Regional Solutions to Regional Problems

As local governments continue to explore new approaches to service delivery, collaboration is a theme that consistently emerges.

ARTICLE | Aug 21, 2013

As local governments continue to explore new approaches to service delivery, collaboration is a theme that consistently emerges. ICMA’s recent survey, Profile of Local Government Service Delivery Choices, explored whether local governments are participating in regional councils of governments, metropolitan planning organizations, or regional planning agencies. For those local governments that do participate in these collaborative efforts, the survey collected information on the types of issues these multijurisdictional organizations address.

Survey results show that overall 82% of survey respondents (2,012 local governments) participate in multijurisdictional organizations, with population size being influential. All 30 localities with a population 500,000 and above participate and more that 90% of those with a population from 50,000 to 499,999 do so. Geographic patterns show a high of 93% of respondents in the South Atlantic division participating, compared with a low of 69% in the Mid-Atlantic division.

The top three issues addressed by these organizations are

  • Roads and highways (68%)
  • Economic development (62%)
  • Public transit (54%).

Boulder County and Thornton are among the survey respondents in Colorado that belong to the Denver Regional Council of Governments (DRCG). Described as “…dedicated to making the nine-county Denver region a great place to live, work and play,” the DRCG’s With One Voice brochure attributes its success to “…the voluntary and cooperative efforts of local governments to create a better future for the region.” 

As a regional planning agency, the DRCG develops a regional plan addressing growth and development, transportation needs, and environmental quality. A number of significant initiatives are in place, as well as efforts like the online shared equipment opportunity for local governments to borrow or loan equipment. The DRCG solar map is an example of energy-related initiatives, and the transit-oriented development initiative can be found here. 

Wilcox County participates in the Alabama Tombigbee Regional Commission Rural Planning Organization (RPO), which focuses on rural transportation planning. With a detailed 2014 work plan, the RPO has an ambitious, well-defined approach. The goals of the RPO are 1) a well-managed rural transportation planning process; 2) an effective transportation committee structure; 3) a comprehensive data library and distribution source; 4) reports that are useful to the ALDOT and the local governments; and 5) a well-informed public who actively participate in the rural transportation planning process.

These are only a few examples of the benefits of regional planning to solve problems affecting local governments. Future articles will look at other issues where local governments have joined together to solve common problems, such as an aging population and affordable housing.

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