The Prospects for City-Suburban Accommodation
The governmental boundaries that separate the city from its surrounding suburbs, constant since 1854, have stymied any real efforts at regionalism, which many people see as the key to social and economic progress. The recognition that the metropolitan area functions as a single economic unit has led many of the region's leading citizens to conclude that the multitude of local and county governments that do business in the region must be brought into greater harmony. Interjurisdictional competition must be replaced with cooperation.
To many readers, the word regionalism sounds an echo from the 1950s and 1960s, when a series of national reports on governmental reform promoted the idea of local government consolidation to overcome the proliferation of jurisdictions in the nation's large metropolitan areas. 1 Consolidations were attempted in several dozen large American cities, but when these efforts failed in most cases, interest in regionalism waned during the 1970s. In Philadelphia, that interest may be reviving.
In previous chapters we stress the widening disparities, both demographic and economic, among the different parts of the region. But those disparities do not, in and of themselves, rule out the possibility of regional cooperation. There is, after all, a very significant precedent for such cooperation in the city's history. In 1854 Philadelphians, led by business leaders, endorsed the consolidation of the city of Philadelphia, comprising what is now the CBD, with the surrounding county of Philadelphia. The twenty-eight boroughs, townships, and districts that, along with the city, made up Philadelphia county were a disparate collection of communities with strong, separate identities. Some, like Kensington and Southwark, were industrial enclaves. Others, like Germantown, were still largely rural. And many of these previously separate jurisdictions were ethnically differentiated. However diverse in character, they functioned increasingly as