The Daily News of Los Angeles
July 31, 2002 Wednesday, Valley Edition
HEADLINE: GOVERNMENT EFFICIENCY SECESSION'S BIG PAYOFF
BYLINE: Shirley Svorny, Local View
MANY voters are concerned that should the San Fernando
Valley detach from Los Angeles, taxes would increase on both sides of the Santa
Monica Mountains. Those opposed to secession, including Los Angeles Mayor James
Hahn, threaten an increase in taxes to scare people from the otherwise
intuitively appealing idea of having smaller local government.
It would be a shame if this misinformation were to affect
the outcome of the November election. If anything, the breakup would do away
with some of the inefficiencies that hinder Los Angeles, lowering per capita
costs and reducing redundant bureaucracy.
Although the idea of secession is new to Los Angeles, the
efficiency effects of municipal government size have been the subject of
academic research for decades.
According to Syracuse University economist John Yinger,
author of several studies examining the production of municipal services,
"there is no evidence of economies of scale ... at very large city sizes.
It makes no sense to oppose these two separations because of economies of
For fire and police services, which comprise the lion's
share of city spending in Los Angeles, Yinger and others have found no evidence
that large cities are more efficient, and some evidence to suggest that they are
less efficient. This means that per capita costs of providing services can be
expected to stay the same or drop if the city is divided into smaller municipal
Ruling out an increase in costs, Yinger, who lives in New
York, speculated that there must be some other reason behind opposition to
Yinger is right. Los Angeles, without the Valley, and after
the alimony payments are exhausted, will have to cut its spending. The annual
loss to Los Angeles has been estimated by the Los Angeles County Local Agency
Formation Commission to be approximately $128 million; Los Angeles will have to
cut its spending by 3 percent to 4 percent.
Opponents of secession have argued that the loss of funds
will hurt poor residents in Los Angeles.
The "equity" effects associated with this
detachment are not associated with transfers to the poor, but instead, transfers
from Valley residents to the City Hall bureaucracy.
Costs of services per resident in Los Angeles are
significantly higher than in other cities and the city bureaucracy is known to
be inefficient and ineffectual.
If the city wastes or misdirects hundreds of millions of
dollars a year due to lack of citizen oversight, and if secession limits this
behavior, residents all over Los Angeles stand to benefit.
The concerns expressed by residents, concerns about higher
taxes and increased bureaucracy should the Valley and Hollywood detach are not
consistent with what is known about municipal government. We are more likely to
see an increase in government efficiency than a decrease as the city downsizes.
Hopefully, voters will not be misled by claims to the contrary.