Sunday, January 02, 2005

Merger mania sweeps Midwest - part two - quotes and replies

As expected, the coverage from the PG is long on hype and absent on what I wanted to accent.

Not a merger mania (hype) word about Illinois and its Park District model. That's what I want to see covered by the PG or Trib or Pittsburgh Business Times.

What of the industrialized corporate farms that have nearly eliminated the family=owned farmstead? We just get to hear how Omaha is booming -- but not why. The outward migration from the country is a serious trend that has devistated small towns to nothingness. By the way, the exodus from the country makes the population decline in Pittsburgh much worse than reported upon.

The farm mergers have been a way of life for some decades, so much for the wide-open and fertile.

Merger mania sweeps Midwest: "In the old industrial Northeast, with its tightly packed neighborhoods and shuttered mills, city-county mergers have been mostly just talk.

In the wide-open, fertile Midwest, however, the movement toward metropolitan government has been as fast and furious as a hay baler in dry weather.

The merger action has been particularly hot in the Kansas-Nebraska-Iowa triangle, among a set of cities that are all within a 200-mile radius of each other.

Yes, the voters in Des Moines and surrounding Polk County, Iowa, rejected a merger last month for the second time in 10 years. Details like this shouldn't take away hype from the story.

My school of thought differs from that of the PG and some of the others in Pittsburgh on these two important matters. The quoted expert there says the key is a consortium of community leaders as an essential action to boost a region's economy. Note the economy element. If you feel it is okay for the local or regional government to make the economy prosper, then you go about on these wild goose hunts. Some say it is all about the economy stupid. But, the government is NOT what I want to see as a driver to our region's prosperity and economy. Governement's role isn't to FIX the economy. That's where and why we've had a lot of failures. Our purpose and priorities are goofy. So, we look for keys that are just as goofy.

Downtown retail stinks. So, Mayor Murphy and the URA want to make a new downtown shopping mall. Make others give up their properties -- by starving the area of police and street sweepers. Then take what isn't sold with eminent domain if necessary. Then build a few shopping sites with tax abatements and grants. Government solutions to the rescue for a market place flutter. Then we have mounting failures on past failures. The poison in the system gets toxic. Then a TIF is needed to build in Shadyside for Giant Eagle (Lunar Square).

The other huge headache on my part that makes me different, "The successful consolidations are guided by civic elites." Gulp. The elites are the key -- for some. Not me.

All the king's horses and all the king's men can't fix Pittsburgh again. The effort here must go far beyond the lifting that is capable from the well-heeled ladies and gentlemen with 401Ks and prior corporate-welfare deals. The overlords and Elsie Hillman types are in over their heads here. They've driven the city into a deep ruts.

The professors concluded that civic leaders must clearly convey the same message that former President Bill Clinton did in his first campaign for the president: "It's the economy, stupid."

There is that quote. I'm ranting on the first read. How about that. But, that's wrongheaded. The government is NOT the best suited to fix the economy. It is stupid to do Lazarus deals. It is stupid to do Lord & Taylor deals. It is stupid to expect prosperity because we merge the city and county. The city is so broke it is stupid for the county to want these headaches. The County is busy putting out its own fires and it would be crushed if it had to absorb the debt of the city and the city's woes.

Civic leaders decided it had to stop. They looked for the cause. "They saw bickering between the city and county over planning and zoning and economic policy," said Thurmaier, who was hired, along with Leland, as a consultant there. "They decided if there were one government, there would be one economic development policy and plan," he said.

This makes for another scary theme.... merge to stop the bickering. Gosh. The elites don't like bickering. Here is an idea along the same lines. Only have one child, and then you'll never have siblings bicker. Let's make a law like they have in China. Just keep the first born and abort the other kids. Then we can all get along like never before. Duhh.

The loss of dissent isn't what we need. That is what got us into the mess at the outset. We need not only other opinions and ideas to shine and be considered -- democracy is messy. But, we need choices among our locations. Edgewood can flourish for decades while Wilkinsburg can rot as the later was full of corruption.

Give us one government and we're setting sail in one ark and choosing to go without any lifeboats. I want diversity. I don't want to force conformity.

These are great benchmark's of community and civic progress: Today, Kansas City community leaders point to several tangible examples of the unified government's success in economic development: construction of a $250 million NASCAR track, a 400-acre commercial development across the street, an indoor water park and a new minor-league baseball stadium.

Perhaps the problem in Des Moines should really be called a VICTORY for the citizens and a problem for the elites.

Merger supporters had hired a consultant -- redflag -- ELITE expert who knows best -- way better than the citizens in their own communities.

Seems like these voters in Des Moines were smart as the voters asked themselves if they wanted to lose their sovereignty for $2.5 million in efficiencies. Sixty-five percent said no in November. A vote in 1994 went the same way. How much is sovereignty worth? Ever hear of "Give me liberty or give me death?"

Many have paid and are still paying for their liberty with their lives. I don't want to forget nor minimize those advances. Those men and women don't lay down their lives because of unity in the economic development office nor new NASCAR tracks. The saga of failing to focus on economic development until too late is really a failure to focus on economic development at all.

This is a framing issue. Why frame a loss of sovereignty on econimic development at all? Because the elites have nothing else to stand upon.

Des Moines, saga had another problem. The proposal failed to win support from key civic leaders, including the Polk County sheriff, a former city councilman and a former state attorney general.

That list is very lame as to a lack of key civic leaders: sheriff, one former councilman and one former state attorney general. Perhaps, more than 60% of the people account for more than those three scapegoats.

There is a breath given to parks in the article. How about a feature article on significant annexation powers.

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