Regional/Greater Community Development News – August 13, 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
No fanfare. No high fives. Not even a story in the local press.

Yet an unprecedented moment in Lake Tahoe history transpired last week that may shape the Tahoe Basin for decades to come. That moment was the agreement reached by the bi-state consultation group, which should serve as the foundation for the new Tahoe Regional Planning Agency's regional plan.
As the TRPA Regional Plan subcommittee worked valiantly on the details of a new regional plan, the areas of impasse threatened to sidetrack progress. That's when California Secretary for Natural Resources John Laird and Nevada Department of Conservation and Natural Resources Director Leo Drozdoff quietly stepped in.
Under their leadership, a small group of stakeholders — developers, environmentalists, local government, state and TRPA Governing Board reps — sat together for many long and often contentious meetings to see if those areas of profound disagreement could be resolved.
The great news is that Laird and Drozdoff pulled off a feat that often eludes us at Lake Tahoe: They found agreement. That agreement, which addressed everything from building height to drive-up windows, bike friendly town centers and decks and stream environmental zones, was a masterful compromise. The two state representatives were able to push past those areas of discomfort for all sides involved to forge an agreement that gave every side bragging rights and constraints.
Why is this a big deal? First, and perhaps most importantly, both Nevada and California were able to unite in support of the Tahoe Basin. The future of Tahoe has been re-established as a collective vision, not a battleground over regulations vs. state rights. …
One of Chicago's most influential civic groups is calling for an end to the Regional Transportation Authority, saying the nearly 40-year-old agency is broken and should be merged with another.
Metropolis Strategies said it believes the agency is no longer the best overseer of the nation's third-largest transit system, which provides more than 2 million rides a day.
A better plan, the civic group proposes, would be to create a new entity by merging the RTA with the Chicago Metropolitan Agency for Planning, a low-profile organization responsible for land use and transportation planning in northeastern Illinois.
The move would integrate regional planning and transit oversight, Metropolis Strategies said. It also would save at least $10 million a year, or about 20 percent of the agencies' combined budgets, by reducing overhead, administrative costs and duplicate functions, the group said.
"It's time to bring some fresh thinking to the transit issue," said Ranney, 72. "Continuing to ignore the problem as we are now ... is a road to disaster."
This week's meeting of the mayors of the Triad's major cities was a good step toward better cooperation, but as long as economic incentives to attract new businesses are legal true regionalism will remain elusive.
Yes, we have groups such as the Piedmont Triad Partnership and the Piedmont Authority for Regional Transportation that work well together toward some common goals.
But it's an economic reality that incentives work to persuade a relocating company to choose one community over another. …
Cities and counties have a duty to their citizens to do all they can to attract new companies and new jobs. And certainly for-profit companies have a duty to maximize profits. That's the rub when it comes to regional cooperation. Someone wins and someone loses.
Still, we're encouraged that the big three cities are working together. True regionalism will come about one day, but probably not before economic incentives are banned for good. When that happens, cities will compete for new business fairly and openly and regionalism will flourish.
A physician has a positive economic impact on a community in many, and sometimes unexpected, ways.
According to a study released last year by Merritt Hawkins, a physician and allied health services staffing company with offices in Irving, Texas, and Atlanta, a single physician vacancy causes downstream income losses not just for a hospital, but for the whole community.
“Interestingly, for each $1 million generated by an office-based physician practice, .77 full-time-equivalency jobs are created in each respective community,” the report reads in part. “Further, each office-based physician supports an average of 6.2 employees, further contributing to the local economy. …While metropolitan areas certainly feel the pressure of a physician vacancy, such shortages can be devastating to small communities and their economies.”
For Brent Kisling, executive director of Enid Regional Development Alliance, recruiting physicians is just as important as recruiting other businesses. In fact, a workforce development team was established in Enid a couple of months ago, and St. Mary’s hospital is one of the employers on that team, Kisling said.
“Each doctor’s office is in itself a small business in Enid,” Kisling said.
One week after moving into the Caribbean and then striking the U.S. east coast as a category 1 hurricane, Irene arrived in Vermont on August 27, 2011. The storm caused widespread damage in 223 of the state’s 251 towns and villages. Severe flooding was particularly devastating for transportation infrastructure, requiring the Vermont Agency of Transportation (VTrans) to take a leading role in the recovery. The extent of the damage, however, proved too much for a single agency to manage alone. VTrans’ leadership sought help from the state’s 11 regional planning commissions (RPCs) to assume responsibility for assessing needed local road repairs.
While the RPCs were well positioned to assist because of their established relationships and networks within the towns, their recovery activities often went beyond their typical scope of work. The collaboration between VTrans and the RPCs offers lessons for disaster preparedness and recovery, both crucial elements for building more resilient communities.
This publication was developed with support from the Federal Highway Administration through the NADO Research Foundation’s Center for Transportation Advancement and Regional Development.
Residential segregation by income has increased during the past three decades across the United States and in 27 of the nation’s 30 largest major metropolitan areas1 , according to a new analysis of census tract2 and household income data by the Pew Research Center.
The analysis finds that 28% of lower-income households in 2010 were located in a majority lower-income census tract, up from 23% in 1980, and that 18% of upper- income households were located in a majority upper-income census tract, up from 9% in 1980.3
These increases are related to the long-term rise in income inequality, which has led to a shrinkage in the share of neighborhoods across the United States that are predominantly middle class or mixed income—to 76% in 2010, down from 85% in 1980—and a rise in the shares that are majority lower income (18% in 2010, up from 12% in 1980) and majority upper income (6% in 2010, up from 3% in 1980).
Despite the long-term rise in residential segregation by income, it remains less pervasive than residential segregation by race, even though black-white segregation has been falling for several decades.
The Pew Research analysis also finds significant differences among the nation’s 10 most populous metropolitan areas ...
Stanley Kurtz's newest book fills in the middle tier of President Obama's three-tiered plan …
Regional Redistribution
Kurtz's new book, entitled Spreading the Wealth: How Obama is Robbing the Suburbs to Pay for the Cities, warns that Obama, driven by a community organizer's disdain for "white flight" from poor urban neighborhoods to suburbia, has aligned with like-minded community organizers -- e.g., Mike Kruglik and Kruglik's organization "Building One America" -- in a move to redistribute wealth from the suburbs to the inner city.
 In a National Review online article, Kurtz wrote:
Obama is a longtime supporter of "regionalism," the idea that the suburbs should be folded into the cities, merging schools, housing, transportation, and above all taxation. To this end, the president has already put programs in place designed to push the country toward a sweeping social transformation in a possible second term. The goal: income equalization via a massive redistribution of suburban tax money to the cities. …
Note: It is useful to pay attention to the arguments against regional community cooperation. Ed.
Greater Egypt Regional Planning and Development Commission was recently honored by the Illinois Association of Regional Councils for its work in helping area entities get grant money to improve lighting systems and heating/cooling systems.
“We spent $800,000 in local government facilities. We’re trying to add value without competing. We’re trying to get our name out there,” said Executive Director Cary Minnis of the GERPDC.
Minnis, who was appointed to the position in October 2010 after the retirement of Ike Kirkikis, and GERPDC Program Director Margie Mitchell were singled out by the association for their “enthusiasm, dedication and an ability to get things done,” said ILARC Executive Director Kelly Murray.
The money came from $21 million in funding through the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act awarded to Illinois through the Department of Commerce and Economic Opportunity to support energy efficiency and conservation activities. ...
Experts predict that climate change, in addition to causing longer and fiercer heat waves and higher humidity, will bring an increase in viruses and bacteria that cause illness.
Infectious disease specialists…got an unplanned preview from the deadly H1N1 influenza pandemic of 2009-2010 and the whooping cough epidemic that followed a few months later.
For Dr. Kalvin Yu, Southern California’s regional chief of infectious diseases for Kaiser-Permanente, the fallout of the outbreaks – emergency room lines, bed shortages and the need for data analysis to track trends – was a glimpse into how the future might be under the shadow of global warming. Increased heat and humidity expected in the Inland region could set the stage for more disease outbreaks. …
The state’s fire department already has seen an increase in deadly, destructive blazes attributed to climate change…Cal Fire…
…climate change isn’t just about warming. It’s also about weather extremes. In 2008, a lightning siege near Monterey delivered 8,000 strikes and triggered 2,000 simultaneous fires, Upton said. “That was unprecedented. We had not seen that in over four decades long of recollections and records, not to that magnitude or duration.”
Those “siege” events, characterized by many large, damaging fires, used to be something firefighters saw maybe once in their career.
“My generation is seeing a dozen, 15 siege fires in our careers,” said Upton, who joined the department in the mid-1980s. Siege events occurred in 1999, 2003, 2007 and 2008, she said.
The Otago Regional Council sees no justification for changing the current purpose of local government by removing the four community well-beings which currently underpin the Local Government Act, ORC chairman Stephen Woodhead says.
"We believe the current purpose statement: 'To promote the social, economic, cultural, and environmental wellbeing of our region' reflects local government's role appropriately," Mr Woodhead said
The proposed change is part of the Local Government Act Amendment Bill. It would require councils to meet a cost-effectiveness test when making decisions about local infrastructure, local public services, and regulatory functions.
If this became law, councils would be at greater risk of having their decisions' cost-effectiveness challenged in court, Mr Woodhead said.
"Making short-term decisions which affect the community, based simply on whether they can be delivered for the lowest possible cost may not be prudent, and may hamper our ability to make sound decisions that are sustainable over the long-term," he said.
Councils throughout the country were responsible for much of the major infrastructure that people depended on for their livelihood and quality of life.
The Road from Industrial Capitalism to Finance Capitalism and Debt Peonage
Essays on Fictitious Capital, Debt Deflation and the Global Crisis
This summary of my economic theory traces how industrial capitalism has turned into finance capitalism. The finance, insurance and real estate (FIRE) sector has emerged to create “balance sheet wealth” not by new tangible investment and employment, but financially in the form of debt leveraging and rent-extraction. This rentier overhead is overpowering the economy’s ability to produce a large enough surplus to carry its debts. As in a radioactive decay process, we are passing through a short-lived and unstable phase of “casino capitalism,” which now threatens to settle into leaden austerity and debt deflation.
This situation confronts society with a choice either to write down debts to a level that can be paid (or indeed, to write them off altogether with a Clean Slate), or to permit creditors to foreclose, concentrating property in their own hands (including whatever assets are in the public domain to be privatized) and imposing a combination of financial and fiscal austerity...
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