Last May, senior officials in the Newsom Administration published an op-ed in the Press Enterprise introducing a new, but yet to be fully defined, policy framework they are calling Regions Rise Together. Posted on our Regions Rise Together Resource Page. There are two base acknowledgements. First, we are a state of regions. Second, not all of the regions have shared equally in California's bounty. The Governor has talked about two Californias, inland and coastal, and noted the inland areas have less opportunity
The goal of the framework is to develop a vision for inclusive and resilient economic development and sustainable land use and transportation planning across California regions. For CALCOG members, there is a lot to consider. Many regional planners see the value of approaching policy on a regional scale because most programs should be implemented differently in the San Joaquin Valley than in San Diego. That makes sense.
At the same time, this cannot be a top down framework. Regional entities are governed by local officials who already feel over-burdened by increasing state mandates. Accordingly, Regions Rise Together must account for the fact that regional governments operate to serve their member cities and counties, not to regulate them. To date, the administration representatives have used the term "regions up." That works--as long as everyone understands regional governments themselves are "bottom's up" organizations.
Indeed, the principle of local control requires an effective regional government. Why? Because every city and county has transboundary issues. Whether its traffic, drainage, crime, economic opportunity, or a shared history, there are reasons to collaborate beyond local boundaries. Local governments must work with neighboring communities to address these challenges. And without this kind of collaboration, the state would fill the vacuum by adopting more regulations.
But it may not be all about government. With the involvement of GoBiz and the Governors' Office of Planning and Research, some of the focus is to improve economic opportunities throughout the state, which is not always (or should be) the purview of our membership--albeit there are some pretty strong nexus points with transportation planning.
Accordingly, the Regions Rise Together framework--whatever it turns out to be--should strike a balance between achieving state goals with programs that provide local officials with more tools to improve the quality of life in their communities. It should also create an environment for economic development to thrive. But there is a lot of work to get there.
There are benefits to balancing. We appreciate, for example, the framework including in the Governor's housing budget package (AB 101) that set aside some of the planning funds for regional councils of governments. As we have written before, we expect most of that money to flow to local cities and counties in the form of regrants and sub allocations for projects that will help create more housing opportunity and achieve the region's climate goals. That is a win: win.
CALCOG has shared our willingness to engage in the Regions Rise Together discussions. At the center of it is a core principle that has always been true since our founding: we are a state of regions. We have shared this example before: that SANDAG is about the size of Delaware with the population of West Virginia (and 25 other states that get two votes in the United States Senate). Implementing policies on a regional scale as opposed to a state level should provide a more flexible and tactical way to address state goals across the geographic, demographic, and economic diversity of our great state.
Regional Leadership Forum: Regions Rise Together (April 5 though 7)
Our annual Regional Leadership Forum will use Regions Rise Together as our theme. And we will focus on the structure and issues where local governments, working collectively through their regional government, could leverage a Regions Rise framework for improved policy outcomes. We will invite advocates and critics, and always, have an engaging conversation about the topic.
We invite you to join us.
You can learn more about this year's Regional Leadership Forum, located at the Riverside Convention Center, on our Conference Registration page
A Word About Our (Now Shared) Conference Logo
The logo you see at the top of this story was actually an in-kind contribution to our conference from our partner Mark Thomas. We love it. And we are not the only ones. Members of the administration and California Forward approached us to see if they can use it as well. We readily agreed to share. We are all in this state together, right?
Here is the the meaning of the logo
- The almost rainbow-like colors for the horizontal bars symbolize the state's tremendous diversity
- The scenes within each color bar demonstrate our geographic diversity and multiple travel modes
- The bars are stair-stepped to represent rising
- The California Bear represents the state
- The California Star represents our aspiration to be better