The financial challenges facing our local governments across the 16 counties of Northeast Ohio are staggering. Our cities are facing a crisis unlike anything they've seen in a generation, ranging from budget cuts and reduced services, to layoffs and outright program eliminations. One of the ways Northeastern Ohio can assure its future is for all communities to participate in the “Regional Prosperity Initiative” (RPI). The RPI is the pursuit of “Government Efficiency through Collaboration and Coordinated Infrastructure Planning, along with enhanced economic development growth rate.
The historical structure of local government and tax policies in Ohio encourages adversarial relationships among public sector institutions, perpetuates fragmented planning, and compels community leaders to compete against one another, particularly for commercial and industrial development. The RPI, an initiative of the Northeast Ohio Mayors and City Managers Association (NEOM&CMA), seeks to alter this situation by building coordination and collaboration among public sector institutions. The goal is a cohesive, collaborative regional strategy for economic development, more effective and efficient government, and a more sustainable future.
Northeast Ohio residents, through the Voices & Choices civic engagement project and subsequent public opinion polls, have made it clear that more efficient, effective local government is a regional priority. In addition, the Dashboard of Economic Indicators links a region’s governmental structure to its overall economic competitiveness. The economic case and the public’s clear call for change are why “Government Collaboration and Efficiency” is a priority for the RPI.
Increasingly, elected officials and community leaders recognize the connection between government efficiency and the region’s economic competitiveness. The State of Ohio’s budget crisis cannot be addressed without making local government more efficient. Governor Kasich has made that very clear with the local government fund cutbacks contained in the new State Biennium Budget. For these reasons, and others, we anticipate that more of the region will call for more efficient, collaborative local government. Ideas and efforts to recalibrate local government to better serve the public interest have been developing for a number of years. During the past three years the RPI has advanced a substantial conversation regarding regional and collaborative principles. RPI has focused on the two core areas 1) regional strategic infrastructure planning, and 2) the development of a regional economic development alliance with the possibility of resource sharing to support appropriate collaboration.
The environment for consideration of major change at the State and Local levels is substantial. That consideration for change has been influenced by fiscal stress that demands reduced costs, improved services and improved climate and policies for enhanced economic development. A renewed spirit of innovation is emerging in the public sector of Northeast Ohio and the RPI is a big part of it. Driven by economic necessity a steadily growing number of community leaders are forced to re-examine assumptions about how and why local governments should find new ways to work together to preserving and perpetuating local government now and into the future. At the same time reducing our costs by collaborating where it makes sense and improving the delivery of city services along with assisting in the creation of private sector jobs in our region.