ICYMI: Competing againt ourselves

op-edMy latest op-ed, title above, appeared in The Virginian-Pilot Thursday.

For the first time in years, I missed the presentation of the State of the Region Report. (Yes work gets in the way of my having fun 😦 ) But I did read through it (available here). As always, lots of information in there. What caught my eye, though, was the comment about the displacement effect. I’ve seen the same referred to as the substitution effect, whereby, due to limited resources, you simply substitute spending your money at one place with spending it at another. I recall becoming aware of the term when Norfolk was trying to bring a professional sports team to the area; the concept itself is common sense.

Not that our decision-makers pay any attention.

Our system literally forces cities to compete against each other, rather than cooperate.  It doesn’t matter what the item is. Each city is its own little fiefdom.

It’s why our transportation is so bad. For years, the folks couldn’t agree on the priority of projects.

It’s why every city has – or wants – a convention center.

It’s why Portsmouth is defending the tolls on the tunnel pretty much by itself.

It’s why the latest proposal for a regional sanitation district – which would save nearly $1 billion – is going nowhere.

And it’s a shame.

My column appears in The Virginian-Pilot every week, usually on Thursdays. You can see the columns as they are published here, or navigate to them from the PilotOnline.com homepage by clicking on Opinion and then choosing my name at the bottom of the dropdown list. You can also see the columns by liking my Facebook page. Although my column appears weekly, I am not and have never been an employee of The Virginian-Pilot.


8 thoughts on “ICYMI: Competing againt ourselves

  1. I feel like the whole convention center thing (and other deals like it) has more to do with campaign contributors driving the competition than anything else. When people like Bruce Thompson can drop big checks and host fancy parties to convince local governments to give him huge subsidies for projects he could easily afford on his own, it causes a bidding war among who can provide the biggest incentive package to keep the funds rolling, along with the economic development headlines. As long as our local governments continue to function as real estate development corporations, we will never have the level of cooperation we really need.

      1. Agreed. And all those events, fundraisers, and meetings with all those think tanks just helps to build those egos. It’s like a giant echo chamber. From what I understand that’s basically how we got the cruise terminal.

  2. How would the situation be different if these cities were still counties — Princess Anne, Nansemond, etc.? Would they not still be competing with one another, as Arlington, Fairfax, Prince William, and Loudoun do in NoVA?

    1. In Virginia, it wouldn’t be different. The point here is that in every other state, cities are not independent of the counties in which they are located. As the result, you essentially have regionalism – because the counties encompass the cities. Hampton Roads, for example, would be the regional county and the cities would be within the county. There would be no reason for Norfolk to compete against, say, Virginia Beach, because the overall entity – Hampton Roads County – would benefit, rather than the individual city.

      1. Well, I can see Norfolk’s being part of Princess Anne County, and Suffolk’s still being part of Nansemond County, Portsmouth being part of Norfolk County, and Hampton and Newport News part of Elizabeth City County.

        But there would not be one big Hampton Roads County any more than there is a Northern Virginia County. They would compete as much as counties as they do as cities.

          1. Quite true. But there is also no rule that says the cities cannot combine into one entity, is there?

            This does not seem to be an issue of independent cities vs. cities as part of counties, but of the division between those political entities, whether those borders are county lines or city lines.

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