Not that there's anything wrong with that.
1. Promote the merger
2. Merge the county into the city
3. Ed Rendell moves on to bigger and better things
4. Dan O becomes governor.
5. Luke becomes the new leader of Pittsburgh/Allegheny County.
That would appear to be the size of it. There is a degree to which this will be the Pittsburgh Promise rebooted -- only different, because this is really big and ultimately necessary.
One does hope Step 2 is not entirely optional in this arrangement.
There is a vast consensus out there that the merging of governments, in some form or another, will be an absolutely necessary adaptive technique for Pittsburgh and for Allegheny County.
The question is, how are we are going to consolidate?
Mergers between governments must be a great deal like mergers amongst businesses -- there are talks, offers are made, negotiations take place over time. Creative minds develop win-win scenarios, skeptical minds guard their own interests, suspicious minds guard against everything. Time will be made a factor at various points.
You can see how mergers are a daunting business -- and how a lot rides on who is in charge of the merging. Ultimately, the final decision will be made by the voters, but that is only in an up-or-down, yes-or-no kind of sense.
The real action will be in how a merger is envisioned.
Mark DeSantis, a longtime champion of the city/county consolidation movement, gave some hints in 2006 as to the kinds of choices we will be making.
An infinite variety of consolidation plans are possible.
Write that on your hand, now.
However, experience across North America in recent decades suggests any proposed plan will fall within a continuum of two extremes. At one end is a complete fusion of all or almost all Allegheny County local governments into one giant “Pittsburgh Metroplex” government. Despite its size, Metroplex would be far simpler to comprehend in form and function than what exists now. However, it would also be very hard to bring about and would come with a big downside.
After a bit of explanation...
At the other end of our continuum is a scheme far more complex in form and function than Metroplex. Though the opposite of the Metroplex is probably easier to bring about, it too comes with a major downside. In our alternative and hypothetical “Pittsburgh Alliance of Governments” some, most, or all local governments would remain intact as separate entities but would be joined through a series of interlocking contractual agreements. These legally binding agreements would, among other things, compel all parties to base all major decisions solely on efficiency and effectiveness criteria and work together in a coordinated way.
Mr. DeSantis went on to advocate for something more like the Alliance; it sounds a bit from Ravenstahl, Onorato and Nordenberg like they are aiming at something in the middle.
City Council President Doug Shields yesterday dismissed the report as "an essay."
"It's history," he said. "We know the history. There's no specificity. There's nothing that deals with legal implications, home rule, you name it." (P-G, Karamagi Rujumba)
That is the truth, no doubt about it.
Pages 1-12 deal mostly with impressing upon us that consolidation is necessary; pages 13-15 provide an outline of recommendations that does little more than tell us, "Start doing it".
Pages 16-19 serve to identify some of the problems that would have to be worked through in envisioning this new government.
1. Meeting the continuing needs of the urban center
2. Ensuring adequate minority representation
3. Dealing equitably with current city and county employees
4. Segregating legacy costs
Depending on how one looks at things, these problems were glossed over, swept under the rug, waved away with vague assurances, or simply left to future architects.
One comes away with a slight impression that the means and methods of coming consolidating overtures must exist at least in the minds of several major players.
Which is fine, because the committee report was submitted respectfully (it pointed out several times), so its highest purpose may have been to help fashion the political will to begin confronting this challenge in earnest at last.
After 17 months of study, looking at places like Louisville, Ky., where the city merged with Jefferson County in 2000, Chancellor Nordenberg issued his report yesterday and concluded that city-county consolidation "is an idea from which good things will flow." (P-G, ibid.)
We are now well and truly moving forward, for which our Mayor is to be saluted.
COMET POSTSCRIPT: By all means, go about your business as usual. We do know we've still got a city on our hands.