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Chapter V


Problems such as water supply and sewage disposal, or relocation, illustrate the ways in which governmental responsibilities today have burst out of the boundaries of local communities in metropolitan areas. In other fields as well, such as transportation and air pollution control, local governments acting independently have become increasingly unable to meet the needs either of their own citizens or of the broader metropolitan population.

Local governments take many kinds of measures to improve their ability to handle problems that have outgrown existing boundaries and powers. Sometimes these measures are limited to a specific function, such as contracting to buy water from a nearby city, but often they are intended to strengthen the capacity of a government to deal with a broad range of responsibilities. The system of government in metropolitan areas has considerable flexibility, and many alternatives can be exploited. This chapter will review the main approaches that local governments use in enlarging their powers, jurisdictions, or structures in order to handle urban problems more effectively. Each method of reorganizing local government in metropolitan areas has its strengths and weaknesses, and these will be evaluated to give a sense of the applicability and effectiveness of each. Aside from questions of effectiveness, however, governmental reorganization efforts must meet stern tests of political reality. Voter reactions to a number of reorganization proposals will be considered, in order to assess the main political obstacles. Finally in this chapter, metropolitan planning will be considered as another significant way of improving governmental performance of areawide functions, in this case without necessarily restructuring the powers or jurisdiction of local governments.


A number of criteria can be suggested for evaluating the geographical jurisdictions and powers of local governments, based on considerations similar to the criteria for performing urban functions, as described in chapter III. In principle, local governments should have jurisdiction over a large enough area to permit them to cope adequately with the problems that their citizens expect them to handle. They should be able to raise sufficient revenue, and to do it equitably. They should retain flexibility to adjust their boundaries to meet changing conditions. They should be organized to handle a variety of functions rather than only one or two, so that they can exercise political responsibility for balancing total local needs and resources. They should be able to take advantage of economies of scale, and, at the same time, be accessible to and controllable by the people they serve.

The last criterion applies not only to the size and powers of a government, but also to the number and responsibility of elected officials, provisions for notice and hearings on proposed policy changes, methods for receiving and acting on complaints and other citizen initiatives, and appropriate review of government actions in the courts. Size is also at issue here, for the advantages of small size for citizen control and participation must be weighed against the merits of larger size for democratic government as well as economy in providing services. The larger the area of government, as James Madison argued in The Federalist, the less likely is it that any one special group will dominate the government, and thus the more likely is it that many diverse groups of the community will have their interests respected. The prevalence of social and economic disparities between different parts of metropolitan areas lends additional weight to the case for drawing governmental boundaries broadly enough to encompass a diversity of social and economic interest groups.

The many approaches to governmental reorganization will be taken up in a sequence that moves generally from smaller to larger structural modifications: use of extraterritorial powers, intergovernmental agreements, voluntary metropolitan councils, the urban county, transfer of functions to State governments, metropolitan special districts, citycounty separation, city-county consolidation, and federation.


Extraterritorial powers are powers that a city is permitted to exercise outside its boundaries to regulate activities there or to assist in providing services to people within its boundaries. The use of these powers varies considerably among the States and according to the type of power authorized. State governments are relatively generous in permitting cities to go beyond their boundaries to provide services to their residents, such as obtaining water or disposing of sewage in other jurisdictions. Many cities also exercise police powers in health matters, such as milk and meat inspection, beyond their borders. About 30 States have given cities jurisdiction for regulating subdivisions in unincorporated territory lying a specified distance beyond their boundaries. Few States, however, have given cities power of extraterritorial zoning. 4

Considerable attention has been given to extraterritorial planning, zoning, and subdivision regulations, which can be effective in dealing with the problems of rapid growth in unincorporated fringe areas, particularly where county governments do not provide this regulation. There is further justification for this extraterritorial regulation in that uncontrolled fringe development can have deteriorating effects on neighboring areas of the city, and can complicate the provision of such services as fire protection and traffic control within the city.

1 The Federalist (New York: The Modern Library, n, d.), pp. 53-62.

Russell W. Maddox, Extraterritorial Powers of Municipalities (Corvallis. Oreg. : Oregon State College, 1955). See also W. W. Crouch, "Extraterritorial Powers of Cities as Fac. tors in California Metropolitan Government." American Political Science keriew, XXXI (April 1937), p. 291 ; William Anderson, "The Extraterritorial Powers of Cities," Minnesota Lar Review. X (1926), pp. 475–497 and 564-583.

3 Municipal Year Book 1962 (Chicago : International City Managers' Association, 1962), pp. 64-65.

American Society of Planning, Officials. Extraterritorial Zoning, Planning Advisory Service, Information Report No. 42 (September 1952).

From the standpoint of political feasibility, the use of extraterritorial controls has the advantage of creating relatively little disturbance in the status quo. Extraterritorial regulation usually affects areas where government controls are either weak or lacking, so that existing powers are seldom threatened. While extraterritorial regulation in these circumstances does allow the central city to protect itself, it gives the residents of fringe areas no voice in determining their own affairs, and is thus objectionable as a permanent solution. It may, however, serve as a useful interim step on the way to either annexation or incorporation.

The use of extraterritorial power is severely limited by two factors. First, many States do not permit the extraterritorial exercise of the most important regulatory powers for coping with metropolitan growth problems: planning, zoning, and subdivision regulations. Second, even where the authorization exists, it can be used only when there is unincorporated territory adjacent to a city, a condition which is long past for many urban centers.


Intergovernmental agreements are arrangements under which a local community conducts an activity jointly or cooperatively with one or more other governmental units, or contracts for its performance by another governmental unit. The agreements may be permanent or temporary; pursuant to special act or general law; effective with or without voter approval; and may be formal or informal in character. Intergovernmental agreements may be for the provision of direct services to citizens of two or more jurisdictions, such as water supply or police protection; or they may be for governmental housekeeping activities, such as joint purchasing or personnel administration activities.

Local governments in California make extensive use of this approach, with counties contracting to provide services to cities. This procedure has become known as the Lakewood plan, since Lakewood on becoming a city contracted to have practically all its governmental services provided by Los Angeles County. In March 1959, there were 67 contracts between cities and Los Angeles County, covering functions from assessing to dog control and street maintenance. Other types of intergovernmental agreements are also popular in California. Under the Joint Powers Act, two or more public agencies exercising common powers may agree that one of them should exercise power for all of them."

Elsewhere, a survey of intermunicipal contracts indicated that between 1950 and 1957, Cleveland had 30 contracts with 12 of its suburbs, and the 12 suburbs had 43 contracts with one another to provide services. And between 1950 and 1959, 81 of St. Louis County's 98 municipalities signed a total of 241 contracts for provision of municipal services by the county, including law enforcement, health and sanitation, and building regulation.?

* Samuel K. Gove, The Lakewood Plan, Commission Papers of the Institute of Government and Public Affairs (Urbana : University of Illinois. May 1961), p. 7.

* Clereland Metropolitan Services Commission, Intergovernmental Agreements in the Clerrland Metropolitan Area, Staff Report to Study Group on Governmental Organization (July 16, 1958).

. Governmental Research Institute, Municipal Services Made Available to Cities, Towns, and Tülages by the St. Louis County Government (St. Louis, December 1959).


Intergovernmental agreements are useful in broadening the geographic base for planning and administering governmental services and controls. By enlarging the scale of administration, they make it possible to lower unit costs. Further, the boundaries are flexible and can be enlarged without difficulty when additional governments want to join an agreement. Where agreements are used to extend city services to developing fringe areas, they may be helpful in guiding orderly metropolitan growth.

Å basic weakness of joint agreements is that they are practical only when the immediate local interest of each community receiving service is not in conflict with the interest of the government responsible for providing it. Yet in providing areawide services such as public transportation or water supply, conflicts are likely to arise over the location of facilities or priorities for investment. Since agreements are voluntary, each community in effect has veto power within its own borders and can withdraw when its interests are affected adversely by decisions concerning areawide services. Intergovernmental agreements are thus not suited to effective decisionmaking on issues which transcend local interests; under a system of agreements such issues would require unanimity among the governments involved rather than decision by majority vote.

On issues that are more local in character, intergovernmental agreements may interfere with the citizens' ability to take part in making policy. Even though individual governments retain their freedom to pull out of an agreement, and thus retain ultimate control over their own policies, the weaving of a network of intergovernmental agreements tends to confuse the lines of actual responsibility to the point where effective local control may be seriously eroded. Further, the tendency is for each agreement to be made on an ad hoc basis for a particular need, so that the complete view is never brought into focus, making it more difficult to coordinate services and achieve a balance of needs and resources.

Intergovernmental contracts may be objectionable on other grounds where the seller municipality has a virtual monopoly on the service. If one community controls the water supply in an area, for example, only its own self-restraint protects the purchasing communities from being exploited on price and service. Where monopoly conditions exist, some outside authority is needed to protect the purchasers-a role performed in some States by utility regulatory bodies that review water contracts.


Metropolitan councils are voluntary associations of elected public officials from most or all of the governments of a metropolitan area, formed "to seek a better understanding among the governments and officials in the area, to develop a consensus regarding metropolitan needs, and to promote coordinated action in solving their problems." In effect, they are intergovernmental agreements for joint conduct of activities in research, planning, and deliberations on issues of areawide concern. They are not, however, identical with metropolitan planning agencies, which will be discussed in a later section of this chapter.

Samuel Humes, "Organization for Metropolitan Cooperatiam." Public Management, XLIV (May 1962), p. 106.

In bringing together representatives of a number of metropolitan communities, the councils typically cut across many local jurisdictions and sometimes do not stop at State lines. Usually they are composed of the chief elected officials of the local governments in the area, and sometimes they include representatives of the State government. They have no operating functions, but are forums for discussion, research, and recommendation only. Their recommendations go to the constituent governments or to State legislatures. They are generally multipurpose, concerning themselves with many area wide problems, and they usually have a full-time staff.”

Since the first metropolitan council was organized in the Detroit area in 1954, the idea has been picked up quickly in other parts of the country. In addition to the Supervisors Inter-County Committee in the Detroit area, examples of metropolitan councils now include the Metropolitan Regional Council (New York, New Jersey, Connecticut), Association of Bay Area Governments (San Francisco area), Metropolitan Washington (D.C.) Council of Governments, Puget Sound Governmental Conference (Seattle-Tacoma area), Metropolitan Springfield (Illinois) Council of Governments, Mid-Willamette Valley Council of Governments (Salem, Oreg.), Regional Conference of Elected Officials (Philadelphia), Metropolitan Atlanta Council of Local Governments, Southern California Association of Governments (Los Angeles), New Haven (Connecticut) Council of Elected Officials, and the North Central Texas Council of Governments (Fort Worth). Further interest in councils will no doubt result from the 1965 amendments to the Housing Act which included a provision making available two-thirds matching grants for support of their activities.

The councils vary in their composition and method of establishment. The Supervisors Inter-County Committee was given legal status by an enabling act of the State legislature in 1957 and consists exclusively of representatives of the six counties in the Detroit area. It does not include representatives of the other governmental units in the areaState, municipal, or special district--and is unique in this respect. The Mid-Willamette Valley Council was organized in 1959 by compact among the city of Salem, the metropolitan school district, Marion and Polk counties, and the State of Oregon. Each of the five units has a member—the Governor, and the elected heads of the four other units. The Association of Bay Area Governments, established in 1961, has legal status under the Joint Exercise of Powers Act of California. All cities and counties in the area may join. The council consists of one representative from each member city and county; city and county members vote separately, with a majority vote of each required for approval.

Although metropolitan councils are conspicuously lacking in legal powers, they have produced surprisingly tangible results in stimulating cooperation among their members, taking a stand on legislation affecting their areas, and coordinating relationships with State and Federal agencies. The New York Council devised a plan for controlling air pollution and presented to the Federal Government the regional case for increased public housing and urban renewal assist

The Council of State Governments, State Responsibility in Urban Regional Development (Chicago, 1962), p. 89.

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