Mark today's date down: Richard Hogue is agreeing with the Democratic Party in general and Scott Nichols (Guest column, Feb. 22, "Impact fees better answer to growth") in particular: Consolidation is all about money.
When a city and county consolidate, usually one or the other is in dire financial straights; there are political machines to dismantle; patronage is not evenly distributed; there is inequity in taxes and expenditures; and special interest groups dislike having three or more sets of governments that determine building codes, issue building permits, or other trans-jurisdictional problems.
Historically, the first local government consolidation occurred in 1805 when St. Louis and St. Louis Parish combined their governments. In the years from 1900 to 2006 there have been 97 attempts at consolidation, with only 21 successful consolidations (numbers may vary depending on the criteria used by those counting successes and failures). This is a 22 percent success rate over a 100-year period and provides very good betting odds against consolidation.
One is forced to ask why our political leaders proposed consolidation? If the performance of existing, nationwide, consolidated city-county governments were satisfactory, then one could see why they would propose such drastic steps to our form of government. However, the lack of interest by other governmental agencies speaks for itself - there is no substantial evidence to show that the collective benefits promised by consolidation has been realized, except the anecdotal accounts offered by those proposing consolidation. In short, consolidation is a losing proposal. Again, just look to the east at Augusta/Richmond county's mess.
As Nichols has proposed, there are alternative methods of extracting tax from county residents. Money will have to be shifted from the city residents to the county one way or another. Whether in property taxes, special tax districts, franchise fees, etc.. As I have said before, regardless of the name, taxes are taxes, the only question is "Who gets the privilege of paying them?"
Richard E. Hogue
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