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strong they were able to protect themselves by getting constitutional restrictions on special legislation. Special legislation now is prohibited in almost two-thirds of the States.25 In 1959 only 20 of the States were reported to have general statutes authorizing consolidations, and these varied with respect to permitting cities, villages, or towns to consolidate.26

The major strength of annexation as an approach to reorganization of local government in metropolitan areas is that it broadens the geographical jurisdiction of municipalities. Moreover, it is a flexible way of broadening jurisdiction. To the extent that it forestalls incorporations or creation of limited-purpose special districts, it keeps the governmental pattern from becoming more complex. Unlike limited-purpose districts as an approach to handling areawide problems, annexation strengthens rather than weakens general gov


Annexation brings land development controls to the fringes of municipalities. If uncontrolled, such areas can be a source of trouble and cost for their own residents as well as for the nearby city. Annexation provides an absolute right of self-determination and local control where consent of the annexed area is required. In those States which regard annexation issues as affecting a broader territory than just the area to be annexed, and therefore do not give that area an absolute veto on annexation, local interests can be protected by establishing standards for determining the soundness of a proposed annexation, and by judicial or quasi-judicial review.

Limiting annexation to unincorporated areas reduces its effectiveness in metropolitan areas where the central city is already hemmed in by incorporated territory. However, communities outside the central city may find the method useful in expanding their territories.

Another weakness of the annexation method is that it may precipitate "defensive" incorporations by fringe communities that do not want to be absorbed by their big neighbor. The result is additional fractionalization of political authority. A related reflex action is that all the cities in the area may start competing for the annexation of unincorporated territory, producing a haphazard annexation pattern.

There have been examples of abuse of the annexation power by cities taking in attractive areas with high taxable value and minimum service needs, and carefully avoiding the problem spots. This abuse can be guarded against, however, by establishment of proper criteria for annexation and provision for approval by, or appeal to, a judicial or quasi-judicial agency.

Opposition by officials of the territory to be annexed reduces the political feasibility of the annexation approach. However, their opposition is likely to be less effective than if they were officials and employees of a more highly developed governmental unit.

Consolidation of two municipalities also produces a unit of larger geographical area and thereby increases the ability of local residents to control areawide problems. By reducing the number of governmental units in the area, it lessens the problem of coordinating the attack on these problems. It also makes possible economies of scale in operation

25 Robert G. Dixon, Jr. and John R. Kerstetter, Adjusting Municipal Boundaries: The Law and Practice in 48 States (Chicago: American Municipal Association, 1959). 26 Ibid.

and planing tends to eliminate duplication of administration and overhead costs.

Consolidation may reduce the voter's influence on his local government by making his vote relatively less important in the total. However, if the new government is set up with ample powers, an adequate system of representation, and clear lines of responsibility, it can increase his influence by making area wide problems more susceptible to public control.

A principal weakness of consolidation is its low political feasibility, indicated by its infrequent use. Over half the States do not permit consolidation. When it is permitted, the general procedure of separate petitioning and approval by separate majority votes in each of the units makes the process difficult.


City-county separation is an action in which the major city in a county separates from the county, sometimes with simultaneous expansion of its boundaries, and thereafter exercises both city and county functions within its boundaries, although sometimes not all the county functions. This procedure normally requires special constitutional provisions, since the detached city-county usually does not conform to the general provisions setting up a uniform system of county government throughout the State.

City-county separation was used as a means of reorganizing local governments in metropolitan areas in four major cities in the last half of the 19th century: Baltimore, Denver, St. Louis, and San Francisco. The impetus for this approach in three of the cities came largely from the belief of city residents that they were shouldering a disproportionate share of the cost of county government services provided to noncity residents, and that the county and city governments were suffering from a duplication of effort.

Although city-county separation was tried in a few places in the early 20th century, there has been little recent interest in this approach except in the State of Virginia. Virginia has special conditions which have come into being by usage rather than explicit constitutional or statutory provision. When towns reach a population of 5,000 they may become cities. By becoming cities they separate from their counties and thereafter exercise, in addition to their city functions, all county functions except those relating to the circuit court, which they share with the county of which they were formerly a part. When they reach a population of 10,000, they take over responsibility for the circuit court as well. In 1957 there were 32 of these "independent" cities in Virginia.28 Although Virginia cities are not given additional territory when they separate from their counties, they may subsequently add territory from counties that surround them, following the usual Virginia annexation procedure.29

Recent interest in detaching the central city from the existing county has sometimes come from the suburbs rather than the central city. In

Paul Studenski, op. cit., pp. 170-215; the Library of Congress, Legislative Reference Service, City-County Consolidation and City-County Separation (1952) (typewritten). U.S. Bureau of the Census, Census of Governments: 1957, State Bulletins, VI, No. 44. "Government in Virginia," p. 2.

Council of State Governments, The States and the Metropolitan Problem (Chicago, 1956), pp. 81-82.

Hennepin County, Minn., which contains the city of Minneapolis, this proposal was made mainly by suburban officials who resented the suburbs underrepresentation on the county board of commissioners and also feared that the incumbent county board would transfer the responsibility for poor relief from the towns and municipalities to the county. The poor relief shift would have caused a substantial property tax increase in the suburbs, and a substantial decrease in the city of Minneapolis.

The principal advantage of city-county separation is increased efficiency and economy through the avoidance of duplication of servvices and governmental processes. This results in savings in manpower, equipment, and facilities through better planning and coordination of otherwise duplicated functions, such as roads and bridges, revenue administration, and judicial administration. Elimination of a layer of government also simplifies the voter's task.

City-county separation is most advantageous in situations similar to those confronting the four cities that separated in the 19th century: when an urban area is part of a predominantly rural county or part of several such counties. If there is an opportunity for simultaneous annexation of considerable fringe land at the time of the separation, the approach is more likely to be appealing. However, the experience of the four major cities that used this approach in the past, and the more rapid pace of urbanization today, suggests that any new citycounties will not have very many years to go before they run up against the territorial restrictions of the county boundary.

Another principal weakness of the city-county separation as an approach to reorganization of local governments in metropolitan areas is that it is an "act of withdrawal." 30 In the long run, the central city will make it more difficult to achieve integrated control of area wide problems by separating from an influential local unit of government to which other municipalities and towns also belong. Moreover, the difficulties of expanding boundaries in the future are heightened by the fact that constitutional restrictions on changing county boundaries are much greater than statutory restrictions on moving boundaries of cities. In short, city-county separation moves in the direction of greater rigidity of governmental boundaries, rather than greater flexibility, and nullifies the urban county's effect of broadening jurisdiction.

From the feasibility standpoint, city-county separation has many handicaps. It usually requires new constitutional provisions; it threatens the status and prestige of county officials (although it probably enhances the status and prestige of the city officials who would take on county functions); and, if there is resistance from the citizens and officials of neighboring communities in the county, it usually necessitates a referendum requiring separate majorities for approval.


City-county consolidation takes three forms: (1) the merger of a county and the cities within it into a single government, which is the most complete form of consolidation; (2) substantial merger of the county and the cities, but the retention of the county as a separate unit

30 Council of State Governments, The States and the Metropolitan Problem, op. cit., p. 85.

for some functions; (3) unification of some, but not all, of the municipal governments and the county government. Sometimes the consolidation is broadened to include the territory of two or more counties and the county and municipal governments within them, or to include other local governments.81

City-county consolidation requires enabling legislation and sometimes also a local referendum, frequently with separate majority approvals in the central city and the remainder of the county. In 1959 it was reported that 4 States had general law methods of effecting citycounty consolidations and 18 States had special laws.32

Like city-county separation, city-county consolidation took place mostly in the last century. However, the approach has continued to attract the interest of groups concerned with governmental reorganization in metropolitan areas. The city-county consolidations of the 19th century were in New Orleans (completed in 1874), Boston (1882), Philadelphia (1854), and New York (1898). Although these consolidations varied as to the extent of city and county merger, they had a number of common characteristics.33 They were brought about by action of the State legislature and without local referendum. Most involved just one county and one major city. In most cases the area of the affected or remaining city was expanded and made coterminous with the county or counties involved. Those that initially extended the city to the area of the county, however, have had little subsequent expansion, and all the consolidated territories are now considerably smaller than the metropolitan areas of which they are a part.

In 1949, a city-county consolidation merged East Baton Rouge Parish (county), La., with the city of Baton Rouge. Starting in the late 1950's, a series of attempted city-county consolidations were all defeated by local electorates: Nashville-Davidson County, Tenn. (1958); Albuquerque-Bernalillo County, N. Mex. (1959); KnoxvilleKnox County, Tenn. (1959); Macon-Bibb County, Ga. 1960); Durham-Durham County, N.C. (1961); and Richmond-Henrico County, Va. (1961).

Then in 1962, a revised charter creating "The Metropolitan Government of Nashville and Davidson County" was approved by the voters, receiving the required separate majorities both in Nashville and in the remainder of the county. The charter set up an urban services district of about 75 square miles surrounding Nashville, with provisions for expansion. Certain functions are performed and financed only within the urban services district, including sewage and refuse disposal, street lighting, and a higher level of police protection than that prevailing outside. There are two levels of taxation-one for all residents of the county, the other only for those who receive urban services. Countywide services include several that were previously limited to Nashville, such as parks and recreation, libraries, and public housing. There is an elected metropolitan county mayor and a council of 41 members, of whom 35 are elected from single member districts and 6 at large. 34

a Council of State Governments, The State and the Metropolitan Problem, op. cit., p. 53. See Dixon and Kerstetter, op. cit.

Council of State Governments, The States and the Metropolitan Problem, op. cit., pp. 68-71. Roscoe C. Martin, Metropolis in Transition: Local Government Adaptation to Changing Urban Needs (Washington: Government Printing Office, 1963), pp. 107–110.


City-county consolidation has the advantage of providing the base for a unified, coordinated program of service, development, and control over an enlarged area. It can lead to more effective handling of area wide problems, achieve an economic scale of operation, and narrow the gap between expenditure needs and fiscal resources. It also simplifies the voter's task of understanding the governmental structure and holding elected officials responsible.

As a way of adjusting boundaries to the geographical area of metropolitan problems, city-county consolidation has the greatest potential in medium and small metropolitan areas that are contained within one county and are unlikely to extend beyond the county's boundaries for some time to come, and in which there is one urban center surrounded by considerable undeveloped territory. A major weakness of the citycounty consolidation approach is that it has limited usefulness in metropolitan areas that are not confined to a single county.

Obstacles that stand in the way of city-county consolidation are the fact that many State constitutions do not authorize consolidation, and when they do, enabling legislation is still needed and is not easy to obtain. Another obstacle is the frequent requirement of separate majorities in the central city and the rest of the county, and perhaps even in one or more of the other municipalities of the county. Still another difficulty is the potential resistance from those in office, since a consolidation clearly is a threat to the positions of numerous officials and employees.

A single consolidated city-county is a move in the direction of reducing local participation in local affairs, and of making it more difficult to vary governmental services and finances according to local desires. Recent proposals have sought to overcome this defect, however, through differential service areas, as in Nashville-Davidson County, or through a modified borough system.

A final difficulty of the city-county consolidation method, which it shares with city-county separation, is the inflexibility of the new unit's boundaries because of the constitutional and statutory restrictions on a county's taking in territory from adjoining counties. How serious this problem is will depend on how much undeveloped territory is included in the new city-county, where this territory lies in relation to population expansion, and how fast the expansion is proceeding. Generally speaking, the boundary problem is likely to prove less of a handicap in the case of city-county consolidation than city-county separation.


The federation or borough plan approach to governmental reorganization involves the division of local government functions in the metropolitan area between two levels of government. Areawide functions are assigned to an area wide or "metropolitan" government, whose boundaries encompass the units from which the functions are assumed. Local functions are left to the existing municipalities, which are sometimes enlarged in territory and called boroughs. In their advanced stage of development, the urban county and multipurpose metropolitan district resemble the federation as a form of government organization,

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