Caroline Cournoyer is GOVERNING's deputy web editor.E-mail: email@example.com
Though most public officials focused on only the negative effects of the Great Recession, Atlanta Mayor Kasim Reed looks to the positive -- the rise of regional government collaboration that has become the norm in many municipalities throughout the state and country.
The best example of that collaboration is a 10-county regional transportation plan, which is set for a vote this summer, Reed said Thursday during a panel on regionalism at the GOVERNING Leadership Forums in Atlanta. The Atlanta session is the first of eight forums being held this year.
Facing less federal and state dollars flowing their way since the economic downturn, localities in the Atlanta metro area -- like many other regions throughout the United States -- were forced to pool their financial, personnel and material resources together to try to maintain their services.
"There will be no achievable path without cooperation," Reed said.
Other panelists echoed his sentiments.
"The recession made friends out of people who were formally enemies or weren't aligned ... partnerships that you wouldn't think about are now emerging," noted Catherine Ross, the director of Georgia Tech's Center for Quality Growth and Regional Development.
For example, when the vote occurs July 31 on the Regional Transportation Plan, which Reed has focused nearly all of his energies on during his time in office, it will be the first time ever that counties in the Atlanta metro region will be voting collectively and not by jurisdiction.
And if the transit plan passes, Reed believes that "it's gonna be a stimulant for so much more cooperation."
The economic downturn isn't the only reason for the sudden spark of collaboration among cities and counties in recent years, though. The panelists agreed that it's also due to the younger generations of public servants.
Mark Funkhouser, panel moderator and director of the GOVERNING Institute, noted that "young elected officials ... are just about working together and getting stuff done," regardless of politics.
They see the world differently, said Ross, noting that many young people never plan on buying a car. But if that's the world they want to live in, she says, they have to figure out how to make that possible.
The biggest challenge the next generation of public leaders will face though, according to Mayor Reed, goes back to the budget.
"Revenue increases of any kind have such a negative stereotype attachment to them that your generation is going to have to reverse that," he said in response to a young person in the audience.