Daylong discussion with local and state leaders will help federal agencies work better together

The Oregon Transportation Research and Education Consortium held the West’s first listening session Wednesday under the Sustainable Communities Partnership, the effort to get federal agencies working together on green transportation and housing projects. Regional administrators from the Department of Transportation, the Department of Housing and Urban Development and the Environmental Protection Agency met with local, regional and state leaders for open-ended discussions on building sustainable communities.

More than 150 people attended the daylong Oregon Community Dialogue at Willamette University  in Salem, organized by OTREC and facilitated by the National Policy Consensus Center. In one-on-one interviews, participants brainstormed the barriers to sustainable communities, the existing opportunities to work together and actions they could take to take to make their own communities more sustainable. They also discussed what they could accomplish if agencies did a better job of working together to pay for projects.

The discussions produced the following insights:

  • Barriers to sustainable communities include a lack of shared vision on results, a lack of integration and coordination, a lack of marketplace incentives and confusion over how to achieve the goals.
  • Federal agencies working better together would create opportunities for collaboration at all levels of government, give flexibility to use resources in new ways, allow for a better response to community needs and reduce waste and duplication of efforts.
  • Given federal support, participants would erase divisions between agencies, create more inclusive local land-use planning processes and honor previously completed plans, reward visionary community efforts, create a clearinghouse for research and best practices and set up pilot projects to showcase those practices.
  • Collaborative funding would create a simpler process, help meet multiple community goals simultaneously, build stronger working relationships and provide for more funding stability.

Administrators in attendance were Mary McBride of HUD Region 10; Michelle Pirzadeh, deputy administrator of EPA Region 10; Phil Ditzler of the Federal Highway Administration’s Oregon Division; and Rick Krochalis of the Federal Transit Administration’s Region 10. The administrators will now attend listening sessions in the other states of Region 10 and use the input to help make their agencies more effective, responsive and collaborative.

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