Reforming the reform
In my recent piece about the challenges facing the Sangamon County Citizens Efficiency Commission, I noted that the adoption of township government in the 1850s, which has been intended to enhance local government, today only confuses it. The glut of small, single-purpose government entities in Illinois also was a consequence of a good-government cost-cutting mandate. The 1870 Constitution limited how much local governments could borrow, the better to constrain local officials’ impulse to folly; that limited the ability of those governments to provide services as new needs were identified. For example, a municipal government in need of parks but up against its bonded debt limit could, as Springfield did, create a separate district able to borrow the money needed to build the parks instead.