Wednesday, September 20, 2006

How Big is a Region?

I attended the legislative committee meeting yesterday in which the proposed transportation sales tax was discussed. The bill eventually passed during the special session of the legislature later that day (see DesNews and Trib stories), which I think is a good thing, as it will give voters the option to increase funding for transportation needs, including transit! My gosh, the legislature actually took a positive stand on transit (albeit also combined with road projects).

The thing that I am finding interesting, though, is that this bill pushes the decision making about what to fund to the county level. It does require that the funds go to projects "of regional significance," and that they must be on the regional (or statewide) transportation plans, but the actual decision making is at the county level. The same kind of move was made last year with passage of the car registration fee increase, which is optional to the counties, and decisions on where to spend it is made on a countywide level, through Councils of Government.

This same trend is showing up elsewhere, as the Wasatch Front Regional Council recently decided to run their region-wide long range plan and the Transportation Improvement Plan (the 5-year project funding list) through the County COGs first.

I have been the administrator of the Davis County COG for some ten years now, and have long believed that some of the most effective (often, the ONLY) regional planning that we do is at the county level. These recent events simply serve to reinforce that notion. What we can't forget is that the Salt Lake Metro region is more than just 6 or 7 separate, independent counties - we need to make sure there are good mechanisms in place to coordinate between counties as well. Wasatch Front Regional Council is one way to do this for transportation, but there must be others for issues in addition to transportation.


At 11:31 AM, Blogger vagabond said...

Regional planning is a concept that we may never accept until it is forced upon us by strangling growth patterns. Wilf, you are right about county government being the only player on the regional scene right now.

And what a shame that is.

Thanks goodness that someone is thinking on a region wide basis (at least on transportation) about what will happen. That much cannot be said for the cities who can't even see to the end of their nose much less see how their individual actions impact the region.
Hopefully, the legislature will stop giving me back a token few bucks in the future and instead keep it in the kitty for schools and roads/transit. I agree we can't build our way out of growth, we also can't ignore the need to move goods and people thru the region as a way of keeping our economy alive and vibrant. If we can't move, we can't work and so on.
There is no such thing as "slowing or stopping growth" unless we are willing to stop having kids. NOT! Wait, I have another idea! If we just stop building roads and schools, people will just disappear right? You know, if you DON'T build it they won't come?

What is the point in creating new zoning laws and regulations that "stop" or slow growth when each city continues to act like the public they represent by saying "no" to density and no to change. NIMBY, CAVE, NOPE, whatever, its all the same.

I think we are both planning to fail and failing to plan.
Wilf, look at the IMac. What a great home computer -- far better than any PC I've ever working with and a real piece of art.

At 4:20 PM, Blogger Utah Peaknik said...

Where'd ya go Wilf?

By the way, in addition to the Long Emergency (which I hope you've read by now), you should also read Kunstler's "The Geography of Nowhere." Another good one is "Community by Design: New Urbanism for Suburbs and Small Communities."

After reading both books, you'll probably feel queasy driving through what I call the "Suburban Blight Belt," which stretches from the area of Layton around I-15, up through Clearfield, Sunset, Roy, Riverdale, and finally Washington Terrace. You'll grasp how ugly that area is, and how much nicer it would have been had there been the forsight by citizens and leaders to create communities designed on an aesthetic human scale.


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