Regional Community Development News – December 12, 2011

This newsletter provides a scan of regional community, cooperation and collaboration activity as reported in news media and blogs. Article text is saved to Delicious within their 1000 count limit with geocode system and topic tags assigned.  Due to a recent Delicious format change, the tag links would not copy for this issue. They can be found at 

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Multi-jurisdictional intentional regional communities are, in all cases, “Greater Communities” where “community motive” is at work at a more than local scale.

The Indiana Department of Transportation has released a draft of its 2035 long range transportation plan. … One of the first things Mitch Daniels did when coming into office was to blow the whistle on how INDOT had basically been lying about its plans. It had promised basically everything to everybody even though there was no prospect of paying for it. ...

.. as Major Moves has progressed and it has become clear that the state doesn’t have the money to complete all the projects as originally conceived

… INDOT has solved the management challenge of delivering on a long range list of projects by simply deciding not to make a list at all. This allows them to acknowledge every community’s “needs” without having any tangible plan to address them. In other words, pretty much the status quo ante. A long range plan where you don’t even say what it is that you plan do is no plan at all. Indiana has abandoned long range transportation planning.

Camden has a ski mountain. Rockland has a cool-looking lighthouse perched at the end of a long, stone breakwater. Belfast has strong university programming. So, why fight for businesses and tourism? Why not bundle and market the whole region as a package? Those are the sorts of questions that brought several business-minded people together at a table in Rockport on Friday evening.
The new group will focus on economically strengthening the midcoast as a region — not the traditional way, town by town.

“It’s important to work regionally because we are in a very similar area. For residents and visitors to stay in the walls of a municipality [is not reasonable]. We support each other,” said Brian Hodges, Camden’s economic development director.

… Belfast’s Thomas Kittredge, … “I don’t think there will be many instances where we have to fight over the same things. We’re different enough. Maybe that’s naive — maybe we will have conflicts,” Kittredge told the group.

The Haslam administration has announced the next step in the Republican governor’s regional jobs strategy: strategic planning.

Gov. Bill Haslam and Commissioner Bill Hagerty of the state’s Department of Economic and Community Development released plans for each of the nine regions the administration has broken the state into. The governor has made a range of announcements in his overhaul of ECD, and the Nashville Business Journal previously profiled Hagerty as he works to encourage more business expansions and entrepreneurship along with large-scale corporate recruitment.

Nashville falls within the new plan's northern Middle Tennessee region. The strategy will include the basics of the Jobs4TN plan, along with training sessions for local economic development organizations, a focus on expansion and recruitment in the entertainment industry, promotion of innovation in inner-city and rural areas through the Nashville Entrepreneur Center and work to recruit tech-savvy workers.

A Porter County “Economic Development Cabinet” has been created to direct a county-wide strategic plan focusing on job creation and shovel-ready development sites.

Porter County Commissioner John Evans, R-North, Valparaiso Mayor Jon Costas, Portage Mayor-elect Jim Snyder, and Jim Jorgenson of the Porter County Economic Development Alliance announced the new initiative this morning.

The point of the Economic Development Cabinet is to unify and coordinate the mass of studies and plans conducted over the years, the county’s municipal redevelopment commissions and related organizations, and the various pots of CEDIT funding to create a “Strategic Plan for Jobs,” according to a joint statement.

Evans, noting that these groups already work together well, said that the cabinet will “engage experts in the field to assist in bringing the information together, develop strategies and goals, and identify funding resources and an organizational structure to execute the plan.”

Area leaders are beginning to generate "a buzz" about regionalism and the potential benefits it could have for Tulsa, surrounding municipalities, Tulsa County and northeastern Oklahoma as a whole. 
"When you start talking about what something can be, some people are cynical and they roll their eyes," City Councilor Blake Ewing said recently at a gathering of local and area officials. 
"But the more you talk about it, others go, 'You know, he's right. I believe in something I didn't yesterday,' and slowly you start turning the tide of a city and people start embracing these new ideas for what can be,"

The longtime debate over consolidation of local governments within a defined region continues to be contentious, with strident arguments on each side.

The journey may be rough and long, but the payoff is huge, said former Indianapolis Mayor Bill Hudnut.

His regionalism mantra: "You can't be a suburb of nothing." Once the public gets that, he said, the hard work toward the rewards begins

For nearly half a century, Gaston and Lincoln counties have reaped the rewards of their library systems being joined at the hip.

But a change in state law will soon make it more expensive for the two to stay together, meaning an unwelcome breakup could be on the horizon.

“I guess the best way I can describe it is that we’re being forced to divorce,” said Cindy Moose, director of the Gaston-Lincoln Regional Library System. “Even though we don’t want to.”
The regional library system was formed in 1963 as a way of allowing Gaston and Lincoln to share resources and personnel. It has also led to other benefits, such as providing access to grant funds each year that otherwise wouldn’t be available to the two counties independently, Moose said.
But within the last decade, state officials began revising the rules and regulations that govern regional library systems. Those revisions took effect April 1, and they have changed the way regional systems can oversee their finances.

For decades, local leaders have made it a point to push a single identity for the two-county region that includes Allentown, Bethlehem and Easton.

That's why when the IronPigs came to Allentown in 2008 they were named the Lehigh Valley IronPigs.

… While there have been setbacks, many local businesses and political leaders have embraced the regionalism mantra: that the communities that make up Lehigh and Northampton counties are stronger as a whole than their constituent parts.

The Greater Lehigh Valley Red Cross, The Greater Lehigh Valley Chamber of Commerce, the Lehigh Valley Economic Development Corp. and the Lehigh Valley International Airport all bear the marks of decades of work aimed at creating a regional identity.

Since 1971, those efforts have been bolstered by having a single congressman who represented both counties' interests in Washington D.C. …

The state Senate passed a congressional redistricting map last week that splits the Lehigh Valley, …

Many local communities are no longer merely trimming their budgets. They’re slashing them.
In some communities, the budget cuts mean fewer police patrol cars on the streets, longer ambulance response times and more pot-hole marred streets. In some, it means fewer park hours or cancellation of special events.

Upcoming state-imposed cuts in the estate tax, the local government fund, declining property values and a still-sluggish economic climate have forced some cities, villages and townships in the region to use hatchets instead of paring knives when reducing their budgets for 2012.

“There’s going to be a hunkering down by communities next year and doing only the absolute necessities,” said Susan Cave, executive director of the Ohio Municipal League. “Service is related to people. If people aren’t there to do it, the service will diminish. That’s what you’ll find is going on in almost every community in Ohio.”

THE University of the Sunshine Coast is leading an investigation into the quality of practical education being offered to Regional and Urban Planning students at universities across Australia.

USC has partnered with La Trobe, Edith Cowan and Griffith Universities, the University of Tasmania and the Planning Institute of Australia to win a $176,000 Australian Learning and Teaching Council grant to undertake the two-year project.

USC's associate professor of regional and urban planning Johanna Rosier and senior lecturer in planning Dr Claudia Baldwin are co-leaders of the project, while another USC academic Christine Slade has been appointed project officer.

Dr Rosier said the study would identify whether the learning techniques used in tertiary planning degrees were meeting the needs of the ever-changing profession.

The recent closure of Sheltering Arms in the town of Orange sparked a regional conversation among allied professionals in Culpeper Thursday about the bleak outlook for homelessness services and the critical need for area collaborations. 

Again and again, speakers at the homelessness forum emphasized the need for regional collaboration to combat homelessness.

And again and again, participants heard about drastic changes and cuts in government funding for homelessness services.

Yet, the need, like the faltering economy, continues to deepen.

The stark reality presents a complex myriad of challenges, said Jeffrey Walker, director of the Rappahannock-Rapidan Regional Commission, host of the forum.

“Things are and stand to get even tougher,” he said in terms of funding sources for shelters.

Many of today's most compelling land use, natural resource, and environmental issues—such as climate change, land use, water allocation, and landscape conservation—require people and institutions to work across jurisdictional lines and other boundaries. As illustrated below, trans-boundary issues occur at many spatial scales.

There is no single model for regional collaboration, no universal approach that works in all situations. But the principles and tools on this web site can help guide your work across boundaries. The best efforts are homegrown, tailoring the principles and tools to suit the issue at hand and the unique needs and interests of each region.

The Metropolitan Council this week approved a plan to invest roughly $26 million over the next year toward economic development and jobs along metro transitways through the Council’s Livable Communities grant program.

The new Transit-Oriented Development Fund (TOD Fund) will offer grants to cities to support development along rail and bus routes. TOD projects will be high density, mixed use, adjacent to transit stations, and designed to be pedestrian friendly.

“Encouraging economic development and job growth along transit corridors is a Council priority,” said Metropolitan Council Chair Susan Haigh. “Expanding the number of people who live and work on major transitways ensures we make better use of our resources, expanding opportunities for all.
“Across the country, employers are seeking to locate in areas where their employees … easy access to the workplace …“These grants will help cities attract major employers who will bring jobs that metro residents are eager to fill.”

Back in 2009, the nonpartisan Public Policy Forum recommended that housing trust fund programs in the area be consolidated. It was a good idea then; it's a better idea now. The consolidation doesn't have to happen tomorrow or next month, but it should happen soon, and efforts to work more closely together should start happening now.

An effort to do that is underway, and it deserves widespread support from the public and private sectors. Housing is a critical issue for the larger community. Without adequate housing resources, companies won't be able to find the workers they need to grow jobs. And with a still sputtering economy, it remains difficult for families to find housing they can afford even on a steady but modest income.

… One coordinated program also could be better at obtaining needed federal and state funds. This also comes at a good time as the Southeastern Wisconsin Regional Planning Commission works on a regional housing plan.

… reality that BRT—while offering many of the advantages of light rail—will be significantly cheaper to build. The nine-mile Woodward Light Rail line was estimated to cost $500 million. For that price, a metro Detroit BRT system could cover 110 miles.

Unfortunately, any optimism about the new project is effectively mitigated by the details of an oh-so Detroit plan. The BRT will be run by a regional transit authority. Unfortunately, that authority will not be a DARTA-like jurisdiction to coordinate an inter-modal, metropolitan transit system.

This BRT authority will operate independent of the SMART bus system, Detroit’s DDOT lack-of-bus-service, the People Mover authority, and presumably the planned Detroit-Ann Arbor commuter rail. 
Further balkanization of the region’s mass transit means more of the same for rider and taxpayer alike: Duplicative administrative overhead costs, separate labor agreements, separate fare structures, uncoordinated schedules, and overlapping services.

As Congress gets ready to leave for the year, lawmakers from both the House and Senate promoted their own solutions to the two-year impasse regarding a long-term surface transportation program for the nation. Provisions in the bill that is moving, albeit slowly, would impact the role that local governments play in making planning decisions on transportation projects in their communities.

With possible action this week by the Senate Banking Committee on the Moving Ahead for Progress in the 21st Century Act of 2011 (MAP-21), local officials are urged to contact their senators and urge them to oppose changes in the threshold for regional planning responsibilities that would result in losing their seat at the table for making transportation spending decisions.

This proposed change in the designation as a Metropolitan Planning Organization (MPO) from the current 50,000 population to a new threshold of 200,000 would eliminate two thirds of the current planning bodies across the nation …

The Association of Metropolitan Planning Organizations (AMPO) is a nonprofit, membership organization established in 1994 to serve the needs and interests of "metropolitan planning organizations (MPOs)" nationwide. Federal highway and transit statutes require, as a condition for spending federal highway or transit funds in urbanized areas, the designation of MPOs, which have responsibility for planning, programming and coordination of federal highway and transit investments. AMPO offers its member MPOs technical assistance and training, conferences and workshops, frequent print and electronic communications, research, a forum for transportation policy development and coalition building, and a variety of other services. The nine-member AMPO Board of Directors is directly elected by the membership, …

For the man who is about to take the unprecedented job of leading both the Lansing and East Lansing Fire departments — in what could be described as an experiment in regionalism — one question looms: Do the similarities outweigh the differences of the two communities?

“That’s the ten-thousand-dollar question — or perhaps the million-dollar question,” Randy Talifarro said in an interview Monday. “And can you still get efficiencies for both communities? Can you enhance services in both communities?”

For Talifarro, similarities between the two cities — each with its own identity — would make for a more seamless management in terms of what level of service is expected and can be provided and the day-to-day operations of each department’s organization. As part of an agreement approved by the East Lansing City Council and soon by Mayor Virg Bernero, Talifarro will be in Lansing “on an as-needed basis,” the agreement says, which Talifarro expects will be 40 percent to 60 percent of his time.

… the conversation about regional thinking and acting had shifted from structure to form, that is to say, from governmental fiat to organic growth. Here was a new paradigm!

Given the discouraging state of affairs at the federal and state levels of government, the creation of by the state legislatures of creative interjurisdictional mechanisms, or revised federal mandates, beyond what is already in place (MPOs and COGs, for example) is a pipe dream.

What then can stimulate real progress in affirming the reality, and recognizing the necessity, of regional cooperation? It’s the a focus on creating clusters of economic development opportunity. Clusters can grow organically, and do not need official action by government to happen. Harvard’s Michael Porter has famously described clusters as “geographically proximate groups of interconnected companies and associated institutions in a particular field, linked by commonalities and complementarities.”

Officials with the Capital District Regional Planning Commission are waiting to see if Saratoga County will continue to fund the commission.

Saratoga along with Albany, Rensselaer and Schenectady counties have an inter-municipal agreement to support the commission, which provides long-term municipal planning services and analysis.

Saratoga County legislators took the roughly $50,000 due the commission out of its 2012 budget, which is being voted on Wednesday. Rocco Ferraro, the executive director of the CDRPC, said Monday he is hopeful the funding may be restored as part of that final budget vote.

The popularity of farmers markets and direct farm-to-market sales, such as Community Supported Agriculture, is growing nationwide. The mission of the "Know Your Farmer, Know Your Food" program through the …USDA is to "strengthen local and regional food systems."

It's working. According to the USDA, the numbers of farmers markets across the country have more than tripled in the last 15 years. Community Supported Agriculture operations, CSAs, have grown from two in 1986 to more than 4,000. The National Restaurant Association declared "locally sourced meats and seafood" and "locally grown" produce as the two biggest trends in 2011.

Correspondingly, there are new opportunities for farmers wanting to join this growing marketplace either through direct marketing such as CSAs and farmers markets or by engaging in business with wholesale marketers that supply grocery stores, restaurants, and other food retailers. These choices offer economic sustainability for rural communities ...

The gap between the haves and have-nots in the Boston area has widened over the past three decades, deepening social disparities and cementing high levels of segregation.

In 2006, the richest 20 percent of the population earned, on average, more than 10 times the income of the poorest fifth, according to a far-reaching report from the Metropolitan Area Planning Council, a regional planning agency. In 1979, by comparison, the top earners made about seven times as much as the lowest fifth.

“Wealth in the region has become increasingly concentrated, creating a smaller group of wealthy families than ever before, while more Greater Bostonians than ever struggle to make ends meet,’’ the report stated.
The report, called “State of Equity in Metro Boston,’’ studied 101 communities inside Interstate 495 and found that income inequality in the region was higher than in 85 percent of metro areas across the country.

“This gap is large compared to other metro areas, and it’s increasing,’’ …

As Cuba prepares to embark on a new round of exploratory offshore drilling, U.S. officials are slightly more enlightened about the island nation’s plans in the event of a catastrophic oil spill on the scale of last year’s Deepwater Horizon explosion.

Several Caribbean countries - including the United States and Cuba - met last week in the Bahamas to talk about response plans. …

Sarah Stephens, the executive director of the Center for Democracy in the Americas, said she was encouraged that Cuban and American officials had met, along with other nations that have an interest in regional oil production.

"There should be a lot more direct conversation and collaboration between the U.S. and Cuba and others about the rig, because it’s inevitable," she said.

"The United States will continue to engage multilaterally to advance regional collaboration and to ensure responsible stewardship of the Gulf of Mexico and the Caribbean Sea," the State Department said. …

The six-nation Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) has been playing a bigger constructive role in terms of its “engagement in regional and global affairs,” said Saad A. Alammar, the GCC's assistant secretary-general for political affairs who was speaking ahead of the council’s summit meeting in Riyadh on Monday.

Alammar said the Gulf bloc had emerged as a self-confident and powerful regional body “willing to resolve problems and disputes” with diplomacy and long-term vision.

Alammar, while giving an overview of the GCC's engagement in regional affairs, including Israel, Yemen, Syria, Libya, Iran, Egypt, and in the affairs of several nations situated in Gulf's extended neighborhood, said the GCC stands for promoting cooperation based on the principles of consultation, openness and inclusiveness.

“The GCC, in fact, faces many challenges collectively in these changed circumstances,” said the GCC deputy chief, while referring to regional turmoil.

The continuing human smuggling cases require efforts coming from Australia and its regional neighbors to finally put an end to such unfortunate occurrences that already killed many would-be immigrants.

The deteriorating human smuggling cases require efforts coming from Australia and its regional neighbours to finally put an end to such unfortunate occurrences that already killed many would-be immigrants.

This according to Home Affairs Minister Jason Clare following the latest incident of a shipwreck … killed more than 200 … smugglers based in Indonesia filled up the ill-fated boat with 250 people, well beyond its reported 100-person capacity, mostly coming from Afghanistan and Iran.
What transpired, Clare said, bared the daunting reality that "people-smugglers act with a callous disregard for human life."

…most effective way of dealing with the problem, Clare stressed, is for countries in the region to recognise that "this is a regional problem and it requires a regional solution.”

THE private and public sectors need to increase collaboration to make sure schemes are judged on economic, not political, merit, the head of the region's largest business membership organisation said.

James Ramsbotham, chief executive of the North East Chamber of Commerce (NECC), was speaking as the organisation launched a blueprint for what it believes will put the North-East at the forefront of the economic recovery.

The report, called "Fit for the Future" focuses on infrastructure priorities that will help North East businesses build on strengths in exports.

The report has been compiled alongside a cross-section of the regional business community.
Mr Ramsbotham stressed the need for partnerships between the public and private sectors and the important role of Local Enterprise Partnerships.

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1000 - Europe
2000 - Africa
3000 - Atlantic Ocean
4000 - Antarctica
5000 - Americas
6000 - Pacific Ocean
7000 - Oceana
8000 - Asia
9000 - Indian Ocean
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