The Rockford Files

Economy and Independence

The president of the little village in West Michigan where I was born and raised (Spring Lake, population 2,360, sal-ute!) no longer wants to be village president.  The obvious solution to this conundrum seems to have eluded the 84-year-old Joyce Verplank Hatton.  Rather than resign the office, President Hatton has decided to take the road less traveled by, asking the citizens of Spring Lake to dissolve the village, at which point 150 years of independence would vanish into Spring Lake Township.

The arguments for dissolution are exactly what one would expect to hear from those who confuse efficiency with conservatism: The village and the township duplicate certain services; one taxing body is better than two.  The political editor and columnist for the Rockford Register Star has made a similar argument for years: Rather than calling for the dissolution of the city of Rockford, however, Chuck Sweeny has advocated dissolving Rockford Township and letting the city and Winnebago County pick up the pieces.

The arguments of both Mrs. Hatton and Mr. Sweeny fail on their own terms.  Studies of municipal governments have found that bigger is rarely more efficient, much less better.  Cities have tried for decades to cope with the rising cost of municipal services by increasing their property tax base through annexation of surrounding unincorporated areas; but in the long run, the additional...

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