Eric Bradner, a really top-notch reporter for the Evansville Courier Press, has an article looking at Unigov in Marion County which is relevant for the Evansville area in that they appear to be considering the concept.
The upshot is that the Democrats lost a mayoral election to Dick Lugar in 1967, lost big at the state level in 1968, and found themselves legislated out of power in Marion County for the next 30 years. African-Americans were the big losers in this deal. They went from being about 50% of the majority party in the city to being a minority of a minority party in the city-county government. From the article, it seems that the big “tell” that this was more of a power grab and not so much directed at more efficient government is that the schools were left out of the consolidation. The wealthier suburbanites were willing to share city-county resources to some extent if they got to call the shots, but they weren’t going to send their kids to a unified school system.
The article did note that Indianapolis has fared better than places like Cleveland and Detroit where consolidation with the suburbs did not happen and black politicians maintained control. Their control of the city often reflected the fact of white flight to the suburbs and the resulting lack of resources for use in addressing their cities’ problems.
I’m a reasonably affluent white-guy so I probably don’t have the basis to comment a whole lot about this, but reading the article I found myself thinking we’ll all be in a lot better place if/when we reach a place where race isn’t a primary determinant of one’s political affiliation. Note: this is not by default a critique of how blacks choose to cast their votes. Whether one considers race or socioeconomic factors, Republicans, by and large, have not given blacks much of a reason to vote for them. And, with the latest round of nativist hysteria, “conservatives” (loosely defined) seem determined to alienate other racial groups as well.