I was listening to some talk on morning radio the other day about the movement toward consolidating Memphis and Shelby County. Specifically, the discussion was about the steps the Metropolitan Government Charter Commission will take before a consolidation issue is put on the ballot this fall. I know that Memphis mayor AC Wharton is a proponent of consolidation, noting the savings taxpayers would enjoy without the double spending on city and county services.
Is that the case? I when I left Memphis in 1998, it was to move to Nashville, which is part of a consolidated government, with Davidson County. One mayor, one cop shop, one sanitation service, etc. From that standpoint, yes, it seemed cheaper to pay for one service rather than two. That doesn’t take the costs of the actual consolidation into consideration. So – are we hearing everything we to need to hear about the up-front costs of combining all the separate services and systems that would have to become one? Interesting piece in the Sunday paper. It notes that cost savings are not the usual results of merged governments. The piece notes “while some governments have realized modest savings, most see costs stay flat or even go up after a merger, according to Marc Holzer, dean of Rutgers University’s School of Public Affairs and Administration.”
There is the argument of having one voice to represent the entire area when it comes to business recruiting, lobbying officials in the state and national capitals. Hey – what’s wrong with everybody making their own best case? If Memphis can use it’s position as a transportation hub, along with its surplus of low-cost warehouse space, there you go. If another of the towns in the metro can demonstrate better quality of life, improved educational quality, lack of crime, then good for them. Maybe Memphis should spend its time and effort on improving the things that need improving, rather than try to be the voice for everyone in the area.