BLURRED VISION: Central Pennsylvanians Don’t See Eye-To-Eye

Columnist : Lincoln Institute

With Envision Capital Region’s call for Regional Government

Harrisburg, PA — Central Pennsylvania’s effort at regional government, known officially as Envision Capital Region, got mixed reviews from voters in Cumberland, Dauphin and York Counties in the Lincoln Institute’s recent Pulse Poll.
Respondents shared Envision’s goals for higher educational standards and for better highway, rail and air transportation. But, voters say Envision’s vision is less than 20/20 when it comes to regionalizing municipalities and school districts.
“The Pulse Poll found voters strongly in support of retaining the current system of local government,” said Lincoln Institute Chairman Lowman S. Henry. “In fact, when it comes to school districts, more voters would prefer to break districts up into smaller units rather than to consolidate into a countywide system as proposed by Envision Capital Region.”
Sixty-four percent of voters in the tri-county area said they think municipal governments should maintain their independence while 28% said the number of municipalities should be reduced through mergers. An even higher number, 70% felt THEIR municipality should remain independent. That feeling was particularly strong in Dauphin County where 77% of voters support continued independence for their municipality.
Voters largely feel their municipal governments are on the right track when it comes to meeting the needs of their community. Seventy-eight percent of Cumberland County voters, 75% of Dauphin County voters and 79% of York County voters gave a thumbs up to the job being done by their local officials.
When it comes to deciding whether or not a municipality should merge, mid-state voters feel local elected officials, not state government, should make the decision. Only 7% of voters thought state government should be able to mandate consolidation of municipalities, while 81% thought local elected officials should make the call.
Despite their opposition to formal merger of municipalities, voters do think there should be more cooperation among municipalities in their region. Sixty-seven percent said there should be a higher level of regional cooperation among local governments. Eighteen percent though the current level of regional cooperation was acceptable.
Envision Capital Region’s call for taking zoning and planning functions out of the hands of local government and consolidating them at the county level received support from 30% of the voters surveyed. The strongest support for countywide zoning and planning came in York County where 34% favored consolidations, 32% of voters in Cumberland County and 21% of those in Dauphin County agreed. Overall, 59% said planning and zoning functions should remain in the hands of local municipalities.
On the overall question: “Do you think local governments should be eliminated and replaced with one countywide government?”, 80% of the voters surveyed said “no”, while 13% felt local municipalities should be replaced with countywide government.