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"Republican" Monroe County Commissioner Joyce Poling promised at a Commissioners meeting a while back that "unigov" (combining Bloomington city government and Monroe County government into one entity) would not happen under her watch. "Unigov" would be very difficult (if not impossible) to accomplish politically, but county residents should be aware of things city and county government are doing to unofficially move closer to "unigov".
Two recent news items have elements of "unigov". Back in October, the County Commissioners passed an amended version of the county smoking ban. One of the stated goals of tightening the county ban was to make it more in line with the city's ban. There has been talk for years about making planning and zoning in Monroe County look more like the city.
Now, both the Bloomington City Council and the Monroe County Commissioners are considering amendments to the city and county animal control ordinances. Naturally, there are similarities between the ordinances. Republican County Commissioner Herb Kilmer warned the Friday Lunch Bunch that the county animal control ordinance's requirement that dogs be on leashes does not make an exception for hunting dogs, which is silly.
This should cause county residents to take a second look at the closeness of city and county government. Of course, city and county government should cooperate on some matters. City and county government share a "central dispatch" facility for emergency calls. City and county dispatchers work side by side in this facility, which is much more efficient than having separate facilities.
However, county residents should keep a close watch on the Commissioners to make sure county laws and ordinances are not simply a mirror image of the city. People who live in the county and people who live in the city have very different needs and laws need to reflect that. Furthermore, there is a political, cultural and ideological divide between city and county residents that must be considered. This divide was illustrated in the 1999 MCCSC tax increase referendum, which was overwhelmingly rejected by county voters but lost by only 1,000 votes in the city.
Two of the three County Commissioners live in the city of Bloomington. This is something county voters need to keep in mind going into 2006, since Herb Kilmer (the lone county resident on the board) will be unable to run again.