Cooperation won’t compromise local independence

I confess. I do not understand why we in metro Atlanta spend so much time agonizing over what it means to be a region and whether we want to be one.

By its narrowest definition, metro Atlanta consists of 10 counties and more than 70 cities. Combined, our communities encompass everything from rural to urban, traditional to quirky, and historic to thoroughly modern. Each reflects the preferences and priorities of the people who live there.

At the same time, these communities and the local governments that represent them are bound together by impossible-to-ignore realities that have no regard for county lines and city limits. Transportation, water, economic growth, sustainability, workforce education, and other critical and quality of life issues are plainly too big to be solved piecemeal in our respective counties and municipalities.

Does a regional approach to such issues threaten local jurisdictions’ independence or identity? No. Does it take away our choices? No. Does it boost our capacity for cultivating the basic things we all want? Yes.

Some assert that regionalism negates competition among jurisdictions. Not true. In fact, competition should motivate all local governments and their constituents to do better. At the same time, competition is no excuse for tearing down or working against our neighbors.

The independence we celebrate every Fourth of July commemorates a break from a monarchy an ocean away. There is no “England” oppressing metro Atlanta or any segment of it. Our communities are geographically and economically interdependent, and despite their differences, the people of the region have much in common when it comes to what they want for themselves and the places they call home.

At the Civic League for Regional Atlanta, we believe the people of the region are the key to a better region. Our goals are to equip citizens with the information they need to make decisions for themselves and to create new opportunities for regional civic participation.

Together, we are all stakeholders and together, we can leverage our interdependence to adapt to growth, preserve the unique qualities we hold dear, and ensure an economically and environmentally sustainable future.

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