“Five Questions with …” is a regular Keystone Crossroads feature where we seek to glean wisdom and ideas from some of Pennsylvania’s top urban thinkers and doers. Teri Ooms is executive director of The Institute for Public Policy Economic Development at Wilkes University in Scranton and Wilkes-Barre, Pennsylvania.

 1.  Tell us about an amenity or service that you’ve seen in your travels to other places that you wish you could bring back to your city/community?

Having lived on the west coast for a number of years, I noted that communities and downtowns have impeccable landscaping and are always clean. While that should be a basic tenant in communities, it isn’t. Communities in Pennsylvania are constantly putting out fires and dealing with financial and human resource shortages. Many of the simple or aesthetically pleasing things that enhance a community’s image are often ignored.

2. What’s one urban improvement idea that you could categorize as “nice try but didn’t work”?

Creating a great public place and then failing to develop programming or continue the development around it and maintain it.

3.Describe a person in your community who is a “spark” someone — who seems to get things done and inspire people. (This does not need to be an elected official.)

I know a man who built a small business from scratch and now employs nearly 200 professionals. He volunteers his time on a number community organization boards and then, takes it a step further and volunteers to help with projects and initiatives. That is commitment, drive and passion.

4. What flaw or habit does your city/community have that you would like to see it change?

Our region doesn’t recognize the many assets and attributes we have in our own backyard and there is little community pride. The region had over $1.5 billion in tourism revenue in 2012 alone.

5. Tell us about a movie or book that depicts, in a way that grabbed your attention, how a city can thrive or fail.

“The Economics of Amenity: Community Future and Quality of Life” by Robert H McNulty, Dorothy R. Jacobson, and R. Leo Penne.


 Is there someone you know who thinks hard about cities and knows how to get things done? Someone whom Keystone Crossroads should spend “Five Questions with …” Please let us know in the comment sections below or via Facebook or Twitter @Pacrossroads.