Sunday, November 04, 2007

Erie Regional Gov. - When is an expense an asset?

Pat Howard ran an interesting column today, in which he makes a lot of points that have come up both on our blog and in "real-world" discussions over the past couple months. He addresses this whole city vs. county mentality, which is a bad thing for progress. One of the main points he makes is one DrD has been making for at least a year - the City is part of the County!

Interestingly, Mayor Joe Sinnott, who I think is often seen at odds with Howard, published a newsletter last week that really asks for a lot of the same things that Howard is asking for. Contrary to the way I've seen him portrayed in the paper, Sinnott really comes out as a proponent for regional government.

This is great, as it appears more leaders seem to be getting on the same boat, to steal Howard's analogy. The major discrepency between Howard's and Sinnott's views seems to have to do with the value of the some of the city assets, such as the zoo and EMTA - and even the airport to some extent. Sinnott seems reluctant to give up City-control of these "assets" even though, in Howard's view, they don't make money - in fact, they cost money, and there is no way the city could sell them. (Well, maybe it could sell the airport, so that might be an exception. And, maybe the airport could make money too, if it wasn't run by the government, ala the State Liquor stores.) Sinnott basically seems to be asking for County funding for these City assets, as a gesture by the County toward regionalization. He's got a point, because so far, it seems the City seems to be doing all the pushing toward regionalizaiton, while County people want to distance themselves from the city's balance sheet as much as possible.

Anyways, it;'s good to see that this white elephant of regionalization is now being discussed at least in more than a pipe dream form. Here's to hoping we can continue to move forward with this agenda. It's the 21st Century now. The Age of Globalization. Having turf rivalries and squabbles among 25 entities (some of which are overlapping) in a space of 800 square miles in northwestern PA is no way to go about encouraging progress.




DrD said...

I wasn't sure where you were leaning on this issue, Ralph, but then you wrote:

"Having turf rivalries and squabbles among 25 entities (some of which are overlapping) in a space of 800 square miles in northwestern PA is no way to go about encouraging progress."

As you know, I agree. I come at this issue from two angles. The first should be obvious: As you wrote, the City is part of the County, and Erie County would not be an attractive place to live if it weren't for Erie City (unless you are a farmer). But if you want a Zoo, a baseball team, a hockey team, live music, restaurants, night clubs, etc., you definitely need the City.

The second: I've watched this drama unfold before, when I lived in Pittsburgh. Pittsburgh has historically been made up of many provinces---even more so than Erie because of the topography. So, when those provinces began to struggle as a result of diminishing population, they began to look for ways to share services.

As a result, various little towns began to combine police services, garbage serves, fire services, ambulance services, etc.

It eventually reached the point where it bubbled up to the City and County levels and a master plan became necessary forthe entire County.

One of the things they did was to enact a RAD (Regional Assets District) which created a fund for support of local organizations. Although people complained about this tax, in retrospect, it was a good idea because it's beter to pay a little more than to watch your standard of living erode.

The distribution of the money from the RAD tax was assigned to a third party (not a politician) and the annual distributions are published each year for everyone to see.

Erie might have to establish such a tax, OR they could use the money from the Casino in the same way.

In any event, the days of tiny, self-sufficient provinces are over. The people of Erie County must develop a regional attitude in order to tackle these issues.

The City and the County must establish protocols and identify particular responsibilities so that one part of the County isn't falling apart while another part prospers.


Ralph said...


Check out Mayor Joe's newsletter that I linked to. He's basically on the same page as you I think and cites the Allegheny County RAD tax as an efffective strategy.

See, I told you, you could have done that stuff. Bus' blood runs through you...

DrD said...

Both links are identical. I think there's a glitch.

Can you repost?



Ralph said...

Sorry about that. I think I fixed the link. Check it out if you get a chance.

DrD said...

I checked it out....yup, it looks like Big Joe and I are working from the same script.