New England: many voices, one region
Seventeen members of the New England House delegation, including Congressman Paul Hodes and Congresswoman Carol Shea-Porter, recently came together in Boston for a unique morning at Suffolk University Law School. Hosted by the New England Council, the congressional delegation had an opportunity to listen and learn from renewable energy experts from throughout New England. In a world of brutal schedules and constant information frenzy, the delegation deserves enormous credit for setting aside the time to meet and collaborate. They were able to take four hours to discuss one of the region’s top priorities - renewable energy - with experts and with each other. It was an extraordinary example of regional cross-pollination, with ideas and recommendations freely flowing. So why does it matter that the region’s congressional delegation got together? It matters because the stronger the ties among our congressional delegation, the more they can accomplish - together - in Washington. Consider this: California, a “region” unto itself with its enormous population and variety of commercial and economic interests, has a 55-person congressional delegation. Texas, a similar economy in its own right, has a 34-person delegation, the exact same size as our New England delegation at full strength. The very nature of how our government is structured forces competition on states, and because of the relative diminutive size and population of individual New England states, our region loses the “representative” battle over time to larger states when our representatives ignore the importance of working together on regional goals. Over the last several years, the New England Council has studied several issues important to the region. New England homes and businesses are shackled by some of the highest energy costs in the nation, and at the same time suffer from air pollution generated in the Midwest and other portions of the country. We continue to see a growing market for employees with high-tech skills and graduates with math and science degrees. And our region must see expansion in, and improvements to, our transportation services, including air travel, rail service and interstate highways, if we are to compete with other growing and emerging regions. New England is fortunate to be able to respond to these challenges with incredibly dedicated and capable congressional delegation. Despite their alignment in three political parties and across the ideological spectrum, the qualities our congressional members share are a commitment to bettering the lives of their constituents and a drive to see their states and our region grow and thrive. They are members of committees with responsibilities to address issues important to our economy, our environment and our way of life. They understand the reality of communicating and operating as a cohesive unit and routinely resist the survival instinct thrust upon them. Our Founding Fathers chose the Latin phrase “E pluribus unum” — loosely translated to “Out of Many, One” — as one of our early national mottos, and the phrase appears throughout the U.S. Capitol building. The message from the founders rings as true today as it did in the 18th century: As one interest operating individually, your potential is limited. However, those acting in concert with one another can always accomplish more than the sum of their parts. Jim Brett is president and chief executive of the New England Council.