Friday, November 26, 2010

Decentralize Kansas City

Kansas City is really a collection of areas and neighborhoods. Given the complexity of our city government and the multiple layers of area government, the hierarchical structure of our governance model has citizens and businesses distanced from government. What if we re-structured our city governance model to a more decentralized system?

Why do we need a mayor without power and a weak portfolio? Why have a city council? Why not leverage our existing, interesting, and diverse defined areas to allow for more representational accountable decentralized governance? Why not facilitate healthy competition?

The centralized model seems to have run its unsustainable course. In a practical sense, centralized services like police have become an area constabulary with no motivation to connect with neighborhoods. The argument for continued centralization was once efficiency, but that argument dims daily. A change like this may seem like a huge idea too big to comprehend and may have some worrying about their Kansas City identity symbolized via corporate sports gear. But to go one step further…

This model could extend across the State border and help ease the economic border war tensions.

Citizens deserve closer connection with their elected representatives. City service providers need closer connections to those whom they service. Service employees from the areas they service would serve better when serving their neighbors.

We cannot control what some people call sprawl, but we can adjust to the natural freedoms of choice that space provides. A layered (vertical) governance structure with unnecessary layers of redundant entities and taxes does not seem logical with our expansive horizontal geography.

This is not a call for revolutionary change, but rather a suggestion to begin a conversation, a civic and civil one, because now the winds of an economic border war loom on the horizon, and that conflict has government pitted against government; businesses betting on a winner, and citizens stymied without a voice, wallets at the ready to reluctantly pay. This conflict needs a treaty very soon.

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