Last in a series
The mayor of Charlotte, N.C., told the Spokane Area Chamber of Commerce the other day that he hopes Spokane area voters won’t unify their city and county governments, as his community intends to do. “I hope you’ll stay fragmented and disjointed because you’ll be a less effective competitor,” said Richard Vinroot with a friendly grin.
Competitor? Here in Spokane, we know a lot about competition. City government fights with county government. Politicians fan flames of suspicion between the suburbs and the core. Never mind the common ground that underlies these divisions.
But as Vinroot knows, if internal bickering consumes our energy, we’ll keep losing the more important race. It’s a race with other cities: Charlotte, Indianapolis, Nashville. … They land the desirable new employers.
Infighting also makes local government a joke, rather than a podium for constructive solutions. Citizens with leadership skills - they’re out there - want no part of a backbiting contest.
The way to stop pitting neighbors against neighbors is to redraw the political lines so we’re all inside them and we’re all heard - including the suburbs and rural areas who’ve been denied specific representation but would have it under unification.
Unification places government officials on the same side, as well. And it opens the door to eliminating redundant positions.
It just makes sense. In the Nov. 7 election, voters can make it happen.
Will unification end conflict? No, but it will redirect local energy. Together, elected representatives of the county’s different neighborhoods can hammer out solutions to common concerns - traffic flow, public safety, parks, libraries, economic development.
Other cities say unification draws innovative leaders into government - leaders willing to try money-saving options like privatization of services. Unification, they say, erases the mutually destructive contest between suburbs and downtowns; when growth makes sense in the suburbs it goes there and when it makes sense in the core it goes there. Everybody shares in the tax base, wherever it grows. Annexation fears vanish along with the grabby government that wants it. If suburbs want a land-use designation to protect suburban lifestyle, their representatives can team up and get it.
Finally, in the competition for economic growth, the entire community plays on the same team. This attracts new employers like a magnet.
Vinroot calls unification “a good business idea for a very business minded community.” Exactly.
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