national and global economy depends so much on the ability to find ways of making growth sustainable. Finite resource markets continue to be a significant contributor to the economic problems of many localities. Some places are taking steps to invest in a future that doesn’t depend on any one energy source, and they should be watched closely for the insights they can provide all of us.

If working as a planner has taught me anything it’s that we cannot find a one-size-fits all solution for everything, but we can find best practices. Best practices cannot be cookie cutter policy that is carted like a cure all from one place to the next, they must be tailored to fit the local experience, and thoroughly understood to make those adaptations to the local context possible.

Visioning for the future is no longer a thing to be done by cities to highlight how they intend to utilize growth, it is something that must be found deep within the DNA of a place and realized in words to call forth an image of how a place ought to be. Something that is attainable in spite of or with gratitude to local and national trends, it should fully represent the potential of a place to become desirable, healthy, and productive. How we understand that vision changes, we develop new methods, new technologies, new ways of visualizing data, and those things are great. Regardless of any of them, they are worth nothing without a vision upon which to build. They mean so little without the context that comprehensive planning, understanding a place, and the people give to the methods, techniques, data, and visualizations that we make. Planning is part philosophy of utopia and part technocratic profession, marrying the two perfectly is likely impossible, but finding a way in which they work together gives way to something worth remembering and pursuing.

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