August 1 2002

In examining the broad topic of community vitality, the IssuesPA team identified four topics for Governor candidates:

  • The state’s role in guiding the growth of our communities.
  • The role of state government to ensure the delivery of efficient, effective local government services.
  • The state’s role in developing coordinated emergency and public safety strategies.
  • State government’s role in maintaining and enhancing Pennsylvania’s strengths as an international center for arts, culture and recreation.

Then, IssuesPA took a closer look at each of the four community vitality topics.

When we looked at local government, for example, IssuesPA framed the issue with stark numbers. Pennsylvania has over 2,500 municipalities and 67 counties with total annual expenditures exceeding $14 billion. Over 2,000 quasi-governmental authorities that spend billions of dollars or more. And a state government with 34 departments, most of which work with or through local governments.

Many observers have said that Pennsylvania’s "fragmentation" of action and authority hinders the state’s economic competitiveness. But in an IssuesPA poll earlier this year, only 24 percent of Pennsylvanians said reducing the number of local governments should be one of the most important issues the state should address. (See IssuesPA’s Local Government issue brief.)

In its primary election campaign survey, IssuesPA asked the candidates for Pennsylvania Governor, "What should the state’s role be in ensuring the provision of essential local government services?"

"Local governments throughout the Commonwealth, no matter the size, face similar problems," said Democrat Party candidate Ed Rendell. "I pledge to all local leaders a commitment to work with you, to have my administration with you and the citizens in the communities in which you live to help ensure that state government is providing you the support you need to manage local government efficiently and effectively."

Republican candidate Mike Fisher said Pennsylvania must work in partnership with local governments to provide training and technical assistance to local managers and elected officials. "As Governor, I will strengthen the (Governor’s) Center for Local Services, and I will make sure that it has effective leadership with experience in local government."

Green Party candidate Michael Morrill said it’s important for state government to fund, or assist in funding, new state mandates on local governments. And Morrill said it’s necessary for the state to allow more autonomy for local governments.

The state should have no role in providing local services, said Libertarian Party candidate Ken Krawchuk. He said local municipalities know best what services should be provided and how they should be administered.

Less (or more) local government? Less (or more) local government services? And what about efficiency in local government? These are among the challenges for Pennsylvania’s next Governor. The general election is in November.