Friday, January 07, 2011

Consolidation - promises kept?

Talk's on the upswing again, and not just in Charlotte-Mecklenburg, about trying to run local government more efficiently by consolidating. And at his media briefing today, Charlotte Mayor Anthony Foxx gave yet another big plug to the idea, saying, "It's hard to shape community priorities when you have resources siloed."

A timely new piece on the website of UNC Charlotte's Urban Institute takes a look at what happened in 18 other city-county consolidations. The big headline? No real efficiencies were proved.

I asked Foxx today if he'd read the report, and what he thought about its findings. He said that while he believed there would be cost savings if Charlotte and Mecklenburg County governments merged, "I don't think that is the only driver." He thinks local government should be structured differently.

The UNCC report is by the authors of a new book, "City-County Consolidation: Promises Made, Promises Kept?": Suzanne Leland, associate professor of political science at UNCC, and Kurt Thurmaier, director of the Division of Public Administration at Northern Illinois University.

Here's what they conclude:

Consolidation can improve economic development
"... Consolidated governments have performed more effectively in economic development than their comparison counties. ... This is one promise the majority of consolidated governments delivered on."

Consolidation does not necessarily lead to more efficient government

"Our study yields little systematic evidence that consolidated governments operate more efficiently than their comparison communities. While about half of the cases in our sample seem to have lower rates of expenditure growth ... the other half of the sample does not produce the same data."

Pro-Merger Campaigns delivered on most of their promises

In most cases (not all) they write, "the evidence is quite strong that the particular promises made to voters were kept, with very few exceptions."


Anonymous said...

The one certainty of political consolidation is that those in the six Towns will get financially shafted as a consolidated board dominates setting taxes and forces town residents to pay for 'neighborhood improvement' for inner-city Charlotte. I think for consolidation to work, Mecklenburg should be shrunk and the six towns moved into adjacent counties. Mecklenburg will be the size of the City of Charlotte (plus ETJ) and the Town residents won't have to worry about paying for Charlotte's sports facilities.

And, in case folks are wondering - we have shrunk Mecklenburg several times in the past. it would also put me in Union County which liberals in Charlotte should love.

Bill James
BOCC, 6, R

WashuOtaku said...

Well, its unlikely Mecklenburg will shed-off the towns; but his reply is right about the towns, they will not sit idle in a consolidated city-county model. In order for it to even be considered, it needs to discussed how Charlotte plans to operate with the towns.

As for "consolidation = efficiency," that's typically not true since nobody wants to loose there jobs, they simply merge and create new titles to keep all the employees in place. Its not all bad though, everything would be at one place.

Anonymous said...

Figures that someone who doesn't know the difference between "loose" and "lose" or "their" and "there" is also unaware that city & county workers already are "at one place" - ever been to the government center, Washu?

Anonymous said...

There are several "theres." There is the Government Center, there is the Hal Marshall building (and annex), there is Walton Plaza, there is Freedom Mall, and there are an assortment of facilities on Spratt Street, not to mention all of the various field offices, maintenance yards, etc.

WashuOtaku said...

Anonymous @ 3:32pm, trolling me on grammar then throwing a weak example doesn't say much about the person who hides as Anonymous. At least the first poster put his name at the end.

Yes, I have been at the government center. I have also been in the BB&T building where Bank of America also works... does that mean the two banks should merge together since they share the same building resources?

Going back to my point though, it was about consolidation and the six towns that would be affected by it. I'm not really saying I'm for or against it... just asking the basic question of how would they make that work where everyone is happy?

Larry said...

Wow you mean we can get something as successful and as consolidated as our schools and our Police with one government? Why just imagine the cost and the service, just like our schools and police.

Oh wait............. are they not trying to deconsolidate those now?

Mack The (Budget-Cutting) Knife said...

I think there can be great efficiencies when government functions are consolidated.

For example, why do we build separately housed public libraries, and separately housed public schools, when both are funded primarily by the county? Why aren’t public libraries and public schools consolidated? Wouldn’t there be a savings in maintenance and operating expense if both were located in the same physical complex – not to mention a reduction in capital expenditures and probably in personnel costs?

I’ve read that we are closing schools because they are under-utilized. I’ve read that we may close libraries because of budget problems. So…duh…. wouldn’t it make sense to move the libraries into the under-utilized schools, or to require new schools to include room for public libraries?

Then again, that means that the school board, library board, county commissioners, city councils, etc. would have to stop playing politics and get about the business of reducing expenditures and saving money. Fat chance of that happening!

Anonymous said...

The library system, park & rec, and CMS actually do try to co-locate facilities. For instance, the southwest regional library (on Steele Creek Rd) is located on the campus of a CMS school. There is land reserved for a future Highland Creek library next to Highland Creek Elementary and Ridge Road Middle Schools. Mallard Creek High School shares some of the same field facilities with Mallard Creek Park.

Now whether they can do a better job, or need to consolidate functions (such as libraries) into the same physical building, rather than just the same campus, is open to discussion.

Notice, however, that all three of these functions are already county functions, directly or indirectly. There would be little to gain by consolidating them with the city.