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Vanderburgh County Consolidation – The Debate Continues

Consolidation vs. Ohm’s Law – Resistance to Change

By Jay Zimmer

Evansville has had a Mayor/Council form of government for as long as most of us can remember. Likewise, Vanderburgh County’s three-member commission, serving in the executive capacity, and its fiscal council is a decades-old form of government.

Proponents of a governmental merger suggest a 15-seat council led by a mayor, with similar mergers under consideration for city and county police units.

Such governmental consolidation is not without precedent. Louisville and Nashville and their surrounding counties merged many, if not all, of their common governmental services long ago. In Indiana, UniGov, a joining of entities in Marion County and Indianapolis, was put into play by then-mayor (and now retiring Senator) Dick Lugar back in the 1960’s. And while UniGov isn’t as far-reaching as the proposed Evansville/Vanderburgh merger, later administrations have found it expedient to carry it further. The comparatively recent consolidation of metropolitan police services is a simple example, and one often cited by proponents of the local proposal.

Opponents argue that much of Evansville and Vanderburgh County are already cooperatively merged. City and county purchasing work together to get the best deals on bulk buys such as copy paper, rock salt and other commodities. The Evansville Vanderburgh School Corporation has been combined from the get-go. Ditto for the library system that serves both entities. Those opposed to the merger say those combinations do not appear to effect sufficient savings to justify carrying the consolidation farther into local government.

Still others concern themselves with the cost of government. They question whether taxpayers will realize savings should consolidation reach deeper into the Civic Center.

Still, both opponents and proponents realize one basic truism:

People can be very frightened of change.

He governmental entities of Evansville and of Vanderburgh County are of long standing, and have worked well for the most part – at least most of the time, the City and County governments have left the citizens alone to live their lives and have provided the essential services – police and fire protection, road and bridge service and other concerns that come automatically from a governmental creature.

That is the objection that is the hardest to overcome.

 

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