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Janet Long proposes forming a “regional council of governments”

in The Bay and the 'Burg/Top Headlines by

Janet LongAfter two years’ study and discussions with business leaders and elected and appointed officials, Pinellas County Commissioner Janet Long has come up with a way that she says will help solve problems that face all Tampa Bay governments.

Long is proposing the formation of a “regional council of governments” comprised of members from Pinellas, Hillsborough and Pasco counties. The council would work to serve as the forum for regional decision-making by finding regional answers to transportation, affordable housing, economic development, and land use and redevelopment issues that face all three counties.

Such an agency, she said, could save money by consolidating some services and give the Tampa Bay area more clout when it comes to getting federal and other dollars routed to the region.

“To me, it just makes perfect sense,” Long said as she introduced her idea at Tuesday’s Pinellas County Commission meeting. “It’s a new revolutionary idea to move from where we are to where we should be.”

Commissioners agreed to discuss her idea during an upcoming workshop.

Long based her proposal on the San Diego Association of Governments serves as the forum for regional decision-making. SANDAG builds consensus; makes strategic plans; obtains and allocates resources; plans, engineers, and builds public transportation, and provides information on a broad range of topics pertinent to the region’s quality of life.

SANDAG is governed by a board of directors composed of mayors, councilmembers, and county supervisors from each of the region’s 19 local governments. Supplementing these voting members are advisory representatives from other agencies, such as the Metropolitan Transit System and San Diego County Water Authority.

Similarly, under Long’s proposal, the Tampa Bay council would be governed by a board of directors made up of county commissioners, mayors, municipal council and commission members, and business/private sector leaders. An advisory committee would be established made up of professional staff from the metropolitan planning organizations, governments, planners and others.

Long said she sees several benefits to the formation of such a group. Among those:

— Function as the Tampa Bay region’s consolidated metropolitan planning organization.

— Consolidate organizations like the Tampa Ba Area Regional Planning Authority within the Tampa Bay Regional Planning Council.

— Establish an oversight board for the region.

— Better link and clarify relationships between the regional association, Florida Department of Transportation, and members local governments.

— Serve as the forum for regional decision making.

— Remedy fragmented decision-making process.

— Reduce redundancies and inefficient use of funding.

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