Voting with Your Hands: Direct Democracy in Annexation – Article by Clayton P. Gillette

From Volume 78, Number 4 (May 2005)

Municipal annexation receives a mixed reaction in the analysis of metropolitan organization. Some commentators, such as David Rusk or Laurie Reynolds, view annexation as the savior of cities that could not otherwise expand in ways necessary for economic success. For these advocates of liberal municipal expansion, annexation promises to reduce ethnic and racial segregation, residential density, inefficiencies allegedly related to metropolitan fragmentation, and per capita costs of public services. They similarly claim that annexation frustrates efforts by nonresidents to take advantage of municipal resources without paying a fair share for their upkeep and enables central cities to increase local tax revenues and control land use at the urban fringe.

Annexations that occur under these circumstances are likely to be described as necessary or appropriate for orderly municipal or regional development by those who favor them. Annexing municipalities and their constituents may portray the resources that they seek through annexation as being properly available to all residents of the region including both the annexing and annexed communities. They may also portray those who oppose annexation as motivated primarily by a desire to monopolize a resource to which they are not entitled or to avoid contributions to the metropolitan area commensurate with the benefits conferred by the central city.