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Old 04-05-2012, 09:35 AM
 
Location: Pittsburgh, PA (Lawrenceville)
5,140 posts, read 2,999,713 times
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Default Why is area municipal fragmentation so hard to solve?

I'm sure the forum is well versed with the ridiculous amount of municipalities in Allegheny County. I believe it is the largest number in the country, with some ridiculously small ones like Haysville particularly extreme.

I can understand why proposals like the City-County merger have their proponents and enemies. I can also understand, practically speaking, why more municipalities don't merge into Pittsburgh. Most would either be a net drain on Pittsburgh (bringing in less tax money than the current average resident) or not be the best deals for the other municipalities (taxes would go up). When I looked around, I found only Bellvue, Avalon, and Brentwood would be in a win-win situation financially.

But what is it that keeps the outlying communities from merging together? Why do the eleven municipalities in the Quaker Valley School District, for example, stay separate?

Last edited by eschaton; 04-05-2012 at 09:54 AM..
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Old 04-05-2012, 09:38 AM
 
1,496 posts, read 888,356 times
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Because all of the different governments want to stay kings of their own little principalities.
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Old 04-05-2012, 09:41 AM
 
Location: Great White North Hills
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Because at one time when this area was rich it was the common thing to do. Obviously, with today's economic situation it makes sense to merge. It's like the people that complain about the Parkway East, guess what, at the time it was a good idea.
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Old 04-05-2012, 10:09 AM
 
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Everyone is convinced their area is going to be the loser in the deal. And a lot of people are invested in the status quo and thus are adverse to any potential loss.
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Old 04-05-2012, 10:22 AM
gg
 
Location: Pittsburgh
11,276 posts, read 7,427,527 times
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Quote:
Originally Posted by BrianTH View Post
Everyone is convinced their area is going to be the loser in the deal. And a lot of people are invested in the status quo and thus are adverse to any potential loss.
If you are happy with your neighborhood, why would you want to merge? Do you really feel a place like Fox Chapel would gain anything from merging with the city of Pittsburgh? If so, how? Most like a more personal, protected place to live. Even small more depressed places like Sharpsburg would vote no. They don't want to deal with the city poverty and prop them up.

People say, little governments don't want to give up power or whatever, but if the little municipalities voted, they would most all if not all vote no. Therefore, the little places will stay. The people have voted and majority rules. It has nothing to do with progression. Most in our area watched places like Churchill and Edgewood get pounded with that horrible school merger. They still are depressed in comparison where they would be today if that dumb court ordered merger didn't happen. Edgewood would be amazingly popular if they still had their little school in place. Nope, you might as well forget the idea of mergers. It will NEVER happen! I know I would vote NO WAY! I don't want more cost shifting than I already deal with. Work hard and those who don't work take it? No thanks!

Also, why does the title say, "solve"? Solve what? MOST people feel there is nothing to solve. People like smaller communities here. It brings the communities closer. Even Kennywood has days for the different little places. Get on board, it is what makes our area great.
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Old 04-05-2012, 10:32 AM
 
Location: Virginia
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Quote:
Originally Posted by BrianTH View Post
Everyone is convinced their area is going to be the loser in the deal. And a lot of people are invested in the status quo and thus are adverse to any potential loss.
My thoughts exactly.
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Old 04-05-2012, 10:49 AM
 
Location: Athens, GA (via Pittsburgh, PA)
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Forget "pride" and "fiefdoms" and all that other stuff. The primary factor is state laws that make annexation, consolidation and disincorporation virtually impossible. It's why only Illinois has more municipal governments than Pennsylvania. (Not sure what Illinois' excuse is.)
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Old 04-05-2012, 11:46 AM
 
Location: Pittsburgh, PA (Lawrenceville)
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Quote:
Originally Posted by h_curtis View Post
If you are happy with your neighborhood, why would you want to merge?
Ideological reasons mainly. While I know Pittsburgh would get a raw deal out of absorbing Wilkinsburg, I'd still support it due to the principle of municipal consolidation being good, even if the particular cuts against my self-interest.

Quote:
Originally Posted by h_curtis View Post
Do you really feel a place like Fox Chapel would gain anything from merging with the city of Pittsburgh? If so, how?
Of course not. But it wouldn't be the end of the world. Wealthy suburbs in places like Texas are continually absorbed by cities, with no negative effects. Keep in mind in states where this is possible urban politics are highly different, as the suburban population can make up half or more of the electorate. Republican mayors, for example, aren't uncommon.

Quote:
Originally Posted by h_curtis View Post
Even small more depressed places like Sharpsburg would vote no. They don't want to deal with the city poverty and prop them up.
I haven't checked recently, but in 2009, the Pittsburgh median income was $35,732, and Sharpsburg was $31,953. Pittsburgh would lose from such a merger, with the average resident worth around $233 less in taxes annually than the per-capita average in Pittsburgh. So it's rather the reverse, with Pittsburgh not wanting to deal with Sharpsburg poverty.

Quote:
Originally Posted by h_curtis View Post
People say, little governments don't want to give up power or whatever, but if the little municipalities voted, they would most all if not all vote no. Therefore, the little places will stay. The people have voted and majority rules. It has nothing to do with progression.
You do understand much of the municipal consolidation, both in the past and today, happens against the wishes of the residents of the annexed areas right? There was no vote to absorb the Bronx into NYC. The circumstances which turned Allegheny City into the North Side were pretty shady as well.

Quote:
Originally Posted by h_curtis View Post
Most in our area watched places like Churchill and Edgewood get pounded with that horrible school merger. They still are depressed in comparison where they would be today if that dumb court ordered merger didn't happen. Edgewood would be amazingly popular if they still had their little school in place.
And Edgewood would have sky-high property taxes, as it would be inefficient to run their own school district with such a small population. You already see the issues with this in a place like Brentwood, which still has a standalone school district, and has a taxation rate essentially equal to Pittsburgh. Brentwood has around three times the population of Edgewood, so the problem would be even worse for the latter. Realistically speaking, Edgewood would have probably voted to merge into Pittsburgh's school district on its own in the last few decades, with the understanding they'd keep their elementary school, and feed into Alderdice.

Quote:
Originally Posted by h_curtis View Post
Also, why does the title say, "solve"? Solve what? MOST people feel there is nothing to solve. People like smaller communities here. It brings the communities closer. Even Kennywood has days for the different little places. Get on board, it is what makes our area great.
It's a horribly inefficient way to do government. I think I've seen Chris Briem estimate that once you consider all municipalities, school districts, and special taxing regions (fire, police, etc), there are over 1,000 local governments in Allegheny County. There's no way to argue this level of atomization is good in terms of delivery of services, as any local responsiveness is outweighed by the limited scope of responsibility, and the lack of coordination.

In addition, I don't think it can be ignored that the most successful and dynamic cities in the country have had either the legal ability to annex their suburbs, massive international immigration, or both. AFAIK Portland is the only major city which has broken this mold, and this is because there is a regional government which limits sprawl. Pittsburgh can't do much to attract many more immigrants in the shorter run, but we could develop a more efficient structure for local government.
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Old 04-05-2012, 12:01 PM
 
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I actually think a PGH-Wilkinsburg merger could be win-win (and in fact individual deals along those lines have already been struck).
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Old 04-05-2012, 12:07 PM
 
Location: Pittsburgh, PA (Lawrenceville)
5,140 posts, read 2,999,713 times
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Quote:
Originally Posted by BrianTH View Post
I actually think a PGH-Wilkinsburg merger could be win-win (and in fact individual deals along those lines have already been struck).
In the short run, Pittsburgh would lose, as the tax money Wilkinsburg brought in would not in any way make up for the increased servicing costs.

In the longer run, however, the huge drop in Wilkinsburg property taxes would spur commercial development along Penn. Depending upon where they fed the schools, it could lead to further residential improvement, particularly in the portions of Park Place and Regent Square inside the Borough. It would probably take a decade to get there though.
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