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Article Summary

Nathan, Richard P. "Keynote Address: Reinventing Regionalism." Regional Plan Association, April 26, 1994.

The new frontier for the reinvention of government is regionalism. There are too many governments - 83,327 by the last Census count. Regionalism, however, is nothing new. The list of city-county combination governments dates back to New York City in 1898. In Louisiana , the Baton Rouge merger plan occurred in 1947. Miami and Dade County, Florida, merged in 1957. Nashville and Davidson County, Tennessee, linked up in 1963, as did Jacksonville and Duval County, Florida, in 1968. Also, in 1970 Indianapolis and Marion County formed Univgov.

These types of consolidations have dried up over the years for two main reasons. The first is political. People like local units, because it gives them a sense of identification and community. The second reason is race. Metro government consolidation often led to demands for school district integration on a greater scale than people thought would have been the case if consolidation hadn't occurred. This is ironic because race was the reason for regionalism in the first place. As minorities began to dominate central cities, regionalizing was a way to dilute their strength politically.

The focus now of regionalism isn't structural but functional. We are seeking the right scale of diversity while placing great emphasis on public and private cooperation. One reason for regionalism is to tackle the problems that defy solution within established political boundaries, like solid waste management, water purity, transportation, and delivery of social services. A second reason is to save money by shifting the delivery of services from local to the more efficient regional level. A third reason for regionalization is to strengthen a region's economy by involving the business community in the process, while fostering a spirit of public-private cooperation.