The ever growing importance of regionalism:
I recently attended one of the League’s Regional Round-table discussions regarding municipal affairs and innovations. I recommend that you go to one of these meeting(s) if you can as they are very informative and the NCLM does what to hear from you. I think local leaders in government are too often sharply criticized and not given the credit due for many thankless hours of meeting(s) work sessions and time they put in while serving their community. That, however, is the subject of perhaps a future blog. Local officials, government leaders and institutions do increasingly rely on each other in the regions we are in and this is actually a good thing! I was pleased to hear comments from one local elected official when asked about some of the innovative things they did she spoke about innovative partnerships and doing business such as economic development from a regional perspective. Regionalism is certainly not new, however, it is becoming the norm. Twenty or more years ago the enduring mentality was more to each his own. While we frequently share Information and resources we still do not act as collaboratively as we should. The ever growing importance of regionalism can be seen as services such as water and sewer are merged together and local officials frequently join together to plan, discuss and lobby for large infrastructure projects.
I chose this topic because as a former Town Manager I have seen changes in local government most of which have been very good for us all. I do believe local government in North Carolina is generally responsive and efficient and as citizens we can be proud of the communities we live in and the government officials that serve us. However, dedicated the majority of these government leaders are it is clear to me that they need more assistance. More and more I see that assistance coming from other governments in the form of regionalism. I think we are seeing this because of one overarching reason and that is in the majority of cases it just works and leads to better results. So that said, just what is regionalism and why should it matter to you? In very simple terms regionalism can be defined in two words…working together. In reality, working together to achieve common goal(s) and improve quality of life is what regionalism is all about. I like to think of the analogy that a rising tide lifts all boats. As resources grow scarcer it becomes even more important and I would argue a necessity that we work together but sometimes ironically we do the exact opposite. Regionalism is important to you because it has been proven to increase the efficiency and effectiveness of local governments. More efficient government helps keep taxes and fees lower. Lastly not every issue is better solved through a regional approach and in fact there are many instances where it just cannot work. However, that is where you can still get benefit from regional collaboration. A simple but good example of this I have seen is people sharing ideas on a listserv. A key objectives at ECC is to bring people in our region. Our meeting(s) are collaborative and designed to be informative. However, to be successful we have to get participation from others in our region and this continues to be one of the greatest challenges we face. In closing, I would encourage those that have ever wondered about getting involved with their community to get off the sideline and get involved. You can make a difference in your community.
~Matt Livingston, Executive Director