Thursday, October 22, 2009

Another gliberal panacea

Ezra Klein approvingly links to a Mark Muro article at TNR which advocates for empowering metropolitan organizations,

Yglesias is particularly good here when he notices that the effectiveness of American federalism suffers because while states remain predominant “we don’t really live our lives `at the state level,’” and yet “we don’t have any level of governance that addresses metro area issues.” That’s exactly right, to which I would only add that the centrality of metros to economic life makes this disconnect even more dire. So one can share Matt’s frustration when he says that “there’s not a ton that can be done about this.”

And yet, there is actually quite a bit that a smart, refocused nation can and must do to remedy the absence of middle-tier (metro or regional) government from our federalism.

Spoken like a person who has never worked a day in or around state, county or local government. Look, if you think state governments are dysfunctional and ill equipped to enact policy within their borders just wait until you see how metro organizations screw things up.

CDOT currently utilizes a regional planning process and anyone who has witnessed that up close can testify to the parochial, short-sighted and generally un-democratic nature of the process. Large metro areas dominate smaller regions, squeezing them out of state funds and out-muscling them for Federal earmarks. Decisions are made not with broad interests in mind but rather to get as much as possible for ones own region - state systems be damned.

Not to go off on a rant here but this is the kind of idea that sounds great to technocrats who've never worked in any level of government (save for a Congressional internship or two) a day in their life and who's primary professional focus is on broad policy questions. I recommend that these guys spend a couple of months in the trenches as a staffer for a municipal government and then let us know how their great panacea looks after some time served.

1 comment:

Andrew Oh-Willeke said...

The facts are a bit more fuzzy than suggested even though the gist has merit. Colorado's Denver metro area has SCFD, RTD, the Stadium District, Denver Water, DRCOG, some multi-jurisdictional fire protection districts (North Denver Metro), some multi-jurisdictional municipal service providers (South Suburban runs rec centers, e.g.) and there are several multi-jurisdictional criminal justice task forces in the metro area. The City and County of Denver, likewise, concentrates power in a single consolidated government for Denver proper that would be divided between many entities in most parts of the state. Colorado has has separately administered water law systems for each major river basin which is a natural, regional unit rather than an arbitrary or hyper-localized one.

Similarly, New York City is the class metropolitan government, although it doesn't precisely match the statistical metro area. Miami-Dade is another famous consolidated government.