Tag Archives: Governor Quinn

A Step Toward Streamlining Government in Cook County

Cook County Townships, Illinois State Archives

Illinois just took one small step toward streamlining government sprawl.

Under the new law signed by Gov. Pat Quinn on Friday, residents in individual townships in Cook County can now vote on whether to eliminate the office of highway commissioner – generally the township government post with the largest taxpayer-backed budgets.

Townships are a form of government that began in the 19th century, before population centers formed, and municipal and county lines were drawn.

As discussed on this blog before, townships can be necessary links between citizens and their government—particularly in rural areas where county and municipal governments cannot provide the community outreach needed to serve the needs of their citizens. But the role townships play in more urban areas—and whether that role is necessary—has been under attack and questioned by disgruntled taxpayers and growing number of lawmakers.

In townships, highway commissioners run the road district, and are responsible for caring for unincorporated roads not served by municipalities or counties.

However, townships with multiple municipalities located within its boundaries (with their own public works programs) have very little road to tend. Nonetheless, the costs of maintaining these roads can be very high.

For instance, the Northfield Township road district maintains only 19.8 miles of road but the road district is budgeted for $2.2 million in the 2011 to 2012 budget, with almost $1 million of that amount going toward worker salaries and benefits.

Under the new law, the board of trustees of a township in Cook County can submit a ballot measure giving voters the opportunity to eliminate the road district in that township. That ballot can appear in a general or consolidated election.

If a majority of voters say “yes”, the road district and the position of highway commissioner is eliminated as of the following January 1. The township board absorbs the duties of the highway commissioner, and can decide whether it wants to handle the duties of the highway commissioner itself, or if it should enter a contract with local municipalities and counties.

That means that if a township board decides to put the question on the ballot, taxpayers could be voting on the question as early as November 6, 2012.

With just over 1,400 townships in Illinois, beginning to streamline the townships of suburban Cook County is just a small step. But for Cook County residents who see their township road districts as inefficient and redundant government entities, this is a first step they will no doubt be eager to take.


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Filed under Cook County, Legislative Update, Streamlining Government, Townships

Statewide update—Feb. 15, 2011

  • (AP) State Journal RegisterQuinn signs bill limiting free mass transit access, “Gov. Pat Quinn signed legislation Monday that ends a policy of letting all senior citizens ride free on mass transit systems. Now, elderly people above a certain income level will have to pay.”
  • (Gatehouse News Service) Peoria Journal StarExpect Quinn to seek more cuts, new taxes, “Even with higher income taxes, Illinois won’t have enough money to pay all its expenses for the coming year, let alone cover the billions in old bills that have been allowed to pile up.”
  • State Journal RegisterIDOT hiring case in hands of federal jury, “Either 16 Republicans were fired from their former jobs at the Illinois Department of Transportation early in the reign of Democratic Gov. Rod Blagojevich because of their party affiliation, or IDOT leaders at the time were just trying to follow budget office orders to reduce headcount – and didn’t even know which party label fit some of the 16.”
  • SouthtownStarPreckwinkle donor gets job, big pay, “Cook County Board President Toni Preckwinkle is recommending that the board approve a huge pay raise — more than $43,000 — for one of her newest hires, a high-ranking staffer who’s been a regular contributor to her campaigns.”
  • SouthtownStarJudge orders new hearing in Oak Lawn election case, “A Cook County judge on Monday ruled that a challenge to the nominating petitions of an Oak Lawn trustee candidate should return to the village’s election board for an evidence hearing.”

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Filed under Statewide Update