A concept worth exploring
Sept. 2, 2001
Diverse voices have been raised again in recent weeks over the idea that city and county governmental services could be effectively combined into some sort of unified system. We hesitate to use the words "metro government" or "consolidated government" because both carry meanings that can be mistaken and abused.
But if the driving motivation of these voices is to produce 1) more effective government that costs less and 2) better services to taxpayers, then count us among the advocates.
We believe it is possible that reasonable people can agree on a reasonable approach to combine the three governments that current exist within the borders of Lauderdale County. Reasonable people in this community can act to eliminate the overlap, competition and power struggles among the cities of Meridian and Marion and the county of Lauderdale.
Reasonable people, working together for the future of the community, can devise an outstanding new model of efficiency, perhaps even becoming the envy of the state and something to be replicated elsewhere. Tough, but doable.
Let's examine a few facts. A county in which some 78,000 people live has three official governmental jurisdictions levying taxes and producing three separate budgets. They pay the salaries of 35 elected officials who run in elections conducted by separate commissions. They run three separate law enforcement agencies. They work from separate facilities. They run separate school districts.
You get the idea.
It is likely that even the advocates of this sort of move will have their own ideas on how it should proceed. Certainly there will be legal, organizational and many other issues to resolve. Legislative action would be necessary, too.
Any moves toward unifying government are certain to create controversy. And yet, isn't that the best way to approach such a monumental undertaking as this talking through ideas, answering the issues and deciding what to do as an entire community?
At a time when governments are struggling to provide essential services with available funds and citizens clamor for better services without additional taxes, we would be well served to at least begin to heat up the debate.