With all the hype about "consolidation," I've been thinking about this lately and concluded that government has actually DISCOURAGED consolidation with poor policy decisions.
Back in colonial days, villages and cities were formed by people gathering together for mutual protection and services. By virtue of their population density and compactness, villages and cities were economically able to provide policing, water, sewer, garbage, road maintenance and other services. People who wanted to live in the country had to be prepared with shotguns to protect themselves, to dig wells and latrines, had to burn their garbage (or live with it), and had to either put up with transportation via horseback or dogsled, or had to clear paths if they wanted to transport goods via carts. Of course, the villages and cities grew because it was EASIER and CHEAPER (either in time or money) for people to take care of their basic necessities.
On top of this "natural" structure of villages and cities, politicians drew the ARTIFICIAL lines of towns and counties. The lines had little to do with actual settlements, and potentially encompassed settlements who might have been competitors. They were needed, however, to ensure that some governing authority existed in all areas.
We went wrong when we permitted counties and towns to duplicate city/village services in the country and charge not only the people in the country, BUT ALSO THE CITIES AND VILLAGES, for the services to the outlying areas. This increased costs to people in the cities and villages (with no increase in benefits) while creating artificially low costs for those who chose to live in the country. Instead of cities and villages consolidating with their surrounding territories through natural patterns of growth, we subsidized urban sprawl governed by multiple levels of government. It is no wonder why tax levels have risen so much: we have spread ourselves too thinly across the landscape to be efficient.
Now the "powers that want-to-be" expect people to accept consolidation along artificial Town and County lines. Don't expect this to go down without a fight. One community will always fear being shortchanged to benefit another one (be the other more populous or more politically connected). The fear is based on experience. An easy example at a larger scale is how the metropolitan areas in the state have been treated differently in terms of state level job development efforts: Albany gets almost a billion taxpayer dollars to develop a nanotechnology center while Utica did not even receive its promised downtown center for Brownfields Studies. Communities want to know that they can control their own destinies.
If "consolidation" is the way to go, then we need to go back to the natural way of doing it: give back to the cities and villages their natural economic advangages, let people living in the outlying areas pay the true costs of their services, and let them VOLUNTARILY join a city or village when clearly an advantage to do so.
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