Friday, April 10, 2009

The Challenges of Regionalism: A Case Study

Also in today's online Enquirer is an item detailing our efforts to regionalize our SORTA Board. It is a somewhat perplexing and disappointing story, I've got to say. But I'll chalk it up as a case study in the challenges of regionalism.

You see, we voluntarily offered to expand the Southwest Ohio Regional Transit Agency (SORTA) to include our three neighboring counties. We did this simply because we think a more regional governance structure will ultimately create a more regional transportation system, which most people and businesses believe we should strive for. And because more generally, regionalism just makes sense.

So, asking for nothing in return, Hamilton County and Cincinnati added a new seat on the SORTA Board for each of our neighboring Ohio Counties: Clermont, Warren and Butler. And then we reached out to those counties, encouraging them to recommend, suggest and encourage citizens from their community to volunteer to be on the board.

We received several very impressive applications, and ultimately appointed three highly qualified people to the three seats--bringing a nice mix of both public and private sector experience and perspective to the work of this important entity. Collectively, the new appointees should greatly enhance the SORTA board, and will soon begin their work.

Given all this, it was puzzling to see the reaction of some Warren County commissioners to this in the paper today. Nonetheless, I'm a big believer in the change, pleased about the more regional direction in which we are moving, and look forward to working with all three counties as we move forward.


(Just for the record, given the suggestion that Warren County was not given a chance to be heard on the appointment, below is a copy of what was sent to the commissioners, as I proactively sought their input in making that appointment.)

March 2, 2009

Dear Commissioners and Administrators:

I write to you to ask for your help in recruiting three members, one from each of Butler, Warren and Clermont counties, to serve on the recently restructured Southwest Ohio Regional Transit Authority (SORTA) Board.

As you know, Hamilton County and the City of Cincinnati recently retooled the SORTA Board to make our public fixed route bus system more regional in governance and service. And Hamilton County agreed to use three seats to represent the three surrounding Ohio counties. We recently publicly advertised those board seats for citizens from each county to apply to join the SORTA board.

As the elected representatives of those counties, you know your citizens and your counties’ priorities best. If you know of someone who is interested, knowledgeable of transportation issues, and would dutifully represent your county on our board, please direct them to submit an online application and any references they may wish to list. Interested residents can find the application at (top left of the page) or for more information, call 946-4410. Please ask them to submit those applications by the end of this week.

Thank you for your time and consideration.


David Pepper
Hamilton County Board of Commissioners

In addition to other broad communications, four days later I specifically wrote Warren County officials again:

I really enjoyed our joint meeting earlier this week, and appreciate your leadership in putting it together.

I wanted to be sure to communicate to you directly about the upcoming appointment to our SORTA Board we are making. As you no doubt have seen, we will be making an appointment of someone to occupy the “Warren County seat” that will be part of our new, more regional board.

Please encourage any citizens, officials or others you feel would represent Warren County well, and are knowledgeable of transportation issues, to apply to be part of the board. They can send in an application by going to the following website:

If you have any questions, give me a call at 946-4410.

Thanks, and see you soon.



Anonymous said...

It's a shame that everyone couldn't at least start to/act like they wanted to cooperate in these difficult economic times. Somebody always has to go and let personal objectives get in the way of making the "right" decision

Anonymous said...


Obstructionist ideology ?

Cut out the service to warren county and let their commish support their own transit system.

What would be the dollar loss amount of Fed. funds ?

We certainly do not like the thought of our Hamilton County dollars subsidizing or paying for free-loading, warren county, closed minds !



Anonymous said...

Warren County is growing by leaps and bounds. Although there is tremedous growth, crime and all the costs associated with over use of infrastructure will eventually hit - especially since tax cutting is an inherent philophy with the powers that be. It would be a great comparison study.

Quim said...

And yet, Warren CO has $14 million to spend on an entertainment complex.

Stephen JohnsonGrove said...

Thanks for leading on this, even in the face of such numbskullery. This is the kind of big-picture transportation thinking we need! (A sharp contrast with, say, the streetcar project.)

Bob Baylor said...

Combining services and approaching projects from a regional perspective makes sense, even in more favorable economic times. Stay the path!

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