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Our View: Bolder steps in reducing government

Published: Thursday, June 19, 2014 5:30 a.m. CDT

This editorial board has long maintained the need to eliminate townships in Illinois government.

Illinois has 1,432 townships, many of which have elected township supervisors, highway commissioners, assessors and assorted other employees who work in publicly funded buildings. In McHenry County, we have 17 townships.

Townships exist to maintain roads and bridges, assess property and provide general assistance to the poor. Some townships have expanded those roles.

Although we do need some of the services these micro-governments provide, the rest of the country proves that they can be provided without the twisted tangle of government agencies that leave Illinoisans overtaxed and unable to effectively monitor how their money is spent. Much township activity occurs with little public scrutiny, and townships have become a haven for wasted tax dollars, patronage and nepotism.

Those who defend township government in Illinois say it’s needed because it’s the closest level of government everyday residents have access to and townships can maintain these services at a lower cost than other governments. In reality, township government is antiquated and spends a lot of taxpayer money.

Wonder Lake resident Bob Anderson also is a longtime proponent of eliminating township government.

Anderson is asking the McHenry County Board to put an advisory referendum on the Nov. 4 ballot to voters in six townships asking whether their particular township should be abolished. The six townships – McHenry, Nunda, Algonquin, Grafton, Dorr and Burton – are predominantly covered by municipalities.

If placed on the ballot, this effort only would take the temperature of how voters in these townships feel about township government. There is no binding result based on how the vote turns out.

What’s needed is decisive action to address this issue. Legislators have begun taking baby steps toward allowing voters to determine how much government they have, using areas such as Evanston Township – which voters dissolved – as test cases, but bolder, statewide action is needed.

Voters should have the power to consolidate and close unnecessary governments by popular vote.

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