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Article Summary

Advisory Commission on Intergovernmental Relations (ACIR). 1974. "Local Government Reorganizational Issues." The Challenge of Local Government Reorganization. Washington, DC: U.S. Government Printing Office.

The report chronicles the rise of multi-county regional government councils since the 1960s, in response to requirements for federal program funding. There is little agreement about the role of these new forms of government in the American political system, but few consider them to be forerunners of true metropolitan governments (such as Portland, OR). This report attempts to evaluate their role in the context of other government reorganization efforts.

Four factors should be considered when evaluating the service delivery of these new government units: authority, efficiency, equity and accountability. Areawide cooperation takes many forms, including:

  • Intergovernmental service agreements to meet area needs
  • Transfer of functions between higher and lower governmental units
  • The growth of the urban county (as opposed to the traditional city government)
  • Areawide special districts to deliver key services
  • Multifunctional areawide special districts
  • Annexation
  • City-county consolidation
  • Federation (eg, systematically dividing functions between upper and lower tier governments)

Because of the various problems inherent in these solutions, it appears the best approach may be comprehensive reforms to existing local governments. Unfortunately these changes may be the most difficult to achieve. State and federal governments can play a role in overcoming these obstacles by creating incentives for reform and by being flexible and supportive, but not authoritative.