The Mahoning Valley is not the only place in northeast Ohio that common sense loses in the effort to make government more efficient and responsive to taxpayers.
Take Woodmere, a village of about 1,000 residents with a police department budget of $1.2 million and facing financial trouble. Neighboring village Orange, population 3,300, offered to provide Woodmere complete police coverage for $500,000 per year and to make an effort to hire every Woodmere officer.
At the last minute Woodmere declined. According to the Plain Dealer, leaders in Woodmere, where the population is 62 percent black, felt Orange, with a population 77 percent white, was making a racially motivated power grab.
We haven't heard that one before, but excuses fly whenever merger or consolidation is mentioned. Take, most recently, the study into consolidating the Hubbard, Hubbard Township and Brookfield police departments. Already talk is that it can't be done because Brookfield and Hubbard Township fund their police through a property tax and Hubbard through an income tax.
If necessary, create a joint police department and rather than fund it directly through the respective taxes, have each community's government write checks. If there is something in the state law that prevents such a simple solution, change the law. Or if one department needs to absorb the other two instead of creating a new, merged department, then just do it.
Nobody is saying this is easy. But it really makes little sense that taxpayers can't save money or increase police protection by going from three chiefs to one, or reducing the number of cruisers, or simply dispatching the officer nearest the call rather than the officer who works in that jurisdiction but might be farther away.
A similar situation confounds Niles and Weathersfield police. Niles has reduced its ranks from 37 officers to 31 and hasn't purchased a cruiser in two years. There are no plans to hire and no plans to purchase cars. The city can't afford it.
Weathersfield has tried and failed to increase taxes to maintain police protection. The township is sliced in such a way that its officers must drive about 15 minutes through Niles to get from the Mineral Ridge area to McKinley Heights. It would be interesting to see how many hours Weathersfield officers spend in Niles.
The answer to increasing police protection for both communities and saving taxpayer money at the same time is a consolidated police force.
It's time for every leader in every town to trash the excuses and get serious about making their governments more efficient and responsive.