The Future of Municipalities is Townships

PA has 2560 municipalities and mostly all of those municipalities have their own police departments and resources. This is unsustainable and at some point, if they haven’t already, they’re going to need to band together. This is a hot take but if it was anything less why would I share it?

As a former mayor, a writer, a taxpayer, and someone with more than a little bit of common sense I know that most likely the future of municipalities is townships.

Currently, I hold the title of the youngest mayor in the history of Braddock and I’m excited to find someone to break that record. I was appointed at 29. I did not run again because I knew that I could make more of an impact when I wasn’t in office as I saw the processes and procedures and red tape as a hindrance to progress. Before the pandemic Braddock paid money for a comprehensive plan study and I will never forget that the pandemic hit and the consultant gave their public report. When the consultant told Braddock, East Pittsburgh, and North Braddock residents on separate occasions that they should all consolidate because they all have the same problems you would’ve thought that they cursed at them but it makes dollars and it makes cents. These communities want to keep their identities close to them yet from the consultant’s standpoint these communities have the same struggles. I purposely didn’t call them financial struggles because sometimes it all falls down to resources and they all are losing resources and residents more than they want to believe.

Wilkins Township had a parade about a year ago and they invited Braddock elected officials. I was confused until they sent receipts and the receipts (research) said that Braddock used to be a part of Wilkins Township until 1885. Braddock being a steel town had a large enough population to sustain itself and form its own identity and it was one of the many reasons for its borough formation. At its height in 1990, it was more than 4600 people. At its peak, people traveled from all over the city to swarm the shops on Braddock Ave and Braddock had a population of over 20,000 people and Braddock is less than a square mile I remind you. Today the population sits at a little over 1700 according to the last census and every decade the population shrinks at an alarming rate.

When a population shrinks so does its tax base and when the tax base shrinks so does the resources. It should be no surprise to anyone that Braddock is short on police officers due to a shortage of people going to the police academy and the low wages. Braddock and neighboring communities have the same issue when it comes to police officers, Braddock does not have a parks and rec budget line, and Braddock has very few resources that at some point Braddock and the neighboring communities are going to have to stop pretending and accept the fact that they’re all sinking together and could be throwing each other life rafts. As it stands, Braddock and surrounding communities will still compete for the same grants unless they band together. They will still have a revolving door of officers. They’ll still lack the resources to take care of all of the parks and in the end, the residents will suffer. The more residents, the more tax bases, and the greater the tax base, the better the quality of life. At some point, community leaders have to put their pride aside and figure out together how to entice people to either come live in the communities or band together. No one is going to want to live somewhere where there are little to no resources and if no one lives there they can’t solve their shrinking tax base issue.

Published in The Valley Mirror June 2022

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