Director's Take

Merger In Review


Back in 2002, this community went through a very large and focused campaign around merging city and county governments. And it wasn’t just simply merging government offices; it also entailed turning to other Louisvillians who lived in different parts of town and recognizing we are on the same team. In fact, the entire effort was under the moniker of “Unity.”
It went into effect in 2003 and made Louisville one of the top 50 largest cities in the country, reduced redundancies in services and personnel, saved tens of millions of dollars, and helped our economic competitiveness on a national scale.
With all major organizational changes, some compromises were made, with the recognition that if we could get this huge effort off the ground and working, then over time we might be able to massage in some of the things that got left on the cutting room floor. In particular, no tax rates were changed with merger (residents of unincorporated parts of Jefferson County pay 1/3 of what residents in the old City pay), all 83 small cities were kept incorporated within Louisville-Jefferson County, and services would be delivered the same as had been before.
Fast forward 20 years and the merger bill is under review, by order of the KY General Assembly. There are still people who see our city as we vs. them, old city and county, looking out only for their neighborhood but not necessarily the larger community. This is a very damaging way to create policy and some of the changes being discussed could have devastating impacts for our city.
… And for Downtown. I’ve written many times about how cities’ origins begin around a town square or “downtown,” and that as communities grow, at least in America, they grow out in concentric circles around the center. This growth costs money – more roads are needed, services have to go further to reach everyone, cost of maintenance increases, etc. – and we haven’t changed the way we look at paying for those services in the 20 years of merger. With people using Downtown for work and entertainment, no matter where they live, there is still a need for the connections between suburbs and the city center, yet there is a larger challenge of where to spend precious dollars.
Without a strong center, the city weakens on all geographic sides. Louisville should not be us vs. them, we are one community. Our Downtown needs your love and attention more than ever. Come to an event, bring a friend, and share your experiences… positivity is contagious.

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