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02-02-2013, 12:18 PM
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And a minor point -- Raleigh and Greensboro are 80 miles apart. They are totally different cities.

Glendale is, literally, right next to Phoenix. Center to center is only 10 miles.

I think this issue gets at some governmental difference between the US and Canada. And between states in the US.

We call the whole Phoenix metro area Phoenix -- but there isn't a Phoenix metro-wide unit of government. There is the incorporated city of Phoenix. And a dozen other smaller incorporated cities that together make up the Phoenix metro area. And in the last several decades the various cities fought an annexation war to grab as much territory as possible. With an Indian reservation to the south they raced north trying to outflank each other.

Most states just have city and county levels of government, with no metro-wide level that encompasses multiple cities and counties.

My understanding was that Canada, or at least Toronto, has a metropolitan level of govt. But I could be wrong.

There are cooperative groups and metro-wide task forces and things like that, but usually those groups have no official authority.

American metros are often made up of many competing cities and counties. I know New England has a somewhat different system.

A lot of this also gets into annexation laws which vary by state, particularly involuntary annexation -- where a city just votes to add surrounding territory regardless of what those who live there think. The only way to fight that was to incorporate your own competing city. Which is what happened in Phoenix. In Arizona, until very very recently, involuntary annexation was super easy. Same with North Carolina.

I know Virginia virtually bans it. Which is one reason why cities in Virginia are pretty weak and the counties have more power and (tax) money. The Virginia cities are stuck in the tiny geography they had decades ago, whereas a city like Phoenix kept annexing more and more land.

In most states the involuntary annexation process seems to lead to an inevitable political backlash. Which perhaps adds to the annexation race since the cities know the state govt will eventually put a moratorium on the process, so the incentive is to grab as much territory as you can before the moratorium hits.

Both North Carolina and Arizona seem to have recently hit that political backlash tipping point.

I'm sympathetic to the idea that a single metro-wide level of government might be able to make better, more rational governing decisions. But I also like the idea of competing cities and counties allowing a "vote with your feet" response by the residents. If you don't like something Glendale does, you can move to Scottsdale. And I know how irrational, self-serving, and venal actual politicians are. So a metro-wide government allows worse, more damaging mistakes to be made. And city governments often seem to take a decade or two to recognize and try to correct their mistakes. In fact it's often the "voting with their feet" of the residents that finally forces the city governments to even admit they've screwed something up.

It's the whole "laboratories of democracy" idea, but at an intra-metro level. The more "voting with their feet" the faster the learning process of the government.

How different is the Canadian system?

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