Welcome to the unification movement, Mayor Slert.
Right now, Crescent City isn’t really Crescent City. It’s one contiguous area of residential and commercial development, but most of its inhabitants are residents of unincorporated Del Norte County.
One community, two agencies of law enforcement. One community, two sets of land-use regulations and planning commissions. One community, two chief administrators. One community, two governing boards.
Obviously not the most efficient way to run things at a time when every iota of efficiency is needed at all government levels, from Washington, D.C., to Del Norte.
The actual municipality of Crescent City is small in population — close to half of which resides behind bars at Pelican Bay State Prison. But it’s a relative giant when it comes to provision of water and sewer services — amenities long ago extended to all those non-city residents who live nearby.
And there’s the rub. Typically when cities extend such services, it’s at the price of annexation: You want our water and sewer services, you become one of us. Somehow, years ago, that didn’t happen in Crescent City. Services were extended without annexation.
Today, annexation could be a tough sell. The mayor talks of the value of giving all the users of city services the right to vote on issues affecting them. He points to the recent ballot measure proposing to remove fluoride from the water supply — only city residents voted on the matter.
Are residents and property owners in the vast unincorporated portions of Crescent City so worked up over the lack of such voting rights that they’re ready to be annexed into the city?
Then there’s law enforcement. Slert notes that annexation would extend the police department’s anti-drug education efforts while allowing the Sheriff’s Office to expand patrols in outlying areas of the county. In reality, the changes would seem to be much more dramatic. The Police Department would have to significantly expand in order to serve a much wider area, and the Sheriff’s Office would have to shrink unless we’re agreeable to paying higher local taxes for an overall increase in law enforcement spending. Whether outlying areas would gain better protection in such a scenario is uncertain.
The only way to avoid such upheaval would be for the city to contract with the Sheriff’s Office to continue to patrol urban areas that had been newly annexed, but that would perpetuate one of the unnecessary complications of having two layers of local government for a single community.
We raise these issues not to discourage consideration of annexation, but rather to urge an eyes-wide-open approach to reforming local government. Maybe a bigger municipality is the best answer. Maybe consolidating the city and county governments into a single entity — something Del Norte has come close to doing in the past — is the more logical approach.
You know, like this: One community, one law enforcement agency. One community, one set of land-use regulations and one planning commission. One community, one chief administrator. One community, one governing board.
Or we can do what government seems to specialize in: Endlessly study the issue without effecting change.
The challenge is great, and frankly the biggest obstacle to overcome is the natural reluctance of those already in power — both elected officeholders and government employees — to shake things up at potential personal cost to themselves and their public employees.
Ultimately, public officials must do what’s right for the public. We should demand nothing less.