The State of Illinois holds the dubious record of having approximately 8,500 taxing bodies, which is nearly two times that of second place Pennsylvania. Recently there have been questions raised concerning how the taxing bodies affect the tri-County area, including whether some taxing bodies should consolidate or merge. In particular, whether the City and County of Peoria should merge into one governmental unit. Presently, the population of the City of Peoria is approximately 111,000 which places it approximately 197th in the nation (in 1990 Peoria was listed 164th). If the city and county were to merge, the population of approximately 185,000 would place us just ahead of Grand Rapids, Mich., in 100th place.
The idea of city and county government merging is not a new idea, nor are we the only ones to address this issue. The city of Indianapolis is considered to be the model regarding the merging of city and county governments. Indianapolis is now the 13th largest city, and has positioned itself as the amateur sports capital of the U.S.
In 2000, the citizens of Louisville and Jefferson County, Ky., voted to merge. The referendum passed in a convincing fashion. When the transition is complete, Louisville will go from the 65th largest city, with a population of 270,000, to the 15th largest city, with a population of 693,000. The economic opportunities for Louisville are tremendous.
I hope our local government leaders will stay abreast of the historic transformation Louisville is undertaking. Louisville community leaders and elected officials want to have a world class city. They have a goal to streamline services, not duplicate them. They devised a representative government for all citizens that is more efficient, effective and easier to use (it noted the city/county compact outlived its original purpose—better government, not bigger—and they enhanced economic development while positioning themselves for growth.
Their new government will include a single CEO and legislative body that speaks for the entire community. They intend to open a vast array of economic opportunities through image enhancement and streamlining of government interaction with businesses, improve service delivery by leveraging city and county departments, and create administrative efficiencies.
Louisville today has a first-class airport, a beautiful downtown, a new ballpark built on the riverfront, recognized universities, outstanding medical care, and a strong work ethic. Through this reorganization it will position itself to compete in a global marketplace. Last year, representatives from Peoria went to Louisville to attend a conference and get a firsthand look at how Louisville and other communities address their neighborhood issues.
The Jefferson County Website has a blueprint for Louisville/Jefferson County government reorganization. Our community leaders and government officials should pay close attention—it may someday be a blueprint we could use. IBI