News-Gazette: Eliminating townships has worked before in Illinois

January 11, 2018

Jim Dey, News-Gazette

…DuPage County, west of Evanston, is ground zero for the proposition that the size and cost of local government can be reduced while efficiency is enhanced.

Former state Sen. Dan Cronin, now chairman of the county board there, has a religious zeal for cutting through the morass of government that is driving up property taxes around the state to unaffordable levels.

First, he took his campaign to reduce the size and cost of government to his home turf. Since then, he joined the effort being led by a group called Transform Illinois to do the same thing in Illinois’ other 101 counties.

All told, Illinois has nearly 7,000 units of local government, by far the most of the 50 states. Some are new units, like park districts, created by taxpayers. Others, like townships, go back more than 100 years to a time when transportation was difficult and the country was more rural.

They cost too much, are so low-profile many voters do not know they exist and are proving grounds for corruption and hiring by nepotism. That’s why Transform Illinois “promotes legislation and research aimed at enabling local governments to streamline services.”

“The ultimate goal is to save taxpayers money while creating more efficient and accountable service delivery,” according to the Civic Federation, a Chicago-based good government group.

But change has been well nigh impossible, at least it was before Cronin used his influence to persuade the Legislature to pass a law to allow DuPage County — no other county was included — to take a whack at consolidating its local units of government.

Read the full column here.