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City--County Consolidation

Promises Made, Promises Kept?

Suzanne M. Leland and Kurt Thurmaier, Editors

Publication Year: 2010

Although a frequently discussed reform, campaigns to merge a major municipality and county to form a unified government fail to win voter approval eighty per cent of the time. One cause for the low success rate may be that little systematic analysis of consolidated governments has been done.

In City--County Consolidation, Suzanne Leland and Kurt Thurmaier compare nine city--county consolidations -- incorporating data from 10 years before and after each consolidation -- to similar cities and counties that did not consolidate. Their groundbreaking study offers valuable insight into whether consolidation meets those promises made to voters to increase the efficiency and effectiveness of these governments.

The book will appeal to those with an interest in urban affairs, economic development, local government management, general public administration, and scholars of policy, political science, sociology, and geography.

Published by: Georgetown University Press

Series: American Governance and Public Policy series


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pp. vii-viii

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pp. ix-x

In our previous book, Reshaping the Local Government Landscape: Case Studies of City–County Consolidation, we organized a team of scholars to evaluate a set of city–county consolidation efforts to determine what factors accounted for the success of some cases and the failure of others. Using a rigorous comparative case study research design, we analyzed a sample in which about...

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pp. xi

We now realize that there is a very good reason why a research projectof this nature and scope has not been done before—even though there has been strong demand and enduring interest. It is really hard work. On behalf of the entire research team, we hope you, the reader, will enjoy the fruits of our collective labors. We first and foremost owe a great debt of gratitude to our research team....

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1 A Research Design for Evaluating Consolidation Performance

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pp. 1-23

Efficiency and effectiveness are at the forefront of discussions about local government management across the United States. Local government’s role inproviding who gets what from government has increased greatly in the devolution era as we begin a new century. Governments face cutbacks in state and federal assistance on the one hand, and taxpayer revolts on the other. Public...

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2 An Assessment of the City-County Consolidation of Nashville and Davidson County, Tennessee

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pp. 25-55

City–county consolidation is a rare event. But it does happen. In fact, some of the largest and best-known metropolises in the country are governed by consolidated governments, including Boston, Denver, Honolulu, Philadelphia, and San Francisco. This chapter examines the case of Nashville/Davidson County, Tennessee (map 2), a large locality that has been governed by ...

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3 Does Consolidation Make a Difference? A Comparative Analysis of Richmond and Virginia Beach, Virginia.

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pp. 57-81

Although boundary lines become more and more blurred as a result of urbanization, communities across the United States continue to experimentwith the structure of local government. As Vincent Marando stated (1979, 409), “There are serious questions being raised in the recent literature as to whether city–county consolidation is, still, or ever was, a viable reorganization ...

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4 What Difference Does City-County Consolidation Make? A Historical Analysis of Jacksonville and Tampa, Florida

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pp. 83-103

Reflecting on the last three decades of local government reform literature,it is clear that there is more than one path to regional governance (Feiock 2004). As suburban sprawl has spilled into the areas surrounding our major cities since World War II, there has been an urgent call from many reformers for metropolitan-wide or regionwide governmental structures and governance to deal with the growing metropolitan-wide problems (Peirce 1993). Historically, ...

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5 City–County Consolidation: A Case Study of Carson City, Nevada

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pp. 105-133

City–county consolidation—that is, the structural consolidation of city and county governments into one government—has been characterized as “a reform idea that does not die” (Leland and Johnson 2004, 27). This characterization seems to reflect two factors. First, reformers continue to pursue...

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6 “The Urge to Merge”: The Consolidation of Lexington and Fayette County, Kentucky

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pp. 135-160

If there is such a thing as a perfect storm when it comes to city–county consolidation, then the Lexington/Fayette County, Kentucky, case is just that (map 6). This chapter looks at the atmosphere in Lexington at the time of the merger proposal and examines some of the driving issues behind the proposal’s success. The conditions in Lexington/Fayette County are then...

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7 From Company Town to Consolidated Government: The Western-Style Consolidation of Butte and Silver Bow County

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pp. 161-177

Montana has a reputation as part of the rough-and-tumble Wild West. Its city of Butte certainly fits in this category. After being established by copperand silver miners in the early 1870s, Butte grew overnight into a bustling tent city as word of the miners’ discoveries got out. Its booming downtown...

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8 The Case of Lynchburg and Moore County, Tennessee, Consolidation

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pp. 179-213

Visitors to Lynchburg, Tennessee, will find the place to be “so off the beaten path, it’s either your destination or you are lost” (Lynchburg/Moore County Chamber of Commerce website, www.lynchburgtenn.com). Home to the famous Jack Daniel’s Distillery and located south of Nashville near the Alabama border, Lynchburg lies in the former Moore County, a diminutive jurisdiction wedged among four larger counties (map 8). Historically, size was...

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9 Unification Promises and Outcomes: The Case of Athens and Clarke County, Georgia

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pp. 215-244

On August 7, 1990, the citizens of the city of Athens and Clarke County, Georgia, voted to merge their city and county governments to create a new“unified” government (map 9). This vote was the final act in a prolonged effort to consolidate the two governments. It followed voter rejection of consolidation proposals in 1969, 1972, and 1982. The 1990 referendum differed from the earlier ones not only in its...

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10 Improving the Efficiency and Effectiveness of Service Delivery in Local Government: The Case of Wyandotte County and Kansas City, Kansas

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pp. 245-270

City–county consolidation is frequently discussed as a solution to the economic problems that plague American cities and counties. According to a Wall Street Journal article, with reductions in federal and state grants and rising health care and pension costs, more cities are considering mergers in order to slash expenses and attract revenue-generating economic development (Maher 2005). Cities that are facing financial problems are ...

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11 Promises Made, Promises Kept

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pp. 271-310

City–county consolidations have a long history in the United States, and the representative cases reviewed in this volume span more than forty years of this history. Our objective in this chapter is to scan these representative cases for patterns of effects that lead to the conclusions that consolidations have lived up to the promises made by their proponents in the referenda...


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pp. 311-313


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pp. 315-322

E-ISBN-13: 9781589016224
E-ISBN-10: 158901622X
Print-ISBN-13: 9781589016286
Print-ISBN-10: 1589016289

Page Count: 336
Publication Year: 2010

Series Title: American Governance and Public Policy series