Hampton Roads as a Case History in Regionalism
Remarks of James F. Babcock to
Leadership Hampton Roads, May 2003 (ed. 2009)
- Goals of Regionalism
- Definitions of Region and Regionalism
- Definition of Hampton Roads
- Emergence of Regionalism in Virginia
- Governmental Regionalism in Hampton Roads
- Private Sector Regionalism in Hampton Roads
- Creation of Present Regional Governance Organizations
- The Hampton Roads Partnership
- Hampton Roads Regionalism Today
I am delighted to talk to you this morning about regionalism in Hampton Roads. The specific charge was to “include information on the history of the region, its name, how we define the region, and also what organizations have developed to represent us and why.” So I certainly don’t lack for subject matter.
As leadoff speaker, my job is to help lay the groundwork, so actually I’m going to begin with a few general questions before going on to speak of Hampton Roads specifically. The questions I want to deal with are:
- What is regionalism?
- Is regionalism regional government?
- Is it the same as regional cooperation?
- What is a region?
- What geography comprises our region?
- Why do we call our region Hampton Roads?
- Where does the name Hampton Roads come from?
- What institutions do we have at the regional level?
- What is our leadership trying to accomplish by focusing on regionalism in
The Goals of Regionalism
Let’s take the last question first. What is our leadership trying to accomplish by focusing on regionalism in Hampton Roads? In short, the goals are: a strong diversified economy, higher incomes, and a richer quality of life. Today, in the global economy, it is generally recognized that regions are the unit of economic competition. Hence the need for regional cooperation. Making regionalism or regional cooperation work is complicated, for various types of public-private partnerships are needed to get the best results. The lack of regional government makes accomplishment more difficult. And these factors have led to experimentation around the nation in forms of governance short of regional government. Examining this subject is therefore a very interesting exercise in one of the more complex aspects of the institutional structure by which we get things done collectively. In any case, with the overall aim of improving our competitiveness, the shared goals that bring people together regionally are an improved economy, higher incomes, and a richer quality of life.
Definitions of Region and Regionalism
Before going further, let’s examine the words we use in the discussion of regionalism. A little vocabulary check will make sure we’re all thinking in the same terms. This may sound simplistic, but believe me, the terms of discourse in this subject affect accomplishment. For example, a councilman at Virginia Beach permitted himself to say to the press (a couple of years ago) “If regionalism means Norfolk sticking its hand in Virginia Beach’s pocket, then I’m against it.” Well, it certainly doesn’t mean that, and that councilman’s statement is simply a reflection of the hostility and suspicion that that particular individual still brings to our regional discussion. Fortunately he’s in a minority, decidedly so—though it wasn’t always that way. Fortunately our region in fact is rapidly pulling itself together and, in my opinion, is on the threshold of a significant breakout.
“Region,” of course, is a geographic term. We talk about the “lake region” or “coastal region.” But when we use the word “region” in the context of “regionalism” or “regional cooperation,” we are talking primarily about an economic phenomenon. Used in this sense, “region” means an integrated, interdependent economy usually centered on an urban core. This urbanized economic entity will be found to have grown up around some particular geographic feature, such as a river junction or a place where trading routes naturally meet. Thus, for example, when we speak of the region of Hampton Roads, we mean first of all the distinctive maritime economy of Southeastern Virginia radiating outwards from the world’s finest natural harbor and the cities around it. This harbor and associated waterways and beaches define our primary economy: We are a major port, the leading naval base, expert shipbuilders, and a prime coastal vacation spot.
Note particularly that such an economic region seldom correlates closely with political boundaries. Actually, the fact that every such region is divided into numerous political jurisdictions is the most important factor that weakens the performance of a regional economy.
The sense of “region” as defining an economic entity is reflected in the federal structure of Metropolitan Statistical Areas. In Virginia it is reflected in the structure of planning districts. It is reflected in the currently popular notion that so-called City-States are the true units of economic competition in the world today. Thus, to repeat, in the context of Regionalism, a “region” is a geographic area characterized by an integrated, inter-dependent metropolitan economy without regard to political boundaries.
The term “regional cooperation” is readily understood by most folks, but “regionalism” is confusing to some. Some suspect it means regional government. I happen to think that’s what it ought to mean, for reasons I will give later. But the practical working definition of regionalism today is that it means simply proactive regional cooperation, especially for the purpose of doing those things collectively that no one city or sector can do as well by itself. More formally, the Hampton Roads Partnership defines regionalism as “the coming together of the region’s leadership, resources, and citizens around a shared agenda for improving economic vitality, the standard of living, and quality of life in our region.” The notion of a shared agenda implies both that there are common goals we can agree on and that there is a need for action plans to reach them.
Those of us who have applied a lot of effort in the service of regionalism or regional cooperation do so because we believe it offers important benefits. Historically, the main benefits of regionalism have been perceived to be four in number: First, more cost-effective delivery of public services (such as police and fire protection or sanitation). Second, the greater capability that comes from pooling resources (for example, to build a stadium or do more effective tourism marketing). Third, the need for coordinated planning of shared infrastructure, such as roads and other transportation facilities. Finally, fourth, for business, more uniformity in governmental taxes and regulations. In recent times, additional benefits of regionalism have been emphasized, including having a stronger voice in the State legislature, and better sharing of social burdens. The most widely shared reason cited for regionalism these days is that it improves the competi-tiveness of the regional economy.
The citizens of a region often are way ahead of the political leaders in understanding the need for cooperation on common regional issues, such as road construction or environmental preservation. But the roles assigned to elected leaders by their municipalities’ boundary lines typically make it impossible for them to make sacrifices or sometimes even reasonable compromises for the common good. Thus you will find (not just in Hampton Roads but everywhere) regional cooperation when there is an obvious mutual interest—as in setting up a joint 911 emergency system—but simply an impasse on any issue when there is a perceived clash of interests. At national, state, and municipal levels, our formal political structures resolve such differences by open debate, taking a vote, implementing the decision of the majority, and moving on. In fact, in our democratic system, the fundamental function of government is to implement the will of the majority, with courts available to protect the rights of the minority. However, at regional level in Virginia, where there is little or no government structure for implementing majority decisions, there is only stalemate when the parties disagree. Nothing happens. Projects are simply delayed—and the needs of the people go unmet. This is the most fundamental reason why we need formal organs of regional government—to permit action on the needs of the majority of the region’s citizens. But history has prevented structures of regional government from evolving, though we have made some steps along the way. The phenomenon of relative paralysis at the regional level exists not just in Virginia, of course, but everywhere in the country. So we make do with cooperation on those issues where we can agree. This is suboptimal, but the best we can do at present.
To finish with general definitions, let me observe that “economic development” has both a narrow meaning and a broad meaning. Narrowly, economic development means recruiting companies to move into the region. Broadly it means fostering all those improvements in the region’s education, transportation, public safety, and livability that create an attractive environment for business and attractive living place for a skilled workforce. Both government and business, and indeed the public at large, have roles to play in meeting these goals.
Definition of Hampton Roads
Next question: How do we define the region of Hampton Roads? Based on our definition of region, we can say that Hampton Roads is the maritime economy in Southeastern Virginia centered on the harbor of that name. To put approximate political bound-aries to this economic unit, Hampton Roads is the sixteen cities and counties that belong to Virginia’s Hampton Roads Planning District—that is why the regional flag has sixteen stars. Another definition is based on the federal government’s Virginia Beach- Norfolk-Newport News Metropolitan Statistical Area; that version of the metro area, with a population of 1.6 million, includes one North Carolina county. All of these are correct in one sense or another.
Other metro areas around the country are known by the central city name—Chicago, Atlanta, San Francisco. Why don’t we call our region Norfolk? That would be logical. The problem is that we have never been able to come together as a region around that name, whereas we have found it possible to work together under the name Hampton Roads.
“Tidewater” has two definitions, neither of which corresponds to the region. The State defines Tidewater to include everything up the Bay to the Potomac River. Locally, Tidewater usually refers only South Hampton Roads, such that another way of defining Hampton Roads is to say that it is comprised of Tidewater and the Peninsula.
And incidentally, Hampton Roads really is now the generally accepted name for the entire region. In 1998 a professional survey commissioned by the Hampton Roads Partnership asked residents this open question: “What name do you think should be used to identify our region of Virginia?” Almost two-thirds answered “Hampton Roads”—63%. Next closest was “Tidewater” with 21%. All other names polled 4% or less. So the name really is not an issue any more. If it’s not as well know externally as we would like, we simply need to keep using it and promoting it.
“Hampton Roads” is also very historic, older in fact than all place names other than Jamestown. It was given by the first royal governor, Lord De La Ware, in 1610. De La Ware, who came out from England that year and in fact prevented the abandonment of Jamestown, named the region “Southampton Roadsteads.” A roadstead is a safe anchor-age, and Southampton was the title of Henry Wriothesley, Third Earl of Southampton. Henry Wriothesley is most famous as a patron of William Shakespeare, but he also was a prominent supporter of colonization as a board member of the Virginia Company. Through usage during the seventeenth century, “Southampton Roadsteads” was shortened to “Hampton Roads.” Southampton County and the City of Hampton also are named for the Earl of Southampton.
The Emergence of Regionalism in Virginia
Let me deal now with the history of our regional institutions. Describing our experiences with regionalism in an historical context rather than abstractly has several particular benefits. First of all, history reminds us that regionalism is an old idea, at least 50 or more years old on the national scene. Second, an historical approach is a convenient way of accounting for the odd institutional structure in which we practice regional cooperation today in Hampton Roads and elsewhere in Virginia. Finally, it helps explain some curious aspects of why we are organized as we are today.
The distinction of being our oldest regional institution probably goes to the Hampton Roads Sanitation District. HRSD, a political subdivision of the Commonwealth of Virginia, owes its creation to oysters. In 1925 the Virginia Department of Health condemned a large oyster producing area in Chesapeake Bay because of sewage pollution. Eventually, to deal with the problem, HRSD was created by public referendum in 1940.
The history of HRSD reminds us that regional cooperation is necessary because there are matters, such as environmental pollution and highway planning, that can only be dealt with by regional solutions. Traditionally, the tax based needed by local governments to deal with expanding population was obtained by annexing adjacent county land. But after WWII, as suburban growth mushroomed, county voters became politically powerful enough to shield themselves from the higher taxes and growing social problems of their central cities. In Virginia, starting in the 1970s, the legislature suspended annexation powers, and since then, neither has any attempt to create a city-county consolidation by referendum been successful. By default, shared problems have had to be dealt with by regional cooperation. “Regionalism” is simply the active promotion of regional cooperation.
And thus the big story on regionalism is that we have been going up a sort of learning curve for the past four decades. We have learned a lot, but in some respects we still seem awfully slow to learn. Today, in the absence of effective regional government, we are nevertheless becoming ever more proficient practitioners of regional cooperation through a somewhat ramshackle structure. So if you find what I tell you about our institutional structure confusing and far from neat and tidy, I will have made my point.
Governmental Regionalism in Hampton Roads
In Virginia, the government framework below the State level has been shaped by the Dillon Rule and the Independent Cities Act. In a nineteenth century court case, Judge Dillon ruled that cities and towns and counties have only the powers granted to them under their charters by the state legislature. In a non-Dillon state, the municipalities have all powers except those denied to them by the state legislature. Municipalities dislike the Dillon Rule. Big business likes the Dillon Rule. Virginia is one of the last states to follow the Dillon Rule.
Secondly, Virginia is the only state with the Independent Cities Act, which means that our cities and counties are separated. Elsewhere, cities are embedded in counties, and the cities are able to annex county land to expand their tax bases. In Virginia, the cities gave up their annexation rights in the 1970s in exchange for promises from the state legislature to make up the resulting loss in tax revenue. This promise was not kept, and the backlog of the unpaid obligation amounts to hundreds of millions of dollars.
In any case, the first institutional fact of life in Virginia and Hampton Roads is that what the municipalities can do is conditioned by the Dillon Rule and the Independent Cities Act. And these State policies make it difficult for cities to cooperate, even though there are other state laws that apparently encourage and facilitate inter-city cooperation.
The next important piece of the regional structure is the planning district. Last year was the 30th anniversary of the creation of Virginia’s planning districts. The planning districts were the only substantial accomplishment of the Hahn Commission on the Structure of Local Government. The Hahn Commission was appointed in the mid-1960s by Governor Mills Godwin to struggle with the same issues we still struggle with today because the legislature would not come to grips with the contest between the central cities and their peripheral counties. A planning district commission, legally, is a voluntary association of such municipalities as wish to belong. In practice all do, but because it is voluntary it does not have the coercive powers of government. Planning districts indeed provide important research and planning services for their member municipalities. In some places, though not in Hampton Roads, they also operate regional public services, such as garbage collection.
Under federal transportation legislation, a region must also have a Metropolitan Planning Organization, or MPO, to prepare the multi-modal infrastructure and air quality compliance plan required as a prerequisite of receiving federal transportation funds. In Hampton Roads, the Hampton Roads Planning District Commission operates the MPO.
Next, in the regional governance structure, there are authorities. Where municipalities find a rationale for working together, usually on coordinating some specific public service, they often ask the State legislature to charter an authority. The board of directors of such a regional authority is appointed by its constituent municipalities; it is empowered to collect revenues to support its operations; and usually it just goes quietly about the business of providing an efficient and professional public service relatively free of political gamesmanship. Examples in our area include the Southeastern Public Service Authority, which provides garbage collection; Hampton Roads Transit, which operates the buses; the airport authorities of Norfolk and Williamsburg-Newport News; the Hampton Roads Sports Authority; and so on.
The economically most important of these vehicles in Hampton Roads is clearly the Virginia Port Authority, created in 1983, which is operated now as a business for the benefit not of our cities but for the State, which controls it entirely. The Port Authority is useful to our history of regional economic development by providing an outstanding case study of what a cooperative marketing effort can do for a regional economy. Before 1983, port volume was growing in single digits; after the merger of the ports into the VPA, growth surged into double digits and Hampton Roads surpassed Baltimore to become the mid-Atlantic load center. The VPA example is one of the best for showing that regionalism delivers.
Finally, in addition to the planning district, the MPO, and the various authorities, there are also scores of other collaborative arrangements among our municipalities. For example, I am told that Hampton and Newport News were once taking so much heat from the Peninsula newspaper about regional cooperation that they counted all their agreements for mutual services-they came up with over 90 such arrangements. Other notable inter-city arrangements are the water contracts that exist not only between Norfolk and Virginia Beach but also among other suppliers and users of water on both sides of the James River.
Thus the principal formal public entities at the regional level that impact economic development are the planning district, the MPO, the various public service authorities, and the network of inter-city agreements.
Private Sector Regionalism in Hampton Roads
The private sector has not been idle when it comes to regionalism. In fact, it has often led the way. In 1965, leaders in the communications industry brought together the seventeen school districts to create the Hampton Roads Educational Television Association, better known as WHRO. In 1979, lovers of fine music realized that the area could afford to field a much better symphony orchestra if they pooled the resources of the Norfolk Symphony, the Peninsula Symphony, and the Virginia Beach Pops. Thus was born the Virginia Symphony—another sterling example of the higher level of performance that flows from concentrating regional resources on a shared strategy. With respect to economic development, these ornaments enhance our attractiveness to corporate relocation prospects.
A united business community can similarly be a structural asset. In the early 1980s, the leaders of the various city chambers of commerce came together to form a regional chamber of commerce for Hampton Roads. Unfortunately, the business leaders on the Peninsula couldn’t see the benefits of a regional chamber at that time, hence the resulting entity, though hopefully named the Hampton Roads Chamber of Commerce, merged only the five southside organizations. Today, the two Chambers do cooperate on a number of programs, including those, such as the Small Business Development Center, that encourage economic growth.
Interestingly, the creation of the Hampton Roads Chamber of Commerce in 1983 was pushed by the southside business leadership not so much to have a fine chamber but precisely for the purpose of funding a stronger regional economic development marketing plan for the entire region, including the Peninsula. Instead, we currently have two regional marketing organizations. The southside regional development effort began in the 1960s as the Tidewater Virginia Development Corporation, or TVDC, which petered out and was restarted in the late 1970s as the Greater Hampton Roads Organization, or GHRO. Both TVDC and GHRO foundered because the cities, intent at that time on building their own development departments, feuded about the regional approach and pulled their money out. Hence, in 1983, when the regional chamber took over GHRO and restarted it as Forward Hampton Roads, the business leadership decided to fund it entirely with private money.
In 2000, Forward Hampton Roads was reorganized to include the cities again and it was renamed the Hampton Roads Economic Development Alliance. The value of regionalism in economic development appears once again to be recognized by the southside cities. Let’s hope it holds up. On the Peninsula, by contrast, the regional economic development organization has always been a strong public-private partnership. It too was recently reorganized, in order to expand beyond economic development marketing to workforce training and other development functions, and it was renamed the Virginia Peninsula Economic Development Alliance. As with the Chambers, there has been a quiet ongoing effort to merge these two economic development Alliances into a single powerhouse marketing organization for the entire region. So far the effort has been frustrated by parochial interests, but the talk of merger has at least led to some collaborative regional marketing programs. [Under the leadership of Newport News Mayor Joe Frank, the merger was finally accomplished in 2007, creating today’s HREDA.]
Another important private initiative in the mid-1980s was the creation of a visioning organization known as the Future of Hampton Roads. This was actually the first attempt to put together a strategic set of development priorities for the entire region. Its principal contribution, I believe, was to change the terms of discourse about what regionalism could do for the area. A much more positive dialog followed in the media, and the public became more than ever oriented to the notion that regional cooperation is good for the economy. The Future of Hampton Roads continues today as a non-political body for shaping opinion on major issues, including offering initiatives designed to improve the effectiveness of regional governance.
Creation of Present Regional Governance Organizations
Another exceedingly important private initiative in the 1980s was the merger of the two local metropolitan statistical areas, or MSAs, in time for the 1990 census. MSAs are set up by the federal Census Bureau, and this merger effort required convincing federal authorities that indeed both sides of the James River were sufficiently integrated eco-nomically to form a single statistical entity. Again, the motive was economic competi-tiveness. Formerly the separate Tidewater and Peninsula MSAs ranked 42nd and 82nd among national markets. The newspaper interests on both sides of the James argued that a single MSA would rank 27th, thus bringing our area to the attention of national adver-tisers. The merged entity was named the Norfolk-Virginia Beach-Newport News MSA. For the next census, in 2000, we are trying to get “Hampton Roads” added to the MSA name in parentheses. [This was not successful, but it appears in Wikipedia’s list of MSA populations.]
At the end of the 1980s, with a concept of regionalism floating about that included both sides of the James River, the municipal leaders took some creative steps. Mayor Joe Leafe of Norfolk, in his 1989 State of the City address proposed that the then separate Tidewater and Peninsula planning districts, like the MSAs, also should be merged. This was done in 1991. Mayor Leafe also suggested that the local elected officials should meet monthly. This was the origin of the group known as the Mayors and Chairs Caucus of Hampton Roads. A parallel organization of city managers—the Chief Administrative Officers Organization—arose at the same time as the Mayors and Chairs. The regular monthly luncheon meetings of the elected and administrative leaders of the sixteen cities and counties of the Hampton Roads Planning District have been immensely important in creating personal relationships that have fostered more productive dialog among the cities. There is in fact a good deal more working together than is suggested by the headlines on water wars or frustrations with highway projects. In the absence of regional government, such relationship building provides an essential base for cooperation.
The Hampton Roads Partnership
In the early 1990s the private sector again became deeply concerned about the regional economy. With the recession, the competition of the other port cities, and the threat of base closures and defense downsizing, the Hampton Roads Chamber of Commerce could see that we were headed for further erosion of our growth rate and income level. In 1992, as a means for stimulating a sense of urgency about the economy and the need to act regionally in order to be competitive internationally, the Chamber initiated a regional visioning exercise known as Plan 2007. Over 400 leaders from all over the region came together in the summer of 1993 to set priorities for transportation, high tech business development, port expansion, tourism, and other key economic clusters. The material developed by Plan 2007 was used during 1994 to challenge the elected officials to join with the business community in a concerted development effort, in particular to create a regional organization of leaders to implement the Plan’s ambitious strategies.
At the same time that Plan 2007 was generating some local momentum, at state level a group was brought together by the mayors of Norfolk, Richmond, and Roanoke to discuss the growing fiscal plight of the cities caused fundamentally by the Dillon Rule and the Independent Cities Act. The Virginia Chamber of Commerce, concerned by the weakened competitiveness of the cities, joined with these municipal leaders to form the Urban Partnership. The Urban Partnership was a statewide public-private partnership; its principal achievement was the Regional Competitiveness Act of 1997. The Regional Competitiveness Act provides annual financial incentives to municipalities that will join together in a regional council to implement a regional development plan. [For budgetary reasons the incentives were discontinued in 2003 and have not been renewed.]
Out of these parallel efforts of Plan 2007 and the Urban Partnership was born, in 1996, the Hampton Roads Partnership. The Partnership is the regional council required by the Regional Competitiveness Act, and the Partnership adopted Plan 2007 as its required regional plan. In 1999, as Plan 2007 was six years old, the Partnership updated it in a new Strategic Plan that sets priorities for workforce training, transportation, the port, high tech manufacturing, military partnering, tourism, and regionalism itself. With more than $2 million a year in appropriations from the Regional Competitiveness Act, the Partnership funded over fifteen specific programs designed to move the regional economy forward. The Partnership expects to foster advocacy for tough initiatives, such as raising the gas tax to meet our under-investment in highways. Such regional public-private economic development partnerships exist elsewhere in the country, but they are novel in Virginia. They give hope for the future.
Finally, to complete the roster of important elements of the regional development structure, I must list our research community, consisting of the national labs—NASA Langley in aeronautics and space, and Jefferson Lab in nuclear physics—and our universities, especially Old Dominion University. Old Dominion has fostered dozens of partnerships with industry, runs the largest program producing high tech engineers and technicians, and has the distinction of creating more jobs in Hampton Roads recently than any other entity. ODU with William & Mary’s Virginia Institute of Marine Science do worldclass research in oceanography. The latest addition to our research complex is the modern ship design facility now being created at Newport News Shipbuilding. These research entities are collaborating today in a consortium sponsored by the Hampton Roads Partnership.
Hampton Roads Regionalism Today
That is a sketchy narrative of how our region got where it is today. We still grouse a lot about the need for regional cooperation, but that is only because our reach exceeds our grasp. The fact is that Hampton Roads enjoys as high a degree of regional cooperation as any urban area in the State. In fact, other folks around the State consider our Hampton Roads Partnership a model; indeed it was the model for the rules on council structure included in the Regional Competitiveness Act. Beyond that, as I have indicated, many of our public services are delivered through competent regional authorities. Our Mayors & Chairs and CAOs meet monthly and work at finding common ground on the big issues that concern all of us. The CAOs are served by a Planning District Commission staff that is considered a model in the nation. Our universities and labs spend more on research than the Research Triangle and serve as magnets for high tech commerce. Our two Chambers and our two regional development Alliances, though they ought to merge, set records and win awards for their corporate recruiting achievements, while organizations ranging from the Virginia Symphony to the Virginia Port Authority stand as beacons advertising the benefits of regionalism. Other non-governmental organizations of all sorts—chambers of commerce, utility companies, professional associations—complete the regional institutional structure that impacts regional economic development. And finally, the general public, informed mostly by the media, gives assent and serves as boosters for regional development.
The public definitely supports regional cooperation and development. That survey commissioned last year by the Hampton Roads Partnership asked “Would taxpayers in Hampton Roads benefit if area cities and counties worked together more?”—90% said “yes!” I find that it is mostly our politicians, whose parochial duties make them cautious, who impede progress. Nevertheless, many of them are in the forefront of fostering cooperating relationships where their interests don’t clash.
This has been a complicated story; no doubt confusing to you, just as our resulting regional institutional structure that impacts development is confusing to our public. Nevertheless, I think we are getting better at it all the time. We do have some yawning gaps. In addition to our mayors, who do meet periodically, we have over 100 members of our 16 city and county councils who never meet together, and many of them remain overly parochial in their outlook. Another huge gap is the disunity of our legislative delegation in the General Assembly. This inability to act as a voting bloc for our region is of long standing. Nevertheless, because of the work of the Hampton Roads Partnership, our delegates were encouraged to work together in recent sessions on our transportation priorities. Such issues rise above political considerations, and our delegation needs to make working together habitual in the same way the Northern Virginia delegation does.
In the meantime, the Hampton Roads Partnership used the incentive funds provided by the Regional Competitiveness Act to foster a whole raft of projects that are actually building strength into our workforce and economic fabric. [More recently, working with John Wynne of the Council on Virginia’s Future, the Partnership has created an elaborate set of metrics for assessing regional performance, available on the Internet as Hampton Roads Performs.]
I hope that after listening to this rambling history, you will appreciate my opening remark about the complexity and experimental nature of the institutional structure of regionalism. The process of structural innovation has been very difficult, especially because we are in Virginia, which is famous for good government but not always known for progressive thinking. I think my own generation of leaders can point to some accomplishments. I’m sure yours will take us farther—perhaps even to that form of limited regional government that will allow some key decisions to be made and implemented. I hope so. It’s a competitive world, and the clock is always ticking.
In closing this talk, let me observe that I have focused on the institutional framework of regionalism in Virginia and Hampton Roads to the exclusion of other ways of expounding this topic. For example, one could compare our structure to other states’ structures, or analyze the statistical results of our development efforts as compared to other regions, or examine key development issues such as land use planning, environ-mental preservation, infrastructure planning, or development incentives. For these omis-sions, I apologize and excuse myself by again referring to the intriguing complexity of the subject matter.
But finally, let me observe that everywhere in the country we are seeing that successful regional development is not built on any particular structures but on a web of strong relationships among political leaders, business leaders, other community leaders, and the public in ways that build trust and surmount the political boundaries that inhibit working together for the common good. Thus regionalism is not about wiping out legitimate parochial interests and loyalties, but about doing together those things that our municipalities or businesses cannot do as well acting singly. It’s not about “we” and “they” but about “us”—all working together to improve our own region’s economy, income levels, and quality of life.