Radcliff to hold town hall meeting on unification The (Elizabethtown) News-Enterprise

Article originally posted to The News-Enterprise Web site: http://www.thenewsenterprise.com/content/radcliff-hold-town-hall-meeting-unification

By Marty Finley
Thursday, August 9, 2012 at 4:07 pm (Updated: August 10, 6:26 am)

Radcliff is wading back into the waters of unified government.

Mayor J.J. Duvall has organized a town hall meeting 6 p.m. Aug. 27 at Colvin Community Center with Hank V. Savitch serving as the guest speaker.

Savitch, a professor of urban and public affairs at the University of Louisville, published an analysis last year of the merger of Louisville and Jefferson County governments into a consolidated metro government in 2003. Savitch’s study, which was commissioned by state Rep. Darryl Owens of Louisville, found the merger failed to accelerate job growth and economic development as promised and was unsuccessful in streamlining government services.

Owens, an opponent of merged government, commissioned the study as a supplement for the task force appointed by Louisville Mayor Greg Fischer to study the effectiveness of consolidated government in Kentucky’s largest city.

Duvall said he wants to present an alternative view on unification from an expert who has studied consolidated governments for years and can present quantifiable data rather than opinion.

“He has told me his opinion won’t factor in,” he said of Savitch.

Anyone in a leadership position asked to vote on creating a unification commission should attend the meeting or recuse themselves from the process, Duvall said.

In addition to the Louisville report, Savitch is a former co-editor at the Journal of Urban Affairs and former president of the urban section of the American Political Science Association. He also has published nearly a dozen books or monographs on urban development, public policy and regional governance, according to Radcliff.

Radcliff City Council approved a resolution opting out of all formal discussions about unified local government after publicly challenging Hardin County United, the volunteer organization that drafted the report on the merits of unification.

In one exchange last August during a forum at Meadow View Elementary School, Duvall and Radcliff Councilman Edward Palmer asked for demographic information of the group surveyed by HCU about unified government to determine where the majority of respondents lived. Palmer said this information was pertinent to city leaders because they needed to know how Radcliff residents responded.

Luke Schmidt, a consultant for HCU, sent the survey to more than 100 community leaders across a cross section of fields, including elected officials, educators, plant managers and agricultural representatives. The study found roughly 90 percent of respondents believed unified government should be studied.

Schmidt said he promised respondents the information would remain confidential and refused to release the documents, which furthered the divide between HCU and Radcliff.

Following Radcliff’s decision to opt out of unification, Palmer and other council members expressed interest in hosting its own town hall meetings and public forums on unification as a means of due diligence but also to ensure HCU cannot use their lack of action as a weapon.

Duvall said Savitch’s study of Louisville government is relevant to the discussion in Hardin County because HCU has pointed to Louisville as an example of a successful merger.

Duvall said proponents of the Louisville merger and HCU also have argued the same points when promoting unification, including an expanded state and national profile, the ability to speak with one voice and an increase in economic development.

“I think we need to hear a different view that’s not opinion or (not) someone that’s a paid consultant but is based on facts and numbers,” he said.

The meeting has attracted attention farther south. Elizabethtown Mayor Tim Walker said he is reading Savitch’s study and has forwarded it to Elizabethtown City Council.

“I plan on being at the meeting on Aug. 27 and I hope the council will be too,” Walker said.

Elizabethtown has taken no action to opt out of unified government but the majority of the council has been critical of the plan.

Hardin Circuit Judge Ken Howard, chairman of the HCU governance subcommittee, has said either Elizabethtown or Radcliff must opt in for unification to be viable.

Hardin Fiscal Court is scheduled to hear first reading of an ordinance Tuesday to establish a unification review commission, whose members would be appointed by participating governments and be tasked with drafting a charter Hardin County residents would vote on.

Should the county approve the creation of the commission, HCU would move to the six cities requesting their participation.

Marty Finley can be reached at (270) 505-1762 begin_of_the_skype_highlighting              (270) 505-1762      end_of_the_skype_highlightingormfinley@thenewsenterprise.com.