The Swarm

Mix it up with The Bee's editorial board.

November 4, 2010
Metro Chamber interested in consolidation, to a point

Well, that didn't take long.

Sacramento's business community - in the form of the Metro Chamber of Commerce -responded this afternoon to Mayor Kevin Johnson saying he wants to talk about consolidating the city and county.

The Chamber said it's interested in "functional" consolidation - saving money by merging city and county departments that provide overlapping services - but not in "political" consolidation, resulting in one government and one set of elected officials.

The Chamber has been down the political consolidation road before. Sacramento voters decisively rejected the idea in a 1990 ballot measure that would have combined all city and county agencies, and created a new metro government run by an elected board plus 20 new local community councils.

Now, the chamber is more in favor of functional consolidation, which it saw first-hand on a 2007 visit to Charlotte, N.C.

"Our efforts in the 1990s failed because politicians were able to stop the cost-containment efforts by the business community by protecting their political turf," Matt Mahood, president and CEO of the Sacramento Metro Chamber, said in a statement. "In our vision--the vision we have been talking about since returning from Charlotte--cost-savings for local government comes from the consolidation of duplicative efforts and eliminating all wasted and duplicative money as soon as possible."

"Hard economic realities demand that businesses get lean, merge and consolidate to survive," Mahood continued. "Just like the average citizen and employer has become creative to make it through the down economy, taxpayers should expect the same from local government during these tough economic times."

Because of the budget crunch, city and county officials have already been talking about consolidation in areas such as animal control and services to the homeless.

Johnson has not made clear whether he's talking about functional or political consolidation, or both. He says he will be more forthcoming next week. He has talked about how Sacramento is a mid-size city with a population of about 450,000, but if all the suburbs were included, Sacramento would be in the big leagues with a population of 1 million-plus (the total county figure is 1.4 million).

UPDATE: Late this afternoon, the mayor issued a statement saying that he does not have a specific plan, process or timeline. Johnson is not ready to say whether he would support functional consolidation, full political consolidation or something in between.

The brief statement included what he said at his weekly press conference earlier today: "Our community should always seek new ways to make government more effective in serving our citizens. This is especially true in tough times. I think it's worth having a robust dialogue on how the region can work better together. Consolidation has been one topic many folks have been exploring, and I encourage us to continue this conversation in an open, inclusive and transparent way."

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About The Swarm

The Swarm is written by members of The Sacramento Bee's editorial board. They meet daily and are separate from the newsroom. Views included here are those of individual writers, and do not necessarily reflect those of a majority of the board or the positions expressed in The Bee's editorials.

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