Later this week, the Roanoke City Council will join the Roanoke County Board of Supervisors in what is possibly the first joint meeting between the two elected bodies. The purpose of the meeting is to enable information sharing about items of regional significance and perhaps lay the groundwork for future joint efforts. The items scheduled to be discussed include transit, joint land use planning efforts underway, and the regional significance of the Virginia Tech Carilion Research Institute.
Though this is the first time the two have formally jointly met, it is far from the first time the two have worked together to address items of importance to the region. Indeed, this area has a strong (albeit rather belated) history of working together. The Roanoke Valley Broadband Authority, The Roanoke Valley Resource Authority, the Western Virginia Water Authority, Visit Virginia’s Blue Ridge, the Roanoke Regional Partnership, and the Western Virginia Regional Industrial Facilities Authority are but a few of the most significant regional partnerships. It should be noted that, in many instances, these efforts not only include the City of Roanoke and Roanoke County, but also the City of Salem, the Town of Vinton, and some of our surrounding communities. In each of these instances, taking a regional approach has strengthened our ability to face challenges, such as maintaining a reliable water supply, or disposing of solid waste, while also strengthening great regional opportunities to promote economic development and tourism.
Virginia is Unique, So Too Should Be Our Solutions
In Virginia with its long-standing and unique government structure – cities independent from counties – this type of regionalism is critical for the success of the area. For example, the region has, for many years, approached transportation planning in this manner through the Regional Transportation Planning Organization managed by the Regional Commission. Without this type of cooperation, it would be extraordinarily difficult to plan and construct such important projects as improvements to I-581 or the greenway network that runs throughout the area. Further, without this type of arrangement, hopes of expanding Amtrak, constructing I-73, or upgrading I-81 simply would not be possible. Most recently, the City of Roanoke, the Roanoke County, and the Roanoke-Blacksburg Airport Authority worked together to secure funding that moves us a step closer to expanding direct air service to another City – an opportunity that is of critical importance to our region.
While we may not have always liked working together and we must continue to protect what makes each of our communities unique, without a doubt we are better together and are able to accomplish much more than we ever could individually.
- Bob Cowell