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

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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?

    New series aims to stir interest in tackling area’s parochialism

    Doug Clifton
    Plain Dealer Editor

    Three years ago, The Plain Dealer launched a series of stories we called “A Region Divided.” As the name implies, the series documented the fragmentary system of government that defines Northeast Ohio.

    While the series drew no conclusions, it did ask questions, big ones and small.

    For example, do neighboring villages each need a $600,000 ladder truck?

    Is education best served by a multitude of small districts, each struggling to stay solvent?

    Should traffic signals be coordinated across municipal boundaries?

    Should police and fire departments be able to communicate with each other on a common system?

    If they accomplished nothing else, those stories stimulated debate over those and other related issues.

    Today we return to the topic with a new series. We’re calling this one “A Region Uniting?” It will pick up where the last one left off. Today’s segment outlines what has changed since the first story ran in January 2004 and the last in August 2005.

    Future segments, among other topics, will consider what would happen if some suburbs merged, whether politicians fear that regionalism will reduce their power, and how it is going for Toronto and Louisville, two cities that absorbed their suburbs.

    Both series are an extension of yet another series, “The Quiet Crisis,” that we launched in 2001. It documented the precarious state of the region’s economy and explored the efforts to revive it. Many readers complained that the series was too negative, that we had done a good job of sounding the alarm but the time had come to stop ringing it.

    Perhaps the newly launched project will generate the same response. For that we make no apologies. The job of a newspaper is to cast an inquisitive — sometimes challenging — eye on the region it covers, not to just blow it kisses.

    Any fair-minded reading of The Plain Dealer will demonstrate that we do plenty of the latter, far more than we’re given credit for. But it is undeniable that our central mission is to ask the distasteful question and search for the sometimes uncomfortable answer.

    That does not mean that we have no obligation to recognize valuable assets and note signal achievements. And this region has many of both, more than most regions of similar size.

    But can a region possess both an embarrassment of riches and a shameful collection of problems? It can. And this one does.

    Core Cleveland staggers under the weight of intolerable poverty. Its home county lags its peers in educational attainment. The economy is fragile. A wedge of disharmony separates the races. And splintered, inefficient, parochial government reigns.

    Hardly anyone denies the region’s need to resurrect its economy and, happily, a number of promising efforts to do that are taking shape. Civic, philanthropic and political leaders seem to be singing from the same hymnal, even if, at times, they’re singing different songs.

    If “The Quiet Crisis” helped shape the debate over our economic future, “A Region Divided,” helped make way for a serious discussion of regionalism.

    Our hope for “A Region Uniting?” is to advance the discussion and rekindle citizen and official interest in tackling the problems of parochialism that so often stifle our loftiest ambitions.

    Some of that is under way. Just last week nine influential mayors vowed to push for a new, more efficient form of county government. And last month, developer, civic icon and resident curmudgeon Sam Miller spoke out passionately for a countywide system of government. “A Region Uniting?” will track those discussions and explore new ground.

    To review “A Region Divided” stories, go to As the new series is published, “A Region Uniting?” will be posted there. will also post a parallel series in the Sun News, our newspaper affiliate. The first story on Thursday will explore whether merging local firefighting and rescue services can lower taxes while keeping residents safe.

    Clifton is editor of The Plain Dealer. Contact Doug Clifton at:, 216-999-4123

    © 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