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One city or two?

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About a century ago a bunch of cities were located in northern Bannock County, in the area of Pocatello. There was Pocatello and Chubbuck and, among others, on the northwest side of the larger community, Fairview and North Pocatello.

The Pocatello area was growing as a railroad, manufacturing and later education center, and all those small communities started bumping up against each other. In 1924 the villages of Fairview and North Pocatello decided to merge, and became the city of Alameda. The new city’s population was about 1,800 then. It continued to grow, and by 1960 it was more than 10,000. The city was then led by an ambitious political figure, George Hansen (later a U.S. representative), who did the unusual thing of arguing that his job ought to vanish: He supported a merger of Alameda with Pocatello. That merger happened, after people in the cities voted approval, in 1962.

Here’s the echo of today from all that: Alameda wasn’t the only city considering a merger with Pocatello in 1962. The municipality of Chubbuck, on the north side of Pocatello, was voting too, and its voters rejected the proposal. The two cities are separate to this day.

So far.

A group of Pocatello city officials, including long-time council member Jim Johnston, are supporting a new plan to merge the two cities. In another echo of the past, there’s sharp opposition from much of the leadership of Chubbuck. That difference in local leadership attitudes may have been one of the reasons for the 1962 vote happening as it did.

Some aspects of the current plan may draw some quick opposition around the area. There’s talk, for example, of renaming the merged jurisdiction Gate City, which probably would never fly. (Pocatello is among other things already a distinctive and reasonably well-known name; why re-brand from scratch?)

Chubbuck officials will tell you - at least they have for years told anyone listening - that the two cities really are quite different in character, and that’s more right than wrong. They also have a realistic, though possibly rebuttable, case about how finances would work (to Chubbuck’s detriment) if the cities united.

But the Pocatello advocates have some good arguments for a merger.

Johnston (who said he plans to make the case for unification as a key part of his upcoming council campaign) argued that, “If we could eliminate duplication of services, we would save huge dollars and be able to reduce the tax burden.” Maybe; merger proposals do not always deliver as clear savings as seem evident in advance.

But they usually do result in efficiencies and more cooperative work. A local area split into a number of jurisdictions has more obstacles to overcome when it tries to accomplish something region-wide. (The Ada and Canyon areas are experiencing the same thing, and while merger talk isn’t in the wind, many of the issues surrounding it are.) Pocatello and Chubbuck are distinct entities, but then parts of Pocatello (and to a lesser extent Chubbuck too) are sharply different from each other. And if the merger brought together a wider range of points of view and perspective, and forced people who think differently to interact with each other, some useful results probably would come from that.

There would even be a matter of civic pride and economic development, which could work together. If the cities were united, the urban population base would seem to increase. Pocatello’s population recently has been counted at 56,266 and Chubbuck’s 15,315; united, they would form a city of 71,581. That would make it clearly the biggest city in Idaho east of Boise or outside the Ada-Canyon area. It would gain some cachet, and also more attention as businesses consider optimal locations. The difference would be artificial, true, but first impressions do sometimes count.

Pocatello voters will get a chance to mull some of this during the council campaigns this fall. So will the residents of Chubbuck since, after all, they won’t have far to hear to the advocates over in Pocatello.
 

On the front pages

news

Here’s what public affairs news made the front page of newspapers in the Northwest today, excluding local crime, features and sports stories. (Newspaper names contracted with location)

Tony Doerr wins Pullitzer for novel (Boise Statesman, TF Times News)
Downtown site okayed for IF fire station (IF Post Register)
Major renovations planned at Lewiston high school (Lewiston Tribune)
Latah commissioners ask special session on child support (Moscow News)
Pocatello-Chubbuck fire move ahead on merger (Pocatello Journal)
Jerome okays new rendering plant (TF Times News)

Unease in Springfield on home for mentally ill (Eugene Register Guard)
Smoke from Siberia fires drift to northwest (Medford Tribune)
Umatilla sheriff contracts help county budget (Pendleton E Oregonian)
Last court challenge to Oregon gay marriage fails (Portland Oregonian)

Mt Baker ski area ends poor season (Bellinghan Herald)
School districts protesting budget (Everett Herald)
Highway 522 work hits fish habitat (Everett Herald)
Looking further into Auditor Kelley background (Kennewick Herald, Olympian)
Report says Richland needs more day care (Kennewick Herald)
Wildfire smoke fom Siberia spreads to Northwest (Longview News)
Inslee signs teen cardiac arrest bill (Longview News)
State treasurer urges income tax passage (Longview News)
Homeless count finds decrease in numbers (Olympian)
Seattle Times gets Pulitzer for Oso reportage (Seattle Times)
Bill goes after left-lane slow drivers (Spokane Spokesman)
Tacoma Amtrak station gets approval (Tacoma News Tribune)
Possible overtime session in the works (Vancouver Columbian)
Judge blasts conduct of county clerk (Yakima Herald Republic)

On the front pages

news

Here’s what public affairs news made the front page of newspapers in the Northwest today, excluding local crime, features and sports stories. (Newspaper names contracted with location)

Slower rise in Idaho college tuition (Boise Statesman)
Nearing end of legislature (Boise Statesman)
Legislative discussion of who pays for mental health (IF Post Register)
Debate over pay raises at Idaho Falls Power (IF Post Register)
Reviewing the region's mental health system (Lewiston Tribune)
Canyon County crime continues to diminish (Nampa Press Tribune)
Stalemate over legislative transportation action (Nampa Press Tribune)
Possible Pocatello, Chubbuck fire department merger (Pocatello Journal)

How the Civic Stadium buy came together (Eugene Register Guard)
Sardine fishing may close on coast (KF Herald & News)
Redband surveys by state underway at Spring Creek (KF Herald & News)
Building more routes for walking and biking (Medford Tribune)
More about the 94k Hayes email release (Portland Oregonian, Salem Statesman Journal)
Wyden and firefighting funding legislation (Salem Statesman Journal)

Details of Inslee's climate proposal (Bellingham Herald)
WA clinic will need 18 months to open (Bremerton Sun)
Inslee opposing new state cleanup plan (Bremerton Sun)
Timber sale near Index will continue (Everett Herald)
Green gorge electricity carrying local costs (Longview News)
Sardine fishing may close on west coast (Longview News)
Financial trouble on mobile home financing (Seattle Times)
Washington hopes to collect online taxes (Spokane Spokesman)
179th St in east Vancouver may be developed (Vancouver Columbian)