Article | Filling the Governance Gap by Allan Wallis

Read Filling the Governance Gap by Allan Wallis, my annotated copy of this article.

Wallis, Allan D. “Filling the Governance Gap.” National Civic Review 87, no. 1 (1998).

Notes

The dominant vision for regional growth

  1. Ownership of a detached single-family house;
  2. Automobile ownership;
  3. Low-rise workplaces;
  4. Small communities with strong local governments;
  5. Environment free from signs of poverty.

Downs says the dominant vision succeeds admirably in satisfying short-term needs, while simultaneously making it more difficult to solve long-term problems. (103)

Past solutions, notably those that are essentially structural (such as city/county consolidations), offer limited promise for filling the governance gap. Never- theless, some sustaining structure is essential lest regionalism resolve itself to being a celebration of process over substance. But what kind of structure, and how much is needed? “Herein lies a regional paradox,” Savitch and Vogel con- clude. “If metropolitan regions are to pursue effective policies, they must be politically viable (i.e., command popular and elite consensus), yet regional bodies whose policies go beyond the bounds of consensus are apt to lose that viability. In effect, the more aggressive regions become, the less power they possess. Regional bodies must then forever balance these tensions, trading off and adapting themselves to pressure and circumstances. The challenge is to do this while taking a long-term view of the need to convert political legitimacy into broader political mandates.”

Resolving this paradox requires more than analyses of all of the things that are problematic with current arrangements. It requires, as Downs suggests, some type of shared vision based on shared values that are in turn embodied in institutional arrangements.

These visions and values need to be developed simultaneously at the neigh- borhood and regional levels. At the neighborhood level, people must be con- vinced of a net gain in shifting from patterns of spatial and social organization that follow the current dominant vision to a new vision and lifestyle. This is beginning to happen as more and more local comprehensive plans adopt the language of the new urbanist and call for creation of urban villages and transit- oriented developments. At the same time, it is necessary to create vision and binding values at the regional level. A call for environmental stewardship that is based on preserving the natural assets of each region is one important foun- dation. Developing fair-share formulas for distributing a wide range of land uses, including affordable housing, is another.

Vision and values flow through networks of communications and social interaction. This calls for the kind of civic networking that Dodge, Peirce, and others23 recognize as essential to the development of regionalism. Unfortu- nately, evidence of that sort of networking is still hard to find.

Does all this support the contention of such pragmatists as Savitch and Vogel, that the pace for achieving regionalism will be glacial? Not necessarily. If other advanced industrialized countries continue to move rapidly forward on government reform, embracing regionalism in order to make themselves more globally competitive, then changes in the United States may be forced to accelerate. If so, the presentations offered in the books reviewed here will gain a very wide audience.