Watching the Slow-Motion Crash of the Regionalization Train
It may not add up to a silver lining, but hopefully folks are beginning to see why Anchor Rising contributors have been very suspicious of calls to regionalize or centralize government and its services:
[League of Cities and Towns Executive Director Dan Beardsley] also spoke of new limits on municipal contracts to ban: automatic renewals for expired agreements; retirement benefits that exceed the statewide standard, should one be adopted,and provisions such as minimum manning rules that limit municipalities’ ability to close or reorganize departments.
Beardsley said those changes were needed to undo years of bad laws and, in his opinion, excessive arbitration decisions that had unreasonably increased municipal benefits such as pay for unused sick time.
[AFL-CIO President George] Nee said the contracts were the result of both sides agreeing to the terms, and it was disingenuous for municipal officials to blame unions for the deals they signed themselves.
Frankly, Nee’s right. The people whom Rhode Islanders have allowed to operate local governments have acceded to union demands much too enthusiastically. Moreover, they haven’t adequately pushed back against mandates and statutes at the state level that have tilted the game board in the direction of unions and other special interests. Only when things begin to fall apart do they begin to strike poses of complaint.
But note, in that process, that the state has not been the source of reason. The larger, superseding government and its officials have been drawing municipalities in the harmful direction, not striving to hold them back. What on Earth makes folks think that giving them more direct control — as with statewide teacher contracts, more say on healthcare programs, and a stronger position in local affairs — will be to the better?
Even just a few paragraphs away, we get this:
John C. Simmons, executive director of the Rhode Island Public Expenditure Council, said while proposals in the report for a city merger or for a regionalization of services were interesting, other options might be considered, too, such as the state simply taking over all city services in Central Falls.
All that means, it seems to me, is that the unreasonable costs of Central Falls’ agreements will be spread across the entire state. Hiding those costs and deflating accountability is clearly not the way to bring the city or the state toward the practice of better decision making.