Over CRC’s 100 year history, it has made an outsized impact for such a small organization. This is the eighth in a series of blog posts highlighting CRC’s top projects and reports since its inception in 1916.
The development of a network of limited access highways in the Detroit area during the 1950s and 1960s facilitated a spread of population throughout the region. Regional concepts, similar to those propounded by the Citizens Research Council beginning four decades earlier, began to gain traction. For many urban functions, local political boundaries had become artificial barriers to the efficient provision of service.
Early efforts at the regional provision of services included single-purpose agencies, such as the Huron-Clinton Metropolitan Authority and the Southeast Oakland Water Authority. Many local units began intergovernmental cooperative agreements in recreation, library services, and police and fire protection.
In 1947, the Detroit Metropolitan Area Regional Planning Commission was established to do planning research related to regional issues in Wayne, Oakland, and Macomb Counties. Two years later, the Supervisors Intercounty Committee was created to engage in regional planning and, in recognition of continuing sprawl, added Washtenaw, Monroe, and St. Clair Counties.
In 1964, the Supervisors Intercounty Committee, along with business, labor, and the Ford Foundation, provided funding to create the Metropolitan Fund. The staff of the Fund consisted of president Kent Mathewson and research coordinator Allen A. Hyman. It was given the mission of developing options for regional provision of services in the six-county Detroit region and assembling leadership support “to implement action programs.” One of the first acts of the Metropolitan Fund was to ask the Citizens Research Council to analyze the possibilities for interlocal cooperation in the Detroit region.
The response was a major research project, Staff Papers on Governmental Organization for Metropolitan Southeast Michigan, a sweeping review of the issues ranging from large-scale initiatives, such as metropolitan government to multipurpose authorities to simple interlocal agreements. One of the papers dealt with the metropolitan council as a device to foster and coordinate intergovernmental cooperation.
The studies were submitted to the Policy Committee of the Metropolitan Fund in February 1965, and the basic choices presented were 1) a metropolitan government providing a wide range of regional services and 2) a metropolitan council of governments that would provide a forum for the consideration and implementation of intergovernmental cooperative arrangements. While the first approach had a great deal of conceptual appeal, it was concluded that political realities dictated that the council of governments approach was more likely to bear fruit. As a result, Citizens Research Council was engaged by the Metropolitan Fund to do follow-up studies on the structure and operation of a council of governments. The studies, issued early in 1966, covered the organization, staffing, and role of a council of governments. Citizens Research Council completed its work on intergovernmental cooperation in the summer of 1966, with a review of existing intergovernmental arrangements in Southeast Michigan.
In 1968, the Southeast Michigan Council of Governments (SEMCOG) was created as a direct result of the work of the Metropolitan Fund and the Citizens Research Council. The Metropolitan Fund then became the Metropolitan Affairs Coalition, a partner organization to SEMCOG, bringing business, labor, government, and education together to deal with regional problems.