Voters in several Michigan communities turned down an opportunity to merge their governments last year. Not because it did not make financial sense, but by merging one community would loose their identity. According to a recent article in Bridge Magazine, voters in Onekema Village (Mich.) voted against merging with neighboring Onekema Township and voters in Douglas, Mich. voted against merging with Saugatuck. The opportunity to identify with your community outweighed the chance to save money and create a more efficient government. The same result occurred a decade earlier, according to The Bridge, when in 1993, voters rejected rejected a proposal to consolidate the Village of Spring Lake, Mich. with Ferrysburg and in 2006, when voters in Grand Blanc, just outside of Flint, Mich. rejected a proposal to merge with Grand Blanc Township.
Identify is extremely important to people and being able to identify with your community is something we are very proud of. In bringing the issue of government consolidations or mergers it is important for government leaders to engage their constituents and have them drive the discussion as to what they would support and why.
Stakeholder engagement is important to any successful merger. Without it you move alone without the support of the constituency you need most.