Tuesday, December 05, 2006

Lehigh County Municipalities take a step in the right direction

Fighting a notoriously fractional government system in Pennsylvania, Lehigh County Municipalities are looking to form a Lehigh County Congress of Governments. The Lehigh Valley is stagnated by the number of operational government facilities in Lehigh, Northampton and Carbon Counties - about 14 institutions per 100,000 people compared to a national norm of 6.1 per 100,000 people. According to a report put out by the Brookings Institute, this fragmentation complicates coordination, exacerbates unbalanced growth patterns, and undercuts the region's ability to compete economically.

Taking the first steps toward a Lehigh County Congress of Governments , officials from all but two municipalities discussed forming the group last week.

They are expected to meet again in mid-January after they receive proposed bylaws, said Cindy Feinberg, the county community and economic development director.

''I think the idea of having a formal organization of local governments is very valuable to them and to the county,'' said County Executive Don Cunningham.

The aim of the COG is to boost communication and cooperation among the county's 25 municipalities. Cunningham said a COG would be created even if not all join.

At the next meeting, COG representatives may discuss priorities. On Thursday, municipal officials pressed small, round stickers next to topics, such as ''open space,'' printed on large sheets of paper.

Based on the stickers, the top three issues were emergency management, traffic and economic development/smart growth, Feinberg said.

According to Renew Lehigh Valley, regionalized approaches to service delivery could result in major economic savings, more coordinated and organized service delivery and an increase in service quality. Areas for improvement include Water/Wastewater, Police Services and Fire/Ambulatory Services.

Economic development/smart growth should be of interest to young professionals, who according to a town hall meeting hosted by Renew Lehigh Valley earlier this year, identified open space as one of their top priorities.


Lehigh County Executive Don Cunningham is asking communities to participate in a Congress of Governments.

Proposed structure:
  • Three representatives from each municipality
  • One vote per municipality
  • Three vice chairs: one each for the cities, boroughs, and townships
  • Cunningham would appoint vice chairs in 2007; representatives of each class would elect vice chairs in 2008 and on
  • Meet at least four times a year
  • Next tentative meeting: mid-January
More here.

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