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City And Country Consolidation Essay Sample

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Introduction of TOPIC

Over the last two decades, a large body of literature has examined the fiscal impacts of city/county consolidation. Much of this research suggests that consolidation results in expansion of local budgets and in the scope and quality of municipal services (Erie, et. al. 1972; Benton and Gamble 1984; Seamon and Feiock 1995). Recent studies suggest that consolidation also benefits local economic development efforts (Owen 1992; Rusk 1993; Savitch and Vogel 1995). Unlike tax and expenditure effects, the impact of consolidation on local economic development has not been subjected to systematic empirical tests. This note begins to fill this lacuna building on Benton and Gamble’s (1984) analysis of the effect of consolidation in Jacksonville on taxes and expenditures.

Strategies for redeveloping urban areas have frequently involved two approaches. The first emphasizes “big-ticket” items – the sort associated with policies that emphasize tourism and entertainment – and includes such things as sports facilities, convention centers, theaters, retail complexes, and entertainment and restaurant centers (ESPN Zone, Hard Rock Café, etc). From New York to Los Angeles and from Miami to Seattle these facilities (and in most instances a constellation of several) have been built to redefine or redevelop downtown and waterfront areas, train stations, and enhance a city’s image as a regional if not national tourist and recreation center. Without exception, a goal for these projects has been to fill large office buildings with workers while also attracting homeowners and apartment dwellers to inner city and downtown areas (Turner and Rosentraub, 2002).

The second approach emphasizes the redevelopment of neighborhoods by underscoring a commitment to affordable and market rate housing, art studios, and new business start-ups. The goal of this approach is the attraction of younger entrepreneurs and the workers described by Richard Florida as members of an economy’s creative class. This approach, which has its roots in the work of Jane Jacobs (1993), also places a high value on walking trails, distinctive neighborhoods, parks, bicycle paths, and smaller entertainment venues. In neighborhoods with historic buildings, the emphasis has been on converting these facilities to new uses that also appeal to the creative workers who dominate today’s emerging industries (Clark, et. al., 2002).

Policies for neighborhood-based amenities have been used to redefine a city’s image while attracting new residents and the businesses that seek the creative workers who demand these assets (Lloyd, 2002). Theoretically, a city-county consolidation merges an existing central city, its surrounding county, and other local municipalities into a single governmental unit. In practice, the two dozen or so city-county consolidations in the United States have fallen short of this ideal by typically retaining numerous municipalities and special-purpose governments. The major theory for explaining why some communities are successful in adopting consolidation while other fail has been  posed by Rosenbaum and Kammerer, 1974.

According to these authors successful consolidation proceeds through a set of stages or events before consolidation is successful.  Of particular interest for the purposes of this paper is that crises climates always precipitate successful consolidation.  While the dramatic events set the stage and mobilize public support, the consolidation effort also needs the development of a strong “good government” coalition of citizens, business and civic groups, and community leaders to make something happen.

Although post analysis indicates that cost savings and other benefits are not substantial from consolidation (Feiock, 2002), other writers reflecting on the major consolidations (Baton Rouge, Nashville, Jacksonville, and Indianapolis), indicate that consolidation can result in :

  • A strong mayor who is a policy leader in the region ;
  • District elections which can provide more balanced elections and access for minority and other groups ;
  • The promotion of orderly growth and development through the region through comprehensive planning, strong building codes, and strong zoning ;
  • The provision of uniform services in the region ;
  • And promoting the image of a progressive region interested in the growth of the economy and jobs (Stephens and Wikstrom, 2000).

Today consolidation as an approach to regional governance is therefore mixed since the evidence about actual or perceived benefits has so far been inconclusive.  Nevertheless, the major theory in this field developed over 25 years ago still provides insight into success and failure.

The arguments for city-county consolidation have focused on:

1) improved public services i.e. economics of scale and specialization of services;[1]

2) significantly improved cooperation in specific public services; especially transportation (i.e. areas-wide mass transit) and in crime, fire, air and water pollution;

3) addressing the economic disequilibrium between core cities with lower tax bases (i.e. poor) and more costly programs (i.e. public health/welfare, crime and fire protection) while the economic advantaged escape to unincorporated areas.

Therefore, an inequality of needs and resources exist thanks to the “exist option” for those persons, business, and industries able to relocate outside the incorporate city.  Lastly, centralization of authority will focus policy making and responsibility on one entity so the potential for accountability will be more focused.[2] Where annexation is untenable or at best political suicide for its advocates, consolidation of city and county governments is often sought as a compromise solution to growth and tax issues.  Nevertheless, consolidation is often stymied by social, economic and racial patterns of living that differ between cities and their surroundings.[3].  Without major failures and problems in the city or suburban government, the history of consolidation has been generally unsuccessful.[4]

Often the first step toward consolidation is the creation of a study commission composed of members of the city and county elected officials and some lay-citizens to add the legitimacy of popular sovereignty to the commission.  Establishing a study commission is fairly common practice for government when legislative and executive bodies at all levels lack the political will to legislate or administer. It also adds the force of the “popular will” to their actions or the lack there of.  North Carolina’s legal pattern regarding consolidation requires a “double majority” vote, similar to the double veto in the UN Security Council.  The double majority means that in North Carolina, there are never going to be any city-county consolidation. As long as their political, social, economic interests and values differ there will be no positive vote in both the city and the county.

Reform “do-gooder” groups often organize consolidation campaigns; they usually rely on media campaign rather than grass roots, retail politics to advocate consolidation.  Generally, voter turnout is slightly above turnout in municipal elections (i.e. 30-60%).  Just as with bond referendum, the higher the turnout the more likely a negative vote.

Often, the county voters defeat city-county consolidation; they fear higher taxes.  However, they also want their own governmental officials, their own identity, and they do not want the city’s problems and complexity.  In fact, they reject the professional governmental structures more often than they do the multiple-level elected representatives and directly chosen public administrators (i.e. sheriffs, tax collectors and assessors).

Since most consolidation efforts has occurred in the South’s urban areas, and since these areas are generally covered by the Voting Rights Act of 1965 and its 1982 amendments and court implementations, the issue of race has been of critical importance in city-county consolidation efforts.  Race has been and continues to be a double-edged sword.  City leaders often orchestrate a whisper campaign that consolidation is necessary to save the city from minority control, yet county residents may oppose joining the city for that very reason.

African-American city voters often support consolidation to add the suburban property value to the city’s tax  base, yet they oppose the transfer of political power to the newly joined members of the consolidated community.  As a former mayor of Wilmington advised one of the authors during a recent consolidation debate, “we want your brains not your taxes, because the city has been losing its middle-class civic-minded citizens to the suburbs.”

Except for Indianapolis’s Unigov, most city-county consolidations in the United States have been in southern metropolitan areas, which tend to have strong county government and relatively few incorporated municipalities subject to consolidation. In most states, including New York, consolidation requires majority approval in each of the areas to be consolidated, a requirement that has meant rejection of most consolidations proposed. Indeed, prominent city-county consolidations have not been approved for over 25 years. Consolidated areas typically enjoy a growth spurt, rationalized planning and development, and a sense of regional rejuvenation. For some, however, these advantages are offset by the prevalence of increased costs and persistence of intra-regional rivalries.

Indianapolis’s specific contribution to the experiment in governance models was a city-county consolidation program that concentrated a limited or select group of urban services at the regional (defined as county) level while permitting most other critical urban services to be delivered by administrations and agencies serving different, often much smaller, areas within the county.

Today, as many other cities and communities enter an era of renewed interest in regionalism, the lessons learned from Indianapolis’s experience may be quite valuable. No single article can adequately review the 30 years of UniGov and its effect on all  aspects of Indianapolis, Marion County, and central Indiana. This article examines two intertwined goals established for Indianapolis at the time UniGov was implemented and the relationship of the new governance program to the progress made toward these goals. Discussed here are Indianapolis’s experiences and the lessons learned for other communities that are debating governance structures. In the 1960s, Indianapolis’s leadership was focused on improving the city’s image and rebuilding the downtown area, which needed substantial attention.

Assessments of the state of Indianapolis and its downtown area varied, but few if any were positive. At one extreme Indianapolis was seen as dirty and unsafe, dominated by bigotry, and an undesirable place to visit. A chamber of commerce study in the 1970s described Indianapolis as having no image (Walls 1999); others described “Indianoplace,” or a “cemetery with lights” (Hudnut 1995). Although it is probably inaccurate to report that the goal of UniGov was to redevelop downtown Indianapolis and change the city’s image, it is fair to conclude that elevating the city’s national image, improving its prestige, and making downtown Indianapolis an attractive destination for people were goals.

Politics (local, regional, and state), culture (the desired scale, scope, and role of government  or the public sector in civic life), fear (racism and fiscal zoning), and orientations toward governance (single or large government structures serving regions versus small systems serving the residents of limited areas) define the development of any governing system. Uni-Gov was a product of each of these factors in Indianapolis’s culture, and it is the relationship of UniGov’s overall structure to the goals of downtown development and to Indianapolis’s image that is examined here. UniGov redefined the size of the city. In 1960, with a population of 476,258 spread across 71 square miles, Indiana was the 26th largest city in the country.

Although more than two-thirds of the county’s population lived in the city in 1960, suburbanization was accelerating; by 1990, had the consolidation program not been implemented, less than half of the county’s residents would have called Indianapolis home. Without consolidation, Indianapolis would have been the 47th largest city in the United States in 1990. The diminished demographic importance  of Indianapolis necessitated a change to underscore the city’s role in the region. As a consolidated city, Indianapolis in 1996 was the 12th largest city in the nation, despite relatively modest population growth within its expanded boundaries (U.S. Bureau of the Census 1996). Although population size or rank may not necessarily attract economic development, leadership, or human capital, many believe that size and scale are associated with development (Kotler, Haider, and Rein 1993; Hudnut 1995).

UniGov also was a mechanism for increasing the total assessed value of property within the city, permitting more debt to be negotiated for redevelopment or any other activity. Among some of the participants who drafted the UniGov legislation, this increased access to capital was seen as the key benefit from a consolidated government. Structurally, UniGov is a multilayered local government system under which authority for economic development, public works, parks, transportation, and some elements of public safety is transferred to the county (or regional) level—the first layer in a multitiered structure. Services are delivered by units of varying size that existed prior to the passage of UniGov (including several that were already countywide but organized as special districts).[5]

The compound governance system of UniGov offers many of the attributes of regional cooperation while preserving local control of other basic municipal services. For example, within UniGov, the overarching Department of Metropolitan Development decides key economic development issues, including area plans, land use, and zoning matters. In addition, the former mayor of Indianapolis is the chief executive officer for the county. Within the consolidated government, however, are independent cities as well as numerous school districts, townships, parks departments, police departments, and fire departments.

UniGov includes a consolidated city-county government, four independent cities, and more than 50 other units of local government. Beech  Grove, Lawrence, Southport, and the town of Speedway were excluded from consolidation and have separately elected officials; these independent municipalities provide fire  and police protection and park services to their residents. Beech Grove and Speedway also have separate school districts. For some time, each of these municipalities even retained their own water companies.1 The consolidated government is the final authority for land use and economic development programs for the entire county, and the independent municipalities must work with the Department of Metropolitan Development.2

The UniGov plan left the township structure of local government intact. There are nine townships in Marion County, and each is responsible for emergency relief (welfare) programs. In addition, some townships also provide fire protection and ambulance service. Elected assessors from each township also perform property assessment. Currently, the almost 1 million residents of consolidated Indianapolis are served by 11 school districts, more than 10 police departments, 8 fire departments, and 20 special service districts. The overlapping jurisdictions of these different service units yield more than 85 different taxing districts within the consolidated city. Each of these districts has a combined property tax rate that differs from that in any other area.

There were 23 cities and towns that existed prior to the implementation of UniGov; afterwards, there were but 5 cities and towns but no change in the number of townships (9), school districts (11), police departments (7), plus several small areas with patrol functions provided by small or private police departments), or fire departments  (8). The number of special districts actually increased from 16 to 20 (see Table 1). The dimensions of UniGov are best illustrated by the sizes of the different tiers. For example, Indianapolis provides street maintenance services for all residents of the  consolidated city, but the independent cities (with far smaller populations) are responsible for their own streets and parks.

Indianapolis provides police and fire services for the residents of its pre-UniGov service boundaries. Residents of areas beyond the old city of Indianapolis retained the right to receive police  services from the sheriff’s department or to select another provider. Several of these areas contract with private companies for police patrols. Those areas that utilize private firms for police patrol functions rely on the sheriff’s department for other policing services, including criminal investigations.

The Indianapolis Fire Department also provides services to the residents of its pre-Uni-Gov service boundaries, whereas fire departments with service boundaries matching those of their respective townships supply service to residents in areas that joined Indianapolis as part of the UniGov program. Some of the independent cities also maintain their own fire departments. The delivery of these traditional urban services thus constitutes another aspect of the tiered government within UniGov, and the service boundaries and number of delivery units roughly correspond to what existed prior to the implementation of the UniGov  system.[6]

City-county consolidations in Nashville-Davidson County (1962), Jackson

ville-Duval County (1967), and Indianapolis-Marion County (1969) are well-known models. In all three

cases, a partial motivation for consolidation and a certain factor in its success in the voting booths was the desire to “clean up” government, notably to diffuse the power of a central city mayor or council. Also common in these three cases is that the consolidated unit is merely one of five (Jacksonville) or eight (Nashville, Indianapolis) counties in the metropolitan area.

Improved service delivery in rapidly growing Davidson and Duval counties was also a factor in the Nashville and Jacksonville consolidations, both of which received majority but not overwhelming approval by the electorate. A recent 25-year assessment of the Nashville-Davidson reorganization concluded that consolidation had met with only partial success in reducing duplication and overlapping functions, primarily because numerous independent agencies and departments still exist. The 41-member Metro Council was considered too large for effective governance. [7]

All these worlds suggests that those engaged in governmental structural change in Jacksonville and those considering a similar reform proposal today need to understand that

(1) metropolitan reform may harm minorities, enhance the power of corporate elites, and result from political manipulation;

(2) metropolitan reform battles reveal the interplay of local government and the private sector and reflect the current balance of power between the two;

(3) administrative reform overshadows other political values; and

(4) metropolitan cooperation and governance solutions are often achieved by avoiding controversy and manufacturing consent.

There are two distinct perspectives on metropolitan reform. On the one hand, community elites promote consolidation as a vehicle to reform local government, enhance economic development, and more efficiently provide urban services. On the other hand, social scientists raise questions about evidence of greater efficiency and improved economic performance of merged governments. They also point to other values such as local autonomy and equity, noting minority dilution concerns and changes in “who wins.” Their research, more often than not, undermines reform prescriptions.

Local government consolidation is grounded in the progressive reform view that duplication of functions and services is inherently inefficient. Building on this tradition, the Committee for Economic Development (CED) argued that the best form of local governance had few local  units, little overlap in governmental layers, control vested the elite leadership, and policy making and authority vested in the executive. Consolidation of city and county governments is a radical change and the progressive reform ideology upon which it is based has never been without critics. Therefore it is not surprising that it is a somewhat rare event.

For discussing and researching this question we have to  conclude some historical facts. The earliest consolidation efforts involved the large cities in the nineteenth century. New Orleans and Orleans Parish was one of the first consolidations in 1805 (Lyons 1977, 4). There are definite regional trends in consolidation  referenda; consolidation attempts have been most frequent in the southern United States. Between 1945 and 1976, fifty-one of sixty-eight consolidation attempts occurred in the south, but only eleven of those attempts were successful (Marando, 1979, 413). The West has the next highest frequency of consolidation attempts. Between 1969-1976, there were twelve attempts with six successes (Marando 1979, 415).

Theories of local political economy suggest several ways that consolidation might effect efforts to promote economic development. One way consolidation supports growth is by enhancing the planning capacity of local government. Comprehensive planning on a metropolitan-wide basis under a single authority is viewed as a necessary condition for attaining coordinated development. Without comprehensive planning, existing jurisdictions may develop land use regulations based on parochial interests and engage in zero-sum or negative-sum competition for new development (Rigors 1995). Fragmentation can promote socially inefficient competition for developmental resources by creating incentives to provide unnecessary subsidies to business.

In addition, Becker (1996) argues that fragmentation leads to an erosion of planning capability on the part of local governments. While much attention has been given to the confusion of responsibility faced by individual citizens in a fragmented system (Lyons and Lowery 1989), less attention has been directed to the consequences of multiple overlapping jurisdictions for businesses and developers. Consolidation may facilitate public/private cooperation on development issues and reduce the costs of gaining approval for new developments. Metropolitan government provides a mechanism to streamline the regulatory and development approval process.

Rather than having to secure permits and approvals from numerous independent governments, firms can deal with a single jurisdiction. This may be especially important for manufacturing firms which have complicated sitting decisions that can be influenced by regulatory uncertainty. Studies of economic development confirm that the confusion, delays, and uncertainty that result from the need to gain development approvals from multiple departments, agencies, and governments can have negative consequences for new development (Feiock 1994). Consolidation may also be necessary to ensure a resource base sufficient for promoting economic development. Smaller individual governments may have inadequate jurisdiction, legal powers, and tax sources to deal with development problems.

Adequate powers and fiscal resources may only be attained by pooling the resources for an entire metropolitan area. Moreover, the large scale infrastructure necessary for development such as mass transit systems, downtown redevelopment, or sports stadiums can only be provided on a regional basis. Some support for these relationships can be found in empirical research. Savitch and Vogel (1995) review evidence of economic interdependence between cities and suburbs. This interdependence suggests that efficient local development programs need to be implemented at a regional level. By themselves, neither cities nor suburbs can provide the generative assets that can be combined and coordinated to produce new products (1995, 2).

Nevertheless, some empirical studies have drawn opposite conclusions. Morgan and Mareschal (1996) examined political fragmentation and economic conditions in 77 large MSAs and concluded that decentralization promoted economic growth. Additional evidence for the linkage between metropolitan government and economic development can be derived from case studies of consolidation. In a review of research findings on the impact of city-county consolidations, During (1989) reports that local officials claim consolidation benefits economic development and industrial recruitment efforts.

Several commentators have credited the consolidated Unigov for Indianapolis success in promoting growth and economic development (Owen 1992; Rusk 1993). Owen (1992) argues that Indianapolis – successes in obtaining development grants and encouraging public/private partnerships for economic development were due, in large part, to consolidation. In Jacksonville local government has been very active in corporate recruitment Berry 1996), and community leaders assert consolidation has made it easier to attract business because developers only have to deal with one government unit (Foren 1989)

City-county consolidation is a significant issue in Georgia. While the vast majority of merger attempts fail, two of the four successful consolidations in the United States since 1990 have occurred in Georgia: Athens–Clarke County (1991) and Augusta–Richmond County (1998). Interest in city-county consolidation is high in Georgia—a state where cities and counties essentially have the same authority to provide the full range of local government services. As a result, state and local policy makers share a concern that local government service delivery is characterized by costly duplication and overlap.

One effort to resolve this problem was the 1997 Local Government Service Delivery Strategy Act passed by the Georgia General Assembly, calling for local governments to sort out service delivery responsibilities. Other efforts come at the local level. Recently, for example, after intensive communitywide efforts to prepare consolidation charters, voters rejected the proposed consolidations in Griffin and Spalding County and in Hawkinsville and Pulaski County.

In Georgia, proponents of consolidation invariably point to the inefficiencies associated with the duplication of city and county services and argue that creating a single government will save money. Opponents argue that city-county consolidation increases the cost of government. Unfortunately, little hard data exist to support either of these two claims. In fact, very few studies have examined the impact of city-county consolidation, and what little evidence does exist suggests that costs will actually increase in the short term.

[8] This finding is not surprising, since local government services tend to be labor intensive, and one might expect the cost of personal services to increase when the personnel systems of the two (or more) governments are combined (e.g., compensation and fringe benefit packages). Moreover, the likely increase in the cost of labor suggests that if a merged government is to save money, its policy makers and managers are going to have to make tough choices, both in the early stages of the new government’s existence and throughout the process of building a foundation for its continuing operations.

Because of a lack of information on the financial impacts of city-county consolidation generally, we studied the finances of the Unified Government of Athens–Clarke County, which began operating in FY 1992. Specifically, we examined expenditures between 1990 and 1997, which included the two years preceding and six years following unification. While the Athens–Clarke County experience demonstrates that merging two governments cannot be accomplished without incurring some costs, we found that cost savings were achieved in some functions and departments (e.g., finance).

Moreover, comparing Athens–Clarke County expenditures (in real dollars) with the expenditures of three unconsolidated city-county governments in Georgia over the same eight-year period shows that expenditures in Athens–Clarke County increased at a rate noticeably lower than in the three comparison groups in both the short and long term (table 1). Selden and Campbell (2000) discuss these general findings and the supporting data in some detail. Selected findings are listed here:[9]

  • The unified government incurred $470,353 in transition costs–one-time operating or capital expenses that would not have occurred without unification.
  • It cost nearly $5 million to implement the recommendations of outside consultants hired to conduct classification and compensation studies.
  • The new personnel system, which combined the two previous governments’ pay plans and fringe benefit packages, resulted in an increase in annual personnel-related costs of more than $2 million, or about 5 percent of the general fund operating budget.
  • Water rates were “equalized,” as required in the unification charter, by increasing the rate paid by city users and decreasing the rate paid by county (unincorporated) users.
  • In the five years after unification (FY 1992–97), general government expenditures (includes internal support units) declined by nearly 10 percent, the only major function to experience a decrease in expenditures.
  • Whereas finance expenditures (in real dollars) in all three comparison groups increased in the short term (FY 1990–92), finance costs decreased in Athens–Clarke County by 16.63 percent. A decline in finance expenditures in Athens–Clarke County (-24.51 percent) is also reflected in the long term (FY 1990–97), although costs in one

of the comparison groups (Gainesville–Hall County) also fell (-28.69 percent).

These findings suggest that a city-county consolidation can be efficient and can result in cost savings in some departments. However, this case also demonstrates clearly that the extent to which money is saved in a merger will depend on the design of the new government, as reflected both in its charter and the policy and management decisions of its elected and appointed officials.

The act of consolidating will not guarantee more efficient operations, despite what some of its advocates would have us believe. On the other hand, consolidating governments will not necessarily cause expenditures to increase as some opponents suggest. Each consolidation must be considered case by case and its fiscal impacts forecast based on the local context.

As Greater Cleveland considers another big-ticket investment for economic development, a new convention center, the debate between these two approaches to physical redevelopment has re-emerged as a competition between different sets of advocates. Large businesses, banking and media firms, and real estate developers are described as supporting big-ticket items such as a convention center at the expense of neighborhood strategies. Community leaders, neighborhood advocates, and the younger individuals who dominate the emerging industries of the 21st century are seen as more interested in improvements that will advance the quality of life in neighborhoods and as having less interest in a big-ticket item such as a convention center.

What is sometimes portrayed as a guns (big-ticket) or butter (neighborhood developments) argument obscures the fact that each of these constituencies is integral to the redevelopment of any city. Capital has never been more mobile; hence any city’s leadership that ignores the interests of business leaders is destined to decline (Wolman, Hill, and Furdell, 2003). At the same time, population growth for a city is not possible without vibrant and desirable neighborhoods, and redevelopment efforts cannot ignore the concerns of community leaders.

Further, the interests and tastes of the creative class that drives new industries seem to align with the ideas of community leaders and cannot be ignored as these individuals are at the center of the businesses that will make substantial contributions to future growth. Proposals for economic development must align the interests of these constituencies and minimize conflicts that can threaten a community’s opportunities for development. Cleveland’s consideration of a new convention center presents an opportunity to show that a big-ticket project can appeal to all the constituencies needed to grow a city. The “guns or butter” question is sometimes portrayed as a contrast in values; in truth, a city requires both types of development in order to remain a place where both businesses and neighborhoods can thrive.

Local government is one of the most scrutinized and consistently reformed institutions in America, due in part to the notoriety of political party “machines.” Citizen perceptions of effective, efficient, accountable, and equitable governance have prompted change in the structure of local government, its officials and policies. Local government delivers most of the public services on which citizens have come to rely. Certainly, the local polity is the most accessible and is expected to approximate the ideals of a responsive democratic government. – Bert E. Swanson[10].

Those who champion urban reform contend that the proliferation of governmental units within the metropolis diffuses authority. They assert that, under a consolidated government, there would be greater coordination and accountability, as well as resolution of intercommunity inequities. Regionalism, as reflected in consolidation and other approaches to metro reform, may expand the economy and enhance the revenue base of government, but does economic growth benefit some at the expense of others?

Harridan and Vogel (2000) have concluded that urban reformers achieve their goals and objectives more in some cities than others and that a social-class and partisan bias works against working, lower class minorities. Often, the reality of reform and its ideal do not jibe. Despite such critiques by scholars, reformers continue to advocate consolidation as a preferred means to resolve metropolitan problems by eliminating fragmented governmental authority, duplication of public functions and effort, inefficiency of local governments, incessant intergovernmental squabbles, and many fiscal inequities among citizens.

Speaking at the Northeast Ohio Areawide Coordinating Agency and The City Club, one of the author said that Cleveland’s much-heralded downtown developments—Gateway, the Flats, North Coast Harbor—are making it “a great place for a yuppie lawyer to live.” But such developments have not, and will not alone, reverse the city’s alarming slide into urban oblivion.

  • Cleveland is increasingly becoming the poorhouse of the region. The city’s poverty rate jumped from 17.3 percent in 1970 to 28.7 percent in 1990. The number of “poverty” census tracts in the city (those with more than 20 percent poverty) grew from 64 to 147 during the same period. And the number of “hyper poverty” census tracts (those with more than 60 percent poor) grew from one to 21.
  • Poverty in the region has taken on the appearance of apartheid. Overall, the area has nearly as many poor whites as poor blacks, but poverty is much more concentrated in the black community of the inner city. Almost two out of three poor whites live in middle-class neighborhoods dispersed throughout the region, while nine out of ten poor blacks live in poverty neighborhoods. Cleveland is the fourth most segregated city in the nation behind Hammond, IN; Detroit; and Chicago.

Metropolitan strategy—one that is far more politically controversial than anything attempted in Greater Cleveland. It would involve at least the following four policies to reduce racial and economic segregation:

  • “Fair share” housing policies (supported by planning and zoning) that will encourage the development of low- and moderate-income housing in all jurisdictions of the metropolitan area.
  • Fair employment and fair housing policies to ensure full access by minorities to the job and housing markets.
  • Housing assistance policies to disperse low-income families to small-unit, scattered-site housing projects and to rent-subsidized private rental housing throughout a diversified metropolitan housing market.
  • Tax-sharing arrangements that will offset tax-base disparities between the central city and its suburbs.

In his recent book, Cities Without Suburbs, Rusk writes: “In baldest terms, sustained success requires moving poor people from bad city neighborhoods to good suburban neighborhoods and moving dollars from relatively wealthy suburban governments to poorer city governments. The long-term payoff will be an overall reduction in poverty, dependency, and crime areawide, and ‘prosperous cities [which] are the key to vital regional economies and to safe and healthy suburbs.'”[11]

The state and federal governments must play a strong role to promote such metropolitan strategies, Rusk adds. For example, the state government must:

  • Improve annexation laws to facilitate central city expansion into urbanizing areas.
  • Enact laws to encourage city-county consolidation through local initiative or to reorganize local government by direct state statute.
  • Empower county governments with all municipal powers so that they can act as de facto metro governments where appropriate.
  • Require all local governments in metro areas to have “fair share” affordable housing laws.
  • Establish metrowide tax-sharing arrangements for local governments, or use state aid as a revenue-equalizing mechanism.

Could such policies be enacted in Ohio? Certainly it’s hard to imagine a local politician brave enough to suggest that growing suburbs like Solon or Hudson should build low-income housing or share tax revenue with Cleveland or Akron.


The consolidation plan shall:

provide for adjustment of existing bonded indebtedness and other obligations in a manner which will provide for a fair and equitable burden of taxation for debt service;

provide for establishment of service areas;

provide for the transfer or other disposition of property and other rights, claims, assets, and franchises of local governments consolidated under the alternative form;

provide the official name of the consolidated unit of local government;

provide for the transfer, reorganization, abolition, absorption, adjustment of boundaries (and may provide a method for adjusting the boundaries) of all existing boards, bureaus, commissions, agencies, special districts, and political subdivisions of the consolidated governments;

include other provisions which the study commission elects to include and which are consistent with state law.

The plan may grant the legislative body of the consolidated government the authority to transfer, reorganize, adjust boundaries, abolish, or absorb, and provide a method for adjusting the boundaries of such entities with or without referendum requirements.

As a political subdivision of the state, such consolidated unit of local government shall have the status of a county and an incorporated municipality for all purposes and shall replace and be the successor of the county and any city or town. On its effective date, the alternative form of government and consolidation plan operate to dissolve all local governments within the area of consolidation in accordance with their provisions. On the effective date, the separate corporate existence of the county and of each participating city and/or town shall be consolidated and merged into one local government unit under the name selected, designated, and adopted as provided in this chapter.

The consolidated local government shall thereupon succeed to, possess, and own all of the property and assets of every kind and description and shall, except as otherwise provided, become responsible for all of the obligations and liabilities of the county, cities, and towns so consolidated and merged. All provisions of law authorizing contributions of any kind, in money or otherwise, from the state or federal government to counties and cities shall remain in full force with respect to a consolidated local government

 Within 2 years after ratification of the consolidation, the governing body of the consolidated unit of local government shall revise, repeal, or reaffirm all rules, ordinances, and resolutions in force within the participating county, cities, and towns at the time of consolidation. Each rule, ordinance, or resolution in force at the time of consolidation shall remain in force within the former geographic jurisdiction until superseded by action of the new governing body. Ordinances and resolutions relating to public improvements to be paid for in whole or in part by special assessments may not be repealed.

A consolidated government may adopt, for the portion of the consolidated government that was formerly a city or town, a plan to control, remove, and restrict game animals, within the defined boundaries of the city or town limits for public health and safety purposes. Upon adoption of a plan, the consolidated government shall notify the department of fish, wildlife, and parks of the plan. If the department of fish, wildlife, and parks approves the plan or approves the plan with conditions, the consolidated government may implement the plan as approved or as approved with conditions.

Worked Cites:

  1. Dye, Thomas, Politics in States and Communities. 10th ed, Prentice Hall, 2000, p. 379-384;
  2. Hirschman, Albert O, Exit, voice, and loyalty; responses to decline in firms, organizations, and states, Harvard Univ. Press, 1970, p.2
  3. L. Marando and C. Whitley, “City-County Consolidation…” Urban Affairs Quarterly, 8 (Dec. 1972), 181-203
  4. A. Henderson and W. A. Rosenbaum, “The Prospects for Consolidating Local Governments…” American Journal of Political Science, 17 (Nov. 1973), 695-720).
  5. Bartik, Timothy. 1991. Who benefits from economic development? Kalamazoo, Mich.: Upjohn Institute. Blomquist, William, and Roger Parks. 1995. Fiscal, service, and political impacts of Indianapolis–Marion County’s UniGov. Publius 25, no. 4 (Fall): 37–55.
  6. Mark S. Rosentraub 180 State and Local Government Review State and Local Government Review
  7. Milan J. Dluhy, Ph.D. Annexation, Consolidation, and The Politics of Government Reform American Society for Public Administration Annual Meeting March 26, 2002
  8. Condrey, Stephen E. 1994. “Organizational and Personnel Impacts of Local Government Consolidation: Athens-Clarke County, Georgia.” Journal of Urban Affairs 16: 371-83.
  9. Selden, Sally C., and Richard W. Campbell. 2000. “The Expenditure Impacts of Unification in a Small Georgia County: A Contingency Perspective of City-County Consolidation.” Public Administration Quarterly, forthcoming. (Available from the author at [email protected] and 706-542-2736.)
  10. Bert E. Swanson Quandaries of Pragmatic Reform: A Reassessment of the Jacksonville Experience
  11. David Rusk Cities Without Suburbs (Woodrow Wilson Center Special Studies)

[1] Dye, Thomas, Politics in States and Communities. 10th ed, Prentice Hall, 2000, p. 379-384;

[2] Hirschman, Albert O, Exit, voice, and loyalty; responses to decline in firms, organizations, and states, Harvard Univ. Press, 1970, p.2

[3] V. L. Marando and C. Whitley, “City-County Consolidation…” Urban Affairs Quarterly, 8 (Dec. 1972), 181-203

[4] T.A. Henderson and W. A. Rosenbaum, “The Prospects for Consolidating Local Governments…” American Journal of Political Science, 17 (Nov. 1973), 695-720).

[5] Bartik, Timothy. 1991. Who benefits from economic development? Kalamazoo, Mich.: Upjohn Institute. Blomquist, William, and Roger Parks. 1995. Fiscal, service, and political impacts of Indianapolis–Marion County’s UniGov. Publius 25, no. 4 (Fall): 37–55.

[6] Mark S. Rosentraub 180 State and Local Government Review State and Local Government Review

[7] Milan J. Dluhy, Ph.D. Annexation, Consolidation, and The Politics of Government Reform American Society for Public Administration Annual Meeting March 26, 2002

[8] Condrey, Stephen E. 1994. “Organizational and Personnel Impacts of Local Government Consolidation: Athens-Clarke County, Georgia.” Journal of Urban Affairs 16: 371-83.

[9] Selden, Sally C., and Richard W. Campbell. 2000. “The Expenditure Impacts of Unification in a Small Georgia County: A Contingency Perspective of City-County Consolidation.” Public Administration Quarterly, forthcoming. (Available from the author at [email protected] and 706-542-2736.)

[10] Bert E. Swanson Quandaries of Pragmatic Reform: A Reassessment of the Jacksonville Experience


[11] David Rusk Cities Without Suburbs (Woodrow Wilson Center Special Studies)

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