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Regional = We-gional

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By Jonathan Yeomans, on July 22, 2010

If there is one lesson that this internship has hammered home, it’s this:

Working regionally is important, and working regionally is challenging.

Not a mind-melting insight, but an important one. In an increasingly complex and connected world, working across jurisdictional boundaries is essential to successful governance.

People don’t live, work and play in a single area anymore. They may work in Durham, but live in Chapel Hill. Or they teach elementary school in Bunn, but spend most of their time and disposable income in Carrboro. Or go to school in Chapel Hill, live in Carrboro and often drive to Charlotte because there is no Five Guys in the Triangle.

You get the idea.

As I’ve mentioned in a previous post, the TJCOG held a forum in May with local leaders, and almost all of them spoke passionately about the need for jurisdictions to work together. However, as I’ve seen time and again, it’s not easy. Politicians often feel that they are elected to tackle local problems, not regional ones. Voters elect representatives to make their lives easier, so why should politicians be worried about what’s happening in another jurisdiction?

Also, there is little power or authority for one governing body to implement strong decisions for the good of the region. COGs have no taxing power, and while they are great facilitators, that’s often the extent of their role. Add to the mix the often disparate needs of counties in the region and you have a heady brew. It’s hard enough to get a board of elected representatives from the same town to agree on something. Now imagine getting more than 30 towns to agree. Not easy.

But it’s not impossible. Regional leaders said that if they can find ways to develop a regional vision, recognize and incorporate the contributions of all the communities, and make clear the connection between regional action and local benefit, they can foster more effective regional action.

A variety of issues — transportation (lightrail), land-use planning, economic development and water supply management — will continue to draw all regional stakeholders to the table and serve as opportunities to strengthen regional relations. Governor Beverly Perdue personally pledged to support the COGs, and the forum’s keynote speaker, Michael Rogers, said it was imperative to involve/hire Millennials. I personally support that.

All the leaders agreed that stronger regional action was essential to the prosperity of the region. We aren’t going to get less connected. Regional thinking is the future.

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2 Responses to “Regional = We-gional”

  1. Ellie

    There’s a 5 guys in Raleigh, not to knock the many reasons to head to Charlotte. =)

  2. Yeomans

    you are right! there’s one in cary too. should have said carrboro/chapel hill. five guys. drool.

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