Given that we’re talking about Atlanta, and notable racial disparities, it’s hard not to consider the racial aspects of it. But there are a number of reasons why places would want to eject from the mothership, many of which have little to do with race. Such issues are pretty big back in Colosse, though in the opposite direction: Colosse is often seeking to incorporate independent places. If it’s already a city, it can’t. But if it’s within a certain area, they can’t incorporate and basically just wait for the mothership to beam them in (crying murder when they do). The cities like the tax revenue. There are rumors that moderates also like the white, conservative voters because it keeps the city from going off the deep end. It actually creates an interesting dynamic where Republicans hate it (on behalf of their constituents), but moderate and conservative Democrats like it because they will pick up these voters and Republicans aren’t a threat on the municipal scale anyway.
From a standpoint of fairness, there are arguments going in both directions. On the one hand, these places are being brought into an organization against their will and desire. And for this, they can also expect higher taxes, less autonomy, and sometimes less service. That doesn’t seem right. On the other hand, they enjoy benefits from living near the city that they do not pay for.
As an aside, one of the interesting things about moving out west is that places tended to be begged to let in. Being a part of municipality means, among other things, worrying a lot less about where your water is going to come from and whether anyone will pick up your trash.
Back to Colosse, the whole situation is somewhat ridiculous. You can skip a stone and hit three municipalities. In my view, there really isn’t much reason for it. East Oak, the township where I was raised (pop. 4k), actually shares a police department with West Oak (pop. 4k). Really, the only difference between the two is that West Oak allows apartment complexes and East Oak doesn’t. Meanwhile, both of these towns buy fire, water, and mail service from larger, neighboring townships. My town’s city hall used to be located in the fire station of a neighboring municipality.
The end result is that there is less rather than more sense of community. My brother lives two minutes away from my parents, but in a different town. The towns aren’t large enough to have their own schools or school systems. The primary justifications are laws (such as East Oak banning apartments) and economics. Invariably, the smaller a township, the less in taxes they pay. It’s a nice arrangement for those that get to be their own town. But they are often free-riding off the neighboring places they are not paying taxes to. Not so much in the way of services (East Oak pays for its fire services), but in terms of jobs, roads, and so on.
Meanwhile, in New Jersey, a few years ago there was an attempt to force small townships to merge. A (former?) reader of Hit Coffee commented that things out there are similarly ridiculous with all of these little towns. I don’t like forcing towns to join, though. And yet I am partial to a solution that is much, much more radical:
Let’s do away with cities. Entirely. It simply isn’t fair to cities that provide a hub that they are denied the tax revenues and such from places affluent enough to be independent. Nor is it fair, in places like Colosse, where some suburbs essentially bribe the city not to annex it (though I suppose I’m being even less fair, depriving them of that option if they are within the county). These individual towns are actually the same place from every standpoint except democratic boundaries. The boundaries should be drawn as such.
Back home, there are four (four!) police departments with jurisdiction. That excludes federal and specialty departments (university, school districts, Metro). The layers upon layers of government is good for some, but ultimately creates a lot of redundancy. And a lot of complication when it comes to what you can do where. Counties, drawn more-or-less as squares on a map, strike me as better administrative and democratic districts.
This will benefit some to the exclusion of others. It would probably hurt those on the outskirts of a county and benefit those, a county line away, who get to be their own place. Arguably, this would actually create longer commutes as people move just outside the county line. In the longer term, though, I think the counties would become more self-sufficient and become more of their own places anyway.
This all ties in to my belief that congestion will make economic centers of the suburbs as much as relocate people to urban cores. Somewhere, PD Shaw noted that almost as many Chicagoland commuters go from Cook County to DePage County as vice-versa. The suburbs are already economic centers, this would help them do more of their own thing and hopefully necessitate fewer trips to the city (East Oak is part of a chain of suburbs that very rarely require trips to the city). So it’s anti-suburb, but in a way it’s also pro-suburb (or is that pro-exurb?) insofar as we view suburbs as this distinct thing rather than anchored to the city (maybe to the point that we would stop thinking of them as suburbs generally). At least, that would be my hope. But it would at least simplify things and remove a lot of things from the local political discussion that are essentially battles in self-servitude that ultimately serve very, very few.