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Thread: The crazy county divider/consolidation thread

  1. #1
    Cyburbian illinoisplanner's avatar
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    The crazy county divider/consolidation thread

    As planners, I'm sure at least some of us have had crazy ideas about counties that are too small, too large and should be divided or consolidated as such. This can also include cities you think should be consolidated with counties as one unit, or vice-versa.

    For one, I think Cook County, IL is too large for its own good. At more than 5 million people, it stands as the 2nd largest county in the U.S. DuPage County was carved out of Cook ages ago by people wishing to preserve their rural and conservative way of life and escape the corruption and crime of Chicago. Additionally, McHenry and Lake used to be consolidated as one. If not for the division, this county would currently contain 1 million+ people and governing from the lakeshore to the prairie would be quite difficult indeed.

    But still, Cook is way too large. There are still plans on the drawing board to create new counties out of the northwest suburbs in Cook (Des Plaines, Schaumburg, Arlington Hts., etc.), as well as the south and southwest suburbs (Calumet City, Oak Lawn, Tinley Park). Both areas want to become called Lincoln County. One would be moderate, leaning conservative, the other would likely still be Democrat. Nevertheless, the local needs of these areas would be able to be more adequately addressed.

    I think they should go for it. Smaller, more local government, IMO is better. 5 million people just cannot be governed effectively by one body.

    Also, what about L.A. County (9-10 mil. ), Harris County, King County, and others? Do you agree with the Borough system in New York?

    On the contrary, what about Atlanta and Georgia as a whole?? It can also be difficult to manage and comprehend a major metropolitan area that has dozens and dozens of random counties and reckless sprawl, as each county tries to compete for tax dollars.
    "Life's a journey, not a destination"
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  2. #2
    Unfrozen Caveman Planner mendelman's avatar
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    Well, in Cook County, IL most of the county is incorporated already and there most of the popluation is governed by municipalities. I don't really see the point of dividing the county further.

    As for Dupage County, IL, there is not much rural about the county anymore.

    I think the larger comprehensive governing bodies (Metro governments) should be the norm for all things that affect the metro population in general (ie. transportation, water/sewer distribution, healthcare, education funding, etc.) and more local things (neighborhood character, built environment, limited zoning, etc.) could be handled at the individual burrough/municipal level.
    I'm sorry. Is my bias showing?

    Let's not be didactic in this profession, because that is a path to disillusion and irrelevancy.

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  3. #3
    Cyburbian hilldweller's avatar
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    I think it comes down to jurisdictional functions more than anything. Counties don't want to give up their authority to run the schools, courts, fire/ems, or even land use planning to some degree. Sometimes local control would probably be a better idea such as with schools when you have kids getting bussed all over hell and no neighborhood schools.

  4. #4
    Cyburbian jmello's avatar
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    In much of the northeast, counties are irrelevant. In Massachusetts, the boundaries make absolutely no sense. Suffolk County is the City of Boston plus three other small cities to the north. The surrounding suburban counties stretch for miles in every direction and actually have a few disjointed/landlocked pieces surrounded by other counties. The whole map needs to be redrawn and/or finally put to bed.

    As for North Carolina, the county system seems to work really well. Almost every major city is at the center of its surrounding county and the county government functions effectively as a suburban/metropolitan government (except in the case of extreme incorporation). Many NC cities have partly or totally consolidated with the surrounding county (Charlotte-Mecklenberg, Greensboro-Guilford, Durham-Durham, Wilmington-New Hanover, etc.).

  5. #5
    Cyburbian otterpop's avatar
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    There has been talk for years about consolidating some of the eastern Montana counties. If a county has 5,000 people does it really need its own governing body, road department, treasurer's office, etc? These counties were created during the big agricultural boom of the early 20th century and the agricultural bust after WWII resulted in a mass exodus. It makes sense to merge two counties into one in some cases.
    "I am very good at reading women, but I get into trouble for using the Braille method."

    ~ Otterpop ~

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    Cyburbian zman's avatar
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    From the Weld County, Colorado website:
    Weld County covers an area of 3,999 square miles in north central Colorado. It is bordered on the north by Wyoming and Nebraska and on the south by the Denver metropolitan area. The third largest county in Colorado, Weld County has an area greater than that of Rhode Island, Delaware and the District of Columbia combined. The climate is dry and generally mild with warm summers, mild winters and a growing season of approximately 138 days
    I have lived in Weld county on two non-consecutive occasions, including my current house since last June. While Weld certainly has no problem with population, it is wuite large scale and mainly agricultural. As stated above, Weld extends a massive area and included part of a north Metro Denver town called Broomfield. The Town of Broomfield was set in three counties: Weld, Boulder, and Adams. Depending upon where you live in the town, for services such as license plates, court, etc, one had to visit the county seats in Greeley, Boulder, or Brighton, respectively. Broomfield then, for those reasons among others, formed their own City and County for consolidation. While this only took a few acres from massive Weld County, it is the only such case of "county work" that I know of in Colorado and from what I have read, made things a lot easier for the residents of this growing town.

    Off-topic:
    I was looking at map of Weld County and wondering how if I were a county planner, I could do a site inspection waaaaay northeast of the offices in Greeley and it could take aaalllll day. County planning out west must be a whole different animal.


    Perhaps someone from the area could shed more light on this, or shred my above statement.
    You get all squeezed up inside/Like the days were carved in stone/You get all wired up inside/And it's bad to be alone

    You can go out, you can take a ride/And when you get out on your own/You get all smoothed out inside/And it's good to be alone
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  7. #7
    We get to make it even more complicated here. We've got three cities within spittin' distance of each other, but they are located in two counties. Then we have a state line for our southern border. The Feds got in the mix, too. Indiana is in Region V, while Kentucky is in Region IV (whatever federal region Atlanta is in).

    If we merged the three cities on this side of the river, we'd be the 4th or 5th largest city in the state. As it is now, my city is currently about 17th largest (and we're falling in each decennial census). But old animosities die hard.
    On pitching to Stan Musial:
    "Once he timed your fastball, your infielders were in jeopardy."
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  8. #8
    Cyburbian jmello's avatar
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    Quote Originally posted by zmanPLAN
    From the Weld County, Colorado website:

    The third largest county in Colorado, Weld County has an area greater than that of Rhode Island, Delaware and the District of Columbia combined.
    Just a little bit of embelishment here. The combined area of Rhode Island, Delaware and the District of Columbia is 4,102.3 square miles.

  9. #9
    Cyburbian zman's avatar
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    Quote Originally posted by jmello
    Just a little bit of embelishment here. The combined area of Rhode Island, Delaware and the District of Columbia is 4,102.3 square miles.
    Whatever dude, I have only been to D.C., so I cannot compare it personally.
    Perhaps I will lead a "correction campaign" to the state House in Denver.
    You get all squeezed up inside/Like the days were carved in stone/You get all wired up inside/And it's bad to be alone

    You can go out, you can take a ride/And when you get out on your own/You get all smoothed out inside/And it's good to be alone
    -Peart

  10. #10
    Cyburbian jmello's avatar
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    Quote Originally posted by zmanPLAN
    Whatever dude, I have only been to D.C., so I cannot compare it personally.
    Perhaps I will lead a "correction campaign" to the state House in Denver.
    Sorry, I am very sensitive when my home state is used as a symbol of diminutiveness, as it always seems to be.

  11. #11
    Cyburbian illinoisplanner's avatar
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    Quote Originally posted by mendelman
    Well, in Cook County, IL most of the county is incorporated already and there most of the popluation is governed by municipalities. I don't really see the point of dividing the county further.

    As for Dupage County, IL, there is not much rural about the county anymore.

    I think the larger comprehensive governing bodies (Metro governments) should be the norm for all things that affect the metro population in general (ie. transportation, water/sewer distribution, healthcare, education funding, etc.) and more local things (neighborhood character, built environment, limited zoning, etc.) could be handled at the individual burrough/municipal level.
    There are still some things that will always be governed by the county...the roads, voting, the health department, the court system, forest preserves, so on and so forth. There is also enough rural area left in NW and SW Cook to make somewhat of a difference. I just think Cook has an unfair monopoly and doesn't adequately represent the suburban issues of NW and Southern Cook.

    Additionally, it's better that a person travel only 20 minutes to have their needs addressed rather than go all the way into the city, where they are just another number.

    Too often, I see un-treated roads in the winter, lack of sub-regional/county unity, and uncared for forest preserves. Not to mention the prospect of having to go all the way downtown to go to court.

    I think DuPage is a fine example. Even as it has urbanized, it is very compact, and all the county services are centrally located along the I-88 corridor near Wheaton.

    Then look at Cook, a county which goes from Barrington to Lansing...a good 2 hour drive. Can you really govern a county that large effectively and adequately represent everyone's needs?

    I really think the above county responsibilties I mentioned are more adequately handled at a local level (individual collar counties)--which serves generally between 100,000-1,000,000 people. Anything larger than that (Cook) just cannot be governed effectively, and should thus be subdivided.
    "Life's a journey, not a destination"
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