Keane observations about life, politics and sports.

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Do We Need County Government

Bob of Bob's Brainstorms has an interesting post today suggesting we replace the current model of county government with regional administrative positions appointed by the state government. The amount of corruption found in county government (particularly in Cuyahoga County lately) is obviously the impetus for his suggestion. However, Bob also addresses the redundancy of functions between the different levels of government which may be a better reason to effect permanent change.

Before we address his suggestion, we need to figure out what county government does that isn't/can't be done at a higher or lower level. Ask most people about county government and all we think of is the county sheriffs and the auditors who put stickers on gas pumps. The weights and measures certification programs that fall under the county auditors would seem like a function that could easily be shifted to a regional administrative oversight. Okay, then what about the sheriffs? What laws are enforced by county sheriffs instead of by city police or state troopers? What else does county government do and how much of it is specific to that particular county? My guess is very little only applies to one county.

It sounds like an interesting idea that should be fully considered. However, all change is difficult. To enact change one must understand who will be opposed to the change and why. In this case it is obvious that there would be redundant positions in the 88 counties that would be merged or eliminated. Those are called jobs. Also, politicians of all stripes derive power through the current system. Power is never relinquished willingly. Is the ongoing corruption in Cuyahoga County enough of a catalyst to overcome the opposition? I don't think so. This may be an idea to advance in the "eating an elephant" manner. How do you eat an elephant? One bite at a time. In that mindset, the way to advance this idea is to identify the functions that would most obviously benefit from a regional structure and work through the legislative process to remove those tasks from the county.



Anonymous Anonymous said...

We want the state to appoint administrators?

Are you sure about that?

How much recourse would voters have against appointees?

A better idea, I think, is to move county commissioner elections to odd-numbered years, so that scoundrels don't retain power by hiding in the coattails of the top of the ticket. Instead, commissioner races would be the top of the ticket, and thus receive more scrutiny.

I've included more details at my own blog, Buckeye RINO.

June 24, 2009 at 11:58 AM

Blogger Brian said...


I am not sure where to begin because this is such a large subject with many facets. I actually studied this very subject while working on my masters and can tell you I went into the examination with one idea and left with the complete the opposite.

Here are a couple of things I learned:

1. Much of the regional government movement is furthered by academics that want to stream line government and make it efficient. Great on the surface, but what happens in their plan is to replace local governments with regional that are linked directly to the federal. This means states are by-passed and locales are removed. This is contrary to federalism, subsidiary, and localism.

A great example of this is the growth of New York City in the late 19th century. New York City became one of the first regional governments in the country and has grown by leaps and bounds ever since.

As a regional government forms it must absorb surrounding governments to bring in greater revenue because waste grows. The argument is made that duplication must be removed, however, while it is removed initially, the natural tendency of bureaucratic wastefulness begins to take root and the next thing you know the revenue taken in can’t keep up with the expenditures going out. Look at all of your major cities that have taken over the county and formed one government and I’ll bet you there isn’t one out there operating in the black.

2. Much of the duplication can be removed. However it doesn’t take some academic, but rather the various government and the elected officials talking to one another motivated by the electorate.
3. There is a distinct difference between the county sheriff and local police. The position of county sheriff dates back to English common law and is our last line of defense against the tyranny of the federal government. No federal law enforcement can operate within a county without first receiving approval from the county sheriff. Consequently a sheriff can step in and protect you from arrest by the feds if there is doubt and question. Right now Congress is trying to remove this protection from us.

On the surface this looks like a great and wonderful thing, but when you analyze it thorough principles of liberty, freedom, private property rights, localism, and federalism you’ll see that it is nothing more than one of many actions the statist uses to break down the walls that separate the citizen from the big central government.

June 24, 2009 at 12:01 PM

Blogger bob said...

Buckeyerino suggests moving county elections to odd numbered years. This might be fine in some counties but many counties Cuyahoga included would elect Charles Manson if he had the right letter after his name D. On a state level neither Dems or Rep seem to dominate as consistently this is why I initially suggested appointments as an alternative.

June 24, 2009 at 2:23 PM

Blogger bob said...

Bill, Thanks for the mention

June 24, 2009 at 2:26 PM

Anonymous Anonymous said...

Granted, there are a lot of straight ticket Democrat voters in Cuyahoga County, but the turnout is very light in off-year elections when ACORN isn't around to maximize Democrat turnout.

If we have county commissioners at the top of the ticket in odd numbered years, with no coattails to hide in, and ACORN doesn't really care to be involved, because control of Ohio and control of the nation doesn't hang in the balance, then Cuyahoga County's Democrat commissioners may feel they need to watch their P's and Q's a little better, because the possible scenarios in which they lose an election become more numerous.

June 26, 2009 at 2:03 PM


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