by Howard J. Grossman, AICP
Democracy in the United States has been called many names, but perhaps the one that has reverence is “ the grand experiment.” It has been attributed to many people, including George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, other Presidents, Alexander Hamilton in Federalist Paper 9, Alexis-Charles-Henri Clerel deTocqueville, and perhaps others, but studies have shown that none of these may be correct, yet part of this legend may be true.
The latter wrote two major volumes about America, and they formed the powerful statement of what this nation had become with Volume 1 in 1835 and Volume 2 in 1840, Even Abraham Lincoln in the Gettysburg Address has some attribute associated with this process. Needless to say, perhaps the modern version of this “grand experiment” could be the future of the Pocono-Northeast. While not a governmental body and clearly made up of many local governments and counties, regional governance in this region could be a means to focus attention on its growth and development over the next 50-100 years. Having seen the way this region has changed and diversified its economy, its population, its environment and its social capability over the last 50 years, its future should be bright and promising and become the grand experiment for regional governance, at least on the east coast.
Minnesota and other places have seen new experiments for tax sharing and other avenues of change, and while there are some potentially areas that have experimented with positive change, nothing seems to stand out at a regional level. Therefore, the ground may be open for experimenting in this region with a number of steps that can be beneficial to a region undergoing constant competition for economic and community development. The global setting, which dominates how and when economic development occurs, is a radical departure from how this topic was covered and carried out historically. Therefore, an examination of new ideas would seem to be a powerful tool for future use in the Pocono-Northeast. How to utilize these is a process which deserves action steps and a plan that should involve as many agencies and entities as possible. Here are a few suggestions.
■ Adopt the Allegheny County regional asset district in this region which has a staff, funding, project development for libraries, cultural enhancements and more and is funded through a special 1% sales tax in that county. Think of what that brings to regional life if such actions were to be implemented inside this region. It would be a grand experiment unlike any other function and bring much value to the astonishing future which lies ahead. It would cause an expanded quality of life across the entire region. Whether or not a new tax could ever be enacted is questionable, however, in that county, it has worked for more than 20 years.
■ Adopt a regional sister city program that has a local government adopt a city or community from another nation and work closely and harmoniously to utilize this approach for the benefit of both the local government and the foreign government. There are sister cities in this region, but not many. Much more could be accomplished if many governments were to undertake a sister city relationship. Many topics could be discovered that could benefit the opportunity to fashion such partnerships and demonstrate ways that both the countries involved as well as the communities could improve and exchange ideas, visits, interests and many other activities.
■ Create ways that this region could generate specialized technology and organize travel visits to places that have evaluated and undertaken new experiments in governance that could then be applied inside the region. For example, a number of publications exist that deal with technology and its use in meeting ways for government to pattern a system that is valuable for citizen involvement and these instances could be shaped and established for regional life. This region has all types of governments that could be utilized as grand experiments in meeting opportunities for regional development.
■ Write something akin to The Federalist Papers that highlights the various governmental options that exist and further private-public and nonprofit partnerships across the region. Our versions of Alexander Hamilton, John Jay and James Monroe who collectively wrote the dramatic Federalist Papers could extend the role that The Regionalist Papers could have on the next decades. There is sufficient talent in the various higher educational institutions in the region to innovate this process along with other skilled writers within the Pocono-Northeast. Use this result to enhance how and when appropriate changes in governmental life could occur.
■ Embrace the future by recasting what had existed in the past with a chapter of the World Future Society and developing focus groups that can generate new ideas and thoughts regarding the next 50-100 years in regional life. Headed by a staff member at the time from the Economic Development Council of Northeastern Pennsylvania (EDCNP), now called NEPA Alliance, together with a local college, many meetings were held between the 1980s and early 1990s that helped bring new thoughts to national, international and regional issues. Such a grouping should become a valid focal point for futurism in coming regional years. In fact, there are ways that quite a few colleges could be involved in this process throughout the region. Representatives from the World Future Society could be asked to visit the region.
The Grand Experiment, which was and still is democracy in the United States, certainly can be replicated throughout this region in many different ways. Some of the ideas mentioned could be examined in depth and others could be structured so that the future becomes reality in meeting opportunities that can generate a new quality of life.for this and future generations.