- Learning More
- When Were You All In
- Why So Rare
- Down This Road Before
- Up From The Grassroots
How can I learn more?
The Joint Charter Commission is responsible for educating voters and is happy to speak with interested groups, including small gatherings in voters' homes. To request a meeting with a Commissioner, please send an email message to firstname.lastname@example.org.
The Joint Charter Commission website http://newlacharter.ning.com includes all documents associated with the merger and recordings of all meetings.
Both city councils must hold public hearings before a vote. It is anticipated these will take place this summer and they will be well publicized.
When Gene Geiger became chair was he undecided? At what point did he commit to idea?
According to Gene Geiger, “In concept, I thought it made sense, especially as I considered the severe demographic and economic challenges our two small cities face in a no-growth, business unfriendly state. I became convinced and committed as I participated in the workgroup discussions last Summer and early Fall. I could see the dollar savings are real and significant.
I am certain we cannot reach our potential if we don’t come together and pull together. We might languish even if we are united, but I am certain of our fate if the two cities continue as rivals.”
Why don't more cities merge or combine?
Several prominent cities in the US are the result of mergers, including Winston Salem, NC; Battle Creek, MI, and very recently Princeton, NJ.
Princeton’s merger has been very successful and was detailed in the book entitled, A Tale Of Two Tigers by Chad Goerner.
"In 2011 Princeton Township and Princeton Borough voted to merge into a single town, overcoming six decades of failed attempts. The consolidation of the Princetons is a victory for government reform advocates in a state of inefficient 'home rule' and overwhelming layers of government: 565 municipalities, 599 school districts and 21 county units.
"The first large-scale New Jersey municipal merger in over a century, Princeton's consolidation has generated considerable savings and operating efficiencies. Their success has provided a template for other towns to use in their own consolidation and service regionalization efforts."
In Canada, several prominent cities are also the result of mergers, including Cambridge, Ontario.
Consolidating or merging two municipalities requires collaboration between both cities to decide how to reengineer the new government structure and the services it provides. Cities that are very similar, such as Lewiston and Auburn with aligned charters and harmonized city department structures, have great advantages.
It is a bold, progressive move, one where citizens can envision a better future as one, rather than holding to the status quo. Supporters see a unique opportunity to reinvent the education system, which in turn, will attract the families whose skills will attract employers seeing quality talent.
How are Lewiston and Auburn similar to and different from the two cities that combined into Princeton, NJ?
The person who led Princeton’s merger effort, Anton Lahnston, now resides in Maine and has been following the merger activities here. Here is how he responded to a Lewiston city councilor who asserted that the two efforts “could not be more different.”
I disagree. I think there are some aspects of the Princeton consolidation that are quite informative for Lewiston and Auburn and that the LA consolidation challenges are not a “far cry” from consolidation in the Princetons.
Like LA, redundancy, inefficiencies and related costs existed in the Princetons. Both the Princeton Borough and Township of Princeton had full time administrations, separate departments for police, public works, engineering, information technology/systems, as well as separate courts and different ordinances – just to name a few. At the same time however, the two municipalities in Princeton shared 13 services, including schools, recreation, and fire departments. And we found that even in the shared services in Princeton – like LA – there were competing agendas contributing significant costs and the loss of precious time by staff and elected officials as they attempted to provide the degree of service effectiveness residents expected.
Two other similarities are important. First, in Princeton there was a very strong and vocal organization opposed to consolidation called “Preserve our Historic Borough”. Their campaign was a very big factor in the work of the Princeton Consolidation Commission requiring many meetings and intense dialogues. Sometimes we agreed on changes, sometimes not, but in the end it led to a stronger consolidation. Second, both Princeton and Lewiston-Auburn have major institutions of higher education within their boundaries that deserve to be served by efficient and vital government.
The pathway to consolidation in Princeton was challenging. Not unlike Lewiston and Auburn the topic of consolidation was constant for more than 60 years and put to a vote for the fourth time in 2011. In Princeton we took many of the same steps as already engaged in LA, and ultimately voted to consolidate which has helped the two Princetons move to a brighter future.
Finally, among our many learnings during the years of work on Princeton’s consolidation we found that contentious and divergent points of view are necessary and helpful in making better informed decisions on consolidation.
Have we tried to merge the cities before?
No, not since the 19th century has there been a move to merge the two cities fully. There have been, however, three study commissions in the last 30 years which recommended consolidating select municipal services. While the identified savings were more than $2 million, the city councils did not implement the recommendations of any of the commissions. Given that civic inaction, the Charter Commission is taking the concept one step further and taking it directly to the voters.
Has there been grassroots support in this initiative?
Opponents have been noisy about this issue, but they overlook the fact that 2500 citizens signed petitions to create the Charter Commission, and then the citizens of both cities elected three people to represent them on the Commission.