"Given the many problems we face, only community will save us." Thanksgiving Day thoughts about cooperation, collaboration and community motive as necessities for humanity’s future.

November 22, 2012

Dear Reader –
Promoting regional planning and cooperation among the 20 local governments of Virginia’s Northern Shenandoah Valley was my work from 1973-2008. Many people chuckle at the notion that local governments would cooperate. A businessman from California once asked, “Do you have any customers?”
The truth was that the Planning District Commission chartered in 1970 by the member local governments did, over time, have value. They owned it, having taken the funding incentive that doubled their money and made them eligible for other grants, but had to learn how it might be used.
Serving alternately as a as staff person and director of the Lord Fairfax Planning District Commission, now the Northern Shenandoah Valley Regional Commission, the region did achieve many accomplishments including an adopted District Comprehensive Plan; a regional solid waste management plan that was regularly updated and which become the basis for a regional tire shredder; regional water resources planning that involved an Instream Flow study for the North Fork of the Shenandoah River; to mention a few.
This region was having achievements at a time when academics claimed regionalism had failed in the U.S. My work experience as a regional planner led to the thesis: “community precedes cooperation.” If you want to solve a problem, build community of those whose cooperation can solve/if not improve on the problem.
Based on that idea, the Regions Work Initiative was launched in Chicago at the World Future Society, July 20, 1998. The action plan I set out then has guided my exploration and led to many product prototypes such as global geocodes and the Delicious tags which indicated both geographic location and topic. The goal was to make organized regional alignments, such as Planning District Commissions visible nationwide. The code issue required a global approach.
With 2008, the financial crisis brought to light the weakness of many economic theories. They were incapable of predicting what had happened. Massive private debt and the frauds that enabled it to ruin lending was invisible to most economists. This led to my consideration of the “profit motive,” which we are taught is what brings regions and their localities all things good.
I first expressed the idea of a “community motive” in an online discussion February 25, 2011 as follows:
The profit motive is strong, but it can only play out in a community. The community motive has led to civilizations which have economic relationships, internally and externally. Community infrastructure takes a long time to build. Human capital also takes generations to build. Both can be easily destroyed in war or natural disaster.
Community economies are not quickly built. One can learn from another, perhaps speed up the process, but the profit motive is very short-sighted unless it is tempered by cultural and religious values.
Thinking there might be some research along the lines of “community motive,” a later search only found one comparable use. That was from Aldo Leopold, the environmentalist who, in 1944 wrote: “Acts of conservation without the requisite desire and skills are futile. To create these desires and skills and the community motive is the task of education.”
No use of this term in relation to community development or in contrast to the “profit motive” was found. Community is, more or less, assumed to exist for localities with long term perpetuation of the community an implied goal.
In this age, the “profit motive” is both the goal and driver for all economic activity. Huge problems are simply those things that attract economic attention by business and industry. At least, that is what the economists tell us.
The concept was developed further in the presentation of my working paper: “Community Motive: The Untapped Identity Factor for Regional Development” at the Regional Studies Association Global Conference 2012 in Beijing, China on June 24, 2012. It was at this conference I also suggested we have a 300 year planning horizon.
Recently, when discussing the many economic, environmental and social challenges ahead, I  offer, “Only community will save us.” No one has disagreed yet. People seem to respond intuitively to the idea of “community motive,” knowing it does include them. They agree we won’t be saved by a “profit motive.”
Given the good reception to this idea, I've chosen to focus on going forward. The blog will become the space where I weave together the lessons and perspective that my years of experience, reading and observation now offer.
I will continue to scan for news items, saving links to Delicious: Links   RSS Feed  
Key items and conference/ meeting announcements will go to: Twitter
Blog posts will go to the Group: Regions_Work Subscription at Yahoo Groups
Happy Thanksgiving
Tom Christoffel, FeRSA, AICP
Regional/Greater Communities Motivation

Regional/Greater Community Development News – November 5, 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
Millions upon millions of people live in coastal cities — not just New York and the Boston-Washington corridor, Los Angeles, San Francisco, Miami, and New Orleans, but also many of the great cities in the emerging economies of Asia, India, and around the world. Their coastal locations are what fueled their growth in the first place, as a recent study titled "The United States as a Coastal Nation" [PDF] shows.
Cities, especially coastal ones, are critical components of the global economy. Just the world's 40 largest mega-regions — many of them located along coastline — account for roughly two-thirds of global economic output and nine in 10 of the world's innovations. The next several decades are primed to witness the greatest surge in urbanization in world history, and much of it will occur in coastal cities.
But coastal mega-cities are also susceptible to natural disasters, like Hurricanes Sandy and Katrina or the tsunami that led to the nuclear power plant meltdown in Japan. These great disasters appear to be occurring with increasing frequency, and prompt debates about their relation to global warming and climate change, as well as our cities' preparation for both storms and rising sea levels.
"The coasts we live on are not natural phenomena, but human phenomena," he says. In his book, Gillis writes about how beginning in the 18th century, Western cultures began to re-imagine and rebuild the shoreline to suit their commercial purposes, creating hard boundaries where tidal areas and marshlands once blurred the edge between sea and land:
What was once the edge of the sea, defined by the reach of water, became the seaside, a feature of land. What had been a threshold open in both directions became an ever firmer border. Every year governments around the world spend billions trying to “fix” their coasts, make them conform to the lines they have drawn in the sand. They build seawalls, groins, and jetties, dredge mountains of sand, and haul still more to replace what has been washed away. In the name of coastal protection, they destroy estuaries and wetlands, actually destabilizing shores by encouraging devastating erosion and flooding by sea surges.
Gillis says that before the modern era, people in coastal areas treated the ocean with respect and a healthy dose of fear. "The sea was understood to be what it is," he says. "Not necessarily an antagonist, but a capricious, dangerous creature."
People often built their dwellings facing away from the waves and the threat they presented to human life and order. Fens and tidal areas provided a buffer between settled areas and incroaching water. European port cities were not right on the seacoast, but further inland, up rivers. Cautionary tales of "drowned cities" were well known. Some, such as Atlantis, were legendary. Some, like Dunwich in England, were very real.
Regional Plan Association mourns the loss of life and devastation caused by Hurricane Sandy. As we begin to recover, we share a responsibility to learn from this tragedy and develop a new approach to managing the impact of storms in the tri-state region.
This can occur only through concerted political leadership at the federal, state and local levels. We are very encouraged by statements this week by Governors Cuomo, Christie and Malloy and Mayor Bloomberg recognizing the need to re-examine our policies, plans and infrastructure in light of the threats of severe storms and rising sea levels. States and localities throughout the region have made some progress in recent years in planning for volatile weather. But more needs to be done.
There are many steps that the region should consider to help reduce damage from the inevitable storms in our future, from physically protecting urban shorelines to rethinking our transit and power networks so that localized outages don't cripple an entire city or region. In all likelihood, we will need to adopt both "hard" infrastructure changes and "soft" solutions that rely on better land-use decisions and tap ecological systems to limit damage.
Read the full RPA statement on recommendations for preparing for storms [PDF]

Nationally-recognized real estate developer and regional growth expert Joe Minicozzi presented an economic development analysis of the region that says local governments get more return for their buck when they put the tax revenue potential of land in the city center at the forefront of their urban planning decisions. The perspective is contrary to conventional wisdom that big-box retailers bring big tax revenue and challenges economic developers in communities across southeast Tennessee to look at the value-per-acre return on their “Main Street” investments.
At a public meeting and luncheon sponsored by the Chattanooga Hamilton County Regional Planning Agency, Southeast Tennessee Development District, River City Company and the Lyndhurst Foundation, Joe Minicozzi of Urban3, a consulting company of the real estate developer Public Interest Projects out of Asheville, N.C., highlighted the fact that dense, mixed-use urban development pays better dividends than suburban mall counterparts when comparing on a value-per-acre basis.
To illustrate his point, Mr. Minicozzi studied Chattanooga and Hamilton County property taxes from 2012 to derive a yield-per-acre. …

Kansas City, MO - infoZine - Community AGEnda grant from Grantmakers In Aging and Pfizer Foundation is part of $1.3 million national effort to help America’s towns and cities prepare for a growing older population
Mid-America Regional Council (MARC) has been awarded a $150,000 grant from the Pfizer Foundation and Grantmakers In Aging (GIA), a national association of funders, as part of Community AGEnda: Improving America for All Ages. MARC has secured $50,000 in matching funding through a grant from the W J Brace Charitable Trust at Bank of America.
This new initiative is funding nonprofits in five U.S. communities to help accelerate local efforts to make communities “age-friendly” — that is, great places to grow up and grow old.
MARC will assess and improve older-adult transportation and mobility options in the Greater Kansas City area. MARC will also launch a two-pronged public awareness campaign to increase support for caregivers, and to tap the expertise of older adults as community resources. They also plan to work with the region’s First Suburbs Coalition to examine needs and plans for making surrounding areas more age-friendly.
SAUGATUCK, MI -- A 1,640-mile bike, hike and kayak trail around the shoreline of Lake Michigan goes into the planning stage Nov. 8 and 9 at Lake Michigan Trail Conference at the Saugatuck Center for the Arts.
The proposed four-state trail over land and across water is on a scale with the 2,100-mile Appalachian Trail through East Coast state, planners say.
More than 150 people including government planners from Michigan, Indiana, Illinois and Wisconsin are expected to attend the conference called to start work on creating a unified vision for the trail.
“The objective of this conference will be to establish a long-distance recreational trail that highlights the vast natural beauty of the Lake Michigan shoreline and the many historic, recreational and cultural offerings along its 1,640-mile long coast line,” said Dave Lemberg, conference planner and associate professor of Geography at Western Michigan University.
States and regional organizations have independently been putting together their own trail parts over in the past 10 years including a 75-mile kayak trail in Indiana and the announced commitment for a 425-mile shoreline trail section in Wisconsin along the lake shoreline.
“The conference will provide an opportunity to integrate these independent regional efforts into a new type of tri-modal trail through a collaborative planning process,”
We are recognizing a large volume local cooperative cross-sectoral cooperation.
For many years we have witnessed credit unions banding together, rural electric co-ops forming national associations, and other co-ops within each sector collaborating.But this isn’t cross-sectoral cooperation. While intra-sectoral organizing is needed and successful, I’m addressing something else.
Admittedly many states have the the cross-sectoral equivalence of NCBA on the state level. However most of them exist as trade associations; they typically aim to form a membership to support common and dominate legislative issues. And then there is also some common resources for education, though a lot of the time that is using professionals to organize intra-sectoral education (senior housing cooperative, credit union, healthcare, and other intra-sectoral educational needs).
The phenomena I’m revealing is concerted efforts to promote cooperation as a local alternative to investor-owned businesses and this effort being wrought by a group of cooperators from a variety of cooperative sectors. Whether its merely the support that local co-ops (local being a particular metro area, rural area, state, or inter-state region) can give each, what shared activities they can facilitate, or what they can do to support new co-operative formation, these monthly or bi-monthly meetings can only do good.
We recognize these cross-sectoral regional cooperation efforts in Philly, Minnesota, Austin, Seattle, Madison, Boston, Western New England, Portland (OR), Upstate NY, Central Michigan, Southern Oregon, Northwest Wisconsin, Providence, and an inter-state region amongst Washington, Oregon, Idaho, Alaska, & Hawaii.
In a new report, commissioned by Downing Street, he says that people think the UK "does not have a strategy for growth and wealth creation".
He wants to devolve power from London to the English regions.
In the Commons, David Cameron and Ed Milliband argued over whether the report backed or damned the government.
Lord Heseltine's report, No Stone Unturned, makes 89 recommendations to help industry. One of its key aims is to move £49bn from central government to the English regions to help local leaders and businesses.
The aim, he said, was to devolve power from Whitehall and re-invigorate the big cities that had fuelled the growth and wealth that the country had enjoyed in past decades.
Lord Heseltine, head of the Department of Trade and Industry in the 1980s, said the government should allocate growth funds through the new Local Enterprise Partnerships (LEPs) that are being established in England in place of Regional Development Agencies.
Continue reading the main story
“Start Quote
This is a war cry from the man whose golden locks and virtuoso performances earned him the nickname Tarzan”
In 2010, the government invited local business and civic leaders to come forward with proposals for establishing LEPs that reflected natural economic geographies.
Lord Heseltine believes these bodies could be key to stimulating regional growth, but said that, at the moment, LEPs did not currently have "the authority or resource to transform their locality in the way our economy needs".
At the national level, however, the government should show greater leadership in promoting major infrastructure projects, Lord Heseltine said. A national growth council should be created, chaired by the prime minister and with a cross-government focus.
"Central government must retain control of important, large scale infrastructure projects. This includes our motorway network, national rail network and airports, as well as our energy networks," Lord Heseltine said.
The character preservation legislation passed by the South Australian Parliament covers 40,000 hectares of farm land in the McLaren Vale region, south of Adelaide, and almost 150,000 hectares in the Barossa Valley, to the north-east of the city.
It prohibits land in the zones from being subdivided for housing and removes the planning minister's power to approve major developments without parliamentary scrutiny.
Rosemount Estate chief winemaker Matt Koch is pleased there will be laws to protect his region from being overrun by suburbia.
"It gives us the opportunity to not stop progression but at least have our say in progression and give a voice for the future of McLaren Vale and wine regions in general," he said.
Dudley Brown has been one of those fighting for better protection.
"If you're an agriculture producer anywhere within two or three hours of a city, if you're not looking at legislation like this to protect your agricultural areas, you won't be in business in 25 years," he said.
Mr Brown is a grape grower and winemaker who moved to Australia almost a decade ago from Orange in California after his region disappeared under cement.
"A city of almost 100,000 got built and it was all orange groves when I got there and I was like "What a beautiful place" and literally seven years later it was sort of gone," he said.
When Mr Brown saw housing start to crawl towards his vineyard in the McLaren Vale region, he was determined to nip it in the bud.
He suggested McLaren Vale follow the lead of another wine region, the Napa Valley in the US, which is protected from development under the Williamson Act.
During the 1960s, 1970s and 1980s, we tried to develop our manufacturing sector, hoping this would allow us to reduce our dependence on imported goods. We tried to promote the development of local firms to produce goods for the domestic market that had previously been imported. This was known as a policy of "import substitution".
But from the early 1990s, the International Monetary Fund (IMF) and the World Bank encouraged us to start producing for export and advised us and other countries in our region to start dropping import tariffs which they claimed would force our manufacturing sector to become more competitive. The reality, however, was different.
Trade liberalisation has, on the whole, negatively impacted on our manufacturing sector. As we cut our import tariffs, we were flooded with cheap imported goods. This caused many of the local industries to collapse. And our companies that targeted export markets in Europe and the United States lost their market share because they were unable to successfully compete with producers in China and other Asian countries. The result was a massive de-industrialisation due to companies closing down.
As a result, our manufacturing sector cannot grow under the current unfair economic and trade system, even if they try to become export-oriented. Thus, unemployment remains a massive problem.
In order to build a viable manufacturing sector, we will have to fundamentally change the neo-liberal economic policies that we have been so far following. This includes breaking the stranglehold of international institutions such as the IMF, World Bank and the World Trade Organisation and creating policy space for increased local manufacturing. But of course this cannot be achieved by Zambia alone. Thus, the states of the region would have to try to integrate politically and economically into a single bloc, based on fairness, and the drive for equality based on achieving common goals and meeting common needs.
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