Greater Des Moines’ long love affair with regional initiatives is being tested as some push three key organizations to change the structure of their boards.

Area leaders say all is well, and in fact the debate over changes is just one more sign that that Central Iowa government leaders have matured in their regional thinking.

Steve Zumbach, the local attorney and co-founder of Bravo Greater Des Moines, has been involved in many regional efforts, some of them great successes and some failures. To him, the current debates come because local leaders took care of the easier parts of regional cooperation earlier. Now, they are tackling tougher questions, like how to make an already successful regional airport morph into an entity that has true regional representation on its board. Ditto at the Des Moines Water Works. And how can the community — which has struggled since 1973 to fully support mass transit and mobility programs — change DART in a way that gives suburbs full representation?

“We did the easier projects first,” Zumbach said of forming the Greater Des Moines Partnership (see sidebar on page 20), the cultural giant Bravo, the biotech initiative Cultivation Corridor and the Capital Crossroads planning effort, for example. “And they weren’t easy when we did them.”

Those efforts came after Zumbach and others fell on their political face attempting to push through the kind of fully shared government that Mayor Richard Lugar and others had installed in Indianapolis. “We tried and failed. It never got off the ground,” Zumbach recalled. But the local communities looked to share services in smaller ways, with cooperation on police and fire coverage, for example.

“Sometimes it’s better to take little steps instead of big steps,” Zumbach said.

Continue reading to learn about the latest efforts to promote regionalism. Full Insider Story