On The Right: Beware of city-county consolidation

On The Right: Beware of city-county consolidation

America’s governing bodies were built from the bottom up.  People depend on one another:  first upon their parents and then upon friends, neighbors, etc.  

Individuals and families naturally broaden their associations to meet their mutual needs in subsidiarity, the principle which affirms that decisions are most appropriately made by the local entities closest to relevant daily realities and by the next highest entity (i.e., village, town, county, state), only when decisions and actions are beyond the capacities of those at lower levels.

According to sociologist Andrew Greeley, subsidiarity means “no bigger than necessary” and by structuring life according to this principle, “one can protect, promote and defend the freedom, the dignity, the authenticity of the individual human person.”

When I was an undergraduate majoring in government back in the early 1970s, I learned of another school of thought known as regionalism or metropolitanism that insisted decisions are best made by elites from the top down.  

Localities would be consolidated and states would be partitioned into a few regions to administer federal programs.

Leftist intellectuals promote this approach for two reasons:  

First, older neighborhoods and the values and traditions they protect prevent elitists from dominating human behavior.  

Andrew Greeley has postulated that cultural elites view the neighborhood as “a regression to more primitive and premodern ways of living.  

The neighborhood asserts the importance of the primordial, the local, the geographic, the familiar against the demands of the bureaucratized, rationalized, scientific, corporate society….”

The second reason for regionalism is control of money.  

Big government types want to dissolve town and county lines and incorporate them into a “region” that includes cities.  They want county, town and school district tax revenues to go into a regional pot that will support city services.

Regionalists, for example, would love to consolidate Westchester, Nassau and Suffolk school districts with New York City into a single entity.  

Under this scenario, our property taxes would be distributed to support all the schools in the region.  In other words, less would be allocated to Nassau schools in order to increase spending in New York City schools.

Such plans are not far-fetched.  “Building One America” founded in 2009 by President Obama’s community organizing mentor, Mike Kruglik, promotes regionalist movements to abolish the suburbs by having cities annex them.  

This group and others, often funded by the Chicago-based Gamaliel Foundation, are dedicated to creating metropolitan regions that impose tax sharing schemes “to reduce fiscal disparities among different local governments.”

Dr. Stanley Kurtz has pointed out regionalists want “to promote the interest of cities at the expense of the rest of the county.”  And the sympathetic Obama Administration has implemented the Sustainable Communities Initiative which uses “the carrot of federal money to lure reluctant suburbs into redistributive regional schemes.”

I point this all out because I was disturbed by a report, released upstate in January that calls for merging services of the City of Syracuse and Onondaga County.

The citizen group “Consensus” that sponsored the study made these recommendations all in the name of efficiency:

• Consolidate the Syracuse and county police departments;

• Merge village and town courts and “explore a regional court system;

• Combine city and county IDA’s;

• Create centrally-managed metro authorities, agencies, departments and service areas;

• Increase state assumption of responsibility for public benefit programs.

Sounds like the locals copied from the playbook of “Building One America.”

I oppose this scheme because overlapping local governments is not the root of the fiscal crisis in Onondaga County; it is unfunded state mandates.

For years, governors and legislators have been evading the responsibility of funding programs they wanted by ordering municipalities to provide a host of services.  

Studies have revealed that New York imposes more mandates than any other state — over 2,000 that consume, on average, 60 percent of county government budgets.

The answer is not merging localities into bigger unresponsive government, it is demanding that Big Brother in Albany implement true reform that begins with relieving county governments of the poster child for unfunded mandates — Medicaid.

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