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Beyond the rhetoric

Thursday, Apr 3, 2014

* From Tom Kacich at the News Gazette

One of the first things he’d do as governor, Republican nominee Bruce Rauner said Wednesday, is appoint a task force to study Illinois’ state and local government structure with an eye toward reducing their numbers and size. […]

Among his top priorities, Rauner said, is to “form a task force immediately on day one. It’s not going to be long-lived. It’s going to be about a six-month task force composed of county (board) chairmen, mayors, city managers and school superintendents, to form a task force with me and (lieutenant governor nominee) Evelyn Sanguinetti with a goal of meeting to talk about how we bring efficiency through the layers of government throughout the state of Illinois. Today our spending problems and our tax problems are not only at the state levels. They’re at the county level, the school district level and the city and municipal level. […]

Asked if he wanted to eliminate 3,000 units of government, he answered, “What we have to look at is, how can we be more competitive and efficient? I can’t name numbers today. I know we have thousands more units and you’ve got to ask yourself, common sense would say, why? We’re not that different than other states. Why do we need 3,000 more units of government than any other states? That doesn’t make sense.”

Although Illinois does have more units of local government than any other state — 6,963 as of June 30, 2012, according to a U.S. Census Bureau report — it has only 1,816 units more than Texas. But Texas is almost five times larger than Illinois and has about twice the population.

Rauner spokesman Mike Schrimpf said Rauner was referring to other Midwestern states, none of which has more than 3,752 units of government (Missouri).

Missouri’s population is half the size of ours, so they actually have more governmental units per capita than we do.

* But there’s no doubt that Illinois has far too many local governments. And a task force has already taken a close look at the problem. The bipartisan Local Government Consolidation Commission was created in 2011 and released its findings yesterday. From its summary

By reviewing reports from around the country conducted on the topic of local government and consulting with experts who worked on such reports, the Commission realized that simply reducing the number of local governmental units does not necessarily result in a reduction in costs to the taxpayer. Current findings suggest that successful models of cooperation and consolidation in local government aim to achieve greater economies of efficiency and increase the effectiveness of government at all levels. When the goal is improving the efficiency of service while maintaining service quality and controlling costs, cooperation proves much more successful than efforts focused on reducing the number of local governments in an area.

Additionally, findings suggest that cooperation and consolidation must be approached on a case-by-case basis, as different local units of government have different needs. Working on a case-by-case basis allows cooperation and consolidation advocates in government to better understand the needs and reservations of the residents within the district. Residents often take pride in where they live, changes to the structure and operation of their government must be approached with open communication between all involved parties. Open communication can allow all sides to be aware of the other’s stance, making the end result more acceptable to all. As votes are often required to actually consolidate, working towards a result voters support is essential. [Emphasis added.]

* The commission worked very closely with DuPage County Board Chairman Dan Cronin, who has made headway into reducing the number of governments in his county. Cronin is a Rauner supporter, so perhaps the candidate could reach out. Back to the commission’s report

As a result of the findings, Chairman Cronin recommended that there be greater oversight by the county with regard to special districts to which the county appoints members. Counties currently do not have the authority to affect these special districts without state action. Most local districts come into existence through local referendum and can only be undone by local referendum. Chairman Cronin believes that if the County had greater control over these special districts, they would be able to put in place better practices and hopefully find ways to save taxpayer dollars.

* And a bill has not only been filed, but has cleared the House. From Rep. Jack Franks…

Additions to Illinois’ nearly 7,000 units of local government will come to a stop under legislation passed through the House on Wednesday by state Rep. Jack D. Franks, D-Marengo.

“Illinois stagnant economy is hindered by local government intrusion into taxpayers’ pocketbooks and lives,” Franks said. “The addition of layer after layer of local government in our state is similar to a gambler who, after losing hand after hand, continues to bet more in the hopes that, on the next hand, he will hit the jackpot. To me, the lesson here is very clear – when you’re in a hole, stop digging.”

House Bill 3251 places a four-year moratorium on the Illinois General Assembly’s authority to create any new units of local government. However, it does allow a government body to be created as a result of the consolidation of two or more pre-existing units.

The Local Government Consolidation Commission, chaired by Rep. Franks, also released its final report Wednesday. The report details the meetings, findings and recommendations of the commission, and represents research and work toward building a consensus between the many members on addressing the excess of local government bodies in Illinois.

The commission’s recommendation to grant various municipal governments the authority to annex, consolidate or dissolve has been filed by Rep. Franks as House Bill 5785. That measure awaits a vote of the full House following passage by the Counties and Townships Committee.

- Posted by Rich Miller        


30 Comments
  1. - Walker - Thursday, Apr 3, 14 @ 11:32 am:

    Good.

    Jumping on something already being worked on, and announced the same day. Classic coopting.

    But still, the more the merrier in this whaleboat.


  2. - Skirmisher - Thursday, Apr 3, 14 @ 11:42 am:

    I think it is to Rauner’s credit that he is jumping aboard this band wagon. Eliminating most or all special taxing districts in this state would go a long way towards slashing the cost of government. Of-course it ain’t gonna happen: The more untis of government, the more positions for up and coming politicos and the more pork to be handed out. In Illinois, that trumps all else.


  3. - f - Thursday, Apr 3, 14 @ 11:50 am:

    local units in byron were either created or expanded just so they could get involved in the money grab from ComEds nuclear plant.


  4. - AFSCME Steward - Thursday, Apr 3, 14 @ 11:51 am:

    “The commission’s recommendation to grant various municipal governments the authority to annex, consolidate or dissolve has been filed by Rep. Franks as House Bill 5785. That measure awaits a vote of the full House following passage by the Counties and Townships Committee.”

    The question is how many of these agencies would vote to disappear or consolidate. There certainly is a need for more efficiency. But is there a will do do so at the local level ?


  5. - anon - Thursday, Apr 3, 14 @ 12:00 pm:

    So, the idea is to eliminate / consolidate units of government and we end up with fewer larger (numbers of employees / larger tax collections) units. Doesn’t sound like much savings to me. Just shuffling from one pocket to the other.


  6. - Truthteller - Thursday, Apr 3, 14 @ 12:05 pm:

    More evidence of how little Rauner knows about what is going on and how thin his policy portfolio is.Reduce the number of governmental units. How original


  7. - Toure's Latte - Thursday, Apr 3, 14 @ 12:06 pm:

    ==the Commission realized that simply reducing the number of local governmental units does not necessarily result in a reduction in costs to the taxpayer.==

    I read that in Duh magazine. A lot of these so called “small gummint” types need to get beyond the sloganeering and look at the actual situation. Many of these districts were carved into existence so funding wouldn’t be stolen away for other purposes.


  8. - CircularFiringSquad - Thursday, Apr 3, 14 @ 12:11 pm:

    So Mitt wants to mandate school consolidations Yikes
    BTW Big Jim THompson had the cost control task force. It was a Titanic deck chair rearrangement
    Wonder if he will let Payton Prep and Winnekta Academy For THe Swells avoid consildation?


  9. - Toure's Latte - Thursday, Apr 3, 14 @ 12:13 pm:

    That said, simply returning Township Road Districts into the Townships would whack about 1,000 “separate taxing bodies” and probably not effect anyone or anything. Just paper shuffling. Mosquito Abatement Districts too-Where I live four or five combine every year to buy spraying and tablets, and that could just as easily be one unit of government. Park Districts and Libraries reabsorbed into munis as units government, school districts based on K-12, the common sense list goes on.

    Next thing you know we are 2-3,000 units down and no one notices.


  10. - x ace - Thursday, Apr 3, 14 @ 12:15 pm:

    Fighting Words Downstate:
    “Eliminate Townships - Consolidate School Districts”


  11. - Formerly Known As... - Thursday, Apr 3, 14 @ 12:21 pm:

    Great idea and a thank you to those who put their time into this over the past 3 years.

    === released its findings yesterday ===

    Why are they publishing this on someone’s google account? Is this only a temporary situation until they get the report posted on an official government website? Possibly the DCEO, which provided staff, or whatever other agency the commission is affiliated with and operates through?

    Online searches for this report don’t generally find this document anywhere near or even in the results. The top results tend to be this page, a few old news stories, some blogs and various unrelated results. Unless you already know the exact name of the document - “Local Government Consolidation Commission Final Draft” - and search for it only on google, you won’t find it.

    If this is an official government report that people put 3 years of work into, it deserves to be published on something more permanent and easily accessible to the general public than a single “google docs” account. Without the exact link courtesy of Rich, it would not only be difficult to find but easy to overlook.

    If this was done to get the report out more quickly, they should be applauded. If this was the plan for making their report public, it is terribly conceived idea.

    /rant over


  12. - SonofSuperAbe2014 - Thursday, Apr 3, 14 @ 12:49 pm:

    x ace

    Do people live downstate?


  13. - Rich Miller - Thursday, Apr 3, 14 @ 12:53 pm:

    ===Why are they publishing this on someone’s google account?===

    It’s not just someone’s google account. It’s my google account.


  14. - Anon - Thursday, Apr 3, 14 @ 12:54 pm:

    Last time I checked, these are called transition teams and all new elected officials usually have them…


  15. - downstate commissioner - Thursday, Apr 3, 14 @ 12:56 pm:

    X Ace hit the nail right on the head.
    The consolidation of townships and /or Road Districts has been done in several instances, and could maybe be done more. Strangely enough, where the consolidation attempt fails is usually due to the votes of the smaller district. (Actually, this happened to a near-by school merger in the last election)

    Toure’s Latte- doesn’t understand the relationship between Twp. Road Districts and the Townships (and yes it can be confusing). In some counties, they have Road Districts, but not Townships. In many rural counties, “Township” means the Road District to the public, not the actual Township with its Town Board.
    Incidentally, what most of the “consolidators” don’t seem to realize is that most of the smaller districts were adopted to fill a need NOT being performed by larger organizations-street light and mosquito abatement districts being the more obvious, targeted organizations. Townships don’t have the funds to do it, and are not allowed to levy for it, so the citizens vote to add the new district and raise their own taxes.
    The number of taxing districts is actually irrelevant; the level of service is, and the cost MIGHT be, but that decision should be left up to the locals, not someone from miles away.


  16. - Joe M - Thursday, Apr 3, 14 @ 1:26 pm:

    Many of those units of government are rural townships. Rural townships carry out two main tasks - maintain township roads and bridges - and - value property for tax purposes. The road commissioner and assessor usually work out of their houses. The township “Office” is its garage that houses its road equipment.

    If the rural townships were eliminated, county governments would have to pick up those duties. The question is if the county can carry out those duties as fast and efficient as the township does - and can the county do it any cheaper.


  17. - Boone's is Back - Thursday, Apr 3, 14 @ 1:42 pm:

    ===“Illinois stagnant economy is hindered by local government intrusion into taxpayers’ pocketbooks and lives,” Franks said. “The addition of layer after layer of local government in our state is similar to a gambler who, after losing hand after hand, continues to bet more in the hopes that, on the next hand, he will hit the jackpot. To me, the lesson here is very clear – when you’re in a hole, stop digging.”===

    What does that even mean?


  18. - Bill White - Thursday, Apr 3, 14 @ 1:44 pm:

    === Asked if he wanted to eliminate 3,000 units of government, he answered, “What we have to look at is, how can we be more competitive and efficient? I can’t name numbers today. I know we have thousands more units and you’ve got to ask yourself, common sense would say, why? We’re not that different than other states. Why do we need 3,000 more units of government than any other states? That doesn’t make sense.” ===

    Decades ago, one of my law professors asserted that debt limitations in the IL Constitution of 1870 was a significant cause of the proliferation of local governments in IL.

    If a city or village wanted to issue bonds to develop parks those bonds would count against their debt limit. But if the city facilitated the creation of an independent park district that district’s bonded indebtedness did not count towards the village totals.

    While origins of so many units of government are perhaps irrational it is very far from clear whether significant savings would arise from global consolidation efforts.


  19. - Sir Reel - Thursday, Apr 3, 14 @ 2:37 pm:

    Rauner makes the rookie mistake of calling for a task force to look into an issue.

    For someone who wants to be governor, he hasn’t done much thinking on issues. When he does come up with something specific, like term limits, he just trots out a warmed up idea that may not solve the problem.

    This is how titans of industry tackle issues. They tell their underlings to get on it.


  20. - Cassandra - Thursday, Apr 3, 14 @ 3:10 pm:

    Good point, Sir Reel.

    Plus, isn’t Rauner channeling Pat Quinn, who has had his share of task forces for this and that.

    Rauner needs to start delegating to a savvier group of underlings.


  21. - Jimbo - Thursday, Apr 3, 14 @ 3:33 pm:

    But will this be a “blue ribbon” task force? If not, count me out. /snark


  22. - Toure's Latte - Thursday, Apr 3, 14 @ 3:39 pm:

    - downstate commissioner - Thursday, Apr 3, 14 @ 12:56 pm:

    Thanks for the explanation. Being a collar county guy, it seems every Township would have a Road District. I could see where downstate a group of farmers making sure they had a working road grid might be all that is needed.


  23. - Frustrated Voter - Thursday, Apr 3, 14 @ 4:46 pm:

    Eliminating township government would be a great first start.


  24. - downstate commissioner - Thursday, Apr 3, 14 @ 4:56 pm:

    Tour: Oversimplification.
    Township roads now fall under the same rules as state highways, with (sometimes) less requirements due to traffic counts. We use the same signs (sometimes smaller in size) that we are now Mandated to bring up to current reflective standards, our help has to have CDLS and be drug tested, we have to follow federal and state labor standards, pay prevailing wage on contract work, our bridges have to be inspected every two years, and if replaced, have to meet structural standards (no tank cars) and be signed off on by the EPA, Corp of Engineers, State Division of Waterways, etc, etc.
    And it is not all farmers, either; a lot of people live in the country and commute to work; people now have propane and fuel oil trucks, garbage trucks, bottled water and soft water trucks, UPS and other delivery trucks; add in telephone and electric construction and maintenance vehicles doing their work (an Ameren contractor is currently tearing up a couple of miles of my roads), and then to top it off, people want to do away with my job, saying the “County” can do it. And our County Highway is broke, they can’t even hire addditonal manpower to plow snow. The Townships here routinely have our roads plowed before the county does.


  25. - downstate commissioner - Thursday, Apr 3, 14 @ 4:59 pm:

    “Frustrated voter’s” comment was made while I was typing my reply to “Tour”.
    Sorry, Rich for the length, I get carried away-
    it could have been even longer.


  26. - Product of the 60's - Thursday, Apr 3, 14 @ 5:26 pm:

    I think Cronin has spent time and made headway into consolidating stuff in the County Govt.
    ……but when it comes to disbanding taxing bodies I believe the only thing he got rid of was 1 Mosquito Abatement Dist. that was already non-functional…but required voter’s approval and necessitated people going door to door to get enough signatures on a petition to put it on the ballot.


  27. - Just The Way It Is One - Thursday, Apr 3, 14 @ 6:44 pm:

    HB 3251 sounds like a GREAT idea to me, and is long overdue. Although it’s news to me to learn that for all of the hype here, MO. actually has more local governments per person, all I know is that, indeed, IlliNOIS has far too many Units, and needs to either eliminate many of them, or consolidate them.

    Incidentally, I remember hearing one Patrick J. Quinn, the GOVernor of Illinois, by the way, way back when he was TREASurer of Illinois, way back around 1991, heartily supporting and touting such a concept….I’d like to believe his position in 2014 hasn’t changed…!


  28. - Bill White - Thursday, Apr 3, 14 @ 8:55 pm:

    @Frustrated Voter

    Michigan has gained efficiency by consolidating police and fire services at the Township level and taking those responsibilities away from municipalities.

    At least where I live, calls to abolish townships are far more about intra-party political rivalries and far less about any genuine concern for efficient and effective government.

    All IMHO, of course.


  29. - Cheswick - Thursday, Apr 3, 14 @ 11:42 pm:

    Call me a conspiracy theorist, but I suspect Bruce figures there’s some or several functions of government that, if he can get eliminated at the local level, it can be rolled into state government. Then, if he becomes governor, he will control it and get to hand out the contracts and appointments and jobs to his donors.


  30. - Kantrarian - Friday, Apr 4, 14 @ 8:30 am:

    A lot of these districts were/are good-government initiatives, to give more local control; others flowed from the township system of Illinois. Many have few to no employees and often the trustees serve without salary. Broad brush generalizations without facts to back up how and why money would be saved (and what the costs would be in terms of efficiency, oversight, etc) are little more than sloganeering. it’s notin the little park districts and fire districts and library districts of this state that the big bucks are being misspent. It’s in the big budgets with numbers and projects so large no citizen or group can bird-dog, in the unaccountable and opaque TIF districts, in the capital budgets and the spending by non-governmental vendors and grantees that doesn’t get subjected to the same scrutiny as FOIAble relatively minor sins.


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