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Should Greater Cincinnati Explore Metro Government?

By · March 21st, 2002 · Three Way

Charles Tassell
President of Blue Chip Young Republicans

There are distinct benefits to an economy of scale.

Regionally, Indianapolis and Louisville have taken the step toward efficiency by consolidating city, township and county services.

The benefits of increased services and reduced taxes are always appealing. The real benefits, though, are the consolidation of weak, disparate voices into a globally competitive regional voice while providing uniformity of codes for local development.

The continuity of regulations, like building codes and professional licenses, does wonders for business development. In fact, that is one of the key development issues holding back Northern Kentucky.

The increase in services does not just benefit local businesses. By providing a uniformity of service levels throughout the community, citizens can truly choose where they want to live, rather than having that issue established by the services a municipality provides or contracts with a non-profit organization.

Besides, as headlines have often reported, these non-profits have failed to offer the "hand up" to the needy or consistently fall short of expectations. Instead of solving problems, these organizations play a numbers game of developing recurring "customers" -- that is, when they are not just blatantly padding board members' pockets.

While this is a problem that strikes at the heart of the city of Cincinnati's budgeting process and its manipulations by various interest groups, it is replicated throughout other smaller municipalities.

This leads to another point in favor of countywide metro-government: the talent pool. While some politicians or wannabes would oppose consolidation because of the "lack of voice" for their constituents, the truth is they don't want to lose power, i.e. the ability to channel tax dollars.

Hence, each small town, 30-vote trustee or council member will wage the political turf war of their lives in order to stay in the limelight and take care of their "friends."

By broadening the jurisdiction countywide, the marketplace of ideas will generate sufficient choices for democracy to function. Short of that, demagoguery, indecision and pet projects will continue to be trademarks of the Greater Cincinnati political body.

Jeff Cramerding
Executive Director of the Cincinnati Charter Committee

"Do you live in the city or the county?"

Not an uncommon question in Greater Cincinnati.

Not an entirely logical question either, as it overlooks the fact that citizens who do live in the city of Cincinnati are also residents of Hamilton County.

This illogical statement often intrudes into the affairs of local government. Unfortunately, we have seen this occur again during the discussions regarding the Convention Center expansion.

Two county commissioners remembered that Cincinnati was part of the county and worked with the acting city manager and the mayor to develop a funding plan for the Convention Center.

However, to call this a success ignores the basic problem of why it was necessary for two separate and distinct governmental entities to negotiate a plan for one of the region's largest economic generators.

Metro government, or creating one government structure for the entire county, eliminates the redundancy. There is one set of citizens who elect one set of representatives, who then form one governmental body. This body then delivers basic services, performs planning, and enacts essential improvements.

If the body fails in any of these tasks, the voting public will replace the representative with ones who can. This leads to one-stop democracy and increased accountability for the entire region.

Another benefit of metro government would be a more transparent democratic process. Inter-government relations, conducted outside of the public's view, sometimes create the perception of a backroom deal.

With metro government, sunshine laws would cover negotiations between representatives and negotiations would be open to the public, instilling more faith in the democratic process.

Finally, there would be only one voice for Cincinnati when it came to speaking to both state and federal government. This would increase our ability to secure funding for important projects and enhance are ability to provide direction to our state and federal representatives.

Metro government will not come easy and it will not come soon. However, it is vital to the long term success of Greater Cincinnati.

David Schaff
President of Hamilton County Young Democrats

Replacing Hamilton County's 49 political jurisdictions with a uni-government is not the solution to moving this region forward.

The problem is not our governmental structure. Rather, it is a communication problem -- not only within and between government, but also with the citizens they serve.

First, let me address the communication issue and then talk about the progress that is being made to correct the fragmentation.

Under the current "Home Rule" legislation, each of the 49 jurisdictions can make their own decisions without talking to neighboring communities. The jurisdictions often compete with each other and don't even realize it.

Recent local studies like Myron Orfield's "Metropatterns" and the Metropolitan Growth Alliance's "Gallis Report" agree that it is crucial to work together as a region. Hamilton County will continue to lose out to our neighboring counties if we don't address these problems now.

There are positive signs of change in Hamilton County, though. The Regional Planning Commission has spearheaded a planning partnership that aims to encompass all 49 governmental jurisdictions within the county, as well as private and civic groups. The planning commission has also engaged citizens in the development of the first comprehensive master plan for Hamilton County since 1964.

Regional transportation stakeholders have also shown leadership in breaking down communication barriers to advance their cause. Transit agency SORTA and the Ohio-Kentucky-Indiana Regional Council of Governments, along with local citizens, are working together to develop a comprehensive transit plan.

Other examples of progress include the city of Cincinnati and Hamilton County's recent collaboration to develop a plan to expand and renovate the Convention Center. Also, Cincinnati City Council and the Cincinnati School Board are holding joint meetings to improve quality in education.

Improving our lines of communication across political boundaries with elected, appointed and community leaders will result in our family of governments becoming more responsive and accessible while remaining independent.

Each month, CityBeat poses a question to young leaders in the local Democrat and Republican parties as well as a selected third party or independent activist.


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