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The Consolidation Question

The Charlotte City Council approved Mayor Foxx's proposal last night to pursue a study that examines consolidating the city and Mecklenburg County governments. It's now up to the county commission to decide if the study will occur. To follow up on that news, WFAE's Tanner Latham gets a sense of what some commissioners and town mayors think of the idea. Mark Rumsey: So what are you hearing? Tanner Latham: I did not get a chance to speak with every commissioner directly, but here's what we found out. Bill James shared with us an email he received today from Jennifer Roberts, who is in favor of pursuing the study. She addressed this email to the commissions' four Republicans and said she didn't have the votes to support the study. She asked if any of them were interested. We talked to James, who is outright opposed to consolidation. He says that right now people who live in the suburbs are paying for social services that are mostly used in Charlotte. "Suburbanites have become basically cash cows," says James. "Used to fund all sorts of socialist left-leaning projects. Whatever the Democrats can think up, they want to spend other people's money to do it, and almost allmost of the people who get tapped for this are suburbanites, and they tend to be Republicans." From his perspective, the towns are completely opposed to any consolidation. He says they see it as, in his words, "a raid on their treasuries." MR: That takes us to the towns in themselves. What are you hearing from the mayors? TL: I spoke to two. Matthews Mayor Jim Taylor and Jeff Tarte from Cornelius. Taylor was open-minded about the study, but was also skeptical. Taylor says he's open to having a conversation, but then continues, "I don't see where from the town's perspective, specifically Matthews and the other five towns including Matthews, I don't see where the benefit lies for us right now. Someone would have to show me where it is, but I don't see it right now." He says that a lot of efficiencies have already taken place. They've consolidated the county and city police departments, the fire departments, and Parks and Recreation. Cornelius mayor Jeff Tarte makes similar points. We don't know if a town board or residents of a town would have to approve a merger, but he says either way, it doesn't matter. "It only affects us to the extent that we participate into the consolidation efforts," says Tarte. "And candidly, I'm not sure there's a lot of excitement or clear benefit for the outlying communities to do that, to merge with the county, if you will." MR: Did you get a sense that these town officials just want to protect their own turf? TL: I think the consensus is that the towns themselves are happy with the resources they have, such as their own police departments, in some the Parks and Rec, that are funded in part by their own tax base. MR: If this study does take place, what would it entail, who does it involve, and how much does it cost? TL: The study is funded by a $150,000 grant through the Foundation for the Carolinas. I talked to a representative today. They say that there is no agenda for advocacy here. They just want to fund the study to educate the community on the prospect of consolidating. In fact, one of the stipulations to the grant is that there by no advocacy.