Posts Tagged ‘politics’
Bloomberg View’s Christopher Flavelle reports on a recent study suggesting that properly-fitted urban governments, encompassing entire metropolitan areas and not only fragments thereof, are key to ensuring a city’s long-term prosperity. Fragmentation helps no one.
(Greater Toronto Area, are you listening?)
Plenty of things make a city great: well-paid jobs, good roads and public transit, high-quality schools, attractive parks and cultural goodies like celebrity chefs and art galleries, to name a few.
But what creates those qualities in some cities and not others? A new report from the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development across industrialized countries points to maybe the unsexiest topic in public policy: the structure of municipal government.
Sure, you’ve probably never argued over drinks with friends about the optimal size and responsibilities of county government. And that’s exactly the problem. If the OECD is right, the overpowering boringness of metropolitan governance bodies is a big part of what keeps more big cities from succeeding. It’s hard to worry about (let alone fix) something that’s too dull to argue over.
That neglect comes at a pretty high cost. In its report, “The Metropolitan Century,” the OECD says you can’t expect a well-functioning city without “effective governance arrangements that fit the situation in a city and its surrounding areas.” So long as people live in one area, work in another and go out in a third, the patterns of their lives don’t reflect arbitrary jurisdictional lines drawn decades (or, for some cities, centuries) earlier.
The result is a “mismatch between functional boundaries and administrative boundaries,” as the latter fail to keep up with the former. Some metropolitan areas adapt, either by merging small local governments or by creating new ways to coordinate across those governments — what the report calls, collectively, metropolitan governance bodies. Others don’t, allowing bureaucratic and planning friction to persist and fester.