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By Zack Seward

September 14, 2011

Will it work?

We hear this sentiment a lot when we talk to experts about the councils: There’s reason to be optimistic, but the proof will be in the pudding.

One of those experts is Matt Ryan, the executive director of ALIGN, the Alliance for a Greater New York. His labor-backed organization produced a report on the new councils back in June.

The top line finding was that the councils are a step in the right direction. Ryan says creating one economic vision for a region versus, say, 25 is a vast improvement.

But Ryan points out that the $800 million pool of “cobbled together” money preserves old programs, and could potentially let strategies that aren’t working continue under the banner of a “new” approach.

“Even if you’re making more coordinated and effective decisions, is the money really delivering a return on investment?” asks Ryan.

That’s not the only potential problem with the councils: Ryan says there’s also the question of what happens after this first year of the initiative.

“Can the legislature hammer something out with the executive branch that really puts our public investment behind this for the long-term?” Ryan asks. “I think that’s where the rubber’s going to hit the road.”

Add to that the competitive element - that some regions will get a big chunk of money, while others won’t. It could cause tension when legislators return to Albany in January to piece together funding that will keep the regional council framework alive.


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