In 2004, the elected mayors of Lewiston and Auburn created a citizen commission to examine the services provided by the governments of Lewiston and Auburn, with the charge to examine what municipal services could be joined or consolidated. The mayors were acutely aware that the two city governments were duplicating services and wasting a lot of money.
We were co-chairs of that commission and served from 2004 into 2006. Most of the commission members lived in one city and worked in the other — a clear indication that Lewiston-Auburn had become one community with a single economy.
Our commission, and a follow up commission created by the city councils of both cities from 2006 into 2009, identified many areas of duplication in services provided by our municipal governments that, if the duplication were to be eliminated, would result in substantial tax savings ($2.7 million) to the citizens of Lewiston and Auburn.
Those citizens were never given the opportunity to consider those savings, however, because the commission’s suggestions were rejected out of hand by the then city manager and the then mayor of Auburn. The commission was dissolved.
The citizens of both cities voted to create a Joint Charter Commission and have elected members from both Auburn and Lewiston. After months of much study and thorough analysis, calling on the experience of a capable consultant group and, most importantly, with input from local citizens and taxpayers, the Charter Commission has proposed a charter merging the two governments of the one Lewiston-Auburn community into one single government. That single government would be a council/mayor/manager form, similar to the present governments of both cities.
What a unified city government would do is bring together and unify Lewiston and Auburn and eliminate the enormous amount of duplication that currently exists in the present two-government structure.
The consultants who worked closely with the Charter Commission have estimated the annual savings to the taxpayers from a unified government to be realized at between $2.3 and $4.2 million. That would mean a savings of between $23 and $42 million through 10 years — and long into the future.
The opponents of the merger have attacked those estimates as being exaggerated, but the savings predicted by the same consultants for a similar merger in the Princeton, New Jersey, area have exceeded the savings estimated. Savings would be realized because duplication would be eliminated.
Substantial tax savings, however, would be only one of many benefits that the community would realize with a consolidated city government.
A unified city of Lewiston-Auburn would move this community forward and best prepare residents for this fast-changing world. By making better use of limited resources and speaking and acting with one voice, city officials would be better able to address current and future demographic and economic challenges. Many citizens have eloquently spoken to those challenges on the pages of the Sun Journal, and how a unified city could better address them.
The efforts of the citizens and Joint Charter Commission are grounded in reality. Their recommendations are visionary. Executing that vision is our best hope for the future.
We urge a “yes” vote on the Lewiston-Auburn charter.
Robert Clifford is a resident of Lewiston. Donna Steckino lives in Auburn.