The very idea of metropolitan governments in a state such as West Virginia may seem quite radical to many long-time residents who've been satisfied with things being coordinated "the old way."
However, a state that is struggling economically like West Virginia -- we're either in last place or next to it in so many categories -- would do well to shake off the cobwebs from past practices and take a close look at combining governments.
There's little argument with the belief that to do something as dramatic as chart a whole new structure of county/local government would be reinventing the wheel. Many people in the state who have been set in their ways could hardly be expected to accept such a functional revolution.
Now is the time, however, for beleaguered communities to witness as the "been-there-and-done-that" entities lay their cards on the table. They might do well to watch and study how places such as Louisville/Jefferson County in Kentucky have so successfully merged.
The voters there approved a campaign to merge Louisville and Jefferson County, and in 2003, the new government went into effect. And the benefits have been tremendous.
Is metro government all that new? Not by a long shot. Way back in 1805, the governments of New Orleans and Orleans Parish in Louisiana were combined. They may have been the pioneers in combining governments, but more than 30 other cities and counties have done it, as well.
What does all this have to do with West Virginia? An organization known as the Governor's Commission on Governing in the 21st Century plans to examine:
n Whether counties in the Mountain State can combine services and some day merge into one another
n Whether cities and counties in this state can become one
n Whether the borders dividing our municipalities can somehow be erased
State Sen. Brooks McCabe, D-Kanawha, heads the commission.
He claims that the biggest question that the state must ask is whether the outcome from anything it does is worth the cost of doing it.
Obviously, the expense of such an undertaking wouldn't be chicken feed.
If West Virginia cannot save money or the state's ability to do business and attract it, too, wouldn't show improvement, then it would indeed be foolish to spend the dollars to try out the project.
For a state that unfortunately finds itself perennially at the bottom of the economic heap, West Virginia is highly political, even though the margin has been more than 2-1 Democratic for a lot of years.
The stark reality is before us as West Virginians. As McCabe says, we're fighting for our economic future. If combined efforts would prove to be productive in the state, think of how counter-productive power struggles and getting into knock-down, drag-out fights over invisible legal boundaries would be.
Robert F. Stealey