It was true last year. It’s true today: Lack of regional cooperation lies at the heart of many of Richmond’s problems. And, it’s getting worse all the time because it’s costing taxpayers’ money in a time when governments all over the commonwealth are dealing with shortfalls. Eventually, greater regional cooperation is bound to come about for the […]
It was true last year.
It’s true today: Lack of regional cooperation lies at the heart of many of Richmond’s problems. And, it’s getting worse all the time because it’s costing taxpayers’ money in a time when governments all over the commonwealth are dealing with shortfalls.
Eventually, greater regional cooperation is bound to come about for the Richmond metropolitan area. One day, it will happen simply to save money on duplication of services.
Given the checkered history the concept has in these parts — together with Virginia’s peculiar set-up, which has independent cities landlocked without the ability to expand — and you know it’s still going to take an altogether fresh approach in leadership to make it happen.
Like it, or not, the Commonwealth of Virginia’s capital city needs the enthusiastic cooperation of Chesterfield County and Henrico County in order to build a modern mass transportation system for the Greater Richmond Community. That isn’t going to change.
Whether folks in Short Pump like it or not, that transportation system’s main hub will need to be in the city, probably as close to Main Street Station as it can be.
Likewise, Richmond needs the cooperation of the surrounding counties to plan a sensible baseball stadium for the imaginary minor league team that will someday call it home. By the way, so far, the counties of Henrico and Chesterfield won’t touch the Shockoe Bottom deal with a ten-foot pole.
In the future it’s going to be more and more difficult to provide clean water, proper schools, adequate fire and police departments, and all sorts of costly but unavoidable budget items, without genuine cooperation from all the governments of the metropolitan area.
The question is: How long will it take?
Since the densely populated suburban counties have developed — to some extent — on the backs of those who moved there hoping to avoid dealing with urban problems, their elected officials are accustomed to being automatically against most boundary-blurring notions.
Furthermore, the City of Richmond’s officials are accustomed to looking at the counties as lesser-than entities. For instance, the Board of Directors of the Richmond Metropolitan Authority, which was formed in 1966, has 11 members. Six of those members are appointees from the City of Richmond. Chesterfield and Henrico have two each. The eleventh is appointed by the Commonwealth of Virginia’s Transportation Commissioner.
The RMA owns and operates The Diamond, the Expressway, and several other things. If you want to see all of what the RMA does, click here. My own sense of this body is that in the future the counties will need more representation. Acting together, Henrico and Chesterfield ought to be at least equal to the City’s delegation in number. Shouldn’t Hanover County be included, as well?
While the RMA has paved the way for cooperation, it can‘t be expected to reform itself. Its members get their direction from the governments that appoint them. Unfortunately, some of those officials who make policy are stuck in tradition like its cement. They just go on fighting old battles.
So, from here on the real push for more regional cooperation is likely to have to come from the bottom up, instead of the top down. It’s going to take an informed citizenry to sweep another us-pitted-against-them attitude, leftover from the days of Massive Resistance, onto history’s compost heap.
It’s time to let all that go. Hopefully, Richmond’s new mayor, Dwight Jones, will not carry on the “my way or the highway” style his predecessor used in such matters.
In the Richmond metro area, we’re all facing hard times. We’re all hoping not to lose too much of what has been sweet about our way of life. We’re all looking at a future suddenly less certain, a future that will surely call upon us to change, to be smarter with our limited resources.
This screed isn’t proposing we do away, altogether, with jurisdictional boundaries. It is proposing that the changes we are going to have to make, aren’t going to take place until we — meaning “we” the people — get started looking for every way this metro area can invest wisely in crafting greater regional cooperation.
This should be the year the million people living in or near Richmond take great strides toward learning to look out for what are their mutual best interests. “We” need to act to push our so-called “leaders” toward more regional cooperation, pronto.
– Words and art by F.T. Rea