Call for Regional Coordination in Time Capsule Letter

Over the weekend, the residents of Emmaus experienced a wave of nostalgia when the Borough opened its 50-year time capsule. Buried on the Emmaus Triangle and opened at Community Park, the capsule included various treasures, such as copies of newspapers, government documents, and family photos. But one item was particularly interesting, especially because of its relevance to RenewLV’s mission of promoting smart growth principles in the Lehigh Valley.

A letter written by W.D. Reimert, Managing Editor of the Call-Chronicle Newspapers, covers some of the aspects of governance in his time that seem to directly contradict the presumed philosophy of efficiency touted in the 1950s. Forward-thinking Mr. Reimert wrote, “When it comes to community effort and government, we are still living in the dark ages. Every community is a law unto itself…This is inefficient, expensive, wasteful of time and energy.” The problems of inefficiency, according to Reimert, will be “eliminated by the coordination of essential services all along the line.”

Ahead of his time, Mr. Reimert recognized that poor planning and fragmented governance would lead to future ailments for Pennsylvania. These two issues are often cited as the main culprits behind disinvestment in the older communities and the continued loss of open space. Indeed, the Brookings Institution’s Back to Prosperity study cited these features as ones that contribute to the hollowing out effect that much of the state is experiencing currently. The older cities are being abandoned for life in the outer townships. And many of the valuable assets that are associated with Pennsylvania are being left behind. These trends have had a dismal effect on the state’s economy and have placed unnecessary burdens on the taxpayers.

But there is hope for reform, and the letter from Mr. Reimert speaks to the changes that will be necessary for ensuring a prosperous and thriving Lehigh Valley and Pennsylvania. Most of the recommendations center on coordination of essential services – especially the water and sewerage utilities. Additional services that can be coordinated are “health services, street repair crews, planning bodies.”

Sadly, Mr. Reimert’s hopes that these changes would be fully implemented by 2009 have not been fulfilled. One salient example of this inefficiency is the 40 different publicly owned water and wastewater systems in the Lehigh Valley. A recent study showed that consolidation of these systems could save the region close to $56 million each year by the year 2020. And coordination would promote efficient use of the resources by encouraging development in areas with existing infrastructure. Yet we have yet to reach regional collaboration on this matter in the Valley.

Nonetheless, the hope remains that the vision of comprehensive coordinated planning in the Lehigh Valley will become a reality. Steps are being taken in the right direction. The Lehigh Valley Planning Commission has been essential in putting forward suggestions for the region that promote better planning of the land and the services. And RenewLV is working on various initiatives to ensure that regional collaboration will be achieved in the Valley. Renew’s mission to strengthen the core communities, preserve open space, and create a sustainable and equitable foundation for future growth encompasses the belief that coordination of the essential services will bring about a thriving Lehigh Valley.

But the residents of the Lehigh Valley need to contribute to this process. W.D. Reimert believed that these changes could not be achieved without “a great many persons … willing to provide leadership and imagination.” For this reason, I encourage you to become a supporter of RenewLV by visiting our Join Us page and submitting your information. You will become a part of the network of dedicated citizens working hard to ensure that this region will continue to grow in a coordinated and well-planned manner.

About Beata Bujalska

Beata Bujalska is the former Campaign Coordinator for Renew Lehigh Valley. She currently lives in Panama, a place that fascinates her due to (among other reasons) its recent development boom.

Posted on August 20, 2009, in Health, Media Coverage, Municipal Government, Public Infrastructure, Transportation, Trends, Water and tagged , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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