Sunday, January 28, 2007

Free Press Editorial for...CONSOLIDATION?!

Ron Dzwonkowski has a good editorial about the massive amount of government in Michigan. With the budget shortfalls in this state, this is an option that needs to be considered.

Michigan has too much government, too many "local units" that survive mainly because local people refuse to give them up and state officials are wary of the political consequences of taking them away. It's an inefficient system, and the tax dollars to support it are no longer there.

But it won't change in a serious way unless the state -- or a lack of money from the state -- starts forcing the issue. Some local governments do share resources and services, but too often Herculean bargaining is required to make such arrangements work. Nobody wants to surrender anything, even if it means saving the taxpayers money. And there are just too many governments to begin with.

Michigan has 83 counties, 533 cities or incorporated villages and 1,242 townships. There also are 781 public school districts, including 229 charter schools, which receive tax dollars.

A good question to ask about all those numbers is why? Next ask, how much does it all cost and how well does it really deliver?


bluzie said...

So you don't want local governments to control their communities? Have you lost your mind?

At what cost do we give up our freedom of self governance?
Is mony your bottom lie to everything you hold dear?

Dan said...

Bluzie, you don't work for a township organization, do you?

That's not what I'm saying at all. I never called for abolishing local government.

That said, in Livingston County alone, we have - for about 175,000 people - a county government, 16 township governments, fire/parks authorities, two villages, two cities and parts of 14 school districts (5 based in the county) as well as the LESA district.

That is a lot of bureaucracy. In the old horse/buggy days, I'd support it when it takes a whole day to drive to the county. In heavily populated areas, I can support some of that as well.

I think much of this could be consolidated to the county level, or at least rural/semi-suburban districts.

Would there be that much difference for most people if there was some consolidation of a couple of townships? Only for those with a major interest at keeping a turf war.

bluzie said...

I have been looking into what you are saying, like get rid of township government and just have county government and county school systems. It would save money and I am beginning to see the light, I think I agree wth you.
The other thing that would save tons of money in the prison system and jails are these stupid mandatory sentences. If we don't let judges set the sentences, why so many. I think we jail too many of our people. This should disturb everyone.

Keith Richards said...

Bigger government is less responsive to the concerns of individual citizens. Livingston County may have a rat's maze of governmental units but it works pretty well. Detroit has the most consolidated governmental structure in Michigan and everyone is fleeing the city because of high taxes and poor services.

Dan, someday I'll have to sit down with you and tell you about some of the experiences I've had working with big organizations v.s. small organizations. It may seem to defy logic to you but the most effective and efficient organizations I've seen have all been small and lean, while the most inefficient organizations I've seen have all been extremely large. The bottom line is that bigger DOES NOT automatically translate into less cost and greater effectiveness (especially in government!)

bluzie said...

So you think it just can't be done? I don't think people left Detroit becase of high taxes.
Brighton City has high taxes, people like to live there. It has a vibrant downtown, a public water system and sidwalks and parks. You all talk about taxes like they are a bad thing, they pay the bills!

Dan said...

Keith Richards - I'd like to see your side of it. I wouldn't like to see things get to Wayne County sized, but all I see is a lot of turf wars and the like.

Bluzie - As to your jail point, I agree. This is a reaction to the late 80's where there were many revolving jail cells. People ran on "tough on crime" and the jails filled up. Many of those who were sent to jail for a long period of time deserved it. I don't want murderers, rapists, robbers, goon squards, and the Ken Lays of the world out on the street, but it's gone too far the other way. Most of the people in jail are for drug offenses. The drug war is a failure, and there needs to be alternatives. There's stupidity and evil. Stupidity can be corrected. The evil ones are those that need to be locked up.

bluzie said...

I agree, rapists, murderers and the like need to be kept away from the population. I believe if we had tethers and other devices for cars to monitor drinking, our jails and prisons would not be over crowded.

Prison building is a big business and it sickens me. I will do what I can to stop the building of larger jails and prisons. We need to treat alchohol and drug abuse differently than we do now.