We welcome the news, recently reported by the Press Herald, that two regional planning organizations will consolidate administration: the Greater Portland Council of Governments and Portland Area Comprehensive Transportation System. Both do important work. Thanks to the leadership of GPCOG Executive Director Kristina Egan and former PACTS Director John Duncan, the consolidation promises even better things to come.

If Greater Portland’s prosperity is to be sustained and broadened, this and other regional entities must help change the region’s historical pattern of economic boom and bust. We spent the past year studying this pattern and the challenges facing us today.

These include the coming workforce crisis, housing for younger workers and families, strengthening the property tax base, improving public transportation and high-speed broadband, climate change and protecting our quality of place from sprawling development. (See “Greater Portland Tomorrow: Choices for Sustained Prosperity” at http://bit.ly/ 2HPRbUM.)

For 50 years, economic planning in Greater Portland has largely reinforced the status quo, leaving the economy itself unchanged. Changing this will require regional planning that is connected to decision-making authority aimed at making a real difference in the lives of real people.

Ten years ago, Cumberland County became New England’s only federal Community Development Block Grant Entitlement County. Assisted by a municipal advisory panel that GPCOG helped to create, the county has distributed $16.4 million to cities and towns to advance local and regional goals. This success offers an ideal foundation for the marriage of regional planning and elected authority.

The time has come to attach regional planning directly to elected authority. We hope that members of the GPCOG Executive Committee and the Cumberland County commissioners will meet, figure out how to do this and together lead Greater Portland toward greater, broadly shared prosperity. For a model, they might look to the Cape Cod Commission, a department of Barnstable County, Massachusetts.

Richard Barringer


Frank O’Hara