The Government of Metropolitan Areas in the United States

By Paul Studenski; Frank H. Sommer et al. | Go to book overview

CHAPTER XII
EXPANSION OF COUNTY GOVERNMENT TO MEET METROPOLITAN NEEDS

Various efforts to adapt the county government to the service of metropolitan needs by broadening its scope and remodeling its structure have been undertaken. In such cases the county has been regarded not as obsolete, no longer useful in a metropolitan area, but as a promising institution upon which to develop a regional government. In four states ( California, Louisiana, Maryland and Montana) counties have the constitutional power to frame and adopt their charters and to enjoy the same relation to the legislature as that of cities in "home rule" states. In a small number of other states counties are permitted to adopt or reject forms of government submitted by the legislature. The latter opportunity has been presented to two counties which form a part of the New York metropolitan region, viz., Westchester and Nassau, but thus far the charters tendered by the legislature have proved unacceptable to the electorate.

As yet, attempts to reconstruct the traditional form of county government have for the most part been unsuccessful. Some progress has been made, it is true, but in most cases the form of county government still unfits it to assume the responsibilities of a truly metropolitan municipality. The fact, however, that the machinery of county government has been altered but little does not mean that no expansion in activities has taken place in instances in which the county serves a metropolitan region. Thus, under the pressure of metropolitan life, the county has to a limited degree taken on new functions not usually performed by the normal county. In this manner the county may be made a more important agency in the construction and maintenance of roads and streets and in the care of delinquents and dependents; it may undertake sewerage, drainage and water supply for the area; it may provide parks and public recreation; it may branch into public health, educational and library services; it may administer police and fire protection, and assume responsibility for regional planning. In varying degrees, some such development

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