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The push to consolidate local governments and city services in Northeast Ohio

The Plain Dealer
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    Cuyahoga County home values fall in tax reappraisal; city, school budgets could suffer as talk of regionalism regains momentum
    Forum: Do you think regionalism is a good idea for Northeast Ohio?

    Neighbor cities see benefits to uniting

    Thomas Ott
    Plain Dealer Reporter

    Talk of regionalism in Northeast Ohio typically begins with an ambitious look at countywide governance and ends with most of us too timid to take the leap.

    But what if we began with baby steps?

    What would you say about merging some of our suburbs? Are our municipal identities worth millions of dollars in duplicated services? Does a region of our size need hundreds of city council members, scores of fire chiefs and dozens of libraries?

    Would those of us who live in Parma and Parma Heights, for instance, agree to unite if it would lower our taxes? Would those of us in Eastlake and Willoughby join hands if our fire protection might improve?

    The Plain Dealer posed similar questions to our suburban leaders and neighbors for a second installment of "A Region Uniting?" series, which explores the possible benefits of increased cooperation among governments.

    What we found might surprise you. Despite predictable misgivings, many of us would agree to mergers. Even some of us whose jobs would be lost.

    Parma Heights Mayor Marty Zanotti is one. The reason: Survival.

    Zanotti's city already struggles to pay for the services that its 20,000-plus residents expect. And that's with a 3 percent municipal income tax - the highest in the state. So what happens when that tax isn't enough to keep 34 police officers and 29 firefightersin uniform? Where will the money come from? The population is aging, and the city is fully developed.

    One possibility is a merger with Parma, with four times the people and five times the land. The two suburbs have much in common, including a school district they share with Seven Hills.

    The combined city - "Parma Plus" has a certain ring - would have more than 100,000 people.

    And Parma Plus wouldn't need two mayors, two police chiefs, two fire chiefs, two law directors and - well, you get the idea. Just eliminating the salaries of overlapping administrators would save hundreds of thousands of dollars a year.

    "If they put it on the ballot," said Lee Kamps, a 58-year-old insurance salesman from Parma Heights, "I bet it would pass."

    South Euclid Mayor Georgine Welo would surrender her job in a merger. Her reason: Saving money.

    Welo's city shares a school district with Lyndhurst. So what if the two neighbors pooled everything else, including the pools?

    Lyndhurst would contribute Legacy Village, a retail village with a regional draw. South Euclid would bring Notre Dame College, a few manufacturers and proposed development at the Cedar Center shopping plaza.

    The new city of "Euclynd," with nine square miles and more than 36,000 people, would be about the size and population of North Olmsted. Yet North Olmsted spends $21.6 million a year, or $11.6 million less than the operating budgets of South Euclid and Lyndhurst. What if Euclynd could get by with the same?

    That would save every resident hundreds of dollars a year.

    Richard Resnick, 49, a banker who lives in University Heights, could see his bedroom community merging, but it depends on the partner.

    An obvious possibility would be Cleveland Heights -the two suburbs share a school district and a library system. But Resnick said that business-rich Beachwood would be a better match.

    "Beachwood Heights" would be slightly bigger than South Euclid. It would include John Carroll University and University Square shopping center, and more than 3,000 businesses, an upscale shopping mall and access to Interstate 271.

    "Communities should choose their partners with an eye toward eliminating some of today's weaknesses in local tax bases." Resnick said. "If we don't, we're just buying a few more years before the crisis again becomes acute."

    © 2007 The Plain Dealer. Used with permission.
    Cuyahoga County Read The Plain Dealer's 2007 series on Northeast Ohio's push towards a regional government
  • Part One: Reacting with lip service -- and lead feet
  • Graphic: Economic impact | What might have been
  • Graphic: The ripening of regionalism
  • Graphic: A Region Divided: The issues it raised
  • New series aims to stir interest in tackling area's parochialism
  • Part Two: Bundling the burbs
  • Graphic: Merging the Heights: Two, stronger?
  • Graphic: How merging might add up
  • • Interactive: OH migration | NEO migration
  • Part Three: So many leaders, who will lead us?
  • What local leaders can do
  • Area leaders speak out
  • Politicians slow to take the reins
  • How regional reforms were achieved elsewhere
  • Part Four: It worked in Louisville, now Cleveland?
  • Graphic: What if we merged like Louisville?
  • Graphic: A new migration
  • Graphic: Key steps in Louisville merger
  • Final analysis: NOACA must do more
    Cuyahoga County Read The Plain Dealer's original 2004 series on how Cuyahoga County and its surrounding communities might benefit from consolidating governments and city services Part 1: Is there a better way?
  • A new Cleveland without borders?

  • PD's Doug Clifton: Regional government deserves exploration

  • Five models of regional government

  • Regional cooperation in Greater Cleveland goes back a long way

  • Chart: Should two cities become one

    Part 2: Burning questions
  • One big fire department?

  • Fighting fires before they start

  • Fire department consolidations

  • Chart: What's it cost to fight fires?

  • Boots and ladders

  • PDF: Where's the fire [station]?

    Part 3: An Issue of black and white
  • Reframing the debate

  • The meaning of influence

  • Chart: Blacks in Cuyahoga County

  • Chart: Government reform

    Part 4: Joining forces
  • CSI Cuyahoga County?

  • One county, 47 city jails

    Chart: All dressed up and ready for 'GO!'

    Chart: Mixed signals

    Part 5: The Minneapolis plan
    What if we shared the wealth?

    Chart: Regional comparison

    Chart: South St. Paul by the number

    Chart: What if Northeast Ohio shared?

    Part 6: New math for schools
    Could 31 districts ever equal 1?

    Chart: Big districts spend less

  • Chart: Separate and unequal schools

    Part 7: New math for schools II
    In schooling math, more can be less

    Chart: School consolidation hot spots

    Part 8: Disorder in the courts
  • Verdict: inefficient and fragmented

  • PD's Doug Clifton: Challenges remian as we face the future in NE Ohio

  • Chart: Caseload burdens

  • Chart: Legal maze for Cuyahoga families

    Part 9: Disorder in the courts II
  • On DUIs, justice is all over the map

  • Chart: Different Courts, different results

  • Chart: Which courts stike the most deals with drunken drivers?

    Part 10: Playing Together
  • Sharing the cost of a big rec center

  • Chart: Fit to compete

    Part 11: Degrees of Cooperation
  • Colleges consider pooling resources

  • Chart: Public colleges and universities in Ohio, US

  • Chart: Colleges nearby for Northeast Ohioans

  • Chart: Degree overlap