Tuesday, November 15, 2005
Don't Confuse Us With the Facts
The Indiana General Assembly's Marion County Consolidation Study Commission will be meeting tomorrow in Indianapolis.
Six (6) members sent a letter to the Indianapolis Star that was published in the Sunday, November 6 issue. Those members were Billie Breaux, Ed Mahern, Monroe Gray, Joe Anderson, A. Scott Chinn, John Myrland, and Tom Hanify.
It was an extraordinary letter because of the message those six members wanted to send. The basic message was "Don't confuse us with the facts." Anti-intellectualism hasn't been this open around the legislature since the legislature tried to define the value of pi in 1897.
They were objecting to a study which will be presented to the committee tomorrow by distinguished urban affairs expert Sam Staley, PhD. Staley was the director of the research study. The other academics were Dagney Faulk, Ph.D.,
The six members of the Study Commission weren't objecting to the findings of the study. Those won't be released until tomorrow.
No, they objected to the study even being done. They declared in public that "there was no need for the study to be conducted. " They asserted there was no need to look at the experience of other communities because, as they posit, the benefits of consolidating government in Indianapolis and Marion County are self-evident from the very history of UniGov.
Some of the content of the report has been obtained by Indiana Parley. Some of the report's major conclusions are these:
- Police services do not often experience economies of scale as the level of production increases. Larger departments through consolidation of police services would not likely lead to lower costs.
- There are "mixed effects" as it relates to consolidation and general government performance. One academic summarized, “In short, some things have stayed the same, some things have improved, and some things have become more complicated. The outcomes…have been mixed.”
- "In general, it is uncommon (although not impossible) for operating costs to decrease—due primarily to the “leveling up” of salaries and benefits. As local governments with differing compensation structures are consolidated, salaries and benefits are often standardized at the higher level. "
- "The literature indicates a modest but positive correlation between consolidation and economic growth, but this correlation is less impressive when compared to economic growth in comparable areas without consolidation."
One final aside - The six authors of the Star letter indicated that all one needed to know about consolidation was in the history of UnivGov.
But they proceeded in the next paragraph of the letter after they made that assertion to demonstrate that they didn't have a very good grasp of that history. The six wrote. "Those parts of UniGov that permit countywide or consolidated citywide services, such as public works, parks and metropolitan development, are effective and generally financially solvent." [emphasis mine]
The historical fact is that the a county-wide parks system had existed long before UniGov. This might point to the value of incrementalism for those services for which there is a defined benefit of consolidation.
The author of this commentary was a Member of the Indiana House of Representatives from 1978 to 1990. He served as Chair of the House Urban Affairs Committee. He is an adjunt scholar of the Indiana Policy Review Foundation.