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The City No One Wanted
21/09/2004

The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette seems to be a bit like the Toronto Star in advocating for reforms in how the municipality is governed in the hopes of improving things.

They are in the midst of an ongoing campaign that seems to be promoting amalgamation in the Pittsburgh area. This week they are running a series that focuses specifically on the Canadian experience:

The highly fragmented Pittsburgh metropolitan region won't be uniting into one municipality anytime soon.

But the Canadian model of dramatic government mergers is worth examining in southwestern Pennsylvania, if only because what transpired north of the border came as a response to many of the same problems that plague the Pittsburgh area today.

Sunday, they wrote about Winnipeg. Monday about Toronto. Today about Hamilton and Montréal. Tomorrow a review.

The Toronto article is an interesting outsider's review of the megacity amalgamation and its effects. You should read the whole thing, but here are some selected exerpts:

  • David Crombie, one of Toronto's most revered former mayors and a Conservative Party member himself, said the Harris-led Tories "wanted to kick the heck out of the old city."
  • "[The reorganizing] was just overwhelming for everybody," said Sue-Ann Levy, a City Hall columnist with the Toronto Sun. "It was an unholy mess."
  • Almost as difficult as merging union contracts and computer networks has been harmonizing six different sets of laws and six different standards of service. "It was hell, because you couldn't satisfy anybody," said [Mel] Lastman, the former mayor.
  • "You actually had a majority of council members who didn't want their own city," [Paul Sutherland, a Toronto council member from 2000 to 2003] said. "There was always this undercurrent of, 'I didn't want this stupid government.' "
  • [John] Matheson, the former Harris government official, argues that another 10 years must pass before the amalgamation can be fairly evaluated.
  • Toronto these days is home to about one out of every 12 Canadians. Budgets have increased, payrolls have swelled, and grass has died. But amalgamation has given Toronto the type of power and presence that Pittsburgh can only envy -- and which [Mayor David] Miller hopes to parley into increased federal funding for public transit, affordable housing and waterfront revitalization in his city.

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