Yesterday, I attended a meeting on municipal shared services and consolidation, and at the end of the day the thing that stuck out in my mind was the ridiculous us vs. them attitude that many municipal leaders across the state seem to have.
The workshop was help to discuss the Local Government Efficiency Grant Program, a program that encourages municipalities to work together and even consider consolidation to decrease taxes and taxing entities in New York state. The state recommended that the City of Norwich, the Town of Norwich and the Town of North Norwich look into shared services and maybe even an eventual merger, but so far, the level of cooperation needed to achieve that has not been reached.
I discovered yesterday, that Chenango County isn’t unique in taking a less than open minded view of the suggestion. In fact, several of the speakers at the workshop referred to municipal leaders as being “turf oriented” and viewing the program as a potential grab for power.
One speaker’s solution to that problem was to keep the politicians away from the table. He suggested having staff members study the benefits and risks of a possible move, trying to anticipate the officials concerns and delivering something to them that showed the possible risks and savings in black and white.
I admit, after seeing the opposition to even the idea of studying consolidation efforts in Chenango County, I thought maybe the speaker was on to something, but at the same time I couldn’t help but be saddened by that fact. Elected officials are expected to make decisions based on the best interests of their constituents, and turf oriented, power struggles are in no one’s best interest. Refusing to investigate possible benefits and savings to the tax payers is in no one’s best interest. If an elected official has valid reasons and evidence to back it up why shared services, merging departments or consolidation is a bad idea, great, but if they’re refusing to even look at the possibility because of some childish struggle for power, they are no longer looking out for the best interests of their constituents.