Controller Lamb Wants Potential Wilkinsburg-Pittsburgh Merger Sparks More Municipal Consolidation Discussions | News | Pittsburgh

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CP photo: Jared Wickerham

Wilkinsburg Bus Station

Allegheny County is home to over 100 municipalities, more than any large county in America. Pittsburgh City Comptroller Michael Lamb wants the region to start thinking about reducing that number by merging and consolidating municipalities, and he believes a potential merger between the Borough of Wilkinsburg and the City of Pittsburgh can start a trend.

Community advocates and Wilkinsburg Mayor Marita Garrett have shown support for an effort to amalgamate the borough with the city of Pittsburgh. Supporters of the merger cite the tax benefits that would be gained by joining the city, as well as the fact that most of Wilkinsburg’s public services are already managed by the departments of the city of Pittsburgh. Some Wilkinsburg residents and borough council members oppose the effort, citing the borough losing its autonomy.

But Lamb joined groups like the Wilkinsburg Community Development Corporation to support Wilkinsburg’s merger with the city of Pittsburgh. Lamb is the most prominent politician to support the merger. Pittsburgh city councilors would have to approve the merger first, and then Wilkinsburg voters would need to approve.

At a press conference on June 30, Lamb shared details about Pittsburgh’s finances, highlighting the benefits of Wilkinsburg’s membership in the city, including that the merger would help keep Pittsburgh above 300,000. . He noted that any annexation to Pittsburgh would be new territory for those currently working in city administration, as the last time the city annexed a municipality was in 1927, when Carrick was merged with the city ​​limits. However, Lamb said that shouldn’t deter people from thinking about consolidation as a way to help municipalities.

“But it’s a conversation that we in this region need to have all the time,” Lamb said. “I have spoken to many of you about this problem we have with this fractional system of government, how expensive it is, how inefficient it is.”

Lamb added that issues like stormwater management are getting more difficult with so many different municipalities. “Stormwater does not know municipal boundaries,” he said, further explaining that many of the issues cities face – such as crime and opioid-related deaths – are not relegated to boundaries. the city.

Municipal amalgamations have had some success in improving services and improving the competitiveness of regions, but academics are divided on whether mergers and annexations should be seen as panaceas.

Advocates of consolidation, however, argue that when municipalities become too small, they lack the tax base or the capacity to provide the services their residents need. In Allegheny County, some municipalities have less than 100 inhabitants. And many cities are already failing to provide basic services like policing to their residents, and instead rely on county or state governments to provide them.

Lamb said he supported a merger between Pittsburgh and Wilkinsburg because he believed it would make government services more efficient and keep Pittsburgh above 300,000. The city has been shrinking for years and is on the verge of plunging below that threshold. Lamb says many people, including officials from the Government Financing Officers Association of Pennsylvania, will consider Pittsburgh a “small town” if the city drops below 300,000, and he said that was “not good. for Pittsburgh “.

During his press conferences, he encouraged other municipalities in the county and region to start consolidation discussions.

“It’s not just the city, it’s all of our communities,” Lamb said. “Our suburban communities need to talk to their neighbors about how they can better serve their ridings. And the City of Pittsburgh and the Borough of Wilkinsburg are having this conversation right now. ”

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