Sunday, March 18, 2007

Arden Arcadians Desire Incorporation

It looks like large numbers of people in the Arden Arcade neighborhood want to incorporate, with two different possible sets of city boundaries, here and here .

Good for them, I might add. Neighborhoods that have incorporated have taken control of their destinies and improved conditions for their residents, as Citrus Heights (1997), Elk Grove (2000), and Rancho Cordova (2003) have empirically shown. Nor would this shortchange the County for business tax revenue, so long as the County makes a hard (but fair) "revenue neutrality" payments bargain.

"The county isn't meant to do what a city should do," (incorporation proponent Trish) Harrington said. "A county is meant to provide social services, provide judges and the courts. It's not meant to do infrastructure and provide garbage services."

Meanwhile, when it comes to incorporation, Dan Walters, McClatchy's anointed guru of the Cali political scene, is half-perceptive and half-clueless:

"Sacramento County's flurry of incorporations reflects its unique development pattern after World War II, when -- thanks to shortsighted decisions by local civic leaders -- large residential subdivisions and major commercial areas evolved into unincorporated suburbs, served with a pastiche of municipal services by county government and a welter of single-purpose districts....One by one, these unincorporated communities in what The Sacramento Bee has dubbed the "uncity" have become frustrated with the lack of local control and cityhood movements have been mounted."

He's right on about that. However, he also injects this:

"the state's 58 counties are hobbled by their antiquated structures and bifurcated roles as units of local government and agents of the state."

Oh really? Why is that? The counties make perfect sense for implementing state programs, for the courts, and for local services in areas that are just sparsely populated farms and ranches. It's only when the unincorporated areas turn into densely populated cities and suburbs that the county government becomes too unwieldy and not responsive enough.

"Simply continuing to expand cities without dealing with counties will backfire in the long run. A strong case could be made for eliminating urban counties and merging them with cities into larger regional governments -- super-cities, in effect."

Gee whiz Danno, we already have a "super city", namely, the urbanized area of unincorporated Sacramento County. And it is sluggish, unwieldy and often out of touch with its citizens. You want a new "regional" bureaucracy instead, which I suspect would be even more unelectable and unaccountable? That's revealing. Far better to have local cities, no matter how balkanized they are, that have to respond to the local citizens.

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