Is regional governance possible?

Where are we with regional governance? Bill Barnes of the National League of Cities, and a BRR member, asks that in his July 2011 column in Nation’s Cities Weekly.

“We know that there’s more and more of it, that it can be a big pain and that it often but not always produces useful results. Sounds like a lot of other things about government. We also know that there’s not enough of it. We need more and better regional governance.”

Regional governance, for those new to the issue, occurs when multiple governmental jurisdictions and interest groups in an area work together toward a goal, whether that be economic development, transportation policy, housing affordability, or a social service delivery (the potential list is long).

Barnes’ column offers a great overview of where we stand in regional governance, and more important, steps to take to achieve it.

He calls, for example, for some realism in talking about regionalism. It is not a cure-all. It is, as he says, “a means, not an end; it’s a question, not the answer to everything.” He also says that politics will always be front and center in regional approaches. Politics is how things get done, where the give and take happen. Regionalism, in other words, is not about “making nice,” it’s about the down and dirty quid pro quo of politics.

He also says that local governments are much more adept at regional outlooks, but state and federal governments are frequently behind the curve.

In the end, as he says, the road to better regionalism is through local and state governments, civic groups, federal and local actors. It requires both horizontal and vertical governing.  It won’t be easy, but it’s increasingly necessary to live locally but plan regionally. For more, read on here.

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