For decades, city and county officials have recognized the need for more formal cooperation if they are to solve common problems. Unfortunately, so far neither group has progressed beyond the recognition of such a need.
Despite threats of pollution, gridlock and growth on a scale that some areas cannot accommodate, Orange County's 26 city councils and the county Board of Supervisors appear no closer to a joint approach to problem solving today than they were in the 1960s and 1970s. At one point the supervisors and the mayors tried, and failed, to meet on a regular, formal basis. In 1970, a campaign for a voluntary, countywide intergovernmental council died for lack of support.
The intergovernmental approach is designed to bring together elected officials in a coordinated effort to address problems that affect all jurisdictions but that could not be solved by any one of them acting alone. The idea made sense 20 years ago; it makes even more sense today.
The need for county-city cooperation was underscored last week with the release of the county monitoring and forecasting department's eighth annual "early warning report," which tracks growth and its projected impact. The report noted that nearly 75% of the 80,000 new housing units built in the last six years are in the cities. This finding dispels the belief of some that the bulk of the county's current growth is in unincorporated areas.
The report contained other important observations--such as the one that residents in unincorporated areas who want more local services would be better off as part of a city. It also made recommendations, including one urging that new residential developments should not be approved unless they include land on which businesses could create jobs to help reduce commuting and the traffic congestion it creates.
But most important, the report once more drives home the need for everyone in the county to pull together to solve common problems--or face dire consequences.