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poorly coordinated efforts. Thus the water district, park district, and transit authority may operate at cross purposes when they choose locations for new facilities. The operations of many independent districts not only distort the political processes through which competing demands for local revenue are evaluated and assigned priorities, but also tend to obstruct the coordination and planning of services.

In addition, the multiplicity of special districts often prevents the citizen from knowing exactly what is going on in his community. Conscientious voters must keep track of a bewildering array of special government activities, and it is difficult to hold elected officials responsible for the overall outcome. The Commission has also found that special districts frequently increase the cost of governmental services by duplicating administrative burdens and paying high interest rates on revenue bonds for capital construction.

The Commission considers the use of special districts entirely justified when units of general government do not or cannot respond to service needs of the people. The special district solution, however, may bring more problems than it solves. The Commission has taken the position that more effective control over special districts is needed, that efforts should be made to consolidate existing special districts, and that new ones should be permitted only when it is clear that no unit of general government (and no existing special district) can provide the needed service.


Patterns of social and economic segregation have created some of the most urgent and deep-seated problems of intergovernmental relations in metropolitan areas. Social and economic disparities between different localities result in part from the structure of government: because most metropolitan areas are divided into many small jurisdictions, social differences from one location to another tend to produce local government units with distinctly different populations. Further, many local governments pursue policies that tend to exaggerate social and economic disparities by discouraging the construction of homes for low- and moderate-income families.

This interaction of socioeconomic and jurisdictional patterns has additional significance for intergovernmental relations in that it tends to produce major fiscal and public service disparities from one locality to another. Social and economic segregation fosters the development of “rich” and “pauper" communities. Residents of the poorer communities must either assume a disproportionately heavy taxload or accept a decidedly lower level of public services.

Three commonly accepted goals are relevant for evaluating the significance of these disparities: equality of opportunity, freedom of choice, and intergovernmental amity.

When disadvantaged and dependent people are isolated from the rest of society, their opportunity to acquire the capacity for a productive life is not only unequal but often denied. When the causes of their poverty or dependency are irrelevant to the general economic prosperity, as in the case of the elderly, the undereducated, or the occupationally obsolete, the climate of opportunity that will ultimately engovernment. But if a community consists largely of the very people who most require government services, it will lack the resources to meet these needs.

The American ideal of equal opportunity for individuals to seek fulfillment in a free economic market is also frustrated by local political boundaries in metropolitan areas. The economic self-interest of local governments often restricts freedom of choice in the housing market regardless of whether there is overt discrimination by race or class. Unless specific governmental action is directed toward problems of economic and social differences among the many separate metropolitan jurisdictions, disparities tend to grow and inequities are magnífied. To a large extent, the job of assuring equal economic and social opportunity to metropolitan residents is one of expanding freedom of choice in the housing market for disadvantaged groups. Residence is the basis for receiving and paying for a large number of urban services, including public education. Thus any effort to alleviate social and economic disparities in metropolitan areas must stress the application of housing and development policies designed to promote diversity and opportunity throughout these areas.

The implications of local disparities in metropolitan areas are also ominous for intergovernmental relations within the federal system. Population groups at the lower end of the social and economic scale are rapidly becoming the dominant political force in the central cities of many large metropolitan areas. The continuing growth and segregation of these groups in the central cities threatens to produce major conflicts of interest and values between central cities and the more affluent suburbs. This split will make it increasingly difficult to bring about the cooperation between local governments that is so badly needed in a number of public service fields. Similarly, future governmental reorganization and structural adaptation in metropolitan areas may become increasingly difficult. Traditional rural-urban differences in State legislatures have already been supplemented by an equally fundamental central city-suburban split. If disparities continue to sharpen, this split will increasingly be reflected in the Congress.

These considerations lead to a number of principles of government action to prevent the intensification of local disparities and to cope with the effects of those that already exist. Government action can reduce fiscal and public disparities by: (1) promoting a wider range of choice in both housing and employment within metropolitan areas; (2) encouraging local cooperation, boundary adjustment, and joint performance of urban functions; and (3) developing a more sophisticated Federal-State-local equalization system to begin to compensate for existing fiscal disparities among local governments. These approaches will be discussed in greater detail in the following chapter.

Clearly, governmental action to deal with fundamental social and economic problems that underlie the pattern of disparities-broken families, inadequate education, discrimination in employment-must extend well beyond the realm of intergovernmental relations. This review of the implications of social and economic disparities therefore deals only with a specialized set of considerations. The principles described here are not directed toward the solution of underlying social



problems, but rather toward removing intergovernmental barriers to their solution and establishing a sound governmental framework for further action.

A basic consideration is that government action should not be taken to force people to move to particular locations in order to reduce disparities. The proper goals of government action should be: (1) to adjust Federal, State, and local policies to meet problems where they exist; and (2) to broaden the range of choices open to people in jobs, housing, and level of government service.

The implications of social and economic disparities threaten both individuals and their governments. A decline in local tax base, increasing demands for welfare services, increased racial and social tensions, and a breakdown in communication between the poor and the rest of society are all fearful alternatives to vigorous action by Federal, State, and local governments.

Some observers of metropolitan America have taken another view of the differences among localities in population, resources, and levels of service. Edward C. Banfield and Morton Grodzins have stressed the positive aspects of this differentiation among localities: they see in it the values of autonomy, diversity, and maximum choice for people in deciding where to Others, such as Robert C. Wood, stress the limitations of governmental processes that rely heavily on local autonomy. As Wood describes the metropolitan scene, local individualism shades easily into self-interest and a failure to come to grips with common problems: “The sense of responsibility of freemen to one another and the recognition of common purposes that constitute a persuasive part of the American creed are lost, and the spectacle ensues of a simple scramble to the top for the best market baskets of local government services.” 11

The advantages of autonomy and local diversity are real and substantial, but many people are unable to enjoy them. In principle, freedom to choose a satisfactory level of community services is available to people both as consumer-voters who influence local government policy and as residents who can decide where they want to live. In practice, there are important exceptions to both methods of choice. The voting process is not available to commuters who spend all their working hours in a city where they do not live; they can express their service preferences only indirectly and often ineffectively through business-employer pressure. The voting process is also unavailable to residents who are affected by the service policies of neighboring communities—by their level of traffic and transportation service or pollution control, for instance.

In addition, many people have very few choices open to them when they decide where to live. The lack of low-cost housing in many communities, combined with racial discrimination, deprives large numbers of people of any semblance of a reasonable choice of places to live, and at the same time reinforces local disparities.

The principles advocated by the Commission respect the values of local autonomy and diversity, but not when they can be obtained only

19 Edward C. Banfield and Morton Grodzins, Government and Housing in Metropolitan Areas (New York: McGraw-Hill, 1958).

11 Robert C. Wood, Suburbia: Its People and Their Politics (Boston: Houghton Mifflin,

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at a cost of restricted individual opportunities and crippling fiscal disparities. If local communities turn their backs on the problems of their neighbors and act in isolation from one another, they are likely to pay more for their government services, deprive many people of scarce resources and opportunities, and eventually reap a harvest of social and political tensions. In urban America, good fences do not make good neighbors.

Chapter VII


Many kinds of proposals for government action flow from the general principles that the Commission has developed for coping with met ropolitan problems. Some of the Commission's recommendations are for measures to improve the machinery of government itselfthat is, to strengthen the capacity of governments to deal with metropolitan issues. Others are intended to improve the operation of specific programs affecting metropolitan areas. Still other proposals are for ways to use governmental resources more effectively in attacking particular problems.

In summarizing the Commission's main proposals concerning metropolitan areas, this chapter will consider first a package of State measures for strengthening governmental structure and using State-local relations to the best advantage in metropolitan areas. Then a number of proposed Federal measures will be considered, some oriented toward structural improvements in government and some toward more effective use of Federal aid in metropolitan areas. Finally, proposals will be presented for combined Federal-State-local action to deal with three different metropolitan issues: the provision of water supply and sewage disposal, relocation assistance to people and businesses displaced by government, and the problems of metropolitan social and economic disparities. This presentation is by no means a full recapitulation of all Commission proposals affecting metropolitan areas; but it summarizes the major measures for structural change and it illustrates the application of the Commission's general principle to selected governmental responsibilities and problems.


The Commission has proposed the provision of a State "arsenal" of remedial weapons that metropolitan residents can draw upon as they see fit. These weapons consist of permissive powers for strengthening and reorganizing local government in metropolitan areas. At the same time, the Commission has recommended action to assert State legislative authority, leadership, stimulation, and supervision with respect to metropolitan area problems.



To further the objectives of freedom of action for local government and to prevent erosion of home rule authority, the Commission recommends that in their constitutions the States grant to selected local governments all functional powers not expressly reserved or restricted

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