Mayor Bruce Akers of Pepper Pike; Mayor Kathy Mulcahy of Orange Village, Mayor Susan Renda of Moreland Hills, and Mayor Charles Smith of Woodmere announced today that they feel the time is now appropriate for the four municipalities to seriously consider and to take the necessary steps to determine if merging the four into one community is in the best interests of their collective residents, economically and otherwise.
Historically, these four were all part of one governmental entity, then known as Orange Township. In fact, if you look up the biography of President James A. Garfield, you will note that he was born in Orange Township, but the log cabin was located in what is today Moreland Hills.
The Mayors said a merger between these specific communities could make sense since they already share the same school system, the same recreation department, the same senior citizens programs, and the same library.
At a time when there is increasing need for more governmental efficiencies and reductions in the costs of government, this step towards evaluating a merger of the four communities is long overdue. The mayors believe it is possible that, by reducing redundancies and integrating their services collaboratively, taxpayer dollars could be saved, thus easing the burden on each of our constituents now and in the future. It is increasingly evident that local governments just can’t keep doing business as usual.
The four mayors asked Cuyahoga County Executive Ed FitzGerald if the County can assist in a study, perhaps with their resources in the County Planning Commission.
The mayors approached County Executive FitzGerald because they have been impressed with, and are encouraged by, Mr. FitzGerald’s comments on, and commitment to greater collaboration among local governments. In his meeting with the Cuyahoga County Mayors and Managers Association after his election, his inauguration address and his State of the County address, Mr. FitzGerald has called for more such collaborations. Through his commitment and far-sighted leadership, a thorough analysis of the benefits of merger could serve as a guide for other communities asking the same sort of questions on behalf of their constituents. These four mayors asked to serve as the County’s pilot case study.
Clearly, any sort of merger will take time, careful thought and patient deliberations. Under Ohio law, any such merger would ultimately have to be approved by the voters in all of the involved communities at a General Election. Whether it gets put before the voters in a year, two or three down the road, only time and results will tell. An initial step would be for a citizens committee to be formed to begin the discussion and participate in the process. The County should lead those deliberations.
While the study of a full merger is underway, the four mayors will continue to explore opportunities to share services and take advantage of other efficiencies that can be achieved through working collaboratively to serve all of their constituents. Ultimately, these efforts, in combination with the information learned from the study, will ensure that the residents of the four communities have the most effective governance structure with the highest quality of services in the most economical manner possible.
Today’s realities dictate bold initiatives, and while there will understandably be resistance, and even outright opposition to the mere thought of a possible merger, the four mayors feel strongly that the time is right for all the options to be considered. Only time and facts will tell.