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DAYTON, Ohio -- Here's an idea for saving Rust Belt cities: Tell bloggers and radio stations to stop calling your town a basket case.
That was one suggestion from representatives of eight of the 10 cities labeled last year as America's fastest dying. They met at the Dayton Convention Center last weekend to swap ideas about how to halt the long skid that's turned cities like Detroit, Cleveland and Buffalo, N.Y., into shorthand for dystopia.
The city representatives lunched on $6 sloppy Joes and commiserated through Power Point strategy sessions: Lure back former residents, entice entrepreneurs and artists, convert blighted pockets into parkland.
What emerged was a sense of desperation over the difficulty of rebounding from both real problems -- declining populations, dwindling tax bases -- and perceived woes.
"We can't go back and recreate the neighborhoods of the 1950s and 1960s, but we have a huge opportunity to create a new form for our cities," Mr. Gower said. "People want to live in beautiful places near green space."
In a historic reversal, the cities are embracing plans that emphasize growing smaller. In Buffalo, where more than a third of the students drop out of high school, Michael Gainer, executive director of Buffalo ReUse, is putting young people to work dismantling some of the thousands of abandoned homes and selling the scrap materials.