American Regionalism

STATE OF THE FIELD – American Regionalism and the Constellation of Mechanisms for Cross-Boundary Cooperation [Part 2]

By Jen Nelles and Jay Rickabaugh | In this colloquium, we explore the variety of actors involved in the cross-boundary cooperation that we associate with American regional governance and the evolving connections and relationships between them. We aim to produce a cutting-edge review of the state of the field of American regionalism that is accessible, thought provoking, and forward looking. In bringing together scholarship on different mechanisms for cross-boundary cooperation, and highlighting common themes, we hope to transcend some of the barriers in our field and begin to develop a comprehensive, grounded, and modern understanding of the dimensions of regional governance. The contributing scholars approach this broad question of regional activity with original quantitative data, case studies, interviews, and new arguments for theory development or research. We further hope to spark some lively debate that can generate sustained interest in the important work happening in American regions.  Read More

October 3, 2022 // 5 Comments

Projects Not Systems: Why New York Doesn’t Have a RIGO

By Cameron Gordon (Australian National University), Richard Flanagan (City University of New York), and Jonathan Peters (City University of New York) | The New York-Northern New Jersey-Long Island, NY-NJ-CT-PA Consolidated Metropolitan Statistical Area is an urban colossus. It is the largest and wealthiest metropolitan area in the nation with a population over 19 million residents and a GDP of $1.9 trillion in 2019, covering an expanse of four states, 31 counties, and 782 municipal governments (Regional Plan Association 2019; U.S. Census 2020; U.S. Bureau of Economic Analysis. 2020). But even a region as wealthy and storied as New York has problems. It is a territory with some of the worst commuting times in the nation. Its lengthy coastlines are vulnerable to climate change hardships, and housing and other basics are increasingly unaffordable. These facts have not escaped notice from policy influencers in the region. The leading authority in this space, the Regional Plan Association (RPA), has itemized many of Greater New York’s policy woes. RPA argues for a transformation of governance with the creation of new, regional institutions such as an infrastructure bank, a coastal commission, regional school districts, and a regional census (Regional Planning Association 2019). Read More

October 3, 2022 // 2 Comments

Investing in Emerging Regional Institutions to Promote Equitable Climate-Ready Regions

By Catherine Ashcraft (University of New Hampshire) and Christina Rosan (Temple University) | In the U.S., governing our regions has always been complicated, but with climate, the need for regional solutions is amplified and more urgent. Given exciting new federal financial and technical assistance to support climate and justice actions that is becoming available through the 2021 Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act and the 2022 Inflation Reduction Act of 2022, we see exciting opportunities to amplify and expand existing regional governance efforts to make them more inclusive and increase regional resilience. We argue for investing in and building on emergent climate regionalism as a pragmatic pathway of least political resistance and immediacy. We see networks of regional actors who are embedded in relationships with existing, trusted, democratic institutions and have a track record of success as natural leaders of efforts to center equity and justice in climate planning toward more fundamental and structural change. In this post, to illustrate the possible pathways for emergent climate regionalism, we consider two different cases in New England, the New Hampshire Climate Adaptation Working Group (NHCAW) and the Metropolitan Area Planning Council (MAPC), that on paper may not seem to have what we traditionally think about as “power”. This post presents our shared findings based on research and experiences with these organizations (Rosan 2016), which includes Catherine Ashcraft being a member of NHCAW.  Read More

October 3, 2022 // 3 Comments

Envisioning a Role for RIGOs in Cross-Boundary Land Use Regulation

By Thomas Skuzinski (Northern Illinois University) and Carolina Velandia Hernandez (Northern Illinois University) | More than six decades ago, the eminent land use attorney and scholar Charles Haar observed that “the regional plan is again largely a didactic exercise. While the usefulness denoted by its very existence should not be minimized, it must be recognized that the effect of such regional plans in directing the application of human energies in land development is indeed small” (1957, 523).Anyone engaged in understanding and solving regional problems—the myriad problems that span beyond the scope of authority and likely functional capacity of a single local government—will recognize that these words continue to ring true today. Regional planning is widespread, pervasive, and frequent, especially in metropolitan settings. But land use regulation is “arguably the sole legal domain in which local governments are preeminent” (Camacho and Marantz 2019, 141) and has even been described as a cornerstone of American localism (Cashin 1999; Briffault 1990). The highest hanging fruit, therefore, for any regional policy agenda is a unified development ordinance that covers zoning, subdivision, and supportive capital projects and that is commensurate with the scale of regional problems. A healthy alternative would be any cross-boundary land use regulation—any attempt at shared land use regulatory power among two or more units of local government. Read More

October 3, 2022 // 2 Comments

Tightening Networks and Deepening Co-Regionalism: The Evolution of Cross-Boundary Cooperation to Combat the Opiate Epidemic in Washington State

By Lachezar G. Anguelov (The Evergreen State College) | As we seek a better understanding of how communities coordinate policies and projects across jurisdictional boundaries, we observe tremendous variation of solutions that coexist in any given region. Often our focus is on “visible” institutional arrangements, though many initiatives operate rather effectively in the shadows of formalization. Contributing to the conversation on regionalism approaches, this paper explores the prevalence and dynamics of complex network governance in the state of Washington. Read More

October 3, 2022 // 4 Comments

Water Utility Districts as Facilitators of Regional Climate Change Partnerships

By Jayce Farmer (University of Nevada-Las Vegas) | The increasing pressures of climate change can pose challenges for public water utilities through the economic and environmental impacts of droughts, excessive heat, flooding, and the deterioration of water quality (EPA 2021; Dombrowsky, Bauer and Scheumann 2016; Cromwell, Smith and Raucher 2007). Such challenges have placed utility districts at the forefront of finding strategies to sustain region-wide water supplies. Therefore, these entities can have great interests in taking sustainability actions that can result in direct benefits through energy and water conservation related cost-savings (Homsy 2016). Furthermore, the fiscal and technical capacity of utility districts can also produce external sustainability related benefits that transcend local boundaries and produce positive impacts for entire regions. Read More

October 3, 2022 // 2 Comments

Business Improvement Districts (BIDs) in Philadelphia and their Potential as Regional Actors

By Richardson Dilworth (Drexel University) | Business improvement districts (BIDs) are special service and assessment districts that typically cover territories as large as the downtown of a central city or as small as the commercial corridor of an outlying neighborhood. These organizations typically collect mandatory fees – assessments – from property owners within their areas to fund projects and provide services such as cleaning streets, providing security, installing streetscape improvements, and marketing the area. BIDs operate at a highly localized scale but, like many regional entities, they are a form of collective action that can cross jurisdictional boundaries. So, while they are rarely considered as a form of regionalism, they may have an overlooked role in cross-boundary governance. Furthermore, these cross-boundary BIDs are among the constellation of actors involved in governing American regions. In the context of this colloquium on American regionalism it is worth exploring the experience of BIDs, and their cross-boundary variants, and reflect on their place in urban and regional development. Read More

November 23, 2021 // 10 Comments

Elevating the Scale of Cross-Boundary Cooperation: Mechanisms for Cross-Regional Policy Coordination

By Soyoung Kim (Seoul National University of Science and Technology) | Around the globe, metropolitan regions provide increasingly important policy venues.  Metropolitan-level action has been deemed necessary to govern the fragmented landscape of cities, special districts, townships, counties, and other authorities.  An array of mechanisms are  available to address cross-boundary institutional collective action (ICA) problems that arise from the fragmentation of governmental authority in metropolitan regions (Feiock 2013).  The scale of these mechanisms is generally at the metro level or smaller, yet the geographic footprint of the urban problems these mechanisms are intended to address often extend far beyond the metropolitan region and impact multiple metropolitan areas.   Read More

November 23, 2021 // 3 Comments

Race, Activism, and Localism in the Metropolis: Metropolitan Planning Organizations in Atlanta and Chicago

By Margaret Weir (Brown University) | Generations of research by political scientists and historians paint a consistent – and deeply disturbing -- picture of the American metropolis.  From different directions, their work depicts a political patchwork designed to facilitate resource hoarding and enforce segregation by race and income. Long entrenched local government powers over land use have made racial and spatial inequality the defining feature of the American metropolis. Special districts, the most numerous boundary-spanning organizations, help the patchwork metropolis function but they are not known for challenging the economic and racial inequalities it protects (Savitch and Adhikari 2017). Are Metropolitan Planning Organizations, responsible for transportation planning and a variety of other regional responsibilities, any different? Have MPOs pushed against metropolitan inequalities and do they have the potential to do more? Read More

November 23, 2021 // 2 Comments

The Future of Collaborative Leadership in Contemporary Regional Entities

By George Dougherty (University of Pittsburgh) and Suzanne Leland (University of North Carolina at Charlotte) | Preserving leadership, institutional knowledge, and intergovernmental relationships are key to solving the wicked problems that do not stop at jurisdictional boundaries. Talent is a valued commodity and high turnover is a problem. Regional Intergovernmental Organizations (RIGOs) and Metropolitan Planning Organizations (MPOs) are no exception. To continue leading collaboration in our regions, it is important to invest in future leadership and talent for future generations. As the population ages, contemporary organizations need to recruit and mentor new talent. However, we know little about the succession planning process in these organizations. So how do we know where to invest or if we are investing enough in public employees if there are no benchmarks? And to what extent is this a problem for the future of these organizations?  Read More

November 23, 2021 // 3 Comments