Regional Community Development News – January 14, 2009 [regions_work]

Top Regional Community stories

1. A Regional New Year’s Resolution - Regional Excellence by Bill Dodge

Ugly cats! The phrase caught my attention as I was being introduced at a regional gathering. I had become used to the kind comments, and often hyperbole, of introductions, but I had never heard “He’s the sort of person who loves ugly cats!” She went on to clarify her comment, suggesting that regions were like ugly cats, and one had to have a something akin to a mother’s love to want to foster regional cooperation.

I have now labored for over three decades in the trenches of regional cooperation, helping local leaders and citizens to design ways to cooperate to address cross-cutting challenges. Unfortunately, regions have all too often been ugly cats. And that legacy might threaten the future of regional cooperation, just when it is needed most.

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.

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 …

2. House Speaker Armond Budish pushes regionalism plan - The Plain Dealer - - Cleveland, OH, USA

Ohio's big cities could see special treatment from the state with income tax breaks on new jobs, more money for school construction and free broadband services for urban businesses under a plan unveiled Monday by new Democratic House Speaker Armond Budish.

However, those potential freebies wouldn't come without a price - Ohio's urban areas would have to participate in state purchasing cooperatives and abide by the results of a study focusing on whether regionalizing services such as fire and trash pickup would save public dollars.

Cities also would have to match the income tax break on newly created jobs with their own municipal tax breaks.

The push for regionalism by the first House speaker from Northeast Ohio in more than 70 years could provide a needed spark for local leaders, who have promoted regionalism for years but made little progress. Budish is the first powerful lawmaker in Columbus to take the lead on the idea.

During his opening remarks to the 99-member House, now controlled by Democrats for the first time in 14 years, the Beachwood Democrat wasted no time pushing an agenda for urban areas that he said the Republican-controlled legislature has overlooked.

Budish called specifically for a compact between the state and major cities with special incentives in exchange for what would be an eventual move toward more regionalism.

"I don't anticipate forcing any cities to do anything, but with incentives and review, there may be a number of services that can be offered more efficiently by groups of cities or regions getting together," Budish told reporters after his speech, which officially kicked off the 128th General Assembly.

The push for regionalism by the first House speaker from Northeast Ohio in more than 70 years could provide a needed spark for local leaders, ...

3. Rock County signs regional pact - Beloit Daily News - Beloit, WI, USA

Steps towards regionalization are still under way in the Stateline Area.

Leaders from Rock County have signed a landmark agreement with seven other counties called the Regional Principles of Collaboration. By signing, the county representatives agreed to work within a set of 10 principles for greater collaboration and a regional approach to economic development.

Leaders from Columbia, Dane, Dodge, Green, Iowa, Jefferson, Sauk and Rock counties participated in the regional agreement signing in December.

“The time is right to look for new ways to grow a strong, stable economy that will sustain our communities,” said Rock County Economic Development Manager James Otterstein. “The Regional Principles of Collaboration stand for the idea that economic development transcends county lines. They give us a roadmap for moving forward with a focus on cooperative projects that will benefit us all.”

President of Thrive Jennifer Alexander called the collaboration a landmark in regional culture. Now, for example, if a company called up Sauk County about moving in and Sauk County was unable to accommodate the company, Sauk Company would refer it to the other counties in the region.

The Principles differ from the problem many municipalities have of competing against each other to lure in business.

“These Principles are an important framework for how we all conduct our work, and how we all work collaboratively to promote the eight-county region,” Alexander said.

Although many areas of the country have made efforts in regional cooperation, there hasn't been as many places that have adopted a formal framework to work off of. The Principles of Collaboration include guidelines on competitiveness, equity, regional collaboration, stewardship, celebrating regional assets, a focused approach, servant leadership, innovation, transparency and measurement.

Note: Wisconsin Department of Commerce – “Wisconsin is divided into eight geographic regions, each comprising a multi-county Regional Planning Commission (RPC). Only the counties of Columbia, Dane, Dodge, Jefferson, Rock and Sauk are not members of a regional planning commission.” Map -

4. Upper Minnesota Valley RDC loses role in senior services

West Central Tribune - Willmar, MN, USA

As of the new year, the Upper Minnesota Valley Regional Development Commission [ ] in Appleton no longer has a role in how services such as congregate dining or senior outreach are provided in the five counties it serves: Big Stone, Chippewa, Lac qui Parle, Swift and Yellow Medicine.

It has led some to worry that the region’s seniors could suffer as decisions and services for them are increasingly made and delivered from afar, especially at a time when budget cuts seem likely.

Until this year, the RDC had been part of the Mankato-based agency known as the Minnesota River Area Agency on Aging that oversees many services to seniors in 27 south central counties. It is one of seven such agencies serving the state of Minnesota.

The Upper Minnesota Valley RDC has had differences with the agency over administration and the disbursement of state and federal funding, according to Gary Johnson, a Yellow Medicine County commissioner who serves on the RDC board of directors.

The Upper Minnesota Valley RDC — one of nine regional development commissions serving the state of Minnesota — withdrew from the Minnesota River Area Agency on Aging last year with expectations of joining a different Agency on Aging to its north.

The Minnesota Board on Aging denied the request to join the Land of the Dancing Sky agency. It expressed its unwillingness to change the boundaries of the Area Agencies of Aging that serve the state, according to Dawn Hegland, newly appointed director of the Upper Minnesota Valley RDC in Appleton.

No longer a part of the Minnesota River Area Agency on Aging as of Jan. 1, the Minnesota Valley Regional Development Commission is talking about possible litigation and legislative action to resolve its differences.

Seniors in the five counties should not see any changes in services, according to Reggie Edwards, director of the Region Nine RDC …

5. Teamwork pays off on water, sewers - Detroit Free Press - United States

In a series of small miracles, regionalism is actually cropping up in southeast Michigan, with the most important example being the recent resolution of three decades of bickering over control of metro Detroit's water and sewer systems.

The regional agreement on water management would end 31 years of federal court control, initiated when Detroit was not meeting clean water standards. That oversight inevitably led to intense wrangling over rates and disputes over who had financial responsibility for which parts of the system. U.S. District Judge John Feikens, in alternating bursts of patience and impatience, has had the case on his docket the entire time.

The proposed settlement includes resolution of the most recent city-suburban disputes: disallowing much of what Detroit charged to the system for emergency radios put in place after 9/11, and setting the stage for suburban purchase of a major interceptor that most recently touched off a feud about who should pay for repairs after it suffered a disastrous collapse.

What lies ahead may test the region: The plan still needs final approval by the legislative bodies involved, en route to setting up a five-member group to resolve future disputes.

Obama's campaign emphasis on repairing the nation's rickety infrastructure, combined with repeated hints that big public works projects will form the foundation of his economic stimulus plan, apparently lit a fire under all the negotiators. Sorely needed upgrades probably won't qualify for federal aid if the region continues its quarrels.

Now, the challenge to the region's leaders is simple: Build on this. Persuade your fellow elected officials and their constituents to keep moving forward with this broader approach to water issues. If this works, and it should, southeastern Michigan may finally prove to all the doubters that regionalism is not a four-letter word.

RC: Southeast Michigan Council of Governments -

6. TRANSPORTATION: Agencies unite to beg state for help - Atlanta Journal Constitution - GA, USA

The heads of four Georgia transportation agencies, which have spent years in turf battles, spoke with one voice Wednesday as they implored state government to help raise money to preserve Georgia’s transportation services.

Leaders of the Atlanta Regional Commission [], the Georgia Regional Transportation Authority, the Georgia Department of Transportation and MARTA reeled off the drastic state of transportation budgets at a conference in downtown Atlanta on Wednesday, uniting in a desperate cry for action. They talked of lost jobs, cuts in services and delayed projects.

At the meeting’s end, the chairmen of those agencies said they would draft a letter to the governor and the Legislature affirming that the state is in danger of losing hundreds of thousands of potential jobs in the coming decades if transportation is left underfunded, and asking for the resources to address it.

The chairmen’s boards will have to vote to approve signing the letter. Members of the MARTA board spontaneously shouted out their approval at the conference.

The leaders acknowledged that their staffs sometimes still disagreed on specific issues, but said their cooperation was unprecedented. Michael Walls, chairman of MARTA’s board, said he felt “a sea change.”

“Three years ago, nothing like this would be happening,” he said.

Over the years, the agencies have periodically claimed to be reaching a new era of cooperation and always call each other “partners.” But a looming crisis threatening to doom them all seemed to bring them closer together.

“If you think the forecast is bright and sunny, I hope I’ve told you where we really are with transportation in Georgia,” said Gena Evans, commissioner of the state DOT, in one of the day’s presentations.

Evans said the Atlanta region would have to cut $888 million worth of projects from its plans for the current fiscal year. …

7. Study: Collaboration would benefit area - Rexburg Standard Journal - Rexburg, ID, USA

The Yellowstone Business Partnership has released recommendations resulting from a year's worth of information gathering on economic-development issues related to the Yellowstone-Teton region.

Communities in the Yellowstone-Teton region have much to gain from greater cross-boundary collaboration, the partnership said.

The group has 250 members in 25 Idaho, Montana and Wyoming counties that surround Yellowstone and Grand Teton national parks.

The business group used a $150,000 U.S. Department of Agriculture Rural Development grant to convene six multicounty task forces and explore economic development issues of greatest concern to their regions last year.

The task forces looked at public transportation needs, land-use planning coordination, availability of affordable housing and the potential for recreation and tourism development.

After a year of public meetings and in-depth research, the partnership has identified several areas where cities, counties and businesses would benefit by collaborating across jurisdictional boundaries.

These are the recommendations:

-- Create a tri-state transportation cooperative that establishes an integrated system of private and public operators across Greater Yellowstone.

-- Help businesses with workforce training, energy efficiency, marketing expertise, technology upgrades, financing for expansion and research, new market development and organizational capacity. Create an overarching brand used by all tourism partners to convey a single, consistent image and message about the Greater Yellowstone region.

-- Provide opportunities for city and county land-use planning staffs to share computerized map layers and other planning tools that will improve their understanding of the region's demographic trends and growth patterns. Develop baseline affordable areas for needed residential and seasonal housing in all parts of the Yellowstone-Teton region.

-- Form a regional council of governments. Such an organization would bring community officials into regular contact with each other with an eye towards discussing collaborative ventures.


8. A 2009 wish list for Northern Colorado - Northern Colorado Business Report - Fort Collins, CO, USA

The Northern Colorado Business Report editorial board - including the publisher, members of the editorial staff and visitors from the business community - met in late December to talk about the coming year and those things we would like to see happen.

The following - in no particular order - is our New Year's "wish list" for the benefit of our growing region.

• The Colorado governor's so-called "New Energy Economy" will take wing in 2009 in ways that we don't even anticipate, …

• The best minds in Northern Colorado will shed political considerations and move toward regional solutions for transportation problems that, if not addressed, will begin to paralyze our economy.

• The business incubator that operates under the auspices of the Rocky Mountain Innovation Initiative will have a new, and much more spacious, home where the most inventive companies in the region can thrive and grow, making Fort Collins and the region a research and development capital for the "Innovation Economy."

• A Northern Colorado Water Congress will form, putting the most knowledgeable and talented people in Larimer and Weld counties to work on seeking solutions to water-supply problems that pit cities and farms against one another in competition for this scarcest of resources.

• The board members of the Northern Colorado Economic Development Corp. and Upstate Colorado Economic Development will find valid reasons to start serious talks about merging the two entities into a single, unified regional economic development platform.

• The nascent collaboration among the region's four main colleges and universities will take some tangible form - as it already has in an office building at Loveland's Centerra development - and lead to workforce development plans that will make Northern Colorado's population ready for a strong economic recovery.

9. Group's goal is to help regions help themselves - - Springfield, MO, USA

Would Ozarks-area residents be willing to commit to planting 1000 new gardens by Earth Day 2009?

That's one of the top goals of 80-plus people who gathered Saturday night at the Tower Club for the first regional gathering of the Transition '09 movement, which seeks to promote regional sustainability over globalization.

"When did we lose the capabilities to provide each other -- and our community -- with the basic necessities of life?" lead speaker Galen Chadwick asked those gathered.

Over many decades the local economy has moved away from locally-grown food to one where residents rely on food to be trucked in, participants said, and the system makes residents oil-dependent and is vulnerable to forces local residents can't control.

But increasing the number of backyard gardens is just the beginning of what Transition '09 supporters hope to do. The group has a Web site -- -- where interested circles of people are coming together to work and discuss ways the community can transition into a regionally sustainable community.

Another idea is to host a three-day event they hope would attract 50,000 on Earth Day, April 22.

By Thanksgiving 2009, the group hopes to have raised the consciousness of the whole area.

"The strategic goal of the Transition '09 movement is to orient all local laws, ordinances and policies toward a public commitment to genuine regional sustainability at all levels of governance," said Chadwick.

1,000 Gardens

"What I'm hoping to do is go to different neighborhood associations and offer to help people put in gardens that would be appropriate to their land," said master gardener Shelley Vaugine.

Besides backyard gardens, the group also envisions community gardens in public parks, on church grounds and on school grounds. …

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