The Role of Municipal Government
“There is one thing all boards have in common, regardless of their legal position. They do not function.” So said governance expert Peter Drucker. Anyone who has been in a leadership role will understand the validity of Drucker’s observation. Government, by its very nature, trends toward dysfunction. Recognizing this fact is half the battle. In my opinion, government is not the solution to our community issues, nor can it be. What government can and should do is provide a framework for our good citizens to flourish.
For municipalities like Zion, that means making it possible for the housing market to improve through reasonable building codes and zoning practices. We should not be in the business of buying property or developing property unless they have a municipal purpose. We should, however, make it possible for our residents and business owners to succeed in property development ventures.
Zion, like other municipalities needs to provide services to our residents. By services I mean roads, water, sewer, garbage disposal and make it possible for gas, electric, cable, and phone companies to supply their products. Municipalities are also responsible for providing proper licensing for a wide range of activities and business ventures. Finally, government should secure the peace of a community. By this I mean providing police, fire and emergency assistance to the people of Zion. And of course, the tax dollars used to do all these things for the residents and business of Zion must be accounted for precisely and transparently.
Have I missed anything in this brief summary of how I see municipal government functioning? If so, then I’d look to our faith community, our civic groups and other concerned and caring organizations to fill the gap in making Zion a place we all want to live. I believe in limited government and that includes municipal government. You may be wondering why I didn’t mention anything about parks and recreation or our schools or library. That is because in Illinois these services are actually separate taxing bodies with their own elected boards. They are not under nor do they in anyway report to the City Council.