Illinois is well-known for having many government units. The Chicago Tribune makes this point by talking about fighting mosquitos in DuPage County:
DuPage has 45 separate entities — special districts, townships, municipalities — providing mosquito abatement services, Of those, 36 have signed separate contracts with the same vendor for the bug spray they use to keep the mosquito population down. If they pooled their buying power, no doubt they could get a better deal.
Here’s the worst part: Spraying for skeeters has little lasting impact. The anti-bug mission could be carried out much more cheaply and efficiently under the county Health Department. The citizens of DuPage don’t need any other mosquito abatement agencies, let alone 45.
So why do all these governments cling to this dubious mission? “They’re very protective of their turf,” DuPage County Board Chairman Dan Cronin tells us…
Unfortunately, it’s the same story across the state of Illinois — which has 7,000 school districts, townships, library boards, fire-protection districts and other government units, generally with separate oversight and taxing authority. The Census Bureau says that’s far more than the total in any other state.
This is not a new story in Illinois and across many places in the United States. Americans like having local control over all sorts of things and this can get in the way of regional cooperation. Intriguingly, the argument made in other parts of this editorial is that taxpayers could save money if communities would consolidate some of these separate bodies and have better purchasing power. Is this an argument more likely to be made in tougher economic times?
One thought came to me when reading this: is the presence of more taxing bodies tied to political conservatism? DuPage County is well-known for its political conservatism and presumably, local communities like having this many taxing bodies as it allows people to have more direct input rather than handing off tasks to larger, bureaucratic bodies. Perhaps the political leanings of a community have little impact on this and it is more about a historical legacy (could be something in Illinois that came out of a state/county/township/municipality system) or specific system of government.