Sunday, June 13, 2010

Allegheny County R Us

Toledo Blade of all sources has a focused look at the structure of Allegheny County government today.

Ends with an interesting statement worth thinking about. ACE says that Allegheny county voters would vote again to change the structure of government here from a 3 commissioner system to the powerful chief executive system we now have. 
Mr. Onorato said he's convinced the voters would not go back to the three-commissioner system.

"For all the growing pains, it's a much better form of government," he said. "They've seen the results of it. They like the new form of government. It actually works. It works very well."
People have forgotten the fundamental switch in county government happened just over a decade ago when the county had a referendum on a new county charter. What is completely forgotten is that the home rule charter vote passed by the slimmest of margins, it just slipped by in a virtually 50-50 vote. Yet why did it pass? The previous attempt just a decade or so earlier had strong bipartisan support by the most popular local officials of both parties. Yet failed.

Was their a growing Republican base in the county, or decreasing Democratic support, that lead to the change?  The first election for an ACE in 2000 did indeed elect Jim Roddey, which people also forget was only by a very slim margin over the always controversial Cyril Wecht.  But Jim Roddey was only a one-term politican and would lose to Onorato the first time up for re-election.

But Jim Roddey's election was not the point at which Republicans regained control of county government. 4 years earlier Larry Dunn and Bob Cranmer, both Republicans at least at the time, gained a majority among county commissioners and effectively took control.  One could make a strong case that the public's antipathy toward how badly county government was run in the years beginning with that 1996 election is really what made the difference between 50-50 vote for the charter and a 50-50 vote that comes out just against the charter.  I still think Larry Dunn is the single most important person responsible for the passage of the county home rule charter. 

What does it all mean?  The law of unintended consequences is always in play.  Democrats who likely were more against the change in local government structure may be the ultimate winners.  With less party infighting than there was a decade ago and before, coupled with selective migration that has left the county more leaning D over time, the switch to a simple strong ACE  leaves R with less influence in county government than ever before..


Anonymous MH said...

I like the phrase 'home rule.' Makes it sound like the alternative was to be part of the U.K.

Monday, June 14, 2010 8:01:00 AM  

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