Thursday, August 22, 2013

One government down... only a thousand more to go

Sometimes it is the little news item that matters. So who actually read this in the Trib today: Elizabeth Township Authority Mothballed.  Maybe the better question is who cared? 

Who ever notices public authorities like the Elizabeth Township Authority in the first place, even when they are operating?  What trouble can they get into?  Just take a look at all the travails in Harrisburg (the city), which is going bankrupt because of the debt of the Harrisburg Authority (which isn't the city).   Or take the Dauphin County Authority which is in default on a hotel it owns at a local airport near Pittsburgh.  So the governments we pay the least attention to often matter a whole lot.

In the news today from just a few miles up the other end of Cleveburgh.  If ever there was an idea that needed to be replicated in Allegheny County, did you know that Cuyahoga County, Ohio has a Department of Regional Collaboration!!! Note, PLEASE, it is about regional COLLABORATION, not CONSOLIDATION.

Goes back to how much local government we have, and don't understand.  I put a graphic of it together some years ago in: Southwestern Pennsylvania- Meet Your Governments.  Before you look, take a guess for the number of governments exist across the 10 counties here. For more than just the descriptive, one of the first web pages I ever put up, and one I have not updated much in over a decade is my Primer on Local Government Fragmentation and Regionalism in the Pittsburgh Region.

Here in Pittsburgh, we can't even decide if public authorities are independent or not? Some we kind of forget altogether even if they have real financial responsibilities.  Quick, name the members of the city of Pittsburgh's Sinking Fund Commission, itself considered an independent local government.

For the US I once put together the pathological graphic of all local governments in the nation (file is about 40mb).  For Pennsylvania the graphic is below. We won't even get into the auxiliary pathology that most all of those governments have their own public pension systems. So many that it just is impossible for there to be any meaningful oversight of them all collectively.


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