UB Creates Institute For Local Governance And Regional Growth

By Arthur Page

Release Date: June 26, 1997 This content is archived.


BUFFALO, N.Y. -- Responding to renewed public focus on governance and regionalism, the University at Buffalo has announced the creation of the Institute for Local Governance and Regional Growth to assist area governments and promote regional opportunity throughout the Western New York area.

The initiative, building on the 1996 report, "Governance in Erie County: A Foundation for Understanding and Action," produced by UB's Governance Project, was announced today by UB President William R. Greiner.

"The ultimate objective," Greiner said, "is to ensure that the Niagara Frontier is a vibrant region with a growing economy, positioned to compete and win in the global marketplace, along with our friends and partners in Southern Ontario."

The new institute will be directed by John B. Sheffer, II. Now UB interim vice president for public service and urban affairs, he will assume his new duties on Aug. 1. A professor of law and planning at UB and a member of the Governance Project, Sheffer also is a former mayor and state assemblyman and senator.

According to Greiner, the new institute has three primary goals. It will coordinate existing UB programs focused on governance in the region, including the Governance Project, the Regional Information Network and the School-Municipal Collaboration Initiative. It also will extend those programs through cooperative arrangements with other area organizations, both public and private. In addition, it will offer practical training and informational services to area localities and officials.

"The Governance Project report generated really useful conversations with elected officials, business and community leaders, and other committed area citizens," said Greiner. "Leaders from around the region have also participated in previous university programs on policy and management issues, such as those of the UB Institute of Government, which will merge with the new institute.

"This broad base is an important foundation," he added. "We will continue to build on it by bringing these programs together in the institute. And we are going to be aggressive about connecting with new partners to promote regional collaboration, growth and efficiency."

The institute, which has been in the planning stages for months, has been supported by Sen. Mary Lou Rath, chair of the New York State Senate Local Government Committee. The announcement comes on the heels of the recent Chautauqua Conference on Regional Governance.

At Chautauqua, national and regional participants, including conference coordinators Kevin Gaughan and Stan Lundine, called on UB to take a primary role in continuing public discussion of governance issues.

One of the institute's first assignments, Greiner said, will be to coordinate a November 1997 conference at UB. The UB session will follow up on the Chautauqua discussion of regionalism, focusing on specific issues and challenges in the Buffalo metropolitan region.

Sheffer noted that the Western New York Grantmakers Association, the Greater Buffalo Partnership and the Association of Erie County Governments have expressed support for and interest in the November conference.

"Their collaboration is important to us. That is a model that the Institute for Local Governance and Regional Growth will employ again and again," Sheffer said. "Those of us in Western New York who are working on issues and efforts of regionalism need to be a good example ourselves of collaboration and efficiency."

Greiner noted that Sheffer's appointment to direct the institute signals the importance the university places on these issues. "John has been a first-rate leader for our overall public-service efforts during his time as interim vice president. We would not want him to leave that post except for a role of this priority.

"He -- and we -- are very, very committed to this new initiative," Greiner added.

Sheffer noted, "I could not be more enthused about the chance to concentrate on the goals of this institute. For me, it is an opportunity to focus my public service at the university on my primary interests as a faculty member -- effective governance and regional growth.

"If Buffalo and Western New York are going to compete successfully in the 21st century," Sheffer said, "it will be because all sectors have worked together on very specific, very practical issues and challenges in the region.

"Regional governance does not mean metropolitan government," he added. "It means public leaders and private citizens working across municipal and demographic boundaries on a whole frontier of specific issues of planning, business development, housing, land use, government efficiency, economic growth, service delivery and many other areas.

"UB and this institute cannot meet those regional challenges on our own, but we can play a critically important role. As with the Governance Project, the real strength of UB's role is in its diverse, talented faculty who provide a strong base of research, policy analysis and public service to this effort. The role that Kate Foster, David Perry, Al Price and Henry Taylor have played in the Governance Project, for example, can hardly be overstated."