Link looks to consolidate local governments

By Jeff Engelhardt
Updated 4/13/2011 5:59 PM

SPRINGFIELD -- Sen. Terry Link's plan to reduce Illinois' nation-leading 6,994 local units of government began moving in earnest Wednesday.

Link, a Waukegan Democrat, has proposed legislation to form a bipartisan, eight-member commission that would compile a report of local units of government to consolidate or eliminate. The General Assembly would then vote on the suggestions as a whole without the ability to make changes, in an effort to avoid favoritism.


A Senate committee approved the plan Wednesday and sent it to the full Senate.

"We've probably leveled a forest of trees with the amount of paper we wasted on studies about this," Link said. "It's time to put the pedal to the metal and do something about it because everybody indicates they want smaller government and this bill gives us that opportunity."

The commission would have to hold public hearings and report to lawmakers by April 2012.

Sen. Matt Murphy, a Palatine Republican, said it could be unconstitutional to terminate the offices of elected officials midterm. And, he said, suburban Cook County may need the opposite of consolidation.

Murphy said it was refreshing to see Cook County Board President Toni Preckwinkle visit Palatine Monday and attempt to build a relationship after years of mistrust between the village and Preckwinkle predecessor Todd Stroger. But he worries Cook County -- which is so big it would be the 17th largest state -- cannot effectively deliver local services.

"I think Cook County would be in better shape if it split up ... it would be cleaner government, frankly," he said. "I think we have to look at how we can take down the number of local units, but I'm not sure this hits the mark."