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CRC Column

The right to criticize government is also an obligation to know what you are talking about. 
-Lent Upson, 1st Executive Director of CRC  

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Streamlining Functions and Services of Kent County and Metropolitan Grand Rapids Cities
October 2009
Report 357

The Citizens Research Council of Michigan was engaged to examine the activities and services provided jointly among Kent County and the cities of East Grand Rapids, Grand Rapids, Grandville, Kentwood, Walker, and Wyoming. Working with these local governments, a matrix was created to identify existing patterns of collaboration and to identify opportunities to expand collaboration to new service areas or expand existing collaboration to include more local governments. Michigan laws and the city charters were examined to investigate potential legal impediments that would limit the ability of these communities to expand collaboration. Finally, the role of the county government was examined to identify functions and services the county could perform for the local governments more efficiently than the individual communities acting independently.

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Examination of the matrix of existing collaborative services (on page 13-21) shows that these communities have been progressive in meeting the needs of their communities as a region. Collaborative service provision has been the norm for these communities for many years, even before the difficult economic conditions that currently challenge Michigan led so many other local governments to re-examine the benefits of collaboration. These communities appear to be more involved in collaborative service provision than other groups of local governments throughout Michigan, but the difficult economic conditions gripping Michigan and the declining support coming from state revenue sharing makes it necessary to investigate whether more can be done to achieve economies.

CRC recently has engaged in numerous research projects related to intergovernmental collaboration, including a 2005 survey of service delivery methods, an outline of state laws that authorize local governments to collaborate for the provision of services, and a 2008 analysis of the survey results that suggests an approach to the consolidated provision of local government services.3 This analysis indicates that patterns exist among the governmental units that collaborate for the provision of services and among the types of functions/services provided collaboratively. Whether those patterns exist by design or by chance, they show that local governments cooperate with each other heavily for the provision of some services and with the state and county governments for the provision of others.

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