of both branches of city and county government came out firmly
opposed to any combination of the two at the first and only
meeting of a legislative committee established by the General
Assembly last year to study possibilities in that regard.
it was agreed that Representative Robert Valihura, the chairman,
would ask Governor Ruth Ann Minner to reconvene the taskforce
charged with studying possible solutions to the city's financial
problems. In June, 2003, the taskforce submitted several
short-term proposals, only some of which were approved by the
Assembly, and recommended that it continue to seek longer-range
ways to enhance city revenue.
issue is money," said Ted Blunt, president of City Council. "If
the General Assembly really wants to do something to help the
city of Wilmington, it will [enable] us to participate in
Montgomery, Mayor's James Baker's chief of staff, agreed,
expressing it somewhat differently: "We were happy with what we
got from the governor's taskforce, but what we need is a broader
stream of revenue."
noted that City Council enacted a resolution not only opposing
the idea of metropolitan government but also objecting to the
matter even being seriously considered.
Responding to suggestions that combining city and county
governments would result in greater efficiency and lower costs,
County Councilman Penrose Hollins called that "a diversion." If
lawmakers in Dover "were so interested in less government, why
did they double [the size of] County Council?" he asked
Executive Tom Gordon said metropolitan government would be
impractical because it would involve merging with just the city
and not the other incorporated municipalities in the county.
Broadening it to include the others would be politically
impossible. "Newark would never go for that," he said.
you're going to do is pit one government against another" by
bringing the issue forward for serious consideration, he said.
That, he added, would destroy the spirit of cooperation which
exists between the county and Wilmington governments. "It would
just be an insult to the city leadership," he said.
Montgomery agreed. "There is a whole lot of communication going
on between our governments," he said. Both city-county and
city-state relations under the present administrations in all
three jurisdictions are good. Upsetting that balance would,
among other things, hamper city efforts, which appear to be
working, to "get middle-class people to live as well as work in
the city," he said.
wants to go into the city because of their wage tax," Gordon
commented, adding that the state "extracts 15 different kinds of
taxes" from activities in Wilmington while essentially requiring
city government to live on its wage and property taxes.
Metropolitan government, he said, would only shift all of that
burden to county property owners.
said that a major stumbling block to the city's improving its
tax base is the uneven treatment of Wilmington when it comes to
annexation. The city is the only jurisdiction in Delaware whose
geographic growth is stymied by the county and state having veto
power over such moves.
noted that a currently pending proposal to expand the city to
include the Miller Road Shopping Center so it can help finance
location there of a supermarket and associated redevelopment has
so far been held up. "Trying to annex 10 acres of land is a big
issue, but Smyrna can go out and take 500 acres," he said.
Gray, legislative aide to County Council president Christopher
Coons, made the rejection of metropolitan government unanimous.
On his behalf, she said metropolitan government would "prohibit
the city from directing its own course."
Valihura agreed with Gordon that further consideration would be
"just a waste of time and effort," there was some dissent from
the committee consensus. Daniel Bockover, president of the
Council of Civic Organizations of Brandywine Hundred, spoke of
the area being "overgoverned." And City Councilman Paul
Bartkowski, the only member who voted against the resolution to
which Blunt referred, said, "I don't see what possible harm
could come from taking a look at how we operate."
activist Frances West recalled that she served on a committee
set up by then governor Pierre du Pont in the early 1980s to
look into the issue. It studied the matter and produced a report
that was promptly ignored and soon forgotten. As it happened,
she may possess the only surviving copy of that report. Valihura
said it could not be found in the state archives.