Political scientists usually classify the core functions of government as policing, judicial and regulation. From an economist’s point of view, governments exist to correct market failures. The market “failure” that the Bluegrass Area Development District, as a unit of local government, corrects is the equitable distribution of public services – primarily for Aging, Workforce, and Community Planning.
No one disagrees these services need to exist. The only question to resolve is how they should be distributed and who should control that distribution. The Bluegrass ADD was constituted 45 years ago under the ideology of regional governance with a voice and a vote from every locally elected official in the 17-county region.
Why? One very simply reason: People prefer to live in a society based on a democratic government rooted at the local level. How does the saying go – all politics are local? And why? Because local governments are both responsive and responsible to the local citizens.
The Bluegrass ADD is part of a system that gives society a high return on investment on tax dollars collected from our hard-working citizens. Without this shared regional concept, local governments would not have access to the types of professional staff housed at the Bluegrass ADD – planners, public administrators, grant writers, social workers, engineers, economists, human resource planners, workforce development, information technology, youth service specialists, transportation planners … the list goes on and on. There are 98 employees covering 60 unique position descriptions.
Throughout its 45-year history, the Bluegrass ADD has saved millions of public funds dollars by finding ways to consolidate and regionalize water and wastewater systems. In the past nine years, the organization has regionalized wastewater systems in Estill, Powell, Lincoln, Mercer and Harrison counties. We helped create economies of scale where nothing but inefficiency and disrepair existed; we have brought utilities back from consent decrees from the EPA and have made them safe again.
Current infrastructure costs demand regionalization of utility services to make them affordable. The evidence is quite literally concrete. But that same regionally shared concept must be extended to other crucial services or communities and people will be left behind. It would be great to have a Career Center in every county, to have an elderly case manager in every Senior Center and to have a land use planner in every city. Resource limitations, on every level, make this impossible.
But the beauty of regional governance is that we can share these assets. These much needed and valued assets can be shared through one ADD, controlled at the local level. One ADD that is responsive and responsible to the needs of the citizens. One ADD for today and for tomorrow continually working to make our Bluegrass region great.