Merger Misprint

In last Tuesday’s USA Today an article on city-county mergers-likely prompted by a proposed referendum vote this fall in Memphis and Shelby County, TN-was printed which contained the following statement: "Pittsburgh and Allegheny County, Pa., are considering forming a single government".

Really? That might have been true in May of 2008 right after the release of the Nordenberg report calling for an end to duplicative services and a referendum on merging "at the earliest appropriate time" but a funny thing happened on the way to the proposed consolidation.

There was the problem with how a merged entity that did not include the 129 municipalities other than the City would function; that a constitutional change would be needed to allow the City to become an urban services district that would permit the citizens of the district to be taxed at a higher rate than the citizens in the merged entity outside of the urban services district; that all areas in Allegheny County (and PA) are incorporated and have their own form of local government, a case quite different from other mergers; and this goes without mentioning the huge financial liabilities of the City that voters in Allegheny County would be reluctant to take on would the issue ever make it onto the ballot and that no one involved in the report is vocally expressing their support or questioning why their suggestions are so slow-going.

The possibility of a ballot question was essentially killed in August of 2008-approaching nearly two years now-when the County’s legislative delegation said it was not ready to pave the way for a bill allowing a question. What have the City and the County done in the time since to convince taxpayers they are aggressively looking to end duplication in public services while there is no merger talk?