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Beyond perplexity: metropolitan governance in the 1990s.

This is the seventh and last article in the series, The Metropolitan Perplex, devoted to exploring new views and experience with metropolitan governance.

Adversity and opportunity can both create new bedfellows. The increase in regional collaboration in metropolitan areas across the USA may not result from disinterested quests for perfect public administration. More likely, jurisdictions and leaders are working together, "because we're under seige together."

That last phrase is from Sheila Jackson-Lee, council member at large from Houston, during the final general session at the 1993 Congress of Cities. She was summarizing a theme that ran through many of the track workshops:doing more with less often requires doing more with others.

A similar theme shaped the six previous essays, published in The Weekly beginning with the November issue under the tag fine, "The Metropolitan Perplex." These articles explored recent debate about and experience with cooperation among local governments to solve problems, make policy, deliver services.

From these articles and the Congress of Cities workshop discussions, some potentially useful conclusions about "metropolitan governance" emerge.

First, it is not a separate entity or structure, but a way of doing some of what local governments need to do. Metropolitan governance is the invention whose mother is the necessity created by drops in federal aid and increases in mandates, by the globalization of the economy, by the resistance to tax increases to cover service demands, and-- not least--by the radical complexity of problems and challenges that municipalities face. Author David Rusk, who most explicitly calls for setting up structural forms of metropolitan government, says that "cities without suburbs"--jurisdictions that encompass whole metro ares--perform better on a whole range of issues than fragmented areas.

Second, recognition of the shared economy that underlies all jurisdictions in an area is very important to stimulating collaboration. Regarding the new realities of global economic competition, for instance, the 1993 NLC Futures Report quotes Atlanta Councilmember Barbara Asher: "in order to take on the whole world, you need friends." Sharing the same economic lifeboat--the local economic region--at least creates colleagues with whom to work. The need to face the global economy together seems to be what would drive' the creation of what Neal Peirce calls "citistates."

NLC's research has demonstrated the significance of metropolitan economies. "All in it Together," a 1993 NLC report, concludes that central cities and surrounding suburbs constitute "a single economy, highly interdependent, with their fortunes intertwined." The report also concludes that the "U.S. national economy" actually consists of these local economies linked together in the "US common market of local economies." Thus, the performance of the local economies is crucial to the success of federal economic policies and the future of the nation.

Third, regional frameworks pervade many functional issues, and pioneering work on one matter can be the basis for constructive action on another. Writer and consultant Bill Dodge urges that such "pioneers" deserve the support of other problem-solvers.

Further, the cast of characters is not limited to government. Allan Wallis, of the National Civic League and DeWitt John, of the National Academy of Public Administration, write that "it takes more than governments to mobilize regional energies." Their report on an October conference of "citistate" delegations confirms their observation.

Fourth, addressing disparities within a region is an important part of building economic and governance capacity. Wallis and John report that several citistate delegations at the October meeting described regional efforts to link competiveness and poverty agendas. Walt Rostow of the University of Texas told that meeting "if you can't do this, you haven't addressed the real issue." Similarly, Peirce concludes that American citistates hamper their ability to compete in the global marketplace when then cannot or will not act to diminish glaring internal inequities.

It does appear, then, that equity and efficiency are closely linked. The usual economic analysis poses these as incompatible opposites; the metropolitan discourse leads to the conclusion that both are necessary for economic growth.

NLC's research helped lay the basis for this shift in thinking. Beginning in 1991, NLC studies reported that growth in local economies is affected by the extent of disparities within them. Overall employment growth is greater when city/suburb disparity is lower. And suburban incomes grew, 1979-89, only where central city incomes also grew. Diminishing dispartties within the region is a prerequsite to improving economic performance throughout the region.

Finally, "The Metropolitan Perplex" essays and the Congress of Cities workshops show there is not a "right way" toward metropolitan governance," no magic answer. The key is to ask the right question: how can metropolitan perspectives and framework help us to address important problems and issues in our area?

Then, collaborators must find useful ways to seek answers. Those answers lie locally. Different places will find different answers, but they can learn a lot from each other and can encourage and support each other.

Federal and state rules and programs can and should encourage and enable metropolitan regionalism.
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Title Annotation:last article in 'The Metropolitan Perplex' series
Author:Barnes, Bill
Publication:Nation's Cities Weekly
Date:Jan 3, 1994
Words:823
Previous Article:Comptroller Ludwig pledges to put CRA to work.
Next Article:Telecommunications issues at a crossroads: foresight and vision needed.
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