Embracing the power of the state

After spending more than two decades in local government before my eight years as Governor of Maryland, I came to realize how the state was contributing to the spread of sprawl by funding infrastructure improvements, school construction, and transportation investments, among many other things. When we began to utilize the entire state budget as a tool for smarter growth, we found ourselves in uncharted territory. Leading the way is certainly an adventure, but it also comes with the unenviable task of not having someone who has gone before to help navigate the journey.

3 minute read

August 3, 2007, 10:59 AM PDT

By Anonymous


After spending more than two decades in local government before my eight years as Governor of Maryland, I came to realize how the state was contributing to the spread of sprawl by funding infrastructure improvements, school construction, and transportation investments, among many other things. When we began to utilize the entire state budget as a tool for smarter growth, we found ourselves in uncharted territory. Leading the way is certainly an adventure, but it also comes with the unenviable task of not having someone who has gone before to help navigate the journey.

After leaving government at the end of my second term, I joined with former New Jersey Governor Christine Todd Whitman in 2005 to start the Governors' Institute on Community Design. The Institute, made possible by funding from the US EPA and the National Endowment for the Arts, exists to help equip governors with the training, knowledge and technical advice they need to realize a fruitful vision of growth for their state.

Generally, after the Governor and his or her staff set an agenda, the Institute will convene a workshop and bring in nationally renowned experts and practitioners in design, planning, transportation, housing, schools, land-use, and the environment to help the Governor and his or her administration get from Point A to their desired Point B.

GICDA few weeks ago, we had the opportunity to travel to Dover, Delaware to spend two days with Governor Ruth Ann Minner and her staff for the fourth state Institute. Since 2001, Governor Minner has been forging a path of her own for the First State through Livable Delaware, an agenda "designed to slow sprawl, guide growth to appropriate areas, preserve open space and promote high-quality redevelopment." She has made Livable Delaware a success over the last six years. We were pleased to be able to sit down with her staff and cabinet to provide advice on developing Livable Delaware into an even stronger agenda that will continue long after she leaves office.

The feedback we received from Governor Minner's administration following the workshop-as well as in a press release from her office-let us know that our time and effort will help them reach their goals: "After seven years of hard work, this workshop was a great reminder that we have very powerful laws and tools already at hand, but our guests also made a series of valuable and actionable recommendations to improve our efforts now and beyond this administration."

During the workshop, Ed McMahon of the Urban Land Institute-one of the Institute panelists for the event-asked the kind of question that Governors from Maine to California are asking themselves in regard to their own states: "Do you want the character of Delaware to shape new development, or do you want new development to shape the character of Delaware?"

As Governors across the country seek the answer to this question, more of them are embracing an active, aggressive state role in addressing growth. Governors can tackle so many important issues today-traffic, global warming, economic competitiveness, health, housing affordability, mobility-by setting a state framework for smarter growth.

Notwithstanding that most of my elected career was spent at the local level, I hope this trend continues.


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