Council of governments

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Councils of governments (CoGs—also known as regional councils, regional commissions, regional planning commissions, and planning districts) are regional governing and/or coordinating bodies that exist throughout the United States. CoGs are normally controlled by their member local governments,[1] though some states have passed laws granting CoGs region-wide powers over specific functions,[2] and still other states mandate such councils.[3]

Organization and function[edit]

CoG members are drawn from the county, city, and other government bodies within its area. CoGs can offer planning, coordination, and technical assistance to their members, administer programs at a regional level, and act as intermediaries between the local government members and the state or federal government. A typical council is defined to serve an area of several counties, and addresses issues such as regional and municipal planning, economic, and community development, pollution control, transit administration, transportation planning, human services, and water use.[1] Councils of governments also play a role in regional hazard mitigation and emergency planning[4] and in the collection, analysis, distribution of demographic[5][6] and cartographic/GIS data.[7]

Federal transportation planning[edit]

CoGs may either be distinct from—or encompass—regional Metropolitan Planning Organizations (MPOs) and Rural Transportation Planning Organizations (RTPOs).[7][8] MPOs are multi-governmental urban transportation planning entities that arose out of the requirements of the Federal-Aid Highway Act of 1962, which made federal financing for urban transportation projects contingent upon the existence of a "continuing, comprehensive, urban transportation planning process undertaken cooperatively by the states and local governments".[9] RTPOs are bodies similar to, and inspired by the model of MPOs, but organized for rural areas. Though RTPOs existed for decades, they were only formally recognized by on a federal level by the Moving Ahead for Progress in the 21st Century Act (MAP-21) of 2012.[10] Of the 556 CoGs in the US, 165 operate an associated MPO, and 265 operate an associated RTPO.[7]


Though voluntary non-profit regional organizations had existed for several decades before,[2] CoGs in their modern form began in 1947, with the Atlanta Regional Metropolitan Planning Commission,[11] followed by the Northern Virginia Regional Planning Commission in December of the same year.[12] By 1950, there were 18 CoG/regional planning organizations in the US, and by 1953, the number of such bodies had increased on 40.[13] CoGs saw explosive growth during the 1960s and 1970s, driven by federal and state funding incentives and mandates.[2] At present, the National Association of Regional Councils estimates that currently "of the 39,000 local, general purpose governments in the United States (counties, cities, townships, towns, villages, boroughs) a total of more than 35,000 are served by [CoGs]".[1]

National and state organizations[edit]

Several national organizations exist to serve the needs (and lobby for the interests of) regional CoGs. These include the National Association of Regional Councils (formerly the National Service to Regional Councils),[1] the National Association of Development Organizations,[7] and the Association of Metropolitan Planning Organizations.[14] Similar voluntary associations also exist at the state level, such as the Texas Association of Regional Councils,[15] the New York State Association of Regional Councils,[16] and the California Association of Councils of Government.[17] An alternative to the bottom-up model for state-level associations of CoGs are regional state-designated planning and development regions—groups of CoGs organized (or mandated) by state governments.[18] Examples include the North Carolina Association of Regional Councils,[19] the Virginia Association of Planning District Commissions,[20] and the Michigan Association of Regions.[18]

Regional councils of governments[edit]


  1. ^ a b c d "Regional Councils, COGs & MPOs: What is a Regional Council or Council of Governments?". National Association of Regional Councils. 2013. Retrieved May 13, 2015. 
  2. ^ a b c "Metropolitan Councils". National League of Cities. 2013. Retrieved May 13, 2015. 
  3. ^ "History of the Southwest Michigan Planning Commission". Southwest Michigan Planning Commission. May 13, 2009. Retrieved May 16, 2015. 
  4. ^ Developing and Maintaining Emergency Operations Plans; Comprehensive Preparedness Guide (CPG) 101 Version 2.0 (PDF). Washington, DC: Federal Emergency Management Agency. 2010. p. 3. 
  5. ^ "Regional Data Center North Central Texas". North Central Texas Council of Governments. Retrieved May 13, 2015. 
  6. ^ "Data Center—Key Statistics for the St. Louis MSA". East-West Gateway Council of Governments. Retrieved May 13, 2015. 
  7. ^ a b c d "2011 RDO Organizational Data Profiles" (PDF). National Association of Development Organizations. 2011. Retrieved May 17, 2015. 
  8. ^ "History". National Association of Regional Councils. 2013. Retrieved May 17, 2015. 
  9. ^ Weiner, Edward (October 1988). "Urban Transportation Planning In The US – A Historical Overview". Office of the Secretary of Transportation. p. 35. Retrieved May 13, 2015. 
  10. ^ "About RTPOs". Rural National Association of Development Organizations & NADO Research Foundation. Retrieved May 17, 2015. 
  11. ^ "ARC Archives". Atlanta Regional Commission. 2014. Retrieved May 16, 2015. 
  12. ^ "NVRC History". Northern Virginia Regional Commission. Retrieved May 16, 2015. 
  13. ^ Wannop, Urlan A. (2014). The Regional Imperative: Regional Planning and Governance in Britain, Europe and the United States. Routledge. pp. 279–281. ISBN 9781136037528. 
  14. ^ "About AMPO". Association of Metropolitan Planning Organizations. 2014. Retrieved May 17, 2015. 
  15. ^ "Texas Association of Regional Councils". Texas Association of Regional Councils. Retrieved May 17, 2015. 
  16. ^ "NYSARC—New York State Association of Regional Councils". New York State Association of Regional Councils. Retrieved May 17, 2015. 
  17. ^ "About Us". California Association of Councils of Government. Retrieved May 17, 2015. 
  18. ^ a b "About MAR: What is a State-Designated Planning & Development Region?". Michigan Association of Regions. Retrieved May 17, 2015. 
  19. ^ "History". North Carolina Association of Regional Councils. Retrieved May 17, 2015. 
  20. ^ "Virginia Association of Metropolitan Planning Organizations". Virginia Association of Metropolitan Planning Organizations. Retrieved May 17, 2015. 

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