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Proposal to Merge City And County Governments Raises Hackles

Montgomery County Commissioner Dan Foley (left) and Dayton Area Chamber of Commerce President Phil Parker spoke at a Thursday event re-launching the effort to merge city and county government.
Carey Scheer

An effort to consolidate Montgomery County and Dayton city governments is facing resistance just as it gets off the ground. The idea is to imitate Louisville, Kentucky, which consolidated with its surrounding county in 2003. Proponents argue a merger would make Dayton larger and more powerful, and reduce competition for economic development between cities and towns.

“We have to do something different that’s going to put us out front, that’s gonna differentiate us, that’s gonna make us better,” said Phil Parker, President of the Dayton Area Chamber of Commerce, at a Thursday press conference. Parker says the efficiency of a larger combined government could lead to savings on public services.

Supporters include Montgomery County Commissioner Dan Foley, but the head of the county’s Democratic Party has spoken out against the idea, even accusing Foley and others of secrecy in the process. A previous effort, called “One Dayton”, announced plans in 2013 to hold public meetings about the idea of a city/county merger of some kind, but those public meetings never materialized.

When asked what is different about the current push from the One Dayton idea, Judge Walter Rice responded that they are essentially the same initiative under a different name.

Derrick Foward with the Dayton NAACP is concerned about Black voters losing their power in a consolidated government. And, he says, he’d like to see more attempts up front at investment within the city.

Dayton NAACP President Derrick Foward raised concerns about black voters losing their power in a consolidated government.
Credit Carey Scheer / WYSO
Dayton NAACP President Derrick Foward raised concerns about black voters losing their power in a consolidated government.

“Is it truly the Dayton region or should it be the Springboro region or the Vandalia region or the Centerville region, where there’s growth and opportunity for people to access jobs?” said Foward.

Dayton Together organizers say they are working on a draft charter that will integrate feedback from community meetings, and that news about opportunities for public comment will go up on their website. They say it would have go to the ballot before any major change in governmental structure, and that it would not involve consolidating school districts.

Lewis Wallace is WYSO's managing editor, substitute host and economics reporter. Follow him @lewispants.