Recent municipal elections here in our watershed included a referendum for both Kitchener and Waterloo voters on the question of whether each city’s council could discuss the pros and cons of amalgamation. Since these communities have been joined at Union Street for nearing half a century, this is a sort of “across the fence” conversation.
The tension around the dynamics of local and regional governance are real, with many concerns regarding changes to the present uneasy balance of shared and autonomous authority. The tension might even be a good and necessary aspect of our community’s recipe for success.
Other amalgamations in our province (Ontario) have had mixed results, so there’s little evidence that such actions increase efficiencies at the neighbourhood level, and some evidence that decisions move further from the citizen.
In the end the larger municipality, Kitchener, voted 2-1 in favour of conversation. The smaller, Waterloo, 2-1 against. So the politicians won’t be discussing the question. Which doesn’t mean that it isn’t important, or that citizens can’t have that discussion.
A local blogger, Hilary Abel, has started a conversation forum asking Waterloo citizens to share their reasons for voting no. It’s an interesting read.