As the Co-Chair of the Dayton Together Charter Development Committee, former Dayton Mayor and Ohio Lt. Governor Paul Leonard has received a number of questions about the proposed creation of a Dayton-Montgomery Metro Government. Here are his answers to some of the most frequently asked questions.
Question: Is Dayton Together a committee of government officials?
Answer: No. Neither Dayton Together, nor the Charter Development Committee, are creations of government. We are private and public citizens who are part of a not-for-profit organization. We have come together to explore the possibility of a new, viable, modern, more efficient, less expensive form of regional government that would work to the benefit of our community.
Question: Who makes the final decision as to whether or not our community will have a new form of government?
Answer: You will. The voters of Montgomery County will have the final say on any proposed change.
Question: Are taxpayers funding this exercise?
Answer: No. Private contributions from stakeholders in our community are raising the money to pay expenses associated with the project.
Question: A few current elected officials have indicated they are against the idea. Why?
Answer: I can’t speak for them. I can say that committee members are working hard to “get it right.” We are still in the early stages of deliberation and discussion. Right now, we are asking the community to merely keep an open mind until a proposed new charter is finalized and presented to the community for consideration.
Question: In other communities that have adopted similar forms of metro government, haven’t some elective offices been converted to non-elected, professional jobs?
Answer: Yes. Some positions, in reformed forms of government which are currently elective jobs, are converted to appointed professional positions. Whatever proposal is developed for consideration by voters in our community will likely include the conversion of some elected positions to professional appointments made by the governing legislative body.
Question: What will this new government be called?
Answer: The current “working title” is Dayton-Montgomery Metro Government.
Question: Are we the first area in the State of Ohio to consider this change?
Answer: No. Summit County (Akron) was the first; Cuyahoga (Cleveland) is the most recent. What Dayton Together is considering is bolder than what has been done in any other Ohio county. Some, however, would still argue that we haven’t gone far enough.
Question: Which communities in our area will be impacted?
Answer: At present, the proposal is to consolidate Montgomery County and the City of Dayton. As we move through this process, other Montgomery County communities are invited and welcome to examine the merits of joining the new government.
Question: Have other American cities and counties gone through a similar transition?
Answer: Yes. The Midwest and the Upper South have the highest concentration of large city-county governments in the United States. Examples include Indianapolis, Nashville, Louisville, Jacksonville, Kansas City, and Philadelphia. More cities and counties are expected to go through a similar exercise as local government budgets are squeezed between the cost of providing adequate and efficient services to constituents and disappearing money that flowed from the federal and state governments to cities and local communities. At the same time, people are understandably feeling “taxed out.” Eliminating duplication and operating with less government is the way forward.
Question: What is the risk if governments choose not to consider reformation?
Answer: Many American cities are, or will be, facing a fiscal crisis. We will always need professionally trained firefighters, paramedics, and police officers. We will always need to repair and repave the same streets and roadways. We will always have the same miles of streets that need snow removal. Meanwhile, city populations are becoming older and poorer. New and existing businesses are expanding and locating outside the borders of central cities. In short, the tax base in some communities is disappearing. Ohio has a total of 20,232 elected officials. We have 3,962 government entities. We rank in the top 10 in the nation with respect to the number of local governments within a state. We can no longer afford today’s cost of governance.
Question: Will minority candidates for the new metro government have a legitimate opportunity to be elected to county-wide, legislative office.
Answer: Yes. Consider this—it’s 2015 and Montgomery County has never elected a minority to the County Commission! Anyone in public office today should know that elected leaders need to reflect the makeup of the community they represent if peace and harmony, while moving forward together, is the goal. The new County-wide Council is likely to feature district elections or a combination of at-large and district elections. Districts must be drawn to accommodate Equal Protection under the law, and to ensure that all candidates, no matter their race, have a legitimate opportunity that they don’t have now.
Question: Are there any other benefits to a unified metro government?
Answer: Yes. The jurisdictions that join together will all “be in the same boat.” Rather than compete with each other, there will be an incentive to work together. And why is that important? Because new businesses looking to locate or relocate, and existing businesses looking to expand, would much rather be in a region where everyone is together as opposed to a region where it’s neighbor versus neighbor.
The Dayton area has a national reputation for invention and reinvention. To be good stewards of this community, we must always be looking for ways to embrace change for the better. Reforming government may create a less convenient vehicle; but if the trade-off is greater financial stability and the opportunity to function with a less costly, more efficient, streamlined government, exploring merger and consolidation is a laudable cause.