Document Type

Occasional Paper

Paper Type

Student Research

Publication Date

Fall 2014


This paper argues that enhancing multi-jurisdictional planning - i.e. regionalism in various forms -- should be at the center of how we ameliorate most of our major developmental challenges. Put another way, efforts to improve the planning profession’s contribution to concerns like “climate action,” “economic development,” “social equity,” “local government capacity,” and so on, all require more attention to stronger regional planning processes. The paper is divided into three sections. In the first section, we develop the over-arching theme that experiments in regionalism longer refer to significant institutional-structural reforms - in particular, to consolidation or centralization of planning authority -- but instead to far less threatening, more politically viable, and also less ambitious efforts to build incremental, horizontal collaborations that frequently lack much formal authority because they rely heavily on voluntary reciprocity. We then turn to a lengthy discussion of five different regional planning experiences in Washington State: (1) efforts by the Yakima Council of Governments to making homelessness a “cross-cutting” regional issue; (2)Walla Walla’s efforts to strengthen regional watershed planning; (3) a discussion of the strengths and weaknesses of the Columbia River Gorge Commission; (4) a critical reflection on the importance of tribes in regional planning and possible future dynamics in the Whatcom-La Connor-Swinomish area; and (5) a discussion of recent efforts in the Olympia-Thurston County to coordinate local climate action through enhanced regional collaborations. The final section of the paper recapitulates the main ideas and offers preliminary suggestions as we move forward.

Occasional Paper Number