Provide leadership from the top


State government actions play an enormous role in the way growth, development, conservation, and other related land use issues unfold in each state, even when the bulk of land use authority rests at the local level. No single action a state can take is more important than having strong leadership from the top. By force of personality, as well as by specific action, governors — or, by extension, their cabinet secretaries — can and do set the tone for the policies their 's pursue. Every policy in this primer is more likely to be successful if it is fully backed by the state's chief executive and the heads of individual agencies. There is absolutely no substitute for leadership from the top.


There is no single process by which governors can demonstrate leadership on growth issues, but rather multiple ways. Governors and department heads can demonstrate leadership internally by making clear to their staff their vision for high quality growth and community design and then by insisting that state agencies work together to develop and implement policies to achieve that vision. To make this happen, governors must designate an internal leader and vest that person with clear authority to make the changes the governor envisions. Externally, governors, secretaries, or agency directors can use the enormous power of their 'bully pulpit' to exhort local governments, federal partners, the private sector and the state's citizens to demand more sustainable housing and transportation, historic preservation, and other actions that contribute to smart land use. Governors and their cabinet secretaries should highlight for the public and the press times when they have departed from 'business as usual' to make difficult decisions in support of smarter development.

Governors need to recognize and understand the roles that their policies, regulations, and investments play in influencing how the private sector invests and builds. The private sector plays an important part in reshaping the state's landscape, but still operates within the mélange of processes and procedures created by the government. States that align these procedures across various departments can encourage the private sector to contribute greatly toward the achievement of state goals.


Governors in Virginia, California, Arizona, New Jersey, Maryland, and Maine — from all across the political spectrum — have assumed strong leadership roles on growth issues. The list includes Virginia Governor Tim Kaine, California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger, Arizona Governor Janet Napolitano, former New Jersey Governor Christine Todd Whitman, former Maryland Governor Parris N. Glendening, and former Maine Governor Angus King. These governors — and many others — have used their positions to engage the public and empower their cabinet secretaries and staff to make more aggressive growth decisions that offer a more sustainable future for their state's citizens.

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This page was last updated 07/02/09 09:32:30 AM