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June 18, 2012 / Christian Clansky

Region Forward: Is the Plan Making a Difference?

By Tamara Copeland, President

Is the Region Forward plan making a difference?

Well, the goals outlined in the plan are set to be achieved by 2050, so we can’t quite answer that question yet. But, kudos to the Council of Governments for its release of a Region Forward Baseline Progress Report. Without the baseline, we’ll never know how well we’re doing. And, the release of the baseline gives us another reminder of the existence of the plan and of its value to the region – a bit of oomph, if you will.

When the WRAG Board of Directors endorsed the report, many expressed support for the comprehensiveness of the plan, but questioned COG’s ability to measure progress (or the lack thereof) toward the identified goals. Last week, COG demonstrated its commitment to reviewing and utilizing existing data to establish a baseline. In so doing, COG has already allayed some of the fears of the funding community while also signaling to all sectors in the region that it will take all of us working toward the goals to see measurable progress in some key areas.

Based on their findings, COG labeled several goals as major challenges, including:

  • The region needs to capture a greater percentage of commercial and residential construction in regional activity centers – currently at 31% toward the 75% goal.
  • The region has a strong base of subsidized housing, but more research is needed to determine the health of market rate housing. COG is developing a tool to better assess this goal, but currently 18% of all subsidized housing is in regional activity centers as compared to the 80% goal.
  • For those funders committed to the environment, only 8% of watersheds are in good or excellent condition. The goal is 50% of all sentinel watersheds.

Other goals such as those relating to attainment of the Healthy People Goals set by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services were noted as areas in which baseline information still needs to be collected. And still others, such as the goal of 45% of the region’s population over age 25 having a Bachelor’s Degree, need to be examined for pockets of inequity. Regionally, we have already exceeded that goal, but when careful attention is paid to parts of the region, the story that emerges is quite different.

WRAG continues to believe that the Region Forward framework affords funders tangible goals around which to align their giving. It provides the community, writ large, with a shared vision for the future. Funders have a role to play, and so does government, through the local health departments for example, and business, through local residential and commercial real estate developers.

If as a region – the DMV – we own the Region Forward framework as our plan and not just COG’s plan, we can see real progress over the coming years.

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