Thursday, March 25, 2010

Re-imagining Pittsburgh (Part 2)

As alluded to in Re-imagining Pittsburgh Part 1, this post will be how I would propose consolidation among Allegheny County's municipalities.

Currently, there are 130 municipalities in Allegheny County ranging in size from the City of Pittsburgh (334,563 pop. as of Census 2000) to Trafford (pop. 25...yes, 25). Each of these municipalities has a Manager, a Tax Collector (at least until 2012), a Police Chief, a Public Works Director. And some of these places are as a big as a good sized suburban housing development. Actually, one of them IS a suburban housing development (Pennsbury Village, pop. 741). All of these places are fighting over the same, small piece of pie in terms of many park upgrades, recreation centers, and police department renovations can we sustain?

Test yourself for 12 minutes on how many of the 130 you can name with this addictive Sprocle quiz...go ahead...I'll wait.

How many did you get? Probably a lot less than you thought you would get (I got in the mid 60's).

Take a look at this map and you can see the size discrepancy by some of these boroughs and townships....

There's too much waste of salaries being spent in the little municipalities. There is a saying that every crisis is an opportunity. Well, this recession is the opportunity to help consolidate some of these municipalities that are struggling and attempt to make the services better for their residents. There are quite a few that are in Act 47 bankrupt status, or very close to it.

Dan Onorato has proposed a consolidation plan solely on school districts. I believe his plan takes the number of municipalities down to 27. That's a good start, but I believe that consolidation should happen with equivalent economic-level communities as much as possible. However, even under my plan, some "big brother communities" have to absorb a struggling neighbor. You'll also seem some groups of struggling municipalities lumped together. At least then they may have a puncher's chance of making it.

There should also be some consideration to communities that share common transportation links. Major roadways/interstates could be used by the police and public works to access the span of these newly combined communities more efficiently.

To that end, here is my proposal for consolidation:
1. City of Pittsburgh + Dormont + Mount Oliver + Homestead + West Homestead + Wilkinsburg + Rankin + Braddock + Swissvale + Millvale + Etna + Reserve + Sharpsburg (est. pop 420,950)
2. Marshall + Bradford Woods + Franklin Park + Pine + Richland (est. pop 35,423)
3. McCandless + Ross + West View (est. pop 68,850)
4. Shaler + Hampton (est. pop 47,283)
5. West Deer + Indiana (est. pop 18,372)
6. Fawn + Frazer + Harrison + East Deer + Tarentum + Brackenridge + Cheswick + Springdale Township + Springdale Borough + Harmar (est. pop 35,404)
7. O'Hara + Fox Chapel + Blawnox + Aspinwall (est. pop 18,791)
8. Avalon + Bellevue + Ben Avon + Ben Avon Heights + Emsworth + Kilbuck + Glen Osborne + Aleppo + Haysville + Glenfield (est. pop 21,602)
9. Sewickley + Sewickley Hills + Sewickley Heights + Bell Acres + Ohio + Edgeworth + Leet + Leetsdale (est. pop 14,544)
10. Moon + Crescent + Coraopolis + Findlay (est. pop 35,880)
11. North Fayette + McDonald + Oakdale + South Fayette (est. pop 26,490)
12. Oakmont + Verona + Plum (est. pop 36,975)
13. Penn Hills + Monroeville + Pitcairn (est. pop 79,847)
14. Glassport + Liberty + Port Vue + Lincoln + Elizabeth Borough + West Elizabeth + Dravosburg + Clairton + Forward + Elizabeth Township (est. pop 43,399)
15. Mt. Lebanon + Upper St. Clair + Bethel Park (est. pop 86,666)
16. Jefferson Hills + South Park + Pleasant Hills (est. pop 32,403)
17. Robinson + Pennsbury Village + Collier + Bridgeville + Kennedy (est. pop 31,140)
18. Crafton + Ingram + Thornburg + Green Tree + Rossyln Farms + Carnegie + Scott + Heidelberg (est. pop 42,912)
19. Baldwin Township + Baldwin Borough + Castle Shannon + Brentwood + Whitehall (est. pop 55,709)
20. West Mifflin + Duquesne + Whitaker + Munhall (est. pop 43,398)
21. North Versailles + Versailles + East Versailles + White Oak + McKeesport + East McKeesport + Trafford (est. pop 48,038)
22. Churchill + Wilkins + Chalfant + Turtle Creek + Wilmerding + East Pittsburgh + North Braddock + Braddock Hills + Forest Hills + Wall (est. pop 37,570)

Wow...Pittsburgh picked up 12 municipalities, most of them struggling, in bankruptcy, or on the verge of bankruptcy. This plan takes us from 130 municipalities down to 22. Way, way more manageable.

For the most part, the Rule Of Thumb Of 30,000 residents for a normal-sized municipality idea worked out. There are some exceptions. For instance, I think those scrappy kids in the Sewickley configuration will make it with just over 14,000 people.

It's not a perfect idea. But it is an idea. An it's an idea that is long past due. It is time to re-open the Pennsylvania State Constitution and make it way more easier for municipalities to consolidate than it is today.

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