When you go into a store in either Lewiston or Auburn, you might notice a sticker attached to a small portion of a window. It is usually clustered with the ubiquitous credit card logos at, or near, the front door of the business. The decal says “LA It’s Happening Here!” This symbol is obviously meant to bolster both economic development and promote a sense of community. However there is one small problem with the sign: there is no L.A. Maybe there should be. Literally. It’s time to act boldly and merge Lewiston and Auburn into a new city called L.A.

A new city of Lewiston-Auburn won’t do. It is too long and doesn’t easily roll off the tongue. Let’s say goodbye to the current reality of the confusing names of many area organizations. For example, is this community “Lewiston-Auburn,” or “Auburn-Lewiston?” It is Lewiston-Auburn if you appreciate theater or go to college (L/A Arts and L-A College). However our region is magically transformed to Auburn-Lewiston if you exercise or recreationally fly airplanes (Auburn-Lewiston YMCA and the Auburn-Lewiston Municipal Airport).

Of course the reason that these organizations put one city first in their name is because they are physically located there. That’s the whole point. If there were just one city, that rationale would disappear.

Would this consolidation be controversial? Absolutely. I suspect the main reason that people would object has to do with identity. Identity is liked to roots and family. Most people link their roots to a particular geographic location. If Lewiston no longer existed, would the former residents of the city view themselves in a different way? If Auburn were legally abolished, would the former residents of the city alter their self-perception? These questions are probably not even considered by most people. However they would immediately come to the surface if a movement towards consolidation ever took off.

There is a solution to this potential identity crisis. Lewiston and Auburn could be thought of as zones, or quarters. They would be distinct neighborhoods, each with a rich and unique history that would be respected by the new city of L.A. The separate public libraries could be the anchors of the new neighborhoods.

A big question involves what would happen to the public school districts. If they were merged, L.A. would most likely become the biggest in the state. Would that lower the per-pupil operating cost? Would there be school consolidation? How would that affect the historic sports rivalries between Lewiston High School and Edward Little?

Even leaving the schools out of the equation, there are potential economic benefits of a merger. The final report of the Lewiston-Auburn Commission on Joint Services analyzed the municipalities’ public works, public safety, technology, financial services, assessment and code enforcement and concluded that “better services at lower or comparable costs would result if the services were integrated into one operation.”

If Lewiston and Auburn were one city today, it would almost equal Portland in population. Since the combined land area is more than four times that of Portland, a new city would have great potential to grow. The Commission on Joint Services concluded that “It is reasonable to expect that at some point in the not-so-distant future, the population of the combined cities would become the largest in the state.”

Dover-Foxcroft merged in 1922. How about we set a goal to merge our two cities by 2016? It would be a common objective which could bring the citizens of Lewiston and Auburn together. The consolidation of services could begin slowly, with the more controversial aspects done closer to the actual date of merger. There could even be a new logo created: “L.A. 2016”

Dissolving the two cities could spur an interest in their history. Paradoxically, when people know that something is about to end, many take newfound interest in the soon-to-be-gone. Most significantly, this interest could stimulate an appreciation for the geographic area that almost 59,000 people call home.

The inventor Charles F. Kettering once wrote that “The world hates change, yet it is the only thing that has brought progress.” Progress in the 21st century requires us to accept the necessity of change. The Twin Cities just won’t do anymore. Imagine a future when the people that drive into our new city would be greeted by a highway sign that simply reads “Welcome to L.A.” Why not make it happen?

Karl Trautman has taught political science for more than 20 years. He has been a policy analyst for the Michigan Legislature and a research assistant for “Meet The Press.” He chairs the social sciences department at Central Maine Community College and can be reached at [email protected]

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