The first large city in 30 years to merge with its county : LUSENET : TB2K spinoff uncensored : One Thread

Lars, any comments from you on Indianapolis and Unigov would be appreciated. Indianapolis and Marion County did 30 years ago what Louisville and Jefferson County didn't vote for until yesterday:

[Fair use: for educational/research purposes only]


Election Night 2000
Merger wins with solid majority

Louisville and Jefferson County residents voted to merge their governments yesterday, 17 years after the last consolidation proposal was narrowly defeated.

Fifty-four percent approved the plan this time.

Voter turnout in Jefferson County was 69 percent, down from a high of 82 percent in 1992. On the merger question, which was on the back of the ballot, 67 percent voted.

The merger victory means a countywide mayor and 26 council members will be elected in 2002 and take office in January 2003. They will assume the authority now held by the current aldermen, mayor, county commissioners and judge-executive.

The merger also means that when the new government takes over in 2003 Louisville's population will more than double to a projected 527,571, and its ranking among the nation's largest cities will jump to a projected 23rd, up from 65th.

Merger supporters said voters were influenced in part yesterday by the knowledge that, without merger, Louisville would soon fall behind Lexington as the state's largest city. Lexington merged with Fayette County in 1972 and has 243,785 residents.

"Knowing that Lexington was going to pass us up, people realized it was now or never," said Louisville attorney Carl Bensinger, a merger backer.

After declaring victory last night, merger supporters at the Say Yes for Unity headquarters held up a sign marking the community's new status.

"Welcome to Greater Louisville, America's Newest Top 25 City," it said.

"This ought to really energize this community," George Siemens, an LG&E Energy Corp. official, said at the victory celebration. His firm contributed $100,000 to the Unity campaign.

Much of what happens next is uncertain.

It's known that 26 new council districts will be drawn next year after the 2000 Census figures are available.

City and county lawyers also will compare local ordinances and prepare a list of those that differ. Any ordinances that aren't amended or re-enacted by the new council will expire after five years.

Board of Aldermen President Steve Magre said last night that current city and county elected officials will play a key role in setting up the next government.

"We're the ones who are going to put everything together," he said.

For example, he said they will have to figure out basic things such as where the 26 council members will meet. The new government would have the option of setting up its offices and meeting rooms in City Hall, the county courthouse or somewhere else.

Nine of the 12 aldermen and two of the three county commissioners opposed merger. Magre was one of the three aldermen who supported it.

Dolores Delahanty, a merger opponent who was elected commissioner last night, said in her victory speech: "We have to put aside our feelings about merger and bring the community together. It is time to unite."

Alderman Barbara Gregg, a leading merger opponent, attributed the merger win to two factors -- money and editorials in The Courier-Journal.

"I think what helped is $1 million" raised by the Unity Campaign, she said at the Holiday Inn downtown, where members of the anti-merger group Citizens Organized in Search of the Truth gathered last night.

She noted that the Courier-Journal's editorial board strongly favored merger and during the last 30 days ran numerous columns urging voters to approve the measure. Other local publications -- including LEO magazine, Louisville Magazine, The Voice Tribune and the Louisville Defender newspapers -- also supported merger.

Gregg also said that former Louisville Mayor Jerry Abramson was an effective spokesman for the Unity Campaign and that he likely persuaded many people to vote for merger in his many campaign appearances and television commercials.

Abramson dodged questions last night about whether he intends to run for mayor of the merged government. "Tonight was a victory for the community, not for any one person," he said.

Dan Farrell, a spokesman for the Fairness Campaign, which opposed merger, said last night that he's concerned laws passed last year to protect homosexuals from workplace discrimination would be wiped away by the new council.

He said the gay-rights campaign would play an important role in the new form of government, working to renew the law. "We'll have to do it all over again. In a way it's like starting from scratch," he said while watching election returns at COST headquarters.

Christy Swan, who was also at COST headquarters, said she's worried about African-American representation on the new council.

She said she hopes that at least six African-Americans would be elected to the new council, as leaders of the Unity Campaign have predicted.

"Let's hold them to their word," Swan, 29, said.

Support for merger appeared to be strongest in the eastern sections of Louisville and Jefferson County -- just as it was in 1982 and 1983, when previous merger proposals were barely defeated.

But this time opposition to merger apparently was weaker in the traditional anti-merger strongholds -- southern and southwestern areas of the county and western Louisville.

For example, Suzzanne Weissrock, a bank teller who lives in Shively, said she voted for merger because she thinks it will help the local economy. She said her neighbors were probably evenly divided on the measure.

Backers and opponents agreed that selling the idea that a larger city population and national ranking will help bring more jobs and young workers to Louisville was effective.

Moreover, this time the merger plan was less specific than the earlier proposals. For example, unlike the previous plans, which consolidated all city and county departments, this one leaves that decision to the new government.

Last year, merger supporters decided to give opponents less to shoot at by leaving all the key decisions to elected representatives. Merger opponents attacked the plan for lacking details. They also said it could lead to higher taxes and fewer services. Their arguments seemed to have the upper hand in August and September, when merger supporters were on the defensive.

But the opponents had little money and during the last month of the campaign could not counter the paid television campaign run by merger supporters.

The opponents' campaign was similar to those in the 1980s. Opponents' tactics included characterizing merger as something that might benefit big business at the expense of people with little means. As in 1982 and 1983, the campaign brought together groups of blue-collar workers, African Americans, police officers and others.

This time they called themselves COST. The group's members included the local chapter of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People, the Fairness Campaign, the PUSH/Rainbow Coalition, the Kentucky Alliance Against Racist and Political Repression and the Taxpayers Action Group.

Merger foes argued that creating a larger city government would dilute the representation of African Americans, who make up 30 percent of the city population and 18 percent of the county's population.

But some of their arguments were blunted by a group of African-American professionals who campaigned for merger by saying everyone would be better off with a countywide government. When the group went door-to-door in the predominantly black Newburg area last month, their efforts drew a great deal of pro-merger publicity.

The merger outcome gives Louisville the distinction of being the nation's first large city in 30 years to merge with its county. The last city of more than 250,000 to merge was Indianapolis, which joined with Marion County in 1970.

The Indianapolis merger was ordered by the state legislature. The last big-city merger approved by voters was Jacksonville, Fla., which merged with Duval County in 1968. Prior to that, Nashville voters approved merger in 1962.

Staff writers Sheldon Shafer, Chris Poynter and Andrew Wolfson contributed to this story.

-- Linkmeister (, November 08, 2000


I don't have a strong opinion because I moved here after the merger. Since then, the metro area has expanded well beyond the Unigov boundaries, so there are the usual urban-sprawl issues, school distict issues, urban service issues that you all have. The metro areas that amaze me are places like Boston and San Francisco where the "city" is so much smaller than the metro.

-- Lars (, November 08, 2000.

I demand that the vote be held all over again. Due to 'irregularities' on the ballot I meant to vote against the merger, instead I accidentally voted yes to the measure mandating that we put LSD in the drinking water.

-- butt nugget (, November 09, 2000.


Relax, calm down, it is OKAY, see LSD in water is a good thing.

-- (, November 09, 2000.

Moderation questions? read the FAQ