Posts Tagged ‘Regional’

29th January
2009
written by Arizona Kid

A Regional New Year’s Resolution, By Bill Dodge, Regional Excellence: HERE

Regional cooperation has had some incredible successes, but it continues to fail to address the tough challenges in most regions. And the challenges are getting tougher, from decaying infrastructure to declining air and water quality, increasing natural and terrorist threats, accelerating climate change, volatile energy costs, and profligate growth. Without success in addressing the toughest challenges — the true test for governing regions — “bottom-up” regional cooperation will die, and along with it the ability of individual citizens and their local governments to shape their own futures.

Unless regional cooperation provides an effective tool to address tough challenges, and quickly, it will be displaced by “top down” state and national government actions in response to public frustration. And there is no guarantee that higher levels of government will do better. (We are starting to see this here in Tucson with proposals for NON PARTISAN ELECTIONS)

I draw this conclusion, reluctantly. Have I, and the many colleagues I respect, been wasting our working years practicing regional cooperation? Were our efforts to educate individuals, establish regional mechanisms, share public services, and design compacts to address timely challenges all for naught?

A resounding no! Our efforts have resulted in building some amazing regional cooperation mechanisms — from regional councils of governments to regional chambers of commerce, academic institutes, citizens leagues, and sewer and transit authorities. It has resulted in addressing pressing regional challenges in every region across the country — especially transportation challenges. Maybe, most importantly it has resulted in educating individuals on the importance of regional cooperation and engaging them in cooperative efforts.

But, alas, regional cooperation increasingly appears to be bumping up against an impenetrable governance ceiling. Whereas regional mechanisms have nurtured more sophisticated visioning, problem-solving, service-delivery, and even performance auditing capacities, most lack the powers, resources, and especially public support to address the increasingly tougher regional challenges. And the gap between the capacity of these mechanisms and the emerging challenges appears to be growing.

The “Achilles Heel” of the best of regional cooperation efforts has been the lack of “clout” commensurate with the challenges being addressed. My fear is that asking weak regional cooperation mechanisms to take on more, and more demanding challenges, will not only result in fewer successes but mortally weaken the very places that drive our and the global economy. Citizens need to break out of their “local” mindsets, consider the regional “unthinkable”, and advocate for the regional “unheard-of”, if regional cooperation is to have the powers and tools to make regions work. With the support of, not the displacement by, state and national governments. And now! …….

……

Stateside regions tend to quickly dismiss most options for strengthening regional cooperation. They mask their objections in our tradition of independent local governments; that government closest to the people is the best. Less frequently voiced is that weak regional cooperation reinforces the tyranny of individual local governments, especially those that are affluent, think they can take care of their own needs, and are unwilling to cast their lot with the regional hoi polloi. Some of these objections have merit in that many of the overseas actions are “top-down”, limiting local government and citizen involvement in designing regional cooperation models or participating in their activities. But, thus far, few regions stateside have been inspired to pursue “bottom-up” models that provide real powers and resources to regional cooperation, in spite of national government transportation and other funding incentives, unless mandated by the random acts of state governments, such as in California, Minnesota, and Oregon.

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