Our View: The painful way forward: Chamber’s call for study on consolidation is the right move

From the Tallahassee Democrat

If it happens someday in Leon County, consolidation will be extremely difficult.

It will pit friend against friend and make friends out of foes.

It will be messy, painful, complicated, emotionally taxing and intellectually draining.

It will, at various times, seem not worth the time and effort.

Oh, by the way, all of those things also describe leadership.

On Tuesday, the Greater Tallahassee Chamber of Commerce took a giant, welcomed, gutsy step.

It led. It’s a short word and short sentence but with powerful ramifications for this area.

The Chamber answered a community weary of silence in the midst of a massive FBI investigation with a call to start a process to determine if consolidating city and county government is the best thing for our community.

It won’t be easy. It might never happen. And it’s the right thing to do.

We are faced with a city in crisis. A survey by Sachs Media Group showed the breadth and depth of public concern with the cloud of corruption over the city of Tallahassee – more than 8 out of 10 are concerned about it.

We’re sure there are county leaders saying: Wait a minute! We haven’t gotten any subpoenas. We haven’t been accused of not being transparent. Why should our governmental system be blown up? Why should we be under the dark cloud that is the city’s making?

Fair points. Two responses.

First, we agree! But the survey results do not. And perception, in this case, trumps reality.  Even with a much cleaner record, the county – either mostly or completely through no fault of its own — is squarely under the cloud this corruption investigation has created.

Point two: remember the end of the Bowden era? FSU was down and UF was soaring under Urban Meyer and Tim Tebow. It seemed like things would never change – for fans of both schools. But things did change, because life tends to be cyclical. It wasn’t too many years ago that the city was the local governmental unit with its act together and the county was plagued by dysfunction.

The point – even without this corruption cloud, it’s been a long while since the city and county were working in harmony. If that weren’t true, we wouldn’t be plagued by chronic issues with crime, poverty, economic segregation and sluggish growth.

And so, we take one step. The first of what will be many if this reaches a conclusion, which is hardly a guarantee. Consolidation attempts fail more than they succeed. Down the road, there will be valid reasons to oppose this.

But right now … not so much.

Here’s the cold, hard, current political truth. Opposing at least studying consolidation is, in essence, a vote for the status quo. And the status quo — at this point in Tallahassee-Leon’s history and in the eyes of its residents – is synonymous with this cloud of corruption.

Therefore, a = c.

A crisis demands decisive action.

Now is the time to stand up, heed the public’s call and look into a new way for our city and county.

The Chamber is right. It’s time to call this situation what it is – a crisis.

It’s time to do what individuals and institutions do when the clouds move in.