Regional/Greater Community Development News – May 28, 2012

     Multi-jurisdictional intentional regional communities are, in all cases, “Greater Communities” where “community motive” is at work at a more than a local scale. This newsletter provides a scan of regional community, cooperation and collaboration activity as reported in news media and blogs. 
Top 10 Stories
Regional cooperation has long revolved around communities playing nice to convince some large business to move here. But now it’s about simply paying bills.  Northeast Ohio’s economy is not the powerhouse it was in the 1960’s but we still spend like it is.  Here’s the way the president of the Fund for Our Economic Future, a group of philanthropists puts it.
“I’d assert that our enemy in this game here is concrete.  And I don’t mean like practical or tangible.  I mean literally concrete.”
Brad Whitehead is talking about infrastructure costs.  He calls our land use patterns “a silent killer” of the local economy.
“The rate at which we are developing land has been 70 times the rate and which our population has grown.  Which means when that happens you have to build bridges; you got to repair old bridges. You got to build sewers; you got to repair old sewers.   You got to build schools; you got to repair old schools.  It means that we’re adding more and more infrastructure costs on to serve a fixed population which again means money is not being able to be used to fix other things.”
Even business people are starting to like environmentalists.  The CEO of the economic development organization Team NEO Tom Waltermire , likens our sprawl to a drug
"So we’ve got this combination of this economy that’s not growing and creating enough value and enough prosperity to pay for our infrastructure habit.”
An East Bay state senator has agreed to back off from his proposal to overhaul the four Bay Area regional government authorities, allowing them time to negotiate and collaborate on a reform timed for the 2013 legislative session.
The Napa Co. Board of Supervisors voted last week to unanimously oppose DeSaulnier’s bill, called SB 1149. Supervisors criticized its provisions that would create the regional commission, which would consist of popularly elected commissioners from 15 districts whose boundaries would be carved up from the Bay Area.
Each district would consist of about 476,000 residents, but only two districts would cover the North Bay counties of Marin, Sonoma, Napa and Solano. Napa County, with less than 2 percent of the Bay Area’s population, would not be adequately represented on that commission, local leaders contended.
While county leaders were critical of the proposal, DeSaulnier had pledged in committee hearings …to amend it and remove the election requirement.
The commission would be installed above the Association of Bay Area Governments (ABAG), the Metropolitan Transportation Commission (MTC), the Bay Area Air Quality Management District and the San Francisco Bay Conservation and Development Commission.
These four bodies are tasked with planning for housing, transportation, air quality and land use in the region. DeSaulnier’s commission would have had final say over their plans.
The author is executive director of Central Park NC, an eight-county rural economic development organization …
As with the rest of the nation, the recent economic downturn has not been good for our communities.
We've lost more than 20,000 jobs over the past several years, and many of our communities are more cash-strapped than ever before and desperately seeking new means of generating wealth.
Central Park NC's mission is to grow a regional and local economy based on the sustainable use of the region's natural and cultural resources. …
 …a lot of what the economic crisis has been about is the disconnect of "place" from "business." One of the painful results of globalization is that more and more of our -businesses have no meaningful local connection to our communities.
… the Yadkin River, which meanders through much of the center of our state, is one of North Carolina's greatest wealth generators.…
Across the globe, multinational corporations are working -quietly to control water resources, including rivers and groundwater, because they recognize the value of water for wealth creation.
Create Local Jobs
… Unfortunately, we suffer from a poverty mindset. ….
The Issue of Scale
A New Strategy
… We decided to create a "business -incubator."
The Bay Area Climate Collaborative (BACC), a public-private partnership project of the Silicon Valley Leadership Group dedicated to accelerating the clean energy economy… new regional action plan, Bridge to the Clean Economy: Low Carbon, High Impact Market Initiatives for the Bay Area,…
Federal, regional and local government budgets are under pressure. It is especially important now, in this time of government austerity, to scale clean energy through market-driven action. Drawing on the insights and innovations of regional clean tech and climate leaders, the… plan showcases key players and outlines regionally actionable market acceleration initiatives in electric vehicles (EVs), renewable power, and energy efficiency that support economic development while reducing regional greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions.
"The Bridge to the Clean Economy action plan outlines strategic opportunities to grow our region's clean tech economy," said Chuck Reed, Mayor of San Jose, who along with the Mayors of San Francisco and Oakland established the BACC in 2009. "While we've made much progress over the past three years, we must continue our efforts to support innovative green technologies that will create jobs, protect our environment, and help San Jose achieve its Green Vision goals."
Six area schools will receive funding from the Minnesota Department of Transportation (MnDOT) to develop Safe Route to School plans thanks to the hard work of the Upper Minnesota Valley Regional Development Commission (UMVRDC).
MnDOT worked with Regional Development Commissions statewide to solicit applications for this year’s round of Safe Routes to School (SRTS) funding. Grants were available in two categories:
• Planning assistance – Funding to complete a Safe Routes to School plan to help analyze existing conditions, gather public input and identify potential infrastructure and non-infrastructure solutions at K-8 schools.
 • Implementation grants – Funding for education, encouragement, enforcement and evaluation activities. …
El Paso transportation titan Ted Houghton wants to fund a massive, $750 million project in the heart of El Paso.
… Houghton, who is chair of the Texas Transportation Commission,…
“We’ve had a few sources of revenue pop up,”…
The proposed Border Highway West toll road is one of nearly 10 projects Houghton & transportation engineer Eduardo Calvo recently reviewed with El Paso Inc.
The projects total nearly $1 billion & could be under construction in the next couple years…
…promises of money for El Paso streetcars a few weeks ago & now this funding for Border Highway West have caused a clash of the titans, insiders say.
El Paso’s other transportation titan is state Rep. Joe Pickett, D-El Paso, who chairs the board of the local Metropolitan Planning Organization. Generally, the MPO oversees transportation planning in the region & decides what projects get funding & move forward first.
“I’m not sure why TxDOT is picking out certain projects when all of this stuff has to be approved by the Metropolitan Planning Organization,” Pickett said.
Technically, Pickett is right, insiders say. But when hundreds of millions of dollars become available from the state for a certain project, who on the MPO is going to turn it down?
The region’s cultural organizations are showing signs of recovery from the fiscal crisis and deep recession that began in 2007, according to an annual survey conducted by the Greater Philadelphia Cultural Alliance.
Individual giving is up, foundation support is up, earned income is up, and even some hiring is under way, the survey shows.
“This recovery is a testament both to how organizations have restructured and how Philadelphians have placed a high value on culture in their communities,” Tom Kaiden, alliance president, said in a statement. “These are positive indicators not just for cultural groups but for the region as a whole.”
Alliance officials report that 43 percent of the organizations polled said that ticket sales, subscriptions, and memberships were up in March 2012, compared to October 2010, when 33 percent reported increased ticket sales and only 20 percent reported increased subscriptions and memberships. ...
The Move Your Money campaign has been wildly successful in mobilizing people and raising awareness of the issues, but it has not made much of a dent in the reserves of Wall Street banks, which already had $1.6 trillion sitting in reserve accounts as a result of the Fed’s second round of quantitative easing in 2010. What might make a louder statement would be for local governments to divest their funds from Wall Street, and some local governments are now doing this. Local governments collectively have well over a trillion dollars deposited in Wall Street banks.
A major problem with the divestment process is finding local banks large enough to take the deposits. One proposed solution is for states, counties and cities to establish their own banks, capitalized with their own rainy day funds and funded with their own revenues as a deposit base.
Today only one state actually does this: North Dakota. North Dakota is also the only state to have escaped the credit crisis of 2008, sporting a sizeable budget surplus every year since. It has the lowest unemployment rate in the country, the lowest default rate on credit card debt, and no state government debt at all. The Bank of North Dakota (BND) has an excellent credit rating and returns a hefty dividend to the state every year.
The BND model hasn’t yet been duplicated in other states, but a movement is afoot. Since 2010, 18 states have introduced legislation of one sort or another for a state-owned bank.
The Atlantic Canada Opportunities Agency is eliminating its funding to regional economic development groups in the Atlantic provinces, effective next year.
The federal agency has decided to discontinue annual operational funding to the regional development authorities in Nova Scotia, regional development boards in Newfoundland and Labrador, community economic development agencies in New Brunswick, and similar community-based organizations in Prince Edward Island…
The core funding that ACOA has provided to regional economic development organizations (REDOs) will instead be invested directly in small- and medium-sized businesses and communities in support of initiatives that deliver economic growth and job creation throughout the region.
It's unclear if the respective provincial governments will step up to provide the full funding.
But New Brunswick's economic development plan talks about "streamlining" its program and doesn't even mention the economic development agencies.
Spain's wealthiest autonomous region, Catalonia, needs financing help from the central government because it is running out of options for refinancing debt this year, Catalan President Artur Mas said on Friday.
"We don't care how they do it, but we need to make payments at the end of the month. Your economy can't recover if you can't pay your bills," Mas told a group of reporters from foreign media.
The debt burden of Spain's 17 highly devolved regions, and rising bad loans at the country's banks, are both at the heart of the euro zone debt crisis because investors are concerned they could strain finances so much that Spain, the currency bloc's fourth biggest economy, will need an international bailout.
Catalonia, which represents one fifth of the Spanish economy, has more than 13 billion euros in debt to refinance this year, as well as its deficit. All of the regions together have 36 billion euros ($45 billion) to refinance this year, as well as an authorised deficit of 15 billion euros.

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