Chamber launches committee to explore local government consolidation

From the Tallahassee Democrat

The Tallahassee Chamber of Commerce continues its push for a local government merger by creating a committee tasked with identifying potential steps to get there.

Renewed debate surrounds the consolidation of Leon County and city of Tallahassee governments following the chamber’s independent study by the Washington Economics Group. It examined the effects of consolidation in five major cities, including Jacksonville and Nashville, Tennessee.

The annual employment and population growth surpassed the national average in all five cities, coupled with an average growth that outpaced Tallahassee’s by nearly 4 percent. According to the chamber, the report found consolidation could boost employment growth, household income and gross domestic product.

Between the early 1970s and 1992, voters repeatedly rejected consolidation initiatives. However, with an ongoing FBI investigation into public corruption at City Hall, a survey conducted by Sachs Media Group last year found nearly two-thirds of voters expressed some support for consolidation.

The survey prompted the chamber’s consolidation stance. The nine-member committee will convene for 120 days and work with the John Scott Dailey Florida Institute of Government, which provides education and training, technical assistance and applied research on government functions. Committee members have not yet been finalized, said Chamber President and CEO Sue Dick.

The committee will provide a report on various areas impacted by a government merger, including an elected commission, senior management, financing and taxing authority, law enforcement, utilities and airport and transit services.

“Nearly a year ago, the chamber led a large group of community leaders to Nashville, Tennessee. We went in search of strategies that can enhance our community trajectory,” said Heidi Otway, chamber chairwoman, in a statement. “One of the strategic conversations that happened while our leaders were convened was focused on consolidation.”

Contact TaMaryn Waters at or follow @TaMarynWaters on Twitter.