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Not much traction for Morrison’s One City proposal

By Matt Artz
Thursday, January 28th, 2010 at 3:29 pm in Uncategorized.

I’ve talked to some local pols about Gus Morrison’s proposal to consolidate Fremont, Union City and Newark into a single city.

No surprise that there’s a lot of apprehension.

Politicians are, by and large, the same people who joined too many clubs in high school and organized events nobody really wanted to attend.

I’m guessing most Tri-City area residents don’t really care if there subdivision is off Newark Boulevard, Ardenwood Boulevard or Union City Boulevard.

But if you’re identity is wrapped up in decades worth of Newark Days or Fremont Festival of the Arts or any other civic pride event, city boundaries matter a great deal.

Asking a politician to disband his/her city is like asking a cheerleader to cancel the pep rally.

So here’s what a few local pols had to say.

Newark Mayor Dave Smith feared that Fremont would dominate any union said that Newark was too precious to lose.

Fremont’s a great city, he said. It’s just that we have different cultures and different way of doing things. We have a Newark way. A Newark spirit.

Likewise Union City Councilman Richard Valle:

Union City has created a unique identity and those of us who live here appreciate that uniqueness and … think it’s worth keeping,” he said.

Fremont Mayor Bob Wasserman said he opposed it because by the time it could be implemented the economy would have improved, and he doesn’t think it would generate much savings because bigger cities tend to start hiring all sorts of upper management people, and the next thing you know, you’ve got just as many higher-ups as you did when you had three cities.

Anu  Natarajan said she wasn’t opposed. She also feared that Newark and Union City folks would see consolidation as a Fremont takeover. I’m having trouble understanding her these days. She also said that she’s running for re-election and that she’s always been running for re-election.

And finally Newark Councilwoman Ana Apodaca said she was interested in studying the idea, but that it should be debated by community members, not council members.

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  • Margaret

    The Newark spirit lives in vacant haunted industrial parks. Newark does have a different way of doing things like wasting decades trying to build executive housing and a golf course on a flood zone far removed from shopping and city services. Is this what the Mayor calls “The Newark Way”?

  • VOR

    Darn. Well Marty, looks like you’ll have to convince the folks in Niles to secede and rename the town Mission Valley. Geographically speaking it fits.

  • Marty

    No need to secede, the folks in Niles never assimilated.

  • 2cents

    “I’m having trouble understanding her these days. She also said that she’s running for re-election and that she’s always been running for re-election.”

    Oh man did we call that or what guys…

  • Perry Masonary

    The real reason why there will never be a consolidation of the tri-cities is exactly the same reason why any consolidation on this scale is done in the first place.

    Jurisdictions consolidate to save money, and a large part of those savings do not come from economies in the actual working, service providing segments of city workers. Those economies come from the consolidation of the highly-paid administrative positions and the elected officials in the organizations that are being consolidated.

    A consolidated tri-cities would not require three separate City Councils, three city managers, three department heads for each department in the newly consolidated city. Not three police chiefs, not three city attorneys.

    It would require a lot of personal character for the management and elected officials of our local cities to do what might be financially right for their/our city when they would know that taking that action would result in rendering their $200,000+/year jobs superfluous.

    Has anybody observed that caliber of character emanating from any of our local officials lately?

  • SMALLS

    This is why Capt Kangroo will never be elected a city
    offical…

  • bbox231

    Perry makes great points, all -
    Certainly – there are other variants on consolidation of municipal services across city boundaries. One that I know about is -

    http://www.smcl.org/external.html?www.plsinfo.org/aboutus/index.htm

    Gus (or anyone with expertise on this suggestion) -

    If taken to the extreme, Gus’ basic suggestion would argue for something (rhetorical here) like the City of California. . . . with a single city hall responsible for everything therein.

    I know that isn’t real but my question is, what are the practical limits to this kind of consolidation ? What are the REAL (forget the emotional nonesense about how “different” we all are for example) trade-offs and how would taxpayers assess the relative likelihood of those negative consequences (if any) becoming a reality ?

  • Gus Morrison

    Taken to the extreme, Box, you are right. We could have only one city consisting of the whole state. That, of course, would be absurd. There are practicalities involved – common borders, contiguity of interest, a rational size, etc. I truly believe in local government and feel that the local electeds are the most practical and the most conscientious. There is a point where the city gets so big that the elected people start to think of themselves as special (like those in Sacramento) and they lose touch with the electorate.

    In my proposal, I think we wind up with the best of the mix. We have a city of moderate size, not one of the 10 biggest in the state. Still small enough to keep touch with the people but big enough to provide the services needed to support the community. And there are huge cost savings from a consolidation.

    Just start listing departments and figure the new city would have administration costs of 40% of the combined costs today. It doesn’t take many departments and you’re saving millions. And, without affecting the worker levels where the service is actually provided to the people.

  • Marty

    Can we at least change Fremont to Mission Valley? This would be a simple majority vote, right? And Newark wouldn’t have to be involved, which is why everybody is apprehensive in the first place.

  • Perry Masonary

    Think about this for a minute. Do you feel that your needs and concerns are being adequately addressed by the City Council and city administration that you have now?

    If Fremont was absorbed into a larger entity with neighboring cities, would that make it more likely or less likely that your individual input would be heard? Would it make it more likely that that your needs would be met? Would your representatives be more or less interested in the specific local issues that effect the quality of your life?

    Back in November, did Fremont residents care about the outcome of the Newark Utility Tax measure? Right now, do you care about neighborhood crime in north Union City? Enough to go to a Union City Council meeting to talk about it? Of course not – Newark and Union City residents don’t make a practice of coming to Fremont to support our concerns. Why would they? These issues are far enough removed from them to not effect their lives in a direct way.

    If we had our civic act together, if our elected representatives actually represented us, if we were providing adequate basic services to local residents, I’d say that we might be a good candidate for consolidation. As it is, we need to clean our own house before we think about moving into a co-op.

    My personal opinion? Fremont management would love to get all of the cities together under one big roof for one big reason. They could then propose changes in one part of the newly-consolidated city that might be supported by residents in those parts of the city that are geographically insulated from the effects of those changes. The new City Council could then say that they were supported by a majority of “the people”, even though for a long time most people would still think of themselves as really being Newark or Fremont or Union City residents (much as some of us still identify as Irvington, Niles, Centerville, etc.). If the Council made some Godawful decision that effected Union City, why would I complain if I’m in Warm Springs?

    That’s the problem the Fremont City Council is currently having; even though Fremont is large geographically, the consequences of their actions are still too concentrated within the current city limits to escape the notice of residents. They’re looking for a larger field upon which to play, in the hope that we’ll do what comes naturally and only look out for our own little neck o’ the woods.

  • Ringo Starr

    I agree with Perry Masonry above. This has to be the stupidest idea ever from our ex-mayor Gus Morrisson. I am surprised he proposed this, I guess he has gone totally senile.

    Have we forgotten that Fremont itself was first formed by merging the 5 towns? And to suggest we do this again on a much larger scale? Ludicrous.

    For starters, being as big as Fremont is now, we don’t seem to have a functional government and great public services. For instance, the ratio of police officers to our population is very low.

    How can we make our local Gov more accountable and representative of the whole city. A reporter at Argus (or another local paper) had a while ago suggested to make Fremont a charter city. That sounds like a more reasonable thing to do than to merge 3 totally different cities with different characters. Imagine 5 or 7 city council members elected from 5 or 7 districts in Fremont giving each district (zone) of the city good representation of the local issues of that zone. Instead of the current dysfunctional way we elect our candidates funded by developers and big wigs with no representation of different areas of Fremont.

  • Gus Morrison

    Ringo, you should be so senile. My idea is driven by the absolute need to find some way to make government work and continue to provide the services necessary to keep us safe and secure. Using Newark as an example, where their sales tax has dropped from around $14 million a year to less than $10 million, in a budget of around $31 million, they have taken major steps already. They have cut staff significantly (17% in October, probably more now), every single staff member has taken a pay cut, and they are now implementing a $3 million reduction in this year’s budget. Last week, they closed the senior center and moved it into the teen center at Silliman. They announced they will no longer maintain three neighborhood parks. And they are implementing plans to merge their fire department with Alameda County Fire.

    What happens if the economy continues to slump? Where do they cut? Someone asked if the next step was contracting with the sheriff for police protection.

    My idea is to consolidate management costs so that the essential services can be delivered to the citizens. Take a look at this article from the Denver Post and you can see where this all can lead.

    http://www.denverpost.com/news/ci_14303473

  • Godfrey

    Gus,your ideas make sense to me but the problem is most people don’t see the economic tsunami that’s coming our way. Most don’t understand that California’s bond rating now valued less than a third world country will effect Fremont soon. Plus it doesn’t appear our tax base will be growing anytime soon. Not with our State Government waging war on the private sector. But you are right if we prepare now with some of your proposals we may have a chance. If not,the current complaints and criticisms of our city government and services could sound really silly in the future. Some may look back at this time and realize how good we had it.

  • Henry Hutchins

    If the objective of Gus Morrision’s idea to “Make Tri-City one city” is truly to cut costs, then there is a better way. While waiting for charter changes and elections, the departments where cost savings can be realized through economies of scales should be consolidated as soon as possible. Citizen review boards should be established to look into each department consolidation project, thus reducing the personal politics. Best practices in each department should be determined and utilized in the consolidated departments. As we know, some cities provide better service in certain areas of government. But one thing should be understood, bigger is not always better.

    Fremont Henry