Monday, March 06, 2006

Millcreek-Erie

Been meaning to get to a post on the whole Erie-Millcreek merger thing, and now appears to be the time. My post follows Pat Howard's excellent editorial in the Sunday paper (why is it I can link directly to Pat's columns and nothing else on goerie.com? Don't know.) As usual Pat does a nice job summarizing several recent events/stories. I like it when he accuses Barry Grossman of being petulant and "taking his ball and going home." I've heard from many people what a powerful and dynamic person Barry is, and I really thought he presented very well during this past year's mayoral debates, but I agree that he seems to be acting like a baby here, and I think Pat is maybe even a little too easy on him. Anyways, I'd be more than happy to take his spot on this Greater Erie Unity Committee thing. Does anyone know how I can do this? I tried to a do a search for their Web site and the closest thing I came upon was another blog post that said - "clueless and have no Web site." Of course, if this means I'd have to work with Dr. Garvey, another guy people can't say enough great things about - well, except for a few people, I don't know if I'd want to do it. Not that I don't respect, well, maybe I don't. I really don't know what to make of this guy...

Anyhow, the biggest shortfall with this whole Erie-Millcreek thing seems to be convincing Millcreek people to go along with it. Now, I am friends with two well-informed, educated, and civic-minded Millcreek residents, who are both in favor of a merger - as I think almost everybody from Erie is. But, still I would like to see some solid, tangible evidence that could be used to convince the rank-and-file - Joe NASCAR six-pack Millcreek resident that this is a good thing for the community.

Howard makes some nice surface arguments - stuff about Millcreek being built on the back of the city infrastructure and it, itself needing similar help in the future - but I don't think the numbers are there and that these arguments are solid enough to convince Republican Millcreek residents with the "what's in it for me" attitude. I'm sure there is stuff in it for them, I just can't put my finger on it.

So, since we've aready determined the city is in favor of this, let's get some city residents to put together a grass roots efforts to pitch this to the rest of the county-including Millcreek. We need to determine exactly what kind of leverage the city has here. If Millcreek and friends want to play hardball, the city needs to get tough as well and start threatening these townships if they don't play ball. I'm not talking about organizing our paid police and firemen into a militia, but something more realistic - I'm not sure what, would do.

I guess I'm saying, if this is such a good idea, let's prove it the best we can, even without some outside study. We've got enough smart people around here where we can figure at least something out on its own. And if Millcreek doesn't want to participate, they lose their voice in the grass roots effort and let things fall as they may.

Alright, that's enough of a rant. If anyone wants to get busy on this, let me know.

Cheers.

Ralph

9 comments:

Jennifer said...

thought this could help.

When trying to link to a story on goerie.com you have to right click on the text of the actual article, and then the url you want for the story will appear in properties... then just paste that over in your link.

Stan Langerhaus said...

I share Ralph's desire for more concrete information on this topic. So far, the only thing that resonates in my mind about this merger or unification or shared government or whatever the plan is, is that the news reporting sources characterize the effort as the rich (Millcreek) spurning the poor (Erie). And it seems, to me at least, that Erie news reporting is content to leave the issue as just that sophisicated. But I have to beleive that there is some rationale for this merger, but like I said, it has not been made clear to me. I was looking for some background info on the most famous regional government merger, the City of Louisville and its surrounding county, and found this somewhat dated Pgh Post Gazette article. To be sure, there is more info out there both pro and con on regionalism. http://www.post-gazette.com/pg/04275/388541.stm

I read Howard's article on Sunday, and I do not quite understand the correlation that since Millcreek somehow owes a debt of gratitude to Erie for building the infrastructure which somehow enabled Millcreek's success. It may be a valid point, but he provided no background facts of the infrastructure build-out and how it assisted Millcreek to the extent that Millcreek somehow is indebted to the City. Again, without understanding the quid pro quo here, I would tend to agree with the Millcreek residents who are hesitant to adopt and rehabilitate Erie's debts and seemingly mismanaged departments.

To that end, I think that Erie's better course would be to accept the reality of the situation and undergo Act 47 stewardship. For one, it seems inevitable that it will happen. But once it does, the City will be able to get rid of most money losing employment and other contracts as well as other generally well-loved but fiscally irresponsible civic programs. True, the cuts will be painful to the City residents, but the City leaders will be able to blame the cost-cutting actions on the Act 47 trustees (no doubt, a group of heartless, out of town, reorganization specialists). Hopefully, when all of the Act 47 work is finished, the City will be in much better condition to attract businesses and people back to Erie. It seems to be working somewhat well for Pittsburgh right now.

So to sum up, my thought for the day is that Erie should not be looking for someone to partner up with, unless there is some study out there that identifies some tangible benefit to some interested party, and that the City leaders should be more attentive to what options Act 47 will provide the City.

H. Tilly said...

Pittsburgh seems to be doing ok under Act 47. I recall a couple weeks ago an article in the Post-Gazette where the City is actually going to be able to spend MORE on police and fire. They are a long way from clear but Act 47 may just be the best thing for Pittsburgh.

I think they (Pittsburgh) are also planning on hiring SEVERAL DOZEN new Police and Firefighters because of the improved finances. Still the usual problems, rampant overtime and labor costs, but the oversight board thinks by hiring more officers they will be able to get overtime under control.

Act 47 will be the best thing for the city of erie in the long run. No more grandstanding politicians (Hear that, Mr. Thompson?) trying to see who has the biggest pair of, well.....you know!? No one on council has the guts to stand up to the unions. Let's get some heartless out-of-towners in here. Give it 5 years and Erie will be MUCH better off than it is now. Thanks!

Anonymous said...

Ralph:

When I lived in Pittsburgh, the City came up with a plan to require everyone who visited a City-run operation (Bird Sanctuary, Zoo, Science Center) to show Driver's License ID. If they were a City resident, they would get the City Rate (sometimes free; sometimes pay). If they lived outside the City, they would pay the Suburban Fare (determined by a schedule of some kind; more for suburbians).

This would be one of the basic ideas that Erie could come up with, as it would make non-city-residents pay more. However, Erie could also risk losing the support of Millcreek residents by putting up obstacles like this, so it is a two-sided sword.

Right now, Ralph, I'd have to agree with you...there are few hard facts that would make Millcreek Residents submit to a merger with Erie. As it is today, I can live in Millcreek, work in North East, and visit Presque Isle on the weekends. I almost never have to go into the city. This is not intentional; it is simply the truth of my situation.

This brings me to the larger issue...it's not just Erie and Millcreek. Shouldn't a merger also involve Lawrence Park, Harborcreek, Wesleyville, and possibly Fairview? Unless I'm mistaken, Fairview, of all the local provinces, has experienced the most suburbian flight over the past ten years. I spend a lot of time there and it has changed dramatically since 1996. Old Fairview is being replaced by new development.

So, what's the point of merging Erie and Millcreek alone? If we're going to talk seriously about removing redundancies in service and the like, these changes should point to a restructuring at the county level, which brings us, once again, to Mr. DiVecchio.

And even if you leave out Fairview and Harborcreek, Lawrence Park and Wesleyville should certainly be part of the merger. That would put GE into the city limits, which would be a smart thing for the health of Erie, PA.

Just my two cents...

DocDEEEEE

Stan Langerhaus said...

You bring up an excellent point, Doctor. I also cannot understand why it must be Millcreek and not other neighboring municipalities. It seems to me that Erie could just as easily start with another town such as Wesleyville or Harborcreek. Why must it be Millcreek. The impression that I get is that Erie wants to team up with Millcreek because that is where the potential money is. I could be wrong, but that is the impression. And if that is in fact Erie's intention, then it is a no brainer for Millcreek to say no thanks to the offer.

Ralph said...

Thank you all very much for the wonderful commentary. Couple of follow-up notes:
1. In 2004, Mayor Filippi had the mayor of Louisville in and started to do some work on a county-wide merger. It looked a like a pretty impressive thing, but unfortunately, like a lot of Mayor Rick's initiatives, doesn't seem to have amounted to much. (Note to Jenon-Alavenderlily: thanks for the tip. Just tried it out, of course I haven't figured out how to link from comments, so) If you're looking for these articles, go to www.goerie.com and enter search keywords: Filippi Louisville.
2. I'm not sure I'm a big fan of Act 47. F$%& the out-of-towners -excuse my provincialism. We have the talent within Erie to manage this on our own. We also have the courage and know-how. Granted Mark DiVecchio is not the man to unite the county. That would be like George Bush trying to unite Iraq. Not gonna' happen. But, I'm pretty impressed with Mayor Joe (even if he does live across the street from me) and his crew. Yes, I agree we need to focus on the whole county, but I really think by taking its own initiative the and selling the merger to the surrounding townships, Erie will set itself up as the leader. And it clearly needs to be a leader for this to work.
Does that make sense? (Of course, all this assumes we can find something to sell.)

Stan Langerhaus said...

I hope you are right Ralph. But the only time that I have ever seen Erie politicians unite was in their alliance to defeat everything that the former mayor tried to get off the ground. Given that backdrop, I do not see any reason to expect Erie government to pull itself up by its own bootstraps. Which is why Act 47 may be a relief to the Erie politicians.

Notwithstanding one of the previous posts, my understanding of some of Pittsburgh's basic problems prior to Act 47 was that the city gov was way overstaffed. I believe that the firefighters union was second only to NYC in size. (I could be wrong about that exact comparison, but a former Pgh Councilman told me that, so I'll take his word for it). Anyway, every Pgh politico knew that its fireman union budget was way too much, but to try to cut it was suicide. So it was never touched, until the "out-of-towners" came in and fixed it. So, the moral to the story here is that Act 47 will give the locals the cover they need in order to fix the things that everybody are broken but are otherwise untouchable.

Maybe I am wrong, but I will bet you a bottle of scotch that Erie isi in Act 47 by the end of this year (if not the summer). And I think that it will ultimately be a good thing for Erie.

Anonymous said...

Ralph, whether the Erie Millcreek merger is a good idea or not, Dr. William Garvey has no business being involved in civic positions that deal with such important issues.

Take a look at the following resources. Matt

http://predafile.blogspot.com/

http://community.livejournal.com/_gryphon/2162.html

Ralph said...

Matt: Thanks for the links. I'm glad to see there is some support to this anti-Garvey thing. I have only met the man once, but people speak so highly of him, you wouldn't believe he could be capable of such evil acts. And it's baffling that he hasn't been disgraced by them. His resiliency is remarkable. I guess it just goes to show (and I don't mean to trivialize of this) what a complex thing life can be.