Guest Opinion - A Bee Editorial from Yesteryear
Our Newsroom Elves ran the Wayback Machine the other day and brought back this editorial from the archives of the Sacramento Bee, circa January 13, 2010. Back then the County was in very bad shape financially thanks to the Great Recession. So the Bee's editors were inspired to urge the Supervisors to help form cities where it made sense and encourage annexation into existing cities. They specifically cited Arden Arcade as an obvious example where residents might want to form their own city (...duh!). Here's a key concept from the editorial:
"In general, cities do a better job than counties when it comes to providing urban services, which is why all regions in this down economy should look for better ways to reorganize.""Seize moment to rethink 'Uncity'", Sacramento Bee Editorial, 01/13/2010
We can't provide a handy link to the editorial, written in a prehistoric internet era as it was. Fortunately, the Elves memorized the exact, full text, which we present here for your reading pleasure. Please draw your own conclusions.
"Seize moment to rethink 'Uncity'
Sacramento County is underwater again. Budget officials say in the next two months they will need to trim another $15 million to make up for revenue shortfalls this fiscal year and begin paying back money borrowed last year.
Meanwhile, next year's deficit is projected to top $100 million. In the face of this seemingly never-ending crisis, supervisors are poised to go back to the same old drill – comb through the list of already dangerously depleted county services and find more cuts to make. Enough!
The magnitude of the current fiscal emergency calls for something bolder. We've said it before. Supervisors should actively work to shrink the Uncity – those heavily populated communities in Sacramento County that aren't contained within cities. For decades the county has provided municipal services to these areas – police protection, garbage pickup and road maintenance for the most part – that it can no longer afford to provide.
Where it makes sense in terms of cost and efficiency, supervisors should aggressively solicit cities to annex the urbanized county neighborhoods that border them. In some areas – Arden Arcade is one obvious example – county residents may wish to incorporate and form their own cities. Where analyses show that such cities would be economically viable, incorporation should be encouraged. In other places, annexation should be the goal.
There should even be discussion of a "Unigov," similar to what Indianapolis/Marion County did in 1970. In that setup, some cities retain autonomy, with police, mayors, city services. Others have a council but get the bulk of their services from Unigov.
Special districts – the fiefdoms that provide fire, water, parks and recreation – will surely fight any change. Annexations could provide greater scrutiny of their operations.
Such a shift can be a tough sales job. The affected communities must be convinced their quality of life will improve. Gold River is not in the new city of Rancho Cordova today because residents there actively lobbied to remain an independent community.
In general, cities do a better job than counties when it comes to providing urban services, which is why all regions in this down economy should look for better ways to reorganize.
Many have adopted models in which they contract with private companies for garbage pickup, saving money. After years of contracting with the Sacramento County Sheriff's Department for police protection and watching costs sky rocket, Citrus Heights and Elk Grove created their own police departments tailored to meet the needs of those communities.
Supervisors cannot shrink the Uncity by themselves. They need the active participation of cities, special districts and the public.
But somebody must kickstart the process. The supervisors are in the best position to do so. They should convene a countywide summit to explore where annexations, incorporations or other options make the most sense. Now's the time to seize this moment."