Center for Social Research

Public and official opinion about cooperation and combination of local governments

Survey results released today show that a majority of survey respondents, both residents and elected officials of Kent County, Michigan, support sharing services such as police, fire and public works among governments, but there is no majority for sharing assessment of property values or tax collection. Majorities support informal cooperation, formal contracts and combining agencies, but a supermajority of responding elected officials and a near-majority of responding residents oppose merging governments into larger units.

Jim Penning’s legacy of research in public service

Not long before he passed away in 2010, then-director of CSR Dr. Jim Penning was inspired and agitated by an article in the Grand Rapids Press (now lost to memory). An experienced commissioner of the City of Kentwood, Dr. Penning began working with me to design a survey about local government cooperation and consolidation. We met with our friends at the Community Research Institute (CRI) at Grand Valley State University (GVSU), and they agreed to adapt our design for inclusion in an upcoming version of the Greater Grand Rapids Community Survey.

This morning, I had the privilege of bringing Jim’s work to fruition by pinch-hitting for CRI staff in presenting recent survey results to the board of the Grand Valley Metropolitan Council. GVMC is an august gathering of mayors and other local officials from Kent County and several other West Michigan counties. An important vehicle for cooperation among local governments, GVMC co-sponsored the survey project, with grant funding from the Frey Foundation. GVMC provided a list of elected officials for a mail survey parallel to GGRCS. Today’s presentation juxtaposed these two surveys to compare the opinions of residents and elected officials. The event was covered by Calvin grad Matt Vande Bunte of the Grand Rapids Press.

Survey results

Readers may be interested in versions of the presentation with notes or as full size slides, along with a two-page handout summarizing the findings.

Here are two key charts from the end of the presentation that summarize the findings.

Support for sharing various services

Chart of survey results on sharing services

Degrees of intergovernmental cooperation and consolidation

Chart of survey results on degrees of cooperation

Posted by Neil Carlson on 09/06 at 08:44 PM

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