Tuesday, August 09, 2005

Metro government vs regionalization

Metro government vs regionalization - These words could be used to mean the same thing, but in Oneida County they are different. Here regionalization has meant taking certain City of Utica assets (water supply system, Auditorium, transit system) and purportedly making them available to suburban areas by placing them in the hands of Authorities whose boards are made up of appointees from the various jurisdictions, with "representation" defined by the laws creating them ("one man-one vote" style of representation based on population does NOT apply). Metro government, as I understand it, would mean consolidating smaller municipalities into a larger one. The difference is that Metro government is ultimately answerable to voters through an elected governing body while Authorities, practically speaking, are not answerable to anyone. Eg, the anticipated water rate hike is whatever the Water Authorty wants. Had the Water Board remained a city department, the rate hike would have to receive the approval of the elected common council -- and the rates to suburban areas would have been subject to DEC rate hearings in the event the suburbs disagreed. Had the water board remained a private company, the PSC would have had jurisdiction over rates. If the WB were part of a Metro Government, the elected legislative body would have the control over rates. Its the loss of control (or responsiveness to needs) that has given regionalization a bad name here.

Metro Government Is Interesting, and could represent a savings to the taxpayer due to elimination of duplicative efforts or "economies of scale." However, there is a downside as well. Think of Which is better: BIG government or SMALL? Which do you think would be more responsive to people's needs: a LARGE government serving a large and diverse area with many specialized departments or a SMALL government serving a limited area and few specialized departments? Its like the difference between Cities and Villages. I'm willing to bet that the level of satisfaction and the sense of getting value for every dollar of taxes paid is much higher in villages than in cities. Which is more efficient? Decisionmaking in Large Organizations becomes a collaborative effort between many specialized people. In small organizations one person may make all the decisions. The Smaller form of government in some respects may be more efficient. Where do you think you will be more likely to find waste, a Large or a Small organization? You see where I'm going . . . . Metro is a nice idea, and was trendy 30 years ago ... but I'm not sold. Duplicative efforts could be eliminated by assigning particular services to a particular level of government and allow for NO overlap.

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