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Archive: Bill Barnes

Confessions of a Messy Regionalist

Bill Barnes / Nov 25 2011

For Release Friday, November 25, 2011

Bill BarnesAmong the congenial regional sages at the October Citistates convening at Rockefeller Brothers Fund’s Pocantico Conference Center, I felt I could admit to a long-time failing — I’ve been a messy regionalist.

By messy, I mean “devoid of neatness and precision.” That sounds right — regional problem-solving is usually complicated, difficult, frustrating and full of surprises, and often not successful. In other words, it’s like most human collective action endeavors.

Addressing regional challenges is also urgent and important and worthy of special attention. But we would do well to acknowledge and accept the reality of what Dan Gilmartin, executive director of the Michigan Municipal League, calls the “on the ground stuff” in the regionalism picture — the mix of grit and public interest vision that constitutes regional efforts. It’s really not about making nice; it’s about working through competing interests and values and about dealing with often fierce disagreements on matters of mutual concern.
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