Thursday, August 20, 2009
It's Time For A Detroit-Wayne County Consolidated Government by Akindele Akinyemi
I have a challenge to those who are running for Detroit Charter Commission. Instead of duplicating the same thing as Wayne County why don't we just consolidate governments?
Take a look at Detroit. The city is in a $300 million deficit and Mayor Bing wants to cut bus service on Saturdays at 6PM and all day on Sundays. My proposal would be to just consolidate bus service and create a regional transit system that will benefit all 126 communities in Southeastern Michigan.
I would like to see Detroit and Wayne County merge under one system without excuses. A consolidated city–county is a city and county that have been merged into one unified jurisdiction.
Examples of consolidated city-county governments are the following:
Athens-Clarke County, GA. In 1991, after a vote the preceding year, the original city abandoned its charter in order to form unified government with Clarke County. It is referred to collectively as Athens-Clarke County.
Indianapolis-Marion County has a consolidated government. In fact, the legislative body for the city and county is the City-County Council. It is made up of 29 members, 25 of whom represent districts, with the remaining four elected at large. As of 2008, Republicans hold a 16-13 majority. The council passes ordinances for the city and county, and also makes appointments to certain boards and commissions.
Louisville-Jefferson County has a consolidated government. Louisville Metro is governed by an executive dubbed the Metro Mayor and their legislative body is called the Metro Council. This council has 26 seats corresponding to 26 districts apportioned by population throughout the city and county. The residents of the semi-independent municipalities within Louisville Metro are apportioned to districts along with all other county residents.
Nashville-Davidson County merged in 1963 as a way for Nashville to combat the problems of urban sprawl. It offers services such as police, water, fire, electricity, water and sewerage treatment. Nashville is governed by a mayor, vice-mayor, and 40-member Metropolitan Council. The Metropolitan Council is the legislative body of government for Nashville and Davidson County. There are 5 council members who are elected at large and 35 council members that represent individual districts.
So how come we cannot have a Detroit-Wayne County merger where we could consolidate our resources such as fire, police, schools, utilities and bus service? It's important that we began to have a serious discussion on redefining the role of Wayne RESA and how they will run a county schoolwide system similar to what we are seeing in Fairfax County, VA. At the bare minimum Wayne RESA should run the Detroit Public Schools and give authorization powers to the Mayor of Detroit (similar to what the City of Indianapolis have).
Let's look at from this angle. Government serves people and taxpayers. People want good services, at low cost, with quality delivery. They want safe neighborhoods, clean and well run streets, great schools, parks where kids can play soccer, baseball and the fountains work, well run permitting departments, good trash collection, low cost utilities and honest leaders and tax appraisals.
People do not care if the City or the County provides the service, as long as it is done well at the best price.
So what should a wise community do? We should do everything possible to prioritize what our people want from our local governments, optimize services, make government lean, not mean and start now. Every government should look at joint projects, cost sharing and consolidation wherever possible. After all, every one of these local governments serves the same taxpayer.
And the best way to do that? Instead of having these council by district conversations in these candidate forums let’s ask both our Detroit charter commission candidates as well as state lawmakers if they would like to see both the city and county charter eliminated to form one consolidated charter that will help streamline services for both Detroit and Wayne County.
We need to bring in stakeholders such as the Detroit Regional Chamber, Detroit Renaissance, SEMCOG, Mackinac Center for Public Policy, and Center for Michigan to just name a few to actually conduct some dialogue on this issue.