The idea of metropolitan government first came into being during the early twentieth century. It assumed the formal city-county consolidation, and the idea behind it was a strong need to offer regional services in addition to the existing municipal system so that the municipalities deliver local services to the neighborhoods of theirs.
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Some of the earliest groups to embrace the idea were the following organizations and institutions: the committee for economic development, the League of Human Voters as well as the US Advisory Commission on the Intergovernmental Relations.
Recently, there has been much debate surrounding the idea of creating metropolitan governments. The proponents of the metropolitan government condemn the problems of fragmented local government systems which they see as unsuccessful and incompetent when it comes to funding and distribution of services.
They regard a metropolitan government as a system that has the potential to allow the society to compete in the global economy in a superior way. This paper supports these views and argues that replacing city political structures with metro structures has many explicit benefits.
The paper commences with a literature review on the functions as well as advantages and criticisms of the metropolitan government. Next is a critical analysis and discussion of the inferences of the literature. Finally, the paper ends with conclusions and recommendations regarding the issue in question.
Metropolitan governments have become popular due to the ever increasing number of people settling in urban areas. Generally, a metropolitan government, also known as a metropolis, comprises many collective multi-centered municipalities and a total population of approximately one million people (Davies & Imbroscio, 2009).
At times, municipal cities grow in the same area and end up forming a region. Although the political powers of the metropolitan government are momentous, they lack a specific political status in the country. Thus, there lacks an ideal structure that defines governance processes in the metropolis.
According to Hein (1961), some of the roles assigned to the municipal government in Toronto are sewage disposal, water supply, main highways, area-wide transportation, housing and redevelopment, municipal parks, and general planning.
Other roles incorporate analyzing the metropolis’ proposed bond, creating the bond, and monitoring the appraisal process. The roles reserved to the metropolitan government include law implementation, fire protection, documentations, construction regulations, and most municipal health related functions.
According to Hoffman (2002), the structure and dimensions of metropolitan regions vary to a great extent. Currently, there are no definite figures showing the dimensions of the largest cities. By 1950, we only had a single city with over ten million residents.
In 1975, more cities of the same size came into being. In 2000, the number of cities with over ten million residents rose to sixteen. Yet, such mega cities only represent a small fraction of the large picture. Cities with over one million residents have flourished globally, and the figures of cities with over five million residents have grown.
Since an increased number of individuals prefer to dwell in urban areas, more diverse, fragmented, and extensive cities have come up. At the same time, the social and spatial patterns of cities have continued to change due to the transformations in our society’s economics and power control.
In a report on the local government consolidation in Tennessee, Green, Lippard, Eldridge, & Gibson (2003) underline a number of potential gains of consolidation. The first benefit is that it steers economic development. The society is able to react swiftly to the suggested economic development plans through a consolidated government.
Rather than having to go through two or three governments, potential investors have a single point of contact. Services such as issuers of business licenses and inspections are also supposed to fall under the powers of one government. As a result, the bureaucracy level may shrink significantly. In addition, joint planning in the entire urban region stimulates economic development.
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When counties in Georgia deliberated on consolidation in 1995, the members said that the amalgamation would create over ten thousand jobs after five years (Green et al 2003). Many voters in the region, later on, embraced the idea.
The second benefit of consolidating local government lies in the economies of scale. Much saving occurs when there is joint purchasing of items. Besides, efficiency in the use of resources can save a lot of taxpayers’ money. For instance, construction works in a region can share the required apparatus, workforce, and materials.
Consolidated law execution units could find themselves with the capacity to finance extra patrols. In this way, a minor city can provide advanced services, which earlier on, were not cost-effective.
The third benefit of consolidation is that there is reduced duplication of work. The municipals and counties finance similar operations several times. Some of these include construction of infrastructure, waste management services, and fire protection. Through consolidation, a single office can replace most of the above mentioned services.
The third benefit is government responsibility. Voters are in a better place to comprehend the roles of a single government rather than many local jurisdictions. When the public better understands the functions of a government, they keep a close eye on its operations, and hence enhancing accountability.
The last benefit of consolidation to be mentioned is harmony. A single government is likely to reduce many differences in such areas as planning, zoning, and occupation. Even when there are differences, it becomes easy to resolve them.
According to Hein (1961), a key benefit for structuring a city county administration within a metropolitan region is that there will be a single unit of administration in a broad region rather than having two or more organizations.
Another study by the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) (2012) reveals that there are several advantages and disadvantages of metropolitan governments. First, they enable urban regions to combine their resources effectively and build an efficient strategic plan to facilitate performance in an international economy.
Second, they have the necessary potential to decrease spatial and institutional separation, which subsequently should enhance the efficiency of the urban area en bloc. Third, they promote area-wide sector strategies that are efficient in tackling many compound issues that are typical of urban areas (such as employment, environment, and transport issues).
Forth, they enhance equitable funding across the urban region and ensure that their services are delivered in a more efficient way. Fifth, they allow cities to merge their suburbs and this can result in better social cohesion in the cities, which is crucial for economic prosperity.
Sixth, they enable a swift change from a scientific to political structure, which signifies the need for democratic revitalization. Lastly, they endorse central government units to organize their strategies in metropolitan areas alongside local partners in business, administration, and civil society among others.
On the other hand, OECD reveals several drawbacks and policy problems of the metropolitan governments idea. First, new establishments at the municipal level may contradict, destabilize, or lead to the desertion of such institutional levels as municipalities or regions. Second, it is extremely difficult to merge metropolitan level goals with local egalitarianism and region identity.
The consolidation of urban metropolises frequently faces strong opposition from local politicians and citizens. The process of consolidation is most likely to fail if such democratic processes as election of mayors and councils do not secure their political authenticity. Third, initiating new tax or cross-subsidization procedures in metropolitan regions also encounters opposition.
The local system can also experience unfunded authorization due to the state government mandatory obligation. Forth, metropolitan government incorporates fresh actors like civil society and business. It also needs a modification of governance processes as well as adjustment in the public sector outlook.
This entails administering on a project-by-project basis to attain a political agreement on particular issues in a setting which is socially fragmented. Fifth, better municipal government will need more effective multi-sectored business with the private sector posing questions of responsibility and cost efficiency and raising queries for the whole decision making process.
Lastly, alongside the development of supra-national union, like the European Union, fresh metropolitan level systems, which may grow from scientific to political structures, indicate a change in the organization of power in nations and in the functions and roles of central government. Recently, there has been a proof of municipal level and local bodies outdoing central governments and taking an international role.
Davis and Imbroscio (2009) also highlight several benefits associated with a metropolitan government. To begin with, a metropolitan government cuts down financial imbalances between suburbs and central cities by the way of finance schemes as well as metropolitan-wide taxation structures.
Second, metropolitan government offers a proper platform for better strategic planning of a region. Third, metropolitan government provides room for large scale transportation planning as well as development of better transportation policy, including building large transits.
On the other hand, Davis and Imbroscio (2009) highlight several shortcomings of metropolitan government. First, there lacks enough proof to show that great efficiencies or economies of scale usually do occur with the institution of a metropolitan government or consolidation of a city-county.
Another shortcoming to be noted is that the metropolitan government school does not offer adequate empirical evidence to prove that services provided by several local governments are more expensive, incompetent, or unresponsive to the residents.
Instead, they use many untested theories to establish the metropolitan reform agenda. Second, instituting metropolitan governments poses threats to political benefits of the marginalized groups, particularly Blacks in Indianapolis, Nashville, and in the United States as a whole, as they experience a considerable decline in the political power.
Third, metropolitan governments normally concentrate on developing suburbanizing areas which often lack enough systems, apart from performing system maintenance tasks, such as sewerage treatment, water supply and transportation, and absolutely ignore the urban sector.
Fourth, metropolitan governments, up to now, have not succeeded in addressing the unequal distribution of resources in the urban areas, which was a major rationale for instituting the metropolitan government.
For instance, the seven county Minneapolis’ St. Paul metropolitan council introduced revenue sharing on new development, but only a very small portion of the new taxes reaches most local areas, compared to the amount in the local budgets.
Besides, the trial of the metropolitan council on fair share housing has not reduced ratio segregation in the twin cities region and does not show any significant difference from the similar regions that lack a metropolitan government.
A different study by Vogel (1997) yields almost similar conclusions about the benefits and shortcomings associated with implementing the metropolitan governments. First, metropolitan governments lessen fiscal inequalities through main cities and suburbs by ways of tax sharing structures. Second, they offer a platform to undertake strategic planning for the area.
Third, metropolitan governments have proved to be successful in developing large-scale transportation plans. Through focusing on developing roads, metro governments adopt a more competent transportation and a balanced transportation policy, which includes building mass transit.
Conversely, Vogel (1997) highlights several criticisms for a metropolitan government. First, there is no adequate evidence to show that greater efficiencies or economies of scale arise following city county consolidation. Second, marginalized groups lose power with the developments of metropolitan governments.
The power of the minorities faces elimination or weakening in the city as the suburbanites end up dominating the new metropolitan government. Third, metropolitan governments have proved to have a mixed record of performance, putting more weight into infrastructure development in the suburbanizing regions and paying less attention to the urban renewal and social necessities of the core city.
Forth, failure to reshape boundaries to mirror population development outside the metros territory weakens the present metropolitan governments. Besides, metropolitan governments have disintegrated and weakened after they challenged the policies of the central government and put local suburban interests at risk, through such policies as fair share housing.
From the literature review, it is apparent that more diverse and extensive cities have come up due to an increase in the number of individuals who prefer to settle in urban areas. The cities which grow in the same area end up forming a region. The idea of a metropolitan government springs from the strong need to provide regional services that are efficient and effective.
As Hein (1997) demonstrates using the case in Toronto, municipalities and the metro government can work hand in hand for effective delivery of services. Here, the metropolitan government takes the appropriate actions concerning major capital costs and area-wide issues, while municipalities assume what we can term as local actions.
The proponents of metropolitan government highlight several benefits of these political structures. The following is a summary of these benefits.
Metropolitan governments are apt to decrease spatial and institutional separation, which enhances the efficiency of the urban area en bloc.
Equitable Distribution of Resources
Metropolitan governments enhance equitable funding across the urban region and ensure that their services are more efficient.
Economic Development/ Economies of Scale
The society is able to react swiftly to suggested economic development plans through a consolidated government. Rather than having to deal with multiple governments, potential investors have the only point of contact. In addition, joint planning in the entire urban region stimulates economic development.
It can be therefore concluded that metropolitan governments enable urban regions to combine their resources and offer a platform for better strategic planning of a region.
Reduced Duplication of Work
The municipals and counties finance similar operations several times for instance, construction of infrastructure, waste management services, and fire protection. Through consolidation, a single office can replace most of these services.
Voters are in a better place to comprehend the roles of a single government rather than many local jurisdictions.
Despite these benefits, metropolitan government faces lots of criticism. The following is a discussion of these criticisms.
Conflict with Local Municipalities
Opponents argue that new establishments at the metropolitan level may contradict, destabilize, or lead to vanishing of institutional levels, like municipalities or regions. They also claim that it is difficult to merge metropolitan level goals with local municipality ones.
No Proof for Competency
Opponents argue that there lacks enough proof to show that metropolitan governments offer more effective services than local municipalities.
From this study, we conclude that metropolitan governments have many benefits such as ensuring government responsibility; reducing duplication of work; creating harmony; steering economic development; and enabling equitable resource distribution.
While there are also shortcomings of these forms of governments, as highlighted by the critics, the benefits much outweigh them. While there is no proof to show their efficiency, there is also no proof to show that they have failed. It can therefore be concluded that replacing city political structures with metro structures has several gains.
It can be recommended that future studies focus on such topics as the extent of the conflict between local municipalities and metropolitan government as well as the extent to which metropolitan governments cause loss of power among the minority.
Davies, J. S., & Imbroscio, D. L. (2009). Theories of urban politics. Los Angeles: Sage.
Green, H., Lippard, C., Eldridge, L. & Gibson, T. (2003). Forming a metropolitan government: The hows and whys of local government consolidation in Tennessee. Nashville: The Tennessee Advisory Commission on Intergovernmental Relations Staff Information Report.
Hein, C. (1961). The stake of rural people in metropolitan government. Newyork: Economic Research Service, U.S. Dept. of Agriculture.
Hoffman, M. C. (1988). Administrative intensity of government in metropolitan areas. Newyork: Cleveland State University.
Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development. (2012). OECD urban policy reviews. Paris: OECD.
Vogel, R. K. (1997). Handbook of research on urban politics and policy in the United States. Westport, Conn: Greenwood Press.