City–County Consolidation

City–County Consolidation: Promises Made, Promises Kept?

Suzanne M. Leland
Kurt Thurmaier
Copyright Date: 2010
Pages: 336
  • Cite this Item
  • Book Info
    City–County Consolidation
    Book Description:

    Although a frequently discussed reform, campaigns to merge a major municipality and county to form a unified government fail to win voter approval eighty per cent of the time. One cause for the low success rate may be that little systematic analysis of consolidated governments has been done. In City-County Consolidation, Suzanne Leland and Kurt Thurmaier compare nine city-county consolidations-incorporating data from 10 years before and after each consolidation-to similar cities and counties that did not consolidate. Their groundbreaking study offers valuable insight into whether consolidation meets those promises made to voters to increase the efficiency and effectiveness of these governments. The book will appeal to those with an interest in urban affairs, economic development, local government management, general public administration, and scholars of policy, political science, sociology, and geography.

    eISBN: 978-1-58901-622-4
    Subjects: Political Science

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-viii)
  3. Preface
    (pp. ix-xi)
  4. Acknowledgments
    (pp. xi-xii)
  5. 1 A Research Design for Evaluating Consolidation Performance
    (pp. 1-24)
    Suzanne M. Leland and Kurt Thurmaier

    Efficiency and effectiveness are at the forefront of discussions about local government management across the United States. Local government’s role in providing who gets what from government has increased greatly in the devolution era as we begin a new century. Governments face cutbacks in state and federal assistance on the one hand, and taxpayer revolts on the other. Public administrators are under pressure to find new ways to improve service delivery more efficiently and effectively.

    Although city–county consolidation is a frequently discussed local government reform, structurally merging a major municipality and county to form a unified government is often...

  6. 2 An Assessment of the City–County Consolidation of Nashville and Davidson County, Tennessee
    (pp. 25-56)
    Anthony J. Nownes, David J. Houston and Marc Schwerdt

    City–county consolidation is a rare event. But it does happen. In fact, some of the largest and best-known metropolises in the country are governed by consolidated governments, including Boston, Denver, Honolulu, Philadelphia, and San Francisco. This chapter examines the case of Nashville/Davidson County, Tennessee (map 2), a large locality that has been governed by a consolidated government for forty-five years. To evaluate the performance of the consolidated government of Nashville/Davidson County, we compare it with that of the fragmented governments of Knox County, Tennessee, and the City of Knoxville. We begin with a brief background on the consolidation effort,...

  7. 3 Does Consolidation Make a Difference? A Comparative Analysis of Richmond and Virginia Beach, Virginia
    (pp. 57-82)
    Nicholas J. Swartz

    Although boundary lines become more and more blurred as a result of urbanization, communities across the United States continue to experiment with the structure of local government. As Vincent Marando stated (1979, 409), “There are serious questions being raised in the recent literature as to whether city–county consolidation is, still, or ever was, a viable reorganization alternative for most of metro America.” Now, many years later, municipal scholars, leaders of cities, and officials of counties across the United States are still asking themselves whether or not city–county consolidation is a viable option. Harold Laswell’s famous definition that politics...

  8. 4 What Difference Does City–County Consolidation Make? A Historical Analysis of Jacksonville and Tampa, Florida
    (pp. 83-104)
    Milan J. Dluhy

    Reflecting on the last three decades of local government reform literature, it is clear that there is more than one path to regional governance (Feiock 2004). As suburban sprawl has spilled into the areas surrounding our major cities since World War II, there has been an urgent call from many reformers for metropolitan-wide or regionwide governmental structures and governance to deal with the growing metropolitan-wide problems (Peirce 1993).

    Historically, there have been at least four different approaches proposed by reformers to improve regional governance in the United States. First, the most traditional approach has been to provide cities with the...

  9. 5 City–County Consolidation A Case Study of Carson City, Nevada
    (pp. 105-134)
    Anna Lukemeyer

    City–county consolidation—that is, the structural consolidation of city and county governments into one government—has been characterized as “a reform idea that does not die” (Leland and Johnson 2004, 27). This characterization seems to reflect two factors. First, reformers continue to pursue consolidation, despite the fact that the voters rarely accept consolidation proposals. Second, scholars have increasingly questioned whether the expected benefits of consolidation have been realized in practice (Feiock 2004; Campbell and Durning 2000). Recent scholarship suggests that the impact of consolidation varies according to the characteristics of the consolidating governments and their environments, the structure of...

  10. 6 “The Urge to Merge” The Consolidation of Lexington and Fayette County, Kentucky
    (pp. 135-160)
    Shawn Gillen

    If there is such a thing as a perfect storm when it comes to city–county consolidation, then the Lexington/Fayette County, Kentucky, case is just that (map 6). This chapter looks at the atmosphere in Lexington at the time of the merger proposal and examines some of the driving issues behind the proposal’s success. The conditions in Lexington/Fayette County are then compared with Louisville/Jefferson County, a comparable city in Kentucky that did not consolidate during the period under examination.¹ In some cases of city–county consolidation there are arguments made concerning the future economic development of the area, the efficiencies...

  11. 7 From Company Town to Consolidated Government The Western-Style Consolidation of Butte and Silver Bow County, Montana
    (pp. 161-178)
    Susan Keim and Justin Marlowe

    Montana has a reputation as part of the rough-and-tumble Wild West. Its city of Butte certainly fits in this category. After being established by copper and silver miners in the early 1870s, Butte grew overnight into a bustling tent city as word of the miners’ discoveries got out. Its booming downtown provided everything the miners and mining companies could need, including saloons and a red light district. This included America’s longest-running brothel, in operation from 1890 to 1982 right in the heart of the mining district. The mines actually produced copper, silver, and gold, although copper did not become popular...

  12. 8 The Case of Lynchburg and Moore County, Tennessee, Consolidation
    (pp. 179-214)
    Deborah A. Carroll, Kristin A. Wagers and Mary Ellen Wiggins

    Visitors to Lynchburg, Tennessee, will find the place to be “so off the beaten path, it’s either your destination or you are lost” (Lynchburg/Moore County Chamber of Commerce website, Home to the famous Jack Daniel’s Distillery and located south of Nashville near the Alabama border, Lynchburg lies in the former Moore County, a diminutive jurisdiction wedged among four larger counties (map 8). Historically, size was a prominent issue for both the City of Lynchburg and Moore County. Anxiety over the potential annexation of portions of the county by the nearby City of Tullahoma propelled their decision to consolidate in...

  13. 9 Unification Promises and Outcomes The Case of Athens and Clarke County, Georgia
    (pp. 215-244)
    Dan Durning and Paula Sanford

    On August 7, 1990, the citizens of the city of Athens and Clarke County, Georgia, voted to merge their city and county governments to create a new “unified” government (map 9). This vote was the final act in a prolonged effort to consolidate the two governments. It followed voter rejection of consolidation proposals in 1969, 1972, and 1982.

    The 1990 referendum differed from the earlier ones not only in its outcome but also in the strategy adopted by consolidation proponents. One important difference in strategy was that proponents labeled the proposed merger as “unification” rather than consolidation. Another key difference...

  14. 10 Improving the Efficiency and Effectiveness of Service Delivery in Local Government The Case of Wyandotte County and Kansas City, Kansas
    (pp. 245-270)
    Suzanne M. Leland and Curtis Wood

    City–county consolidation is frequently discussed as a solution to the economic problems that plague American cities and counties. According to a Wall Street Journal article, with reductions in federal and state grants and rising health care and pension costs, more cities are considering mergers in order to slash expenses and attract revenue-generating economic development (Maher 2005). Cities that are facing financial problems are interested in consolidation as a way to stem population loss and as a solution to budgetary woes and economic frailty. Cities that are not facing such troubles are still angling toward the idea of consolidation to...

  15. 11 Promises Made, Promises Kept
    (pp. 271-310)
    Kurt Thurmaier and Suzanne M. Leland

    City–county consolidations have a long history in the United States, and the representative cases reviewed in this volume span more than forty years of this history. Our objective in this chapter is to scan these representative cases for patterns of effects that lead to the conclusions that consolidations have lived up to the promises made by their proponents in the referenda campaigns that gave them birth. In particular, we review these nine pairs of cases (a total of eighteen observations in our sample) for evidence that consolidations keep promises to increase local government efficiency, increase local government effectiveness in...

  16. Contributors
    (pp. 311-314)
  17. Index
    (pp. 315-322)