Is the idea of a “metro” form of government a good one for Fayette County?
We think not.
Several weeks ago, details of a charter proposal to merge the city of Dayton with Montgomery County were made public.
And is often the case when such proposals are made, we wonder: Would such a “merged” form of government work in a county like ours?
In looking at what the private Dayton group has proposed, we’d guess Fayette Countians would want no part of it. From everything we see, it would be overly complicated, confusing and unnecessary.
The proposed Dayton-Montgomery County merger, according to news reports, would create a Dayton Metro government overseen by an elected council and manager appointed by council members. This metro structure would feature a mayor selected by all county voters and 10 elected representatives from newly created geographic districts, including one at-large seat representing the entire county.
Why propose such a change? Supporters say it is aimed at stemming the tide of population loss from Dayton and state funding reductions. Backers add that current Montgomery County “systems” are outdated and often lead to service duplication and jurisdictions competing with each other when cooperating would be more effective at attracting new jobs and investment. Backers say it will also make the county “more economically competitive.”
Supporters of the charter proposal say they are not expecting to put it on the countywide ballot this year, instead seeking to educate residents on the idea before it goes on the ballot. In looking at it, voters are going to need a lot of educating.
For example, cities other than Dayton and townships would retain their current local structure of city councils or trustees. They also would be part of the geographic districts that would elect their county representative on the 10-member Dayton Metro panel. Local council members or trustees could not also hold a seat on the proposed Dayton Metro council. What? Could you run all that by us again?
Regardless, we have seen such suggestions in the past. It isn’t that there haven’t been successful examples of “merged” local governments in the past. There have been.
But for communities like Washington Court House and Fayette County, it just wouldn’t make sense.
First, one of the primary reasons for any such merger, and one not even mentioned in the Dayton-Montgomery County proposal, is law enforcement. A “metro” police force, generally operated under the county sheriff’s office, makes sense only when there are serious problems with a city police force.
That’s not the case here. From what we see, WCH police chief Brian Hottinger and Sheriff Vernon Stanforth work well together and the two departments cooperate whenever mutual support is needed.
While the economic interests of Washington Court and Fayette County as a whole can be different – bringing a new business to downtown WCH is a city economic development responsibility – what benefits the city benefits the county, and vise versa. This is one, we’d contend, where such cooperation is already taking place between the city and county.
In terms of representation, we think such a “metro” structure would fall short. Why create some complicated system of electing representatives in “county districts” when Fayette Countians are already doing that when they elect city, township, village and county officials? And if anyone is unhappy with their representatives, all they need to do is vote them out.
We don’t see such a system as saving money, either. How many times have we seen efforts at “consolidating to save money” just add to the workload, hurt service to the public and not really save any money at all? Plenty of times.
No, for areas such as Fayette County, a “metro” or consolidated government would just lead to confusion and frankly the risk of less representation, since authority would be spread over a wider area and a greater population.
It might work for a big metro area (and we have our doubts even about that) but it sure wouldn’t work for us.