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Thursday, December 17, 2009

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Regions undoubtedly exist culturally and economically, but they have no political existence because the U.S. Constitution created only states. How is a region supposed to pursue its economic and political interests when it has no executive, legislature or courts? The Constitution does permit states to associate or affiliate to pursue mutual objectives through an interstate compact, but as Longworth points out here, state boarders to not necessarily align with regions, so that states entering a regional compact would include substantial areas (e.g., southern Indiana and southern Ohio) that rightfully belong to an adjacent region. Absent some form of regional government, states will always be privileged and regions will remain more of a cultural artifact than a politico-economic reality.

Thank you for the kind words about my blog. I try!

One of my observations is that state governments are to some extent gigantic welfare agencies. That is, they exist more or less to redistribute income and provide a social safety net, both to individuals, but also to struggling regions. This is a proper role for government, of course. But what often happens is that other services that the government should be providing - notably highway spending - becomes repurposed as a tool for welfare. Since metro areas are the economic engines of the economy, it should come as no surprise that they get short changed in this calculus.

There are, of course, different levels of regionalism. The "Midwest" is one. The "Chicago Region" is another. Change in our thinking and practice must take place on both of these levels -- for our environmental and economic futures.

Many issues, resources and interests at play in regions (big and small) are not under the formal or sole jurisdiction of state government. People thinking regionally will seek out such interstices and opportunities in our existing arrangements.

An interesting example of thinking about the Quad Cities region that shows some of the possibilities (possibilities that rely on regional initiatives, not on state government) is "The Vacation Manifesto: Radical Ideas to Grow the Quad Cities," published in the River Cities Re@der in 2006: http://www.rcreader.com/
news/the-vacation-manifesto-radical-ideas/

I should mention that the author, Dan Carmody, has since moved from the Quad Cities to Fort Wayne and most recently to managing Detroit's Eastern Market. He's an interesting and energetic doer and thinker about regional connections. These days, he's especially concerned with food systems and the economic health of rural and urban areas, which are more closely connected than we may first think.:

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