"Given the many problems we face, only community will save us." Thanksgiving Day thoughts about cooperation, collaboration and community motive as necessities for humanity’s future.

November 22, 2012

Dear Reader –
Promoting regional planning and cooperation among the 20 local governments of Virginia’s Northern Shenandoah Valley was my work from 1973-2008. Many people chuckle at the notion that local governments would cooperate. A businessman from California once asked, “Do you have any customers?”
The truth was that the Planning District Commission chartered in 1970 by the member local governments did, over time, have value. They owned it, having taken the funding incentive that doubled their money and made them eligible for other grants, but had to learn how it might be used.
Serving alternately as a as staff person and director of the Lord Fairfax Planning District Commission, now the Northern Shenandoah Valley Regional Commission, the region did achieve many accomplishments including an adopted District Comprehensive Plan; a regional solid waste management plan that was regularly updated and which become the basis for a regional tire shredder; regional water resources planning that involved an Instream Flow study for the North Fork of the Shenandoah River; to mention a few.
This region was having achievements at a time when academics claimed regionalism had failed in the U.S. My work experience as a regional planner led to the thesis: “community precedes cooperation.” If you want to solve a problem, build community of those whose cooperation can solve/if not improve on the problem.
Based on that idea, the Regions Work Initiative was launched in Chicago at the World Future Society, July 20, 1998. The action plan I set out then has guided my exploration and led to many product prototypes such as global geocodes and the Delicious tags which indicated both geographic location and topic. The goal was to make organized regional alignments, such as Planning District Commissions visible nationwide. The code issue required a global approach.
With 2008, the financial crisis brought to light the weakness of many economic theories. They were incapable of predicting what had happened. Massive private debt and the frauds that enabled it to ruin lending was invisible to most economists. This led to my consideration of the “profit motive,” which we are taught is what brings regions and their localities all things good.
I first expressed the idea of a “community motive” in an online discussion February 25, 2011 as follows:
The profit motive is strong, but it can only play out in a community. The community motive has led to civilizations which have economic relationships, internally and externally. Community infrastructure takes a long time to build. Human capital also takes generations to build. Both can be easily destroyed in war or natural disaster.
Community economies are not quickly built. One can learn from another, perhaps speed up the process, but the profit motive is very short-sighted unless it is tempered by cultural and religious values.
Thinking there might be some research along the lines of “community motive,” a later search only found one comparable use. That was from Aldo Leopold, the environmentalist who, in 1944 wrote: “Acts of conservation without the requisite desire and skills are futile. To create these desires and skills and the community motive is the task of education.”
No use of this term in relation to community development or in contrast to the “profit motive” was found. Community is, more or less, assumed to exist for localities with long term perpetuation of the community an implied goal.
In this age, the “profit motive” is both the goal and driver for all economic activity. Huge problems are simply those things that attract economic attention by business and industry. At least, that is what the economists tell us.
The concept was developed further in the presentation of my working paper: “Community Motive: The Untapped Identity Factor for Regional Development” at the Regional Studies Association Global Conference 2012 in Beijing, China on June 24, 2012. It was at this conference I also suggested we have a 300 year planning horizon.
Recently, when discussing the many economic, environmental and social challenges ahead, I  offer, “Only community will save us.” No one has disagreed yet. People seem to respond intuitively to the idea of “community motive,” knowing it does include them. They agree we won’t be saved by a “profit motive.”
Given the good reception to this idea, I've chosen to focus on going forward. The blog will become the space where I weave together the lessons and perspective that my years of experience, reading and observation now offer.
I will continue to scan for news items, saving links to Delicious: Links   RSS Feed  
Key items and conference/ meeting announcements will go to: Twitter
Blog posts will go to the Group: Regions_Work Subscription at Yahoo Groups
Happy Thanksgiving
Tom Christoffel, FeRSA, AICP
Regional/Greater Communities Motivation

Regional/Greater Community Development News – November 5, 2012

    Multi-jurisdictional intentional regional communities are, in all cases, “Greater Communities” where “community motive” is at work at a more than a local scale. This newsletter provides a scan of regional community, cooperation and collaboration activity as reported in news media and blogs.
Top 10 Stories
Millions upon millions of people live in coastal cities — not just New York and the Boston-Washington corridor, Los Angeles, San Francisco, Miami, and New Orleans, but also many of the great cities in the emerging economies of Asia, India, and around the world. Their coastal locations are what fueled their growth in the first place, as a recent study titled "The United States as a Coastal Nation" [PDF] shows.
Cities, especially coastal ones, are critical components of the global economy. Just the world's 40 largest mega-regions — many of them located along coastline — account for roughly two-thirds of global economic output and nine in 10 of the world's innovations. The next several decades are primed to witness the greatest surge in urbanization in world history, and much of it will occur in coastal cities.
But coastal mega-cities are also susceptible to natural disasters, like Hurricanes Sandy and Katrina or the tsunami that led to the nuclear power plant meltdown in Japan. These great disasters appear to be occurring with increasing frequency, and prompt debates about their relation to global warming and climate change, as well as our cities' preparation for both storms and rising sea levels.
"The coasts we live on are not natural phenomena, but human phenomena," he says. In his book, Gillis writes about how beginning in the 18th century, Western cultures began to re-imagine and rebuild the shoreline to suit their commercial purposes, creating hard boundaries where tidal areas and marshlands once blurred the edge between sea and land:
What was once the edge of the sea, defined by the reach of water, became the seaside, a feature of land. What had been a threshold open in both directions became an ever firmer border. Every year governments around the world spend billions trying to “fix” their coasts, make them conform to the lines they have drawn in the sand. They build seawalls, groins, and jetties, dredge mountains of sand, and haul still more to replace what has been washed away. In the name of coastal protection, they destroy estuaries and wetlands, actually destabilizing shores by encouraging devastating erosion and flooding by sea surges.
Gillis says that before the modern era, people in coastal areas treated the ocean with respect and a healthy dose of fear. "The sea was understood to be what it is," he says. "Not necessarily an antagonist, but a capricious, dangerous creature."
People often built their dwellings facing away from the waves and the threat they presented to human life and order. Fens and tidal areas provided a buffer between settled areas and incroaching water. European port cities were not right on the seacoast, but further inland, up rivers. Cautionary tales of "drowned cities" were well known. Some, such as Atlantis, were legendary. Some, like Dunwich in England, were very real.
Regional Plan Association mourns the loss of life and devastation caused by Hurricane Sandy. As we begin to recover, we share a responsibility to learn from this tragedy and develop a new approach to managing the impact of storms in the tri-state region.
This can occur only through concerted political leadership at the federal, state and local levels. We are very encouraged by statements this week by Governors Cuomo, Christie and Malloy and Mayor Bloomberg recognizing the need to re-examine our policies, plans and infrastructure in light of the threats of severe storms and rising sea levels. States and localities throughout the region have made some progress in recent years in planning for volatile weather. But more needs to be done.
There are many steps that the region should consider to help reduce damage from the inevitable storms in our future, from physically protecting urban shorelines to rethinking our transit and power networks so that localized outages don't cripple an entire city or region. In all likelihood, we will need to adopt both "hard" infrastructure changes and "soft" solutions that rely on better land-use decisions and tap ecological systems to limit damage.
Read the full RPA statement on recommendations for preparing for storms [PDF]

Nationally-recognized real estate developer and regional growth expert Joe Minicozzi presented an economic development analysis of the region that says local governments get more return for their buck when they put the tax revenue potential of land in the city center at the forefront of their urban planning decisions. The perspective is contrary to conventional wisdom that big-box retailers bring big tax revenue and challenges economic developers in communities across southeast Tennessee to look at the value-per-acre return on their “Main Street” investments.
At a public meeting and luncheon sponsored by the Chattanooga Hamilton County Regional Planning Agency, Southeast Tennessee Development District, River City Company and the Lyndhurst Foundation, Joe Minicozzi of Urban3, a consulting company of the real estate developer Public Interest Projects out of Asheville, N.C., highlighted the fact that dense, mixed-use urban development pays better dividends than suburban mall counterparts when comparing on a value-per-acre basis.
To illustrate his point, Mr. Minicozzi studied Chattanooga and Hamilton County property taxes from 2012 to derive a yield-per-acre. …

Kansas City, MO - infoZine - Community AGEnda grant from Grantmakers In Aging and Pfizer Foundation is part of $1.3 million national effort to help America’s towns and cities prepare for a growing older population
Mid-America Regional Council (MARC) has been awarded a $150,000 grant from the Pfizer Foundation and Grantmakers In Aging (GIA), a national association of funders, as part of Community AGEnda: Improving America for All Ages. MARC has secured $50,000 in matching funding through a grant from the W J Brace Charitable Trust at Bank of America.
This new initiative is funding nonprofits in five U.S. communities to help accelerate local efforts to make communities “age-friendly” — that is, great places to grow up and grow old.
MARC will assess and improve older-adult transportation and mobility options in the Greater Kansas City area. MARC will also launch a two-pronged public awareness campaign to increase support for caregivers, and to tap the expertise of older adults as community resources. They also plan to work with the region’s First Suburbs Coalition to examine needs and plans for making surrounding areas more age-friendly.
SAUGATUCK, MI -- A 1,640-mile bike, hike and kayak trail around the shoreline of Lake Michigan goes into the planning stage Nov. 8 and 9 at Lake Michigan Trail Conference at the Saugatuck Center for the Arts.
The proposed four-state trail over land and across water is on a scale with the 2,100-mile Appalachian Trail through East Coast state, planners say.
More than 150 people including government planners from Michigan, Indiana, Illinois and Wisconsin are expected to attend the conference called to start work on creating a unified vision for the trail.
“The objective of this conference will be to establish a long-distance recreational trail that highlights the vast natural beauty of the Lake Michigan shoreline and the many historic, recreational and cultural offerings along its 1,640-mile long coast line,” said Dave Lemberg, conference planner and associate professor of Geography at Western Michigan University.
States and regional organizations have independently been putting together their own trail parts over in the past 10 years including a 75-mile kayak trail in Indiana and the announced commitment for a 425-mile shoreline trail section in Wisconsin along the lake shoreline.
“The conference will provide an opportunity to integrate these independent regional efforts into a new type of tri-modal trail through a collaborative planning process,”
We are recognizing a large volume local cooperative cross-sectoral cooperation.
For many years we have witnessed credit unions banding together, rural electric co-ops forming national associations, and other co-ops within each sector collaborating.But this isn’t cross-sectoral cooperation. While intra-sectoral organizing is needed and successful, I’m addressing something else.
Admittedly many states have the the cross-sectoral equivalence of NCBA on the state level. However most of them exist as trade associations; they typically aim to form a membership to support common and dominate legislative issues. And then there is also some common resources for education, though a lot of the time that is using professionals to organize intra-sectoral education (senior housing cooperative, credit union, healthcare, and other intra-sectoral educational needs).
The phenomena I’m revealing is concerted efforts to promote cooperation as a local alternative to investor-owned businesses and this effort being wrought by a group of cooperators from a variety of cooperative sectors. Whether its merely the support that local co-ops (local being a particular metro area, rural area, state, or inter-state region) can give each, what shared activities they can facilitate, or what they can do to support new co-operative formation, these monthly or bi-monthly meetings can only do good.
We recognize these cross-sectoral regional cooperation efforts in Philly, Minnesota, Austin, Seattle, Madison, Boston, Western New England, Portland (OR), Upstate NY, Central Michigan, Southern Oregon, Northwest Wisconsin, Providence, and an inter-state region amongst Washington, Oregon, Idaho, Alaska, & Hawaii.
In a new report, commissioned by Downing Street, he says that people think the UK "does not have a strategy for growth and wealth creation".
He wants to devolve power from London to the English regions.
In the Commons, David Cameron and Ed Milliband argued over whether the report backed or damned the government.
Lord Heseltine's report, No Stone Unturned, makes 89 recommendations to help industry. One of its key aims is to move £49bn from central government to the English regions to help local leaders and businesses.
The aim, he said, was to devolve power from Whitehall and re-invigorate the big cities that had fuelled the growth and wealth that the country had enjoyed in past decades.
Lord Heseltine, head of the Department of Trade and Industry in the 1980s, said the government should allocate growth funds through the new Local Enterprise Partnerships (LEPs) that are being established in England in place of Regional Development Agencies.
Continue reading the main story
“Start Quote
This is a war cry from the man whose golden locks and virtuoso performances earned him the nickname Tarzan”
In 2010, the government invited local business and civic leaders to come forward with proposals for establishing LEPs that reflected natural economic geographies.
Lord Heseltine believes these bodies could be key to stimulating regional growth, but said that, at the moment, LEPs did not currently have "the authority or resource to transform their locality in the way our economy needs".
At the national level, however, the government should show greater leadership in promoting major infrastructure projects, Lord Heseltine said. A national growth council should be created, chaired by the prime minister and with a cross-government focus.
"Central government must retain control of important, large scale infrastructure projects. This includes our motorway network, national rail network and airports, as well as our energy networks," Lord Heseltine said.
The character preservation legislation passed by the South Australian Parliament covers 40,000 hectares of farm land in the McLaren Vale region, south of Adelaide, and almost 150,000 hectares in the Barossa Valley, to the north-east of the city.
It prohibits land in the zones from being subdivided for housing and removes the planning minister's power to approve major developments without parliamentary scrutiny.
Rosemount Estate chief winemaker Matt Koch is pleased there will be laws to protect his region from being overrun by suburbia.
"It gives us the opportunity to not stop progression but at least have our say in progression and give a voice for the future of McLaren Vale and wine regions in general," he said.
Dudley Brown has been one of those fighting for better protection.
"If you're an agriculture producer anywhere within two or three hours of a city, if you're not looking at legislation like this to protect your agricultural areas, you won't be in business in 25 years," he said.
Mr Brown is a grape grower and winemaker who moved to Australia almost a decade ago from Orange in California after his region disappeared under cement.
"A city of almost 100,000 got built and it was all orange groves when I got there and I was like "What a beautiful place" and literally seven years later it was sort of gone," he said.
When Mr Brown saw housing start to crawl towards his vineyard in the McLaren Vale region, he was determined to nip it in the bud.
He suggested McLaren Vale follow the lead of another wine region, the Napa Valley in the US, which is protected from development under the Williamson Act.
During the 1960s, 1970s and 1980s, we tried to develop our manufacturing sector, hoping this would allow us to reduce our dependence on imported goods. We tried to promote the development of local firms to produce goods for the domestic market that had previously been imported. This was known as a policy of "import substitution".
But from the early 1990s, the International Monetary Fund (IMF) and the World Bank encouraged us to start producing for export and advised us and other countries in our region to start dropping import tariffs which they claimed would force our manufacturing sector to become more competitive. The reality, however, was different.
Trade liberalisation has, on the whole, negatively impacted on our manufacturing sector. As we cut our import tariffs, we were flooded with cheap imported goods. This caused many of the local industries to collapse. And our companies that targeted export markets in Europe and the United States lost their market share because they were unable to successfully compete with producers in China and other Asian countries. The result was a massive de-industrialisation due to companies closing down.
As a result, our manufacturing sector cannot grow under the current unfair economic and trade system, even if they try to become export-oriented. Thus, unemployment remains a massive problem.
In order to build a viable manufacturing sector, we will have to fundamentally change the neo-liberal economic policies that we have been so far following. This includes breaking the stranglehold of international institutions such as the IMF, World Bank and the World Trade Organisation and creating policy space for increased local manufacturing. But of course this cannot be achieved by Zambia alone. Thus, the states of the region would have to try to integrate politically and economically into a single bloc, based on fairness, and the drive for equality based on achieving common goals and meeting common needs.
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Regional/Greater Community Development News – October 29, 2012

    Multi-jurisdictional intentional regional communities are, in all cases, “Greater Communities” where “community motive” is at work at a more than a local scale. This newsletter provides a scan of regional community, cooperation and collaboration activity as reported in news media and blogs.
Top 10 Stories
Rather than selling themselves at a discount — cheap land and cheap labor and  tax giveaways – most highly successful cities are investing in better workers,  high-quality universities, quality of life and efficient public services.
Here’s our start on economic development priorities for the planned plan for Memphis and Shelby:
• Investments in Universities. …
• Redevelopment in the Urban Core. …
• Balanced Transportation Policy. …
• Technology Clusters. …
• Local Innovation. …
• Understanding Our Competitive Context.  Memphis starts by  understanding its competitive context, including market and demographic trends  in the region and its strengths and weaknesses. Most of all, we need to use new  measures that matter in the knowledge economy rather than on the indicators from  old-style economic development. Memphis can find its distinctive niche to leap  frog ahead of other cities, but it must be equally based on solid research and  imaginative strategies.
• Fixing the Basics. …
• Acting (As Well As Talking) Regionally. Memphis talks a  good game of regionalism, but we’ve never truly engrained regional thinking into  our plans and actions. Too often, we lapse into “we versus them” and “if you’re  winning, we must be losing” attitudes. Economic activity and innovation occur in  a regional context, and we ignore this at our peril. It is increasingly clear  that Memphis and its suburbs are inextricably linked into a single economic unit, and Memphis shouldn’t be the only city in the region saying this.
• Vibrant Culture and Entertainment Centers. …
• Thinking and Acting Collaboratively. This requires a shift in leadership styles from traditional authoritarian models to a new environment  of inclusion, mutual influence and community building. Opening the door wider to all segments of the community and inviting new voices to engage in decision-making is the mark of a mature and competitive city. Most of all, we  must rid the halls of government with their “it’s not your time yet” responses  to any initiative shown by young leaders.
• A 21st Century Workforce. …
• Competition on a Global Scale. …
• High-Quality Eco-Assets. …
• A Reputation for Tolerance. …
I recently dined with a senior City of Edmonton manager, part of the leadership group around City Manager Simon Farbrother that’s getting a great deal done.
We talked about global energy/petro-chemical companies, how decisions are made about where multi-billion dollar plants will be built.
“We’re part of the Pacific rim,” our manager said. “The guy making that decision is based in Shanghai or Beijing. He’s deciding if that plant should be built in China, somewhere else in Asia, Canada, the USA or Mexico. His only interest is the well-being of the company he works for.
“He has hundreds of options – countries and states and cities are all offering economic incentives.
“If we (Greater Edmonton) want to compete, we have to have the complete package – land fully serviced and ready to go, feedstock, infrastructure, labour, financing, tax incentives. In fact, we have to offer more. Their future consumers are all over there, not here.
“How do we compete,” he said, pointing his fork at my nose, “when we don’t have a single economic development agency for the region? How do we compete when 24 regional municipalities spend more time coming to a consensus than they do pursuing the prize?
“Our political structure,” he concluded, “is built for failure. When a third of the population of Greater Edmonton lives outside the city’s borders, getting things done quickly, making decisions quickly, competing on that global scale, is near impossible.”
“The Way We Prosper” is the economic development component of an overall planning exercise by the city.
A report into Wellington’s local government structure has recommended a total overhaul, including a new Lord Mayor and one powerful council governing six smaller councils.
The report slams current structures in the Wellington area, saying the region has “lost its way” and needs to be “reborn”.
Collated by the Wellington Region Local Government Review Panel, the report recommends the region’s nine councils be legally dismantled and replaced by the new structure.
This means the 107 current elected councillors would be reduced to 79 and the nine chief executives would be reduced to one.
Under the plan, the Greater Wellington Regional Council will become a new Greater Wellington Council led by an elected Lord Mayor.
The eight remaining councils would become six ‘local area councils’ tiered underneath the new main council with the task of managing local issues.
In Wairarapa, the three current district councils would be merged into one local area council.
A political paradigm has shifted, and 24 towns in St. Louis County are reaping the benefits.
Fragmentation and self-imposed isolation have long been norms in the countryside that rings St. Louis city. The city itself set that tone in 1876, when it broke away from the jurisdiction of St. Louis County because city residents were disinclined to continue subsidizing their “hillbilly” counterparts.
Modern discussions about reuniting the city and county plod on, but 24 St. Louis County towns aren’t waiting around. They’ve stuck out their necks and are giving berth to several new concepts and processes that have lowered municipal expenses only as a first step.
Just as importantly, according to Chris Krehmeyer, the new thinking is improving the standard of living of residents by providing affordable housing, supporting children’s education and ensuring access to healthy lifestyle choices and health care.
Krehmeyer is the president and chief executive officer of Beyond Housing. The community support organization counts among its successes improving the affordable housing market in a number of cities in the region in defiance of the subprime mortgage mess and subsequent recession.
CAPITAL REGION — Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo on Tuesday continued his statewide Regional Economic Development Council (REDC) Progress Tour in the Capital Region, where he visited projects to see their progress and their economic impact in the region.
It was the fifth visit in the governor's REDC Progress Tour, which is part of a review of last year's strategic economic development plans and job-creating projects.
"Under the Regional Council process, which has given individual regions the power to shape their own economic trajectory, New York State no longer has a top-down approach when it comes to economic development," Governor Cuomo said. "The Capital Region is putting their own strategic plan to action and growing jobs and businesses in their communities."
"Today Governor Cuomo, Lt. Governor Duffy, and the Strategic Implementation Assessment Team saw first-hand that, through this regional economic development process, we are successfully collaborating across sectors and regions to strengthen the Capital Region economic ecosystem, thereby maintaining and creating jobs, preparing and retaining the workforce, and celebrating and strengthening our communities," said Regional Council Co-Chair and Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute President Dr. Shirley Jackson.
"Guided by our strategic plan, the Council is engaging with business, education, government, and other community leaders across our 8 county region, working together to lay the foundation for long-term economic security."
When the One Region organization recently published its 2012 analysis of 10 key indicators of the quality of life in Northwest Indiana, I joined other region residents in studying the valuable information.
This report presents an honest analysis of where we stand as a region with an unbiased assessment of our many positive points and where we have room for improvement. It’s an ideal reference for Northwest Indiana leaders and concerned citizens to help us plan for the future.
The People chapter states, “We aspire to be a region that is diverse and values inclusion.” This chapter contains an in-depth look at the demographics of Lake, Porter and LaPorte counties.
Our region has seen some amazing changes in the past few decades. An industrial giant for years, it has undergone countless changes as times and people changed.
Region residents moved from our urban core to the developing suburbs. As roads improved, people who no longer needed to live close to their jobs moved to spacious new suburban neighborhoods in Lake, Porter and LaPorte counties.
Our families have changed, too. We see fewer households with married couples and more single-parent families. More people live alone.
We’re getting older. Our median age in Northwest Indiana has increased from 36.4 years in 2000 to 38.5 in 2010. This trend could have serious implications on region business, employment, health care, education and infrastructure in coming years.
However, our racial and ethnic diversity has seen little change. In 2010 whites continue to account for most of our area population,  the African-American population was about the same as it was in the 2006 report at 19 percent, and the Hispanic population grew a few percentage points to 13 percent.
The report reminds us that Northwest Indiana has an amazing diversity of races, ethnic heritage, politics, ages and incomes. A diverse population is an asset for any community.
England's regions can no longer rely on handouts from tax receipts collected in the City, Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg has said as he announced Government plans to hand more local authorities, including Sunderland and Tees Valley, wider spending powers.
A selected group of 20 cities and regions could be exempt from meeting strict diktats from Whitehall as part of plans to give some councils the right to spend tax revenues collected by companies based in their area.
Ministers have already handed eight cities, including Manchester, Sheffield and Newcastle, more powers over strategic planning decisions and transport budgets. Now they plan to allow 20 other towns, cities and regions the right to bid for increased powers.
But, as the list was announced, Mr Clegg warned the successful councils they can no longer rely on Government handouts for major infrastructure projects which were paid for by large tax receipts collected within the Square Mile.
"You can't revive the regions just through handouts from Whitehall. Certainly not now when the Treasury's coffers are bare. And even if we did have lots of money, the previous approach was fundamentally flawed," he said.
"Revenues from the financial services sector were recycled round the rest of the country through the long arm of the state, creating the illusion of strong, national growth. Jobs were created but in an unbalanced way, over-relying on the public sector, funded by tax receipts from the City of London.
REMEMBER when we were all passionate people living in a passionate place?
One of the real legacy projects of regional development agency One North East was the excellent regional image campaign, which seemed to receive buy-in from the entire region.
“Passionate People, Passionate Places” was a wonderful campaign and showcased what an amazing region the North East is to live, work and visit – we always knew it here in the region, but it was great that the message was being carried outside our boundaries.
Sadly the campaign was a casualty of the public sector cuts and when the RDAs days were numbered so was the campaign, or was it?
Momentum may have been lost when One North East closed, but there is no reason why the businesses, public bodies, education establishments and any Joe Public with a passion for the region can’t continue to carry that message.
We must continue to talk our region up here in the North East, nationally and internationally.
The abolition in principle of regional bureaus of central government ministries is a pillar of the DPJ-led government's policy of pushing devolution. Of some 300,000 national public servants, nearly 200,000 belong to regional bureaus of central government ministries. The first step toward the abolition of regional bureaus is the transfer of regional bureaus of the infrastructure and transport ministry, the trade and industry ministry and the Environment Ministry to regional federations of local governments. But the Cabinet has not yet endorsed a bill for the transfer — a step needed for submission of the bill to the Diet.
The main purpose of the transfer of regional bureaus of the three ministries is to eradicate overlapping of administration between the ministries and local governments. The transfer must be designed to contribute to increasing efficiency and ending the wasteful use of funds, personnel and other resources. But the new setup must be capable of quickly and properly meeting the needs of local governments and residents. This will not be an easy task.
The main reason for the delay of the bill's submission to the Diet is that many municipalities are opposed to the transfer of regional bureaus because they saw the Tohoku Regional Development Bureau of the infrastructure and transport ministry play an important role in the rescue and restoration work in the aftermath of the 3/11 disasters.
The cities, towns and villages fear that if regional development bureaus are transferred to regional federations, they may not be able to promptly take necessary actions to fulfill their duties in a variety of areas including infrastructure construction and disaster prevention. In August, a group of some 500 city, town and village mayors adopted a resolution opposing the transfer of regional bureaus.
MOUNTAIN Gorillas, hippos and various bird species are some of the most common tourist attractions in Virunga National Park.
The park covers approximately790, 000 hectares of forest in the three countries of Rwanda, Uganda the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC).
According to figures from Rwanda Development Board (RDB), last year tourism sector generated US$253 million.
The population in the vicinity of the national park has over the years closely worked together to conserve it. But stray animals that destroy crops pose a major threat to the communities.
Recently residents living around the park, in Rwanda and DRC, built 2 kilometres parameter of stones and a trench to deter stray buffaloes and other wild animals which destroy crops whenever they come out of the park.
"It is a way of ensuring that residents do not lose their harvests as a result of wildlife," says Sam Mwandha, the Executive Secretary of Greater Virunga Trans-boundary Collaboration (GVTC).
A mechanism to coordinate joint conservation efforts in the park is underway under which the government engages other partners both at the national and regional levels.
Elizabeth Fretwell was sworn in as city manager of Las Vegas in January 2009. In what can only be described as a bout of very bad timing, at that moment, Las Vegas was on the front edge of a precipitous fall-off in city revenues.
As consumer spending dropped in response to the onset of the crisis, first to drop were revenues from a state-administered tax that includes levies on sales of liquor, cigarettes and other goods, as well as real estate transfers. Before long, city revenues from the property tax followed suit as real estate values in the city began to plummet. In the downtown area alone, the assessed value of land and buildings dropped by $1 billion from its peak between 2008 and 2010.
In all, the City of Las Vegas saw a 20 percent decline in revenues in just two years.
In Washington, D.C., and in state capitals across the country, policymakers would respond to a similar declines with a mix of budget cuts and revenue fixes to try and draw in money from other sources. But in Las Vegas, budget cuts were the only available answer.
That's because when it comes to raising revenues, the city’s hands are tied. Local governments in Nevada control just 13 percent of their revenues; the remaining 87 percent are determined by state formulas. As a result, Fretwell had no alternative: she cut 615 positions in city government, amounting to one in five workers. Local government also moved to a cheaper City Hall building, while slashing funds for everything from education and health care and parks.  
Las Vegas is hardly alone in its inability to develop reliable revenue streams that can support local priorities through good times and bad. Indeed, most cities are highly constrained in what they can do by state laws that place limits on local government taxing and spending authority.
SAULT STE. MARIE, MI - The Upper Peninsula Economic Development Alliance, in partnership with the sister cities of Sault Ste. Marie, Ont. and Sault Ste. Marie, Mich., are hosting a Conference on Bi-National Regional Collaboration yesterday and today, with events taking place on both sides of the border.
“Bi-national regional cooperation and collaboration are becoming more and important to successful economic development,” stated Kim Stoker executive director of UPEDA. “Our conference will highlight economic areas that have high potential for enhanced bi-national collaboration and future initiatives.”
Conference sponsors, in addition to the hosting organizations, include the Sault Ste. Marie (Ontario) Economic Development Corp., U.S. Economic Development Administration, Eastern Upper Peninsula Regional Planning and Development Commission, Lake Superior State University, and the Michigan State University Center for Community and Economic Development, MSU Canadian Studies Center, MSU Institute of Public Policy and Social Research, and the Great Lakes International Trade and Transportation Hub (GLITTH).

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