Monday, September 25, 2006

Regionally Speaking

I'm not ready to leave Iowa behind. Via Chris Briem and the blog, you can find an article about Iowa's brush with regionalism. Pittsburghers would recognize the failure of a top-down approach to scale up the voters' sense geography:

It seemed as if the governor's vision for greater regional cooperation and efficiency died almost as soon as it could be expressed. That's the usual fate for regionalism discussions: A group of politicians decides that consolidating government would make tremendous sense, but the idea soon runs into a wall of resistance. Just months before, voters had overwhelmingly rejected a merger between Des Moines and Polk County. And it happened last December, when voters in Shawnee County, Kan., rejected a proposed merger with Topeka.

Local identity and lack of trust stand in the way of most regional political consolidation efforts. Regional identity is logical and cost effective, but policy experts tend to underestimate the power of a sense of place. In our schools, we teach our children to cultivate civic pride. You swear allegiance to your town and your country.

When I lived in Olympia, WA, I spoke with an educator about helping newcomers develop a sense of place. She talked about a project to help students identify with the regional ecosystem, instead of the school district or hometown. The students went on field trips to see different parts of the area's watershed to learn about the salmon migration. The children would associate the salmon with where they lived, picking up an environmental sensitivity in the process. Thus, these children grew up thinking about what was going on upstream and downstream. They were linked to all the other people who also lived along the salmon run.

No comments: