FREMONT -- Former Fremont Mayor Gus Morrison's proposal earlier this year to combine Fremont, Newark and Union City into a single city generated a front-page news, but little attention from county officials -- until now.
Unbeknown to him, and Tri-City-area elected officials, a state-mandated commission whose tasks include streamlining government in Alameda County was asked last week to consider studying consolidation of the Tri-City area into one city.
The seven-member Alameda Local Agency Formation Commission, composed almost entirely of elected representatives from within the county, delayed discussion of the proposal and other potential consolidation studies until its next meeting later this year.
However, Alameda County supervisors Gail Steele and Scott Haggerty, who each serve on the commission, said they would oppose any study that looked into consolidating the three cities.
"It seems to me that unless the interest is coming from within the community, I don't think we should initiate something like that," Steele said. "It's just going to upset everybody."
Sure enough, Union City Councilman Jim Navarro reiterated Tuesday that he was "totally against" consolidation, and Newark Mayor Dave Smith said the proposal "hasn't gained any traction whatsoever."
The commission is starting work on a once-every-five-year project to study consolidations and other measures that could make government within the county more efficient.
The commission's executive officer, Mona Palaicos, said she distributed a newspaper story about Morrison's consolidation plan to commissioners earlier this year, and one commissioner later suggested including it as part of the upcoming project.
"It was put on the agenda as an opportunity for the commissioners to discuss if they wanted to have this studied any further by the (commission) staff," Palacios said.
Although there appears little chance that the commission will initiate a study into consolidating Tri-City-area cities, advocates argue that a single city would save money on personnel costs and could gain more economies of scale by taking over utilities that already serve the entire Tri-City area.
Morrison noted that since he first pitched the idea, both Newark and Union City were forced by budget shortfalls to merge their fire departments into the county's.
"It's going to get to the point where they're going to have to start talking about it," he said.
Fremont Mayor Bob Wasserman isn't inherently opposed to a merger, but he doesn't see any interest in pursuing it.
"If people within the three cities said, 'There's some real things to talk about here, let's get together,' I would not back away from that," Wasserman said.
"But this is just a game of charades. Someone's just trying to grab a headline."