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Thread: How is local government structured in your state?

  1. #1
    Cyburbian ChevyChaseDC's avatar
    Feb 2004
    Philadelphia, PA

    How is local government structured in your state?

    Illinoisplanner's recent post on "annoying unincorporated places" got me thinking about just how much local governmental structure varies on a regional, and even a state-by-state basis. Here's my understanding of it all:

    Northeast: New England towns and cities comprise the entire land mass; similar with townships and boroughs in NJ and PA. County government in New England is virtually non-existant.

    Midwest: Also have townships but these are not as strong as those back east, villages and cities still have home rule though counties do perform some functions

    South: Counties, counties, counties. County schools, police, fire, etc. Some states make it easier to incorporate as a municipality than others (e.g. few municipalties in Maryland - even Bethesda and Silver Spring are unincorporated parts of Montgomery County).

    How is local government structured in your state? The west, especially, is a mystery to me.

  2. #2
    Cyburbian the north omaha star's avatar
    Nov 2003
    at Babies R Us or Home Depot
    ChevyChaseDC is right. There are very few incorporated cities and towns in Maryland.

    In Nebraska, cities and towns are more powerful than county governments. However, there was talk of a Omaha-Douglas County merger, similar to the Nashville and Indianapolis gov't. models. I don't know what came of it.

  3. #3
    Cyburbian ijustkrushalot's avatar
    Jun 2005
    Champaign, Illinois
    In Illinois, I believe a town has to have 30,000 citizens in order to become home rule (or pass a referendum)... someone else could verify that.

    Illinois has about 100 or so counties, they perform judicial duties, maintain county roads, provide the sherrifs department... and pretty much oversee any unincorporated part of the county as far as development goes.

    Each county is broken up into a series of 6x6 mile (usually) townships. Townships usually are responsible for maintaining roads, and sometimes fullfill other duties.

    Maybe Illinois Planner or someone else could help me... but i never figured out what the difference is between a "town" a "city" and a "village" in Illinois law. For example, now that i am home for summer break, i am living in a "City" of 2,700 people. I live 15 miles north of a "town" with 40,000 residents, and there are "villages" in the burbs that have 100,000+ residents... is there anything legally that defines them? or do the town forefathers just choose whatever they think sounds sexy?

    Illinois has alot, and i mean ALOT of special districts. For example, the local school district was originally a function of the township, but due to the rural nature of where i live, the district has expanded to include about 120+ sq miles in 3 counties, and is it's own special district.

    Fire protection is a special district, the library system is a special district, but it is limited to the city limits (and the board is appointed by the city council). There is a large community college district that serve a number of counties that i am part of, and the list goes on.

    Ironically, Chicago is probably the only really easy part of the state to figure out. EVERYTHING is under Mayor Daley.

  4. #4
    Cyburbian Plus
    Jun 2003
    In my fair community here in Indiana we have:
    County- Commissioners and Council;
    City- Mayor and Council;
    Township - 2 elected offices - Assessor and Trustee; and
    the School Corporation Board.

  5. #5
    Cyburbian boiker's avatar
    Dec 2001
    West Valley, AZ
    Quote Originally posted by ijustkrushalot
    Each county is broken up into a series of 6x6 mile (usually) townships. Townships usually are responsible for maintaining roads, and sometimes fullfill other duties.
    Townships may also regulate land use if the county has not adopted a comp plan and/or zoning rules. In addition, if an incorprated place does not have it's own zoning or county zoning, the incorporated place may use any communities zoning ordinance as it's adopted policy within 60 miles or so of it. It's a strange confusing law that got passed within the last year. This can be a nightmare for developers to figure out.

    Maybe Illinois Planner or someone else could help me... but i never figured out what the difference is between a "town" a "city" and a "village" in Illinois law.
    City Minimum population requirement of 2,500; if located in Cook
    County, may incorporate with a minimum of 1,200 residents
    if the area consists of less than 4 square miles and contains all
    the registered voters of a township not already within the
    corporate limits of a municipality.

    Town No minimum population requirement

    Village If counties with a population ³ 150,000, a minimum of 2,500
    residents are required to incorporate; a minimum of 200 residents
    are required in other counties.

  6. #6
    Cyburbia Administrator Dan's avatar
    Mar 1996
    Upstate New York
    Blog entries
    Ohio has political subdivision structure that's somewhat similar to that of New York, but there are a few key differences.

    1) City - normal incorporated political subdivisions.

    2) Village - incorporated political subdivision that may be separate from, or an overlay of, an underlying township. (In New York, villages are incorporated, but also considered an integral part of the underlying town.)

    3) Township - considered "unincorporated," but a defined civil jurisdiction. Townships have extremely limited home rule authority, exercising only those powers granted by the General Assembly in state statute. (In New York, towns have far more home rule authority; about as much as a city.) An Ohio township is essentially just a legally defined geographic subdivision of the county.
    Growth for growth's sake is the ideology of the cancer cell. -- Edward Abbey

  7. #7
    Corn Burning Fool giff57's avatar
    Jul 1998
    On the Mother River
    In Iowa:

    Townships: Do very little. Mediate fence disputes and partially fund fire protection.

    Counties: Fund rural law enforcement, sometimes a county land fill, always the jail, rural road maintenance, sometimes planning and zoning, usually have some county parks, along with the courthouse functions, taxing authourity and record keepig.

    Cities: Home rule and all of the standard municipal functions.
    “As soon as public service ceases to be the chief business of the citizens, and they would rather serve with their money than with their persons, the State is not far from its fall”
    Jean-Jacques Rousseau

  8. #8

    Oct 2001
    Solano County, California
    California is simple yet complicated, with two basic layers of government:

    Cities: incorporated places, are generally still part of the underlying County. San Francisco, as usual, is an exception, being "The City and County of San Francisco"

    Counties: generally provide health and social welfare services for the entire county, including incorporated cities. Also handle judicial matters, and the county sherriff provides police services for unincorporated areas. Some counties provide police services via contract to smaller incorporated cities.

    The complication: there are also a myriad of independent special districts, including 'community service districts," consolidated school districts, sewer districts, water districts, open space and regional park districts, irrigation districts, and the like. Some of these are an end run, frankly, around Proposition 13's limit on property taxes.

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