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Wednesday, August 27, 2003

Response to Mack

Mack - You make some fine points, and I agree with your central idea that the best road for improvement is not the centralized authority of Metro government. And I somewhat agree with your premise that “we should look into breaking up the cities into smaller, more manageable, and more responsive units of government.” (I believe it would be great for the goals you articulated. I question if it would have a negative impact on “community spirit,” “unity,” etc. However, I do realize that community spirit may improve overall morale if the competition leads to positive change throughout the city and ‘all boats rise’.) I’m going to spew forth a couple of thoughts.

Anyway, while I agree with your idea, I don’t think any city will realistically allow itself to be split up. I won’t abandon the idea, though, since we have seen changes to representation before. The Buffalo Common Council eliminated At-Large seats last year. The Erie County Legislature decided to go from 20 to 17 legislators several years back. While these are minor examples of governments changing themselves, I don’t think a city would break itself up willingly. So while I wholeheartedly support your idea, I don’t think it can realistically be accomplished.

Therefore, in my mind, the question becomes, “how can we accomplish some of these competitive goals you outlined while working within the centralized authority?

Let’s take education. If the Voucher system ever became mainstream, this would be one avenue of putting pressure on public schools to clean up their act. Or, if parents could choose the public school to send their children, that would be another. There could be some type of entrance exam for your kid to get into the school you want to send him (City Honors does it), and that would ultimately lead each city school to be considered a “good” school or a “bad” one. All schools would be pressured to be a “good” school.

Additionally, Bush pledged in his campaign to hold teachers and schools accountable. Anything come of that?

Another goal is to get local issues to start playing a more central role in political debates. My thought: Is there any problem with getting localized referendums? How about letting one part of the city (Delaware District) vote on whether they want to increase the number of parking meters in its district, instead of leaving it up to the Common Council?

Nothing will beat breaking up a city into manageable sectors which would foster positive competiton. But what about the “Law of Unintended Consequences?” which always rears its ugly head? And is there any way to accomplish the goals under the current framework?

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