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Regional cooperation to fuel change in 90s researchers say.

"As metropolitan regions move into the 1990s the pace of scoial, economic, and political change is unprecedented. Regions will need to seek new methods of planning that are strategic in approach, rather than limited in geographical perspective, and proactive rather than reactive," Mary Ellen Mazey told participants at a symposium on Models for Regional Cooperation sponsored by the Center for Urban and Public Affairs at Wright State University in Dayton, Ohio.

Mazey, director of Wright State's Center for Urban and Public Affairs organized the conference which took place May 29 and 30.

What she found in the Dayton area was that turf issues and lack of leadership were the two biggest threats to economic development. CHALLENGE 95, a regional strategic planning process, was created to overcome these barriers. Out of this grew the CHALLENGE 95 Leadership Network. Another outcome was the Center's interest in holding a conference to look at models of regional cooperation and examine what does and doesn't work.

The conference opened with the presentation of research findings that supported research conducted at NLC by William R. Barnes, director of NLC's center for Research and Program Development, in his report with Larry Ledebur, Metropolitan Disparities and Economic Growth.

According to researcher, H. V. Savitch:

[section] cities and suburbs are highly inter-dependent and compromising that relationship is harmful to both;

[section] Subrubs profit from vibrant cities and are hurt by declining ones; and

[section] Localities with a greater capacity to harness common resources and unite populations (through a phenomenon he terms "inclusion") do better than highly fragmented ones.

Factors that raise a city's "inclusion" score are a high proportion of a metropolitan area's population within the central city, intergovernmental partnerships, ad hoc agreements between jurisdictions, and cooperative development arrangements.

In a study of 59 metropolitan areas, Savitch found that inclusion or non-in-clusion correlates with prosperity and decline. When cities were more inclusive, their relative incomes moved upward and the central city poverty rate was lower relative to the whole area. Savitch also found that high or low degrees of inclusiveness and prosperity were not linked to any specific region of the country.

The study concluded that where each local government pursues its own ends, "every locality finds itself a loser. But once cities and suburbs envision themselves as part of a region, they generate a collective capacity which enables all localities to benefit."

The models presented at the conference ranged in scope from an eleven county collaboration in North Carolina that included 51 cities and towns, two councils of governments and four state transportation divisions to a fire department consolidation among three suburbs of Portland, Ore. Some models presented were primarily rural while others were centered around a major metropolitan area. Two models crossed state lines and one involved a regional solid waste management system involving contractual obligations between the state, a major urban area and thirteen other municipal governments.

According to summarizing observations from William Dodge, president of Strategic Partnerships Consulting, intercommunity models of cooperation and collaboration are driven by the need to find better solutions to problems.

The challenge is to find effective ways to combine intercommunity problem solving with intercommunity service delivery. These new strategies for problem solving and efforts to resolve service delivery frustrations are stimulating new experimentation with concepts of regional governance. The models which are emerging suggest that these new experiments and strategies are substituting old models of regional government with "networks" for intercommunity or regional governance.

These new "networks" are replacing the old hierarchical pyramid composed of government agencies and other community organizations with a more informal network of structured interactions among the intercommunity problem solvers and service delivery organizations, who, together, identify issues, develop visions and design strategies to make the vision a reality. The process is overseen by an open, neutral forum and includes public interaction.

For additional information, call Phyllis Furdell, 202/626-3030.
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Publication:Nation's Cities Weekly
Date:Jun 15, 1992
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