The 21st Century City: The Super-County and Changing Boundaries

The 21st Century City: The Super-County and Changing Boundaries

While reading the thread about Boston annexing part of Dedham for development, whighlander posted this interesting thought:

No Boston Annexing beyond a bit here and there is a bad idea
However, All of the Cities and Towns within and touching I-495 should be included into a new Metropolitan County
Boston County would absorb all of Suffolk, Most of Eastern Middlesex, Much of Essex, Norfolk much of Plymouth, even a bit of Barnstable
Then the Crazy Quilt of Authorities could be ceded {Debt Free} to Boston County
-Boston County would control Logan, Hanscom Airports, Parking Garages, Railroad Stations, The Subway, Water System
-Boston County would be supported by redirecting {not adding} 1 or 2 cents of the 5 cent sales tax
-Boston County would be governed by an elected County President and a bicameral legislative body {lower house 1 rep per some # of capitas something of the order of 400 reps approximately 10,000 capitas per rep}, upper house 1 per city or town no regard to population}
This moves more government closer to the people gets rid of the massive bureaucracies of the authorities, makes the State gov’t smaller at least a bit
Overall a more representative government
then the Congressional districts can be realigned to get rid of the miserable gerrymandering as Boston County would still have 3 or 4 US Reps and leave one for the Cape and South Coast and one for the extrema of Essex and Middlesex by the NH Border
A dream — but it seemed appropriate to insert it here
Westy 8)

Given how much things have changed over the last 100 years, with highways, high-speed trains, air travel, the internet, etc…, is it time for a new governmental structure too? I am not talking socialism v. democracy, that is theory and I really don’t want that to come into play here, but I mean is our structure of town/city/county/state really the best way to run things when borders are almost meaningless in this day and age?

What do I mean by meaningless? I talk to people who are in Russia, Australia, Japan, South Africa, India, every day via the internet. With the advent of cheap digital cameras I can also see what their lives are like (amazingly they are very similar to mine). Hell, Europe just got rid of most of its purely administrative borders years ago. When this country was founded we were 13 SEPARATE colonies. We could have easily separated and then became 13 separate nations.

The idea of the Megalopolis is not new and I think we are all well aware of it in Boston. I can get on a train or bus in NY or Washington and arrive in Boston and have everything feel very similar (yes there are regional differences but over all things are very much the same, i.e. McDonald’s). And now there are other growing Megalopolises in America, Seattle-Portland, Dallas-Ft.Worth, Chicago-most of the mid-west, Southern California, etc. This idea is far more accelerated in the developing world with mega-cities with 10, 20 million people each. We may think that is far off but remember metropolitan New York City has 20 million people in it today. That only accounts for the city proper, most of Long Island, and small areas of Connecticut, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, and upstate New York.

Given this new urban structure, how can current city and state governments deal with having societies exist that fall under different jurisdictions? When there is a back up on the George Washington Bridge in New York it screws up traffic from Boston to Washington. But there is nothing Massachusetts, Connecticut, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Maryland, Delaware, or Virginia can do about it if the highway department in New York can’t deal with it.

New York City has threatened secession a few times but these have always been seen as purely symbolic.
But perhaps what we really need is some separate governmental level to take into account the needs of these growing megalopolises; a super-county.

Why are cities like New York, Boston, Philly, and Baltimore fighting each other when we are all in the same boat. The northeast is hurting, we are losing people and jobs because it is so expensive to live here. Different cities have different development policies and different housing problems. But when you look at it regionally you see that all these cities are facing the same problems with education and traffic. But cities all have their unique problems that other cities may have an answer for but cannot change their own policies to affect. Philly can never seem to catch a break, New York is looking at more people then it knows what to do with, and Boston is too proud of it’s own farts to do anything about the precarious economic situation it is in (and seems to always be in). There has to be a better way.

A super-county would be between the state and the county. The purpose of the super county would be to help streamline and iron out the differences between areas in the megalopolis and create efficient growth. A state is not going to want to give up its best parts so the rest suffers. At the same time the state needs to make sure everyone in the state gets their fare share. Many city dwellers feel that states take advantage of the city. The super-county would be a balance to this. The super-county would know what was up all along the megalopolis and thus know what it needed from each state. The states would pay taxes into the super-county rather than dolling out taxes to individual counties and cities. The super-county would use these taxes for the benefit of the entire region (like a couple high-speed rail lines). Planning, transportation, development, education, emergency response, and health care could all be coordinated along the entire megalopolan region. Freight traffic could be better transported in and out of the region if ports weren’t competing with one another; and as an added benefit traffic would be better if so many trucks were taken off the road. The super-county would also address the problem where the wealthy middle class leaves for the suburbs. That loss of tax revenue is devastating to a city, especially one which needs that revenue to fund so many of the cultural programs that makes people want to live near a city in the first place. If some portion of those taxes went to the super-county then the entire city and region would be better off.

A huge area for the super-county to affect is the environment. Cities are dirty (air, water, noise, and light pollution) and they create their own weather with all the heat and energy they emit. If New York does something to cut pollution but Philly and Boston do not then the environmental impact is going to be small. If the entire region could cut down emissions then that would have a much larger impact. As it is now all we can do is have different states pass different laws that are skewed to account for the rest of the state. Would you want medicine that is good for a headache when you have a gunshot wound? We need an environmental plan that deals with the specific problems caused by large urban areas.

The point of a super-county is to have a level of government that can address the needs of multi-millions of people living close together, something that has never happened on this level ever before in human history. We need a machine to run this type of environment because what we have now is not adapted for the brave new world that is ahead of us.

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