Local Governments

Can they have greater autonomy from the states?

[Tuesday-morning update]

Related: Could #Resistance in California result in federal troops being sent there? It would be pretty amusing if they use this as an excuse to recognize a new legislature in the hinterlands.

14 comments on this post.
  1. McGehee:

    If the state legislature is within its state constitutional prerogatives in what it “dictates” to local government, and lacking a Guarantee Clause case that can show that the state is not acting in a small-R republican manner toward local governments, I’m not sure what can be done to stop them.

  2. Hal Duston:

    I used to think that “smaller and closer to the people” government was better. HOA’s have disabused me of that notion.

    Cities, counties, school districts, etc. (and even the federal government, more or less) are creations of the state government, and thus should be holy subject to it. It is my view that the state government is the proper location for oversight of these government bodies.

    Whether this is, in fact, what is occurring is a different discussion entirely, I’m only speaking to theory, not practice.

  3. Jon:

    We could start by somehow getting rid of that disastrous decision in 1964 of Reynolds v Sims. That decision forced states with their own constitutions to elect state senators based on population and not by a fixed number.

    Now state politics is dominated by the interests of the larger cites. Woe to any small municipality that dares to defy the big city.

  4. Dick Eagleson:

    Perhaps the much higher public profile of Johnny-come-lately secessionist movements in states which, themselves, have higher public profiles than resolutely plebian Michigan caused Messrs. Somin and Reynolds to miss a much older secessionist movement than any of those referenced, namely that which would detach my native Upper Peninsula from the geographically and culturally disjoint remainder of Michigan and have it enter the Union as the freshly-minted state of Superior.

    This movement was venerable even by the time I first became aware of it over 50 years ago in junior high. The complaint was entirely congruent to those now animating secessionist talk in CA, WA, OR and NY – resentment of cavalier treatment by a state government hundreds of miles distant and dominated by big-city representatives, especially those from Detroit.

    I haven’t kept in touch with the movement since decamping for CA over 40 years ago, and perhaps the fire in the bellies of would-be Superiors no longer burns quite so hot as in erstwhile times, but there are reasons to think otherwise. Michigan’s total population grew a bit, fell a bit and grew a bit again from 1970 – 1990. The trend was modestly up in the 90’s, but has, in the most recent 20 years, resumed the pattern of modest ups and downs of the 1970 – 1990 era.

    But this population has varied far more in its distribution. The old industrial cities of Lower Michigan have hemorrhaged population to other states and to the more rural parts of Michigan. Detroit has less than 40% of the population it had in 1950 (1,850,000) and less than 50% of what it had in 1970 (1,550,000). It still had about a million residents as recently as 1990, but can now muster barely 700,000. Flint and other heavy industrial cities have suffered proportionately.

    Michigan has, in partial consequence, become a so-called “battleground state” in national elections and currently has a modestly Republican government. The Upper Peninsula still has roughly the same population as it did when I was a boy. But it used to be roughly 2/3 the population of the Michigan Congressional district in which it was contained. When I was young, only six additional Lower Peninsula counties were attached to the U.P. electorally. The U.P., though, is now only 40% of the population of the Michigan 1st Congressional district with the balance consisting of a lot more than six Lower Peninsula counties. Even given the relative diminution of Detroit and other fading Democratic strongholds, I’m sure my native region can still conjure plenty of reasons why it should be hived off.

  5. Bob-1:

    I’m imagining people in Alaska and Hawaii reading your comment and rolling their eyes before getting into the airplanes or boats they need to get to the far more isolated parts of their respective states.

    For that matter, there are plenty of rural areas in the Lower 48 which are far more isolated from the populated areas of their states than the UP is from the rest of Michigan. If your way of thinking took hold, how many US states with tiny populations full of disproportionately powerful citizens would we end up with? (The UP has a population which is roughly half that of Wyoming, the currently least populated US state, with the most unfairly
    empowered US citizens.)

    If Michigan had any incentive to let the UP go (does it?), would the UP settle for joining Wisconsin? Or would it prefer Canada, like Point Roberts,etc — see http://rabble.ca/news/2010/03/canada-ready-confederation-%E2%80%98fab-four%E2%80%99-0 for a laugh.

  6. McGehee:

    (The UP has a population which is roughly half that of Wyoming, the currently least populated US state, with the most unfairly empowered US citizens.)
    The solution to that whinge is repealing the Apprtionment Act of 1911.

    Anyone who would rather gripe about a constitutional provision than have Congress do something a million time simpler, isn’t serious about their complaint.

  7. Raoul Ortega:

    On the other hand, you’ve got Montana, which for the last few censuses has been just under the limit for getting a second congress-critter.

    The problem, as you point out, is that the size of Congress is too small. If I remember correctly, a Democrat controlled Congress failed to reapportion after the 1920 census, leaving the 1911 act in place, and the Stupid Party went along for whatever reason seemed useful at the time. After 1930, they kept the 435, but at least redistributed the representation among the states. (Another example of how Democrats keep screwing up the country long after they’re dead and their statues removed.)

  8. Rand Simberg:

    with the most unfairly empowered US citizens

    What is “fair” is an opinion, not a fact.

  9. Jon:

    So, what you’re saying is: the people of Michigan’s UP should quit their bitching because their lack of representation in the state government is not as bad as the remoteness of some of Alaska’s frontier towns, which may or may not have better representation in Juneau.

  10. Dick Eagleson:

    If you imagine there is no resentment of Honolulu/Oahu on the more thinly-populated islands of the Hawaiian archipelago you are quite wrong. Then there are the descendants of the native population, many of whom lately seem interested in seceding from the U.S. entirely.

    As for Alaska, it’s population distribution resembles New York a lot more than it does Michigan’s U.P. Anchorage has about 40% of the whole state’s population with 300,000 people. Juneau and Fairbanks are barely over 10% as large apiece. There is plenty of room for resentment of “downstaters” by people in the wild and rural north. The dredgers of Bering Sea Gold in Nome pretty obviously don’t like the Alaska state government telling them when they can and can’t operate their rigs.

    The biggest city in the U.P., Marquette, in contrast, is only 2/3 as big as a Juneau or Fairbanks and has less than 7% of the U.P’s total population. There is no lopsidedly large urban area in the U.P.

  11. Bob-1:

    I assume the location of a state capitol doesn’t matter all that much — if the capitol of Michigan was located in the UP, I presume the UPers would have about as many beefs as before. The problem is that the UP is pretty isolated from most of Michigan’s citizens. But is it unusually isolated?
    Here is a fun map: it shows the center of population for each US state.


    For states with one major city, like Michigan, or even ones with one highly populated zone vs a much less populated area (such as coast vs interior), you can see how distant a rural town is from the bulk of that state’s voters. In some places cultural differences accumulate with distance, and in some places not so much, but I find the map is worth a glance.
    You can consider the isolation of the Upper Peninsula compared to, say, Pensacola, Florida. In that context, the UP’s situation doesn’t look so unusual.

  12. Dick Eagleson:

    I make no claim that the U.P.’s situation is unique – quite the opposite, in fact. There is a rural/small town vs. big city divide in many U.S. states.

    In general, I support all these state-cleaving proposals. If enacted, Republicans would get an essentially permanent veto-proof majority in the Senate and modestly widen their current lead in the House.

  13. Paul Milenkovic:

    Dick Eagleson:

    You are indeed claiming that the situation in the Upper Peninsula (also called Northern Michigan, especially by alumni of Northern Michigan University in Marquette) is unique, as you properly should. Don’t let anyone who-has-not-had-to-change-their-clock-by-one-hour for driving north into a neighboring town attempt to tell you otherwise.

  14. Bob-1:

    Try driving the length of Indiana. Particularly confusing in the 1990s when Daylight Savings Time wasn’t observed, but still confusing today — there is an extensive wikipedia article with plenty of maps to dedicated to what’s been going on there from the 1990s onward: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Time_in_Indiana

Leave a comment